- Superb Build Quality but dated looking design
- The thermals of the laptop is impressive with Cooler Boost 5
- Per Key RGB Keyboard
- An affordable option for an All-AMD laptop
- A Proper SD Card inclusion to the laptop made it awesome
- Wish it had a little more power to it
- Very Disappointing Storage Speeds
Coming across an all-AMD configuration laptop is a little hard in the current market – especially when AMD and NVIDIA started working together to make these killer laptops in the market. But there is still one 3rd Gen Ryzen Laptop with a Radeon RX GPU that’s still being sold in the market – in fact, if you are lucky, you could get it for a good deal and it’s the MSI Alpha 15 A3DDK. We were eager to review it and lucky for us, a close friend of my loaned his brand-new laptop for us to do this review. Here goes nothing.
Look and Feel
The design isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind as its very simple and a little dated in my opinion. It does have a very classic retro finish to it. On the top shell, you will notice that it has the MSI Green Bird logo which separates the laptop from the Dragon – a way to tell that its an AMD laptop. It has this slit that protrudes from the panel. As you open, the design is rather simple too – with an almost bezel less display and a thick chin that has the MSI logo and the FreeSync logo at the corner and there’s the glossy-and-matte finish on the keyboard with grey tone to it.
In terms of build quality, the laptop does feel solid and its heavy – coming in at 3.5kg. Its one thick laptop in my opinion and it feels like its put well together. It’s constructed in part polycarbonate and aluminum finish on certain parts of the laptop. But the thick body does have some huge clearance for vents for the air move out to keep the thermals, which is nice.
Our variant comes with a 15.6” FHD IPS Panel with a refresh rate of 144Hz. Since its an all-AMD laptop, it does come with AMD Radeon FreeSync to keep up with the screen. Now, using the display on the Alpha is real nice with really good color calibration right outside the box – and as I powered on, the display had a neutral tone but you can always change it in the settings the way you like it. The anti-glare coating helps with the laptop display as you can now bring it around to use it under harsh lighting and still be able to get some content done – so that’s a nice touch. Honestly, there isn’t much drawback to the display overall and I like it.
Great quality panel, good colors and viewing angles and watching experience.
Specification, Performance | I/O
The specification is a little interesting – as in like seeing an all-AMD laptop is interesting. That said, the laptop has the following specification:
- AMD Ryzen 7 3750H Processor
- AMD Radeon RX5500M with 4GB GDDR6
- 16GB RAM DDR4 (Dual Channel, can be upgraded)
- 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD + Extra slot for 2.5” SATA HDD or SSD
- Killer LAN Ethernet and 802.11ac WiFi Support | Bluetooth 5.0
The laptop storage falls into a weird place – so, it uses a PCIe Gen 3×2 slot for its SSD so the speeds should be a little high – but the problem is that in our first benchmark, the laptop was able to hit a nice number but the second or the third benchmark we did showcased a very underwhelming number. Sure its fast, but its not the speed I signed up for.
The laptop has the last generation Ryzen 7 Processor which is an alright back then and it came in a Quad Core configuration – 4 core and 8 thread for performance. The Cinebench R20 shows that the processor is something that wouldn’t go head to head with Intel’s offering then – which is the 9th Gen i7 Processor. The scores were 351 points for single core and the multicore performance was at 1636 points. If you do plan to run CPU intensive task, the Ryzen should be able to handle it but due to the lack of head room for a little more cores to handle multi core task is something you will be missing with the Ryzen 7 3750H. We did the Blender test with the BMW Benchmark and it took about 8 minutes, which is double the time as compared to the latest 4th generation AMD Processors. We benchmarked the laptop with 3DMARK and PCMARK (Courtesy to UL Benchmark for providing the software) – the laptop shows what you’d expect from a specification like this.
For the most part, if you plan to game on this laptop – which I am sure is most user’s intention, the games run average at best if you were to ask me. We tested games like Far Cry 5, Resident Evil:2, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Metro and Anthem. Most of the games were able to run at low settings quite alright but stepping up the graphics to play at different settings does make the frames drop a lot – it was noticeable in Metro Exodus and Far Cry 5 New Dawn. But older games like RE:2 performed okay – so if you are planning to run some older title, it shouldn’t give you too much trouble. It is worth taking note that the 5500M is more of an entry level GPU – somewhere close to an GTX1650.
The thermals on this laptop – is what I really loved about. The laptop features MSI’s proprietary Cooler Boost 5 which surprisingly kept the system thermals cool even at maximum loads or when gaming – hovering at temperatures around 80 degrees for both the CPU and GPU respectively. So, one thing you most definitely do not have to worry about with this laptop is the thermals.
As for the ports, the laptop features the following: 1x Mic-in, 1x Headphone-Out, 1x Ethernet Port, HDMI, 1 USB Type C, 3 USB Type A and an SD Card reader. Not the MicroSD but a Proper SD Card reader and that made me happy because its hard to find on laptops these days. So, if you do plan to use the laptop for light editing on the move and import your images from your camera to the laptop, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to carry a SD Card reader.
Battery Life and Charging
The laptop comes with a 6-cell Lithium Ion battery with 51Whr but knowing the fact that it’s a gaming laptop, you are most definitely going to experience the barely-an-hour battery life if you do plan to game on the go, which honestly – we wouldn’t even recommend. But say if you do want to use your laptop for productivity centric – the laptop can last about 4 hours – according to our test at least, where we listened to music, watched a show on Netflix, write some content, attend some Video Calls and Browse through the internet.
Input and Speakers
By now it’s no surprise that MSI teamed up with SteelSeries for the keyboard – so with the Alpha 15, it comes with a Full-size keyboard in the chiclet style profile with really nice typing experience. I am not a fan of the gamer like legends on the keyboard in general and would much prefer the Legends I’ve seen on the Prestige, but this is a gaming laptop – so, yeah. But typing on this keyboard is really nice and to add on to that experience is the RGB. The laptop offers per key RGB which is hard to come across in this price range and its very fluidic as the color shifts through the keyboard. It’s possible to change via Dragon Center to your liking. Speaking of that per-key RGB, I love it when I press the function button and it lights up the keys with doubles as another function for easy identification. One odd thing about the keyboard is how the Windows key is on the right – I don’t know why is that, took me a while to get used to it.
The laptop also comes with a proper trackpad that isn’t absurdly large and it has dedicated left and right button that clicks and sounds nice. The trackpad gets the job done thanks to Windows Precision drivers and you don’t have to worry about performing gestures. During my time using the Alpha 15, I noticed that my palm wasn’t touching the trackpad in anyway to trigger the laptop – so that’s a good sign.
Finally, in the audio department – the laptop has “Giant Speakers” – I didn’t say that, MSI labelled it as a marketing term for the product. It houses 2 x 2W Speakers in the system and in my opinion the speakers could do a lot better. The 2W speakers isn’t going to blowing minds as there isn’t any notable bass response but a high treble at maximum volume. We played Got it by Marian Hill and its safe to say that the speaker serves as a last resort in case you forgot your portable speakers at home or dorm.
Given how there’s a discount on the Alpha 15, makes it a very interesting choice of laptop in my opinion. It comes in two variants – and the one we reviewed here is the highest variant with a Ryzen 7 Processor and Radeon RX5500M. If you want a good quality laptop and if you spend time editing more than play games or both, well – this could just be an alright fit. Honestly, its no ultimate powerhouse really as compared to the newer generation Ryzen because those are stellar – but it still tries to give a performance, in some way, close to a 1650.
I’d really recommend going for the highest variant. But man, the quality of the Alpha 15 is amazing – a thing that I can totally vouch for with the laptop that no users would get disappointed.
Special thanks to our friend Bryan for loaning his Nikon D610 for making these product shots happen.