MSI Creator Z17: Two Minute Review
The MSI Creator Z17 is a small vertical step forward for the Taiwanese manufacturer’s creative and gaming-focused line of high-quality laptops.
From the get-go, there’s a lot of improvement from what we saw in our MSI Creator Z16 review. The well-received 16:10 display with a 165Hz refresh rate gets stylus pen support that enhances task capabilities (MSI touts the Creator Z17 as the world’s first 17-inch laptop with stylus-supported touchscreen).
Meanwhile, the laptop has some seriously powerful specs. A 12th-gen Intel Core i9-12900H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 64GB of DDR5 RAM, and 2TB of storage are all packed into this military-grade chassis that weighs just under 8 pounds.
Despite the upgrade in power, the Creator Z17 doesn’t sound quite as noisy as its predecessor when it comes to fan cooling. Please note that the quieter fans do not benefit the sound quality of the Dynaudio speakers which also have DTS. While the sound experience is clear, the volume levels are exceptionally low, even at the highest volume.
Then there’s the addition of an HDMI 2.1 port that was also missing in the Z16. Adding the port to the Z17 further improves portability and frees up the three available USB ports. Like many powerful laptops of its kind, the battery life is fine for common tasks like web browsing or media consumption. However, heavy Adobe Suite work and gaming with high visual fidelity will drain the 90 Whr battery.
In addition to hardware-specific improvements, there’s the MSI Center Pro app that handles everything from maintenance to various setup options in addition to SteelSeries Engine support to customize the per-key backlit RGB keyboard. All this is backed by an upgradeable one-year warranty.
The MSI Creator Z17 is definitely expensive, which is normal for such a powerful and versatile laptop, because even the lowest configuration starts more than most casual users would ever dream of spending on a laptop.
Potential buyers willing to pay the high entry price will walk away reasonably pleased with anything that comes with the MSI Creator Z17, although it’s ultimately a meaningful evolution of its predecessor, but not a complete revolution.
MSI Creator Z17: Pricing and Availability
- How much is it? Staring at $3,049, £2,699 and AU$5,499
- When is it out? Now available in US, UK and Australia
- Selling price as rated? $4,499, about £3,700 / AU$6,470
The MSI Creator Z17 is available now in the US, UK and Australia, starting at $3,049, £2,699 and AU$5,499.
There are now three configurations available in the US, and they are expensive across the board. They all share the same aluminum Lunar Gray colored chassis, 16:10 QHD display, Windows 11 Pro OS, RGB lighting per key, Dynaudio speakers, port layout, connectivity options and the stylus pen.
Here is the MSI Creator Z17 configuration sent to Ditching for review:
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i9-12900H
Graphic: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
RAM: 64GB DDR5-4800
Screen: 17.3-inch QHD+, 165Hz, IPS-level thin bezel, 100% DCI-P3, 400 nits, touchscreen, MSI active pen support (MPP2.0)
Storage: 2 x 2TB NVMe PCIe Gen4 SSD
Ports: 2x Thunderbolt 4, 1x Type-A USB3.2 Gen2, 1x SD card reader, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1x audio combo jack
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 1080p FHD
Weight: 7.40lbs | 3.36 kg
Mate: 15.04 x 10.24 x 0.75 in.| 382 x 260.1 x 19.05mm
At its lowest configuration of $3,049, the Creator Z17 comes with the Intel Core i7, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB of video RAM, 32GB of RAM, and 1TB of storage.
The $3,799 mid-range option brings the CPU to an Intel Core i9, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 with 8GB of video RAM, 32GB of RAM, and 2TB of storage.
Rounding out the options available is the top $4,499 configuration we reviewed, with the specs on the right.
In the UK, there are only two options available for the Creator Z17. The lowest configuration at £2,699 features an Intel i9, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB video RAM, 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD. Meanwhile, the £4,399 higher tier includes a similar CPU and RAM configuration alongside the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti with 16GB of video RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. Neither option includes MSI’s stylus pen unfortunately.
Australian buyers will only get one option with an Intel i7, 32 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3070 Ti and 2 TB SSD storage for $5499.
MSI Creator Z17: Design
- Military-grade build that’s attractive both inside and out
- Speakers sound low, even on the highest setting
- The placement of the magnetic stylus pen does not feel right
There is a middle ground that combines elegance and hardcore gamer aesthetics with the design of the MSI Creator Z17.
Inside and out, everything about the creatively inclined laptop has a bite to match its visual bark. Only available in a Lunar Gray color, the CNC machined aluminum chassis is military grade meaning it can withstand more than a few knocks and drops (we haven’t tested this, though, and neither should you – not at these prices ).
Once opened, there’s a lot to like about the beautiful looking display. For creatives, the display features True Pixel, which has been verified by CalMan tools and has a 100 percent DCI-P3 color gamut. This is more than enough for content creation on Adobe Suite in addition to watching video content, and the added 165Hz refresh brings serious gaming potential.
MSI has also done a phenomenal job in the user input department. Compared to the Creative Z16, the touchpad is 50 percent larger and just as smooth with finger movements. The keyboard itself features per-key RGB lighting that is customizable via the SteelSeries Engine app and comfortable to use for extended periods of time. Keystrokes feel tactile and springy, but aren’t particularly loud. Below the arrow keys is a fingerprint scanner that almost sinks into the bottom panel.
Port placement is pretty good, with some HDMI 2.1, USB-A and SD card slots on the right. On the left are the power port, two USB-C ports and a 3.5mm combo jack alongside a small LED indicator for battery life.
The layout gets questionable with the included stylus pen. While it works very well, the magnetic portion of the pen that attaches to the left side of the chassis covers both USB-C ports, the headphone jack and the battery life indicator light.
Since the pen charges via USB-C, users will need a cord long enough to wrap around the laptop for charging via the free USB-A port on the right. The pen can be stored magnetically on the left side of the base panel, but can be accidentally knocked off with large hands.
The lack of noise from the keyboard and cooling fans is nice given the low speaker volume. Having accompanying DTS software helps a bit, as the sound is clear in a quiet room, but outdoor activities will probably be better suited to headphones.
MSI Creator Z17: Performance
- Creative workloads are where the laptop excels
- Gaming performance equally solid thanks to impressive hardware
While MSI has a pedigree in the gaming laptop space, the MSI Creator Z17 takes a creative approach.
MSI Creator Z17 benchmarks
This is how the MSI Creator Z17 performed in our series of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R20 Multicore: 10,769
3DMark Time Spy: 10,042; Fire Attack: 21,014; Night robbery: 41,239
Geek Bench 5: 1,898 (single wire)† 12,459 (multicore)
PCMark 10 (Home Test): 7,527
Battery Life PCMark 10: 7 hours and 14 minutes
Battery Life (USA Health Reports Movie Test): 7 hours 10 minutes
Total War: Warhammer III: 162 fps (1080p, low); 64 fps (1080p, ultra)
Cyberpunk 2077: 121 fps (1080p, low); 67 fps (1080p, ultra)
Dirty 5: (1080p, Low) 149 fps; (1080p, ultra) 59 fps
Handbrake (1080p, Fast): 61 fps
Blender sample: 1,574, Junk shop: 883 Class: 818
PugetBench Photoshop: 1,217
PugetBench Premiere Pro: 985
For photo and video editors, this laptop is a joy to use, and it scores respectably well in our PugetBench Photoshop and Premiere Pro benchmark tests, with 1,217 and 985 points, respectively.
Photoshop can process high-resolution photos with multiple layers and quickly export them to various file types, and the pen performance when coloring spots or using the Spot Repair Brush was also fast.
Editing video on Premier Pro provided the same fast functionality. The Creator Z17 did well with multiple video layers and special effects with no noticeable lag. Rendering and exporting a standard one minute HD video for something like Instagram took about three seconds.
Given the overlap between creative and gaming hardware, it’s no surprise that the Creator Z17 is also an excellent gaming laptop, as it can handle a number of AAA titles at their highest settings.
At their lowest settings at 1080p, Total War: Warhammer III, Cyberpunk 2077, and Dirt 5 all delivered frame rates in excess of 110 fps. After pumping the settings to max, they still managed to stay above or at the critical 60fps mark.
Total War: Warhammer III averaged 64 fps, while Dirt 5 averaged 59 fps at maximum settings at the same resolution. Surprisingly, Cyberpunk 2077 delivered a solid 67 fps average. Those looking to play the latter two games at QHD resolution, in addition to hardware-intensive rendering options like Ray Tracing, may want to tinker with some settings.
MSI Creator Z17: Battery Life
- Battery life has improved over the Creator Z16, but not by much
- Fast charging reaches almost 50 percent in less than an hour
Battery life was an issue with the MSI Creator Z16 and it continues with the MSI Creator Z17. Having all this power and portability usually means some sacrifices to be made, although there are some minor improvements.
The 90W battery in the Creator Z17 lasted seven hours and 14 minutes in the PCMark 10 Battery Life test. During our HD Movie walk test, the laptop battery burned out after seven hours and 10 minutes.
Fortunately, there are more options in the MSI Center Pro app to manipulate various settings to help conserve battery life. One thing’s for sure, the juice will drain quickly if you’re doing vigorous media editing and gaming.
There is, however, a fast-charging option that charges to nearly 50 percent in less than an hour.
Should I buy an MSI Creator Z17?
Buy it if…
Don’t buy it if…
- First reviewed on June 2022