MSI Katana 15 (2023) Review
The MSI Katana 15 is a new budget-friendly gaming laptop that starts at just $999; our $1,599 review device is a step up from the base model. The machine has a boring design, with only some basic RGB lighting to spice things up. The screen has a 144 Hz refresh rate and displays games smoothly, but it’s not particularly attractive.
The true worth of this laptop lies in its internal hardware, which includes robust components that allow it to outperform competitors like the Lenovo Legion 5i Gen 7 and the HP Omen 16. We wholeheartedly endorse the Katana 15 if you’re searching for a budget-friendly alternative to the current crop of high-end laptops on the market.
MSI Katana 15 (2023) Specs
|Processor||Intel Core i7-13620H|
|Boost Drive Test||SSD|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Screen refresh Rate||144 Hz|
|Wireless Networking||802.11ax, Bluetooth 5.2|
|Graphics Memory||8 GB|
|OS||Windows 11 Home|
- Substantial worth
- Efficiency and rapidity in operation
- Rapid, consistent input
- Awful screen
- Very short battery life
Our review unit of the Katana 15 was equipped with a Core i7-13620H processor and a 105W TDP RTX 4050 graphics card. The CPU benchmarks show that the Katana GF66 is not as powerful as the one from last year, which included a Core i7-12700H. For a more comprehensive performance analysis, we’ll also test the Ryzen 7 6800H alongside other Intel CPUs.
The 4050’s 105W TGP GPU is quite potent, providing nearly twice the performance of the RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti in benchmarks. In addition, it’s comparable to the 3060’s high TGP models from the previous year.
All systems use either 16GB or 32GB of DDR5 memory, with the 12th Gen operating at 4,000MHz and the 13th at 5,200MHz. One variant only comes with a 512GB drive, but the rest all have 1TB PCIe 4.0 x4 NVMe SSDs. MSI’s model identification numbers can be confusing; for example, a B13V model will have components from the Nvidia GeForce RTX 40 series, whereas a B13U model will have components from the GeForce RTX 30 or 20 series. There are two types of 12th-generation Intel and RTX graphics cards: B12V for the RTX 40 series and B12U for the RTX 30 or 20 series.
Each Katana 15 has the same subpar 15.6-inch screen that MSI describes as “IPS-level,” meaning it has nearly the same viewing angles as an IPS panel. Full HD (1,920 by 1,080 pixels) on a display of this size is adequate for clarity in fine details and places less of a burden on the GPU when playing games on the go.
Smoother gameplay is ensured by the display’s 144Hz refresh rate, although there is no variable refresh rate or sync technology included. In general, the screen is an afterthought; it’s fine for working and the occasional game, but serious gamers should consider hooking up an external monitor for the best possible experience. The Katana 15 laptop features a sleek, black plastic shell.
The port layout is decent; MSI includes a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port on both sides of the laptop and a USB 2.0 port on the left for compatibility with older devices. A USB-C connector is located on the device’s right side; however, it does not support Thunderbolt and is instead just another USB 3.2 Gen 1 port (albeit it can be used to output video with a DisplayPort adaptor).
On the right side, you’ll find a Gigabit Ethernet connector, a headset jack, and an HDMI 2.1 port that can output at 4K (120 Hz) or 8K (60 Hz). Considering the Katana 15’s low price tag in comparison to other gaming laptops, the inclusion of a high-end Wi-Fi 6 adapter with 2×2 MIMO comes as a nice surprise. The benchmarking downloads for my video games went through without a hitch thanks to my Wi-Fi 6 connection to my fibre internet.
Keyboard and Typeboard
Considering the laptop’s low-priced construction, I wasn’t expecting much from the keyboard. However, MSI pleasantly surprised me by delivering a set of keys with no wiggle, sufficient travel, and a satisfying click. Monkeytype’s keyboard layout isn’t great, but I’ve used worse and was still able to easily type 95–105 words per minute with 95%–99% accuracy. The thickness of the laptop was the only thing stopping me from typing faster than 100 words per minute. The lack of separate Home and End keys makes editing text more of a chore, and the arrow keys are too narrow to be comfortable, but at least the backlighting illuminates each key’s whole character.
External mice are preferred by gamers. The Katana 15 was surprisingly easy to operate, which is a major benefit. The space in front of the keyboard got as hot as 121 degrees Fahrenheit when the laptop was running at full speed, but the WASD keys and the palm rest stayed comfortably cool. Even 3DMark’s Time Spy stress test, which repeats that graphics benchmark 20 times in a row and fails systems that can’t maintain 97% frame rate stability, is passed with flying colours thanks to the system’s effective cooling. The Katana’s steadiness was rated at 99.3%.
The MSI Katana 15 is an excellent choice for gamers that place a premium on functionality above aesthetics. This gaming system packs a punch and offers great value for the money. Despite some design flaws, it is not weak, heat-resistant, or under-ventilated. While a comparably equipped Lenovo Legion would probably deliver a superior overall experience, the price/performance ratio offered by MSI is hard to resist, especially with a lower-end configuration available for $999 at Micro Centre.