MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo review: A speedy sense of luxury
A classy hybrid that tries to offer high-end power in a deluxe design
Business laptops used to be clunky, ugly and entirely functional machines, but these days they're often slim, light and stunning - so a new model really has to work hard to look better than the rest.
The MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo tries to combine business-friendly features with design that goes beyond the competition, and this machine also arrives at a price of £1,141 exc VAT – so it's not going to break the bank either.
For that surprisingly low price, you get a stunning aluminium chassis, and on the inside this laptop locks and loads one of Intel's best Tiger Lake processors. There's one big concern, however, which is that MSI may have cut too many corners to achieve this low price.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Design
The Summit E13 certainly looks the part: it's made from black aluminium and has attractive, diamond-cut bronze accents, and the lid features the same sleek MSI logo as the Prestige 14 Evo. It's also available in white, if you fancy a laptop that stands out a bit more.
Build quality is decent, and this laptop is sturdy enough to stand up to frequent travel. MSI has tested it to all the usual MIL-STD-810G standards for temperature, dust ingress, drops and shocks, and it pairs its 1.35kg weight with a 15mm-thick body, so it's not going to excessively weigh down your bag.
That's a good start, but it's standard among ultraportables these days, and closer examination reveals weaknesses: the base flexes a little and it's easy to bend the display. The hinge movement isn't particularly smooth either. Those diamond-cut edges are also very sharp, which is a noticeable irritation.
These weaknesses are thrown into even sharper relief by MSI's competition. The Dynabook Portégé X30W-10C doesn't look as good as the MSI, but it has the same durability in a sub-1kg body. The Asus ZenBook Flip S UX371 is just as slick as the Summit and it's slimmer and lighter, and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 is smaller, too.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Keyboard & trackpad
The MSI's keyboard does nothing to stand out. Layout-wise, it's conventional stuff, including small cursor keys and a single-height Return button, and there's no numberpad. On the function row, the MSI serves up volume and brightness controls alongside microphone and webcam deactivation buttons, and the unit has a white backlight with three brightness levels.
The keys are crisp, quiet, and consistent, so they're good enough for hours of typing. They do feel light, though, so you may want to search elsewhere if you prefer more rigidity. The trackpad, meanwhile, is wide and responsive, but its buttons depress too far in the corners. It's not ruinous design, but it's another irritation to add to a growing pile. Again, rivals can offer better typing experiences with crisper keystrokes - particularly the excellent Razer Book 13.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Display
It's not all bad though. The Summit has a 13.4in IPS touchscreen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1,920 x 1,200. That's smart design – it means you've got more vertical space than on 16:9 laptops, and that makes working easier. A stylus is also included with this laptop, and it comes with extra nibs, just like the Dynabook.
This panel has a refresh rate of 120Hz, which is an unusual but welcome addition– it makes movement smoother when compared to 60Hz panels. It's not a game-changer, but it does make the MSI feel slicker than other machines we've seen recently.
The screen has fantastic quality, too. The maximum brightness of 515cd/m2 is huge and means that the MSI works well outdoors, and the 0.35cd/m2 black point creates a contrast ratio of 1,471:1, which is brilliant for an IPS display. The Delta E of 1.13 is brilliant and the colour temperature of 6,508K is nigh-on perfect. Impressively, reducing the brightness to an everyday level of 170cd/m2 even maintained the contrast level.
The MSI panel completed its benchmarking with an sRGB coverage level of 97.2%, which is also excellent. It can't handle the Adobe RGB or DCI-P3 gamuts, but that's no surprise. Those gamut limitations don't stop this display from being a great option for indoor and outdoor use, but some rivals do offer more. The Asus ZenBook Flip has a 4K OLED touchscreen with better Adobe RGB performance, and the Dell XPS 2-in-1 had better contrast and has 4K options.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Hardware & performance
The MSI's Core i7-1185G7 is one of Intel's latest Tiger Lake chips, and it's a step beyond the i7-1165G7 used in most other ultraportables like the Surface Pro 7+. Its frequency range of 1.2GHz to 3GHz is a little broader and its theoretical single-core Turbo peak of 4.8GHz is a tad higher. The Summit's specification is completed with a mammoth 32GB of memory and a 1TB SSD, as well as Intel Iris Xe graphics.
In our tests, it managed an overall benchmark score of 141, which is better than every other laptop we've mentioned in this review. Further examination reveals that the MSI scored 170 in the image-editing test and 129 and 138 in the video-editing and multi-tasking runs, respectively. Those are well-balanced scores, with the multi-tasking result a highlight. The improved CPU and extra memory work well, and the SSD is impressive, too: its read and write speeds of 4,900MB/sec and 2,408MB/sec keep the Summit feeling snappy.
There's enough power to tackle web-browsing, Office applications and multi-tasking without any issue – if you're jumping between apps or tabs then the MSI will certainly keep up. The MSI's 3D Mark Sky Diver result of 13,168 is decent, too, and means that you'll get a modest photo-editing boost from the Intel Iris Xe GPU.
You'll only get more grunt if you opt for an AMD Ryzen processor, a physically larger laptop with more room for cooling, or an Apple notebook with an M1 CPU.
In a multi-core stress-test the CPU settled at 3.2GHz, which is better throttling performance than on many other notebooks. The exterior remained relatively cool – the underside and the area above the keyboard warmed up a little, but neither were uncomfortable. That's more than can be said for the Asus in particular. Fan noise was modest, too; it's present but never irritating. These results were replicated in single-core tests, too.
The Summit lasted for 10hrs 46mins in our looped video benchmark. It's not a bad score for battery life, and you'll certainly get a day of work from this machine – but the Dynabook lasted for almost 13hrs, and the Asus also had a better lifespan.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Ports & features
The MSI's left-hand edge has two USB-C ports that support Thunderbolt 4, power delivery and DisplayPort, with one of those required to charge the laptop, and the right-hand side has a USB-C port that only supports data transfer, in addition to a full-size USB 3.2 Gen 2 port. The right-hand edge also has a microSD slot, but it's hidden behind the type of metal cover that's usually used on SIM slots. You need a pin to open it, and that's annoying.
The MSI has a 720p webcam that supports Windows Hello, and security features elsewhere include a fingerprint reader and a TPM 2.0 chip. There's also a switch on the side to deactivate the camera for added privacy. On the inside, connectivity comes from dual-band Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1. Don't expect much from the speakers: they have a reasonable top-end, but they lack bass and volume, so they're only suitable for casual media and background music.
There isn't much missing. The MSI doesn't have an HDMI output, no USB-to-Ethernet adapter is included, and those webcam deactivation switches use software rather than physical blocks - but none of those omissions are deal-breakers, especially compared to the competition.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) review: Verdict
The MSI has impressive CPU performance and a high-quality screen inside a luxurious chassis. Combine this with the snappy keyboard, big trackpad, and good connectivity, and you've got an effective and good-looking hybrid for everyday workloads.
Bear in mind, though, that the Summit is a little thicker and heavier than its rivals,and its battery life could be better. The MSI isn't perfect, but it's a capable hybrid that delivers a quality experience in key departments - and its price is tempting, too.
MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo (2021) Specifications
1.2GHz – 3GHz Intel Core i7-1185G7
Intel Iris Xe
1TB Phison SSD
13.4in 1,920 x 1,200 touch IPS
Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Dual-band 802.11ax WiFi, Bluetooth 5.1
2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C/Thunderbolt 4/DisplayPort, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x microSD, 1 x audio
300 x 222 x 15mm (WxDxH)
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