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MSI Katana 15 (2023) Review: Affordable Gaming Laptop

The MSI Katana 15 (2023) strikes a balance between design and performance, offering affordability for potential first-time gaming laptop buyers. It delivers strong 1080p gaming performance, a fast refresh rate, and a wallet-friendly price point.

Pros:

  • Strong 1080p gaming performance
  • Affordable for beginners
  • High refresh rate

Cons:

  • Trackpad performance is subpar
  • Battery life falls short
  • Outdated styling

MSI Katana 15 (2023): Quick Review

MSI Katana 15 (2023): Quick Review
(Image Credit: MSI)

The MSI Katana 15 (2023) offers solid 1080p gaming in laptop form, increasing accessibility. It doesn’t boast the flashiest or most impressive appearance. In fact, it resembles pre-pandemic gaming laptops that were bold and attention-grabbing. However, it excels in delivering gaming performance without requiring a $2,000 investment for playing the latest AAA titles at maximum settings.

For budget-conscious gamers, the MSI Katana 15 (2023) ranks among the top gaming laptops to consider. It does come with some compromises, including its style and battery life, along with a few minor flaws. Nevertheless, the overall package ensures a quality gaming experience where you won’t be hindered by the laptop’s limitations.

Ultimately, the best budget gaming laptops strike a balance between design, performance, and affordability. The MSI Katana 15 (2023) achieves this, making it an excellent choice for someone’s first gaming laptop.

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): PRICE & AVAILABILITY

Cost: It starts at $999 (approximately £785 / AU$1,543).

Availability: It is currently available.

Purchase Locations: You can find it in the US, UK, and Australia.

Priced at a starting point of $999 (about £785 / AU$1,543) for the reviewed base configuration, the MSI Katana 15 (2023) firmly fits within the budget category of gaming laptops. While there are lower-priced gaming laptops available, they usually come with inferior specifications compared to this entry-level model. The base model boasts a 13th-Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, and a 1TB SSD. In contrast, more affordable options tend to feature older components such as 11th or 12th-Gen Intel Core CPUs and, at best, Nvidia RTX 3000 series GPUs.

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): PRICE & AVAILABILITY
(Image Credit: MSI)

For instance, consider the Acer Nitro 5, which shares the same price but features a 12th-Gen Intel Core CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. Of course, the Nitro 5 also offers a cheaper base configuration for $769.99 (about £606 / AU$1,189), but it relies on an older Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650.

Nonetheless, for those willing to invest more, a high-end configuration is available for $1,899 (about £1,492 / AU$2.933). This maxed-out version includes a 13th-Gen Intel Core i9, 32GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070, and a 1TB SSD. Considering the specifications, this price is reasonable, although the laptop still maintains the same 15.6-inch 1080p @ 144Hz display.

It’s worth noting that if you’re in Australia, the available models come equipped with 12th-Gen Intel Core processors, starting at AU$1,799. In the UK, there’s only one model of the MSI Katana 15 (2023) featuring a 13th-Gen Intel Core CPU, priced at £1,299.

Price rating: 4 / 5

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): SPECS

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): SPECS
(Image Credit: MSI)

The MSI Katana 15 (2023) offers several configurations, with our reviewed model serving as the base version. The primary distinctions among options revolve around your choice between an Intel Core i7 or i9 processor and selecting from Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050, 4060, or 4070 graphics. Intel Core i9-equipped models also provide an upgrade to 32GB of RAM from the base 16.

Here are the specifications for the MSI Katana 15 (2023):

ComponentBase / Review ConfigurationTop Configuration
Price$999 (about £785 / AU$1,543)$1,899 (about £1,492 / AU$2.933)
CPUIntel Core i7-13620HIntel Core i9-13900H
GPUNVIDIA GeForce RTX 4050NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4070
RAM16GB DDR5-5200MHz32GB DDR5-5200MHz
Storage1TB SSD1TB SSD
Screen15.6-inch FHD, IPS-Level 144Hz15.6-inch FHD, IPS-Level 144Hz
Ports1x USB-C 3.2, 2x USB-A 3.2, 1x USB-A 2.0, HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm Combo-Jack1x USB-C 3.2, 2x USB-A 3.2, 1x USB-A 2.0, HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm Combo-Jack
WirelessWi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.2Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera720p720p
Weight4.96 lbs (2.25 kg)4.96 lbs (2.25 kg)
Dimensions14.13 x 10.20 x 0.98 inches (359 x 259 x 25mm)14.13 x 10.20 x 0.98 inches (359 x 259 x 25mm)

Irrespective of the chosen configuration, the laptop maintains a consistent 15.6-inch 1080p screen with a 144Hz refresh rate. The available ports, keyboard, trackpad, and webcam remain the same. Additionally, the weight remains consistent. The only differences among configurations are the choice of two Intel Core CPUs, three Nvidia 4000 GPUs, and the RAM capacity.

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): DESIGN

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): DESIGN
(Image Credit: MSI)
  • The styling appears outdated.
  • The display is decent with a rapid refresh rate.
  • The keyboard suffices but not the trackpad.
  • Gaming laptops have historically come with various compromises to accommodate powerful specs and function as capable gaming battlestations. Many newer options have addressed issues like battery life and portability, but that’s not the case with budget-friendly models, including the MSI Katana 15 (2023).
  • The MSI Katana 15 (2023) boasts a substantial and weighty build with a robust plastic body, reminiscent of gaming laptops from a few years ago. Its design choices align with its budget-oriented focus on gaming performance, rather than aesthetics. Notably, it features a forward-thinking shared pipe design, where heat pipes extend over both the CPU and GPU to maintain thermal efficiency.
MSI KATANA 15 (2023): DESIGN
(Image Credit: MSI)
  • The 15.6-inch 1080p display is serviceable, if unremarkable. However, it compensates with a speedy 144Hz refresh rate, providing smoother visuals for competitive gaming.
  • Regarding the keyboard, it offers satisfactory comfort for both typing and gaming, though its flat keycaps lack the tactile feel of a high-end mechanical keyboard. Surprisingly, it includes a full layout with a numpad, a rarity in gaming laptops. The transparent keycaps on the WASD keys enhance visual distinction, and the keycaps feature on-the-fly secondary function labels.
  • Unfortunately, the trackpad falls short of the “good enough” benchmark. While gaming laptop trackpads typically struggle during gaming, this one proves cumbersome even for everyday tasks due to its lack of responsiveness and occasional lag. On a positive note, the port selection is more than sufficient, featuring Ethernet, HDMI, USB-C with power delivery, three USB-A ports, and an audio combo jack.
MSI KATANA 15 (2023): DESIGN
(Image Credit: MSI)

Design rating: 4 / 5

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): PERFORMANCE

  • Well-optimized for gaming.
  • The webcam has a fairly low resolution.
  • Decent speakers.

LAPTOP BENCHMARKS

Here’s the performance of the MSI Katana 15 (2023) in our benchmark tests:

  • 3DMark: Port Royal: 4,621; Fire Strike: 20,199; Time Spy: 8,620
  • GeekBench 6: 2,394 (single-core); 12,727 (multi-core)
  • 25GB File Copy: 25.7
  • Handbrake 1.6: 4:27
  • CrossMark: Overall: 1,892; Productivity: 1,808; Creativity: 2,025; Responsiveness: 1,768
  • Far Cry 6: 1080p (Ultra) 81 fps
  • Cyberpunk 2077: 1080p (Ultra) 38.50 fps
  • Web Surfing (Battery Informant): 2:39:56
  • PCMark 10 Battery Life (Gaming): 0:41

Despite my previous critiques and nitpicking about the MSI Katana 15 (2023) merely meeting expectations in several areas, I must admit I was genuinely impressed by its performance. Upon initial use, I noticed how MSI had managed to incorporate and optimize powerful components across the board, ensuring that I rarely reached the laptop’s performance limits.

I encountered no difficulties running Control at its highest settings with ray tracing enabled. Far Cry 6 also maintained high settings without issues. The only time I had to make compromises was while playing Hogwarts Legacy, where I needed to disable ray tracing and lower the settings to eliminate stuttering.

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): DESIGN
(Image Credit: MSI)

When we conducted our benchmark tests, the results largely confirmed my experiences with AAA titles. For example, Far Cry 6 achieved an impressive 81 fps, while Assassin’s Creed Valhalla reached 78 fps. It’s worth noting that Cyberpunk 2077’s results were not particularly inspiring, falling just short of 39 fps at maximum settings. However, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 4050 isn’t exceptionally robust when it comes to running max settings with ray tracing enabled. Another gaming laptop with an RTX 4050, the Lenovo Legion Pro 5i, achieved only slightly better results with 44 fps using the same settings.

Many gamers nowadays are interested in streaming while playing, but unfortunately, the webcam’s performance is barely acceptable. It boasts a 720p resolution, resulting in a less sharp image, especially in low-light conditions.

Regarding the speakers, they fall into the “good enough” category, which is actually a win considering that laptop speakers are typically subpar. Although they may sound slightly boxy and lack significant bass, they are still decent and sufficient for in-game audio cues. Additionally, there are numerous audio customization options, including spatial audio via the Nahimic software.

Apart from the Nahimic app, the MSI Center serves as the primary proprietary software, performing typical tasks such as monitoring internal temperatures, assessing the laptop’s workload, and enabling customizations like a game mode to prevent accidental Windows key presses during gameplay.

Performance rating: 4.5 / 5

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): BATTERY LIFE

AspectEvaluation
Battery LifeVery short battery life
Benchmark PerformanceDisappointing performance during benchmarks
Web Surfing Test2 hours and 40 minutes
PCMark Battery Test (Gaming)Less than 1 hour
Overall RatingBattery score: 3 / 5

SHOULD YOU BUY THE MSI KATANA 15 (2023)?

AttributesNotesRating
PriceOffers relatively powerful specs for a reasonable price.4 / 5
DesignAesthetics are not the most striking, but most aspects are capable.4 / 5
PerformanceDelivers enough power for robust 1080p gaming, with webcam limitations.4.5 / 5
BatteryBattery life is inadequate, even for a gaming laptop.3 / 5
Average RatingOffers good gaming performance at an entry-level price.4 / 5

Buy it if…

  • You’re looking for your first gaming laptop.
  • You’re on a budget.

Don’t buy it if…

  • You want something light and portable.
  • You want the best of the best.

MSI KATANA 15 (2023): ALSO CONSIDER

Here’s a comparison of the MSI Katana 15 (2023) with other laptops:

ComponentMSI Katana 15 (2023)Asus ROG Zephyrus G15MSI GT77 Titan (2023)
PriceStarting at $999 (about £785 / AU$1,543)Starting at $1,499 / £1,599 / AU$2,599Starting at $4,299.99 (about £3,570 / AU$6,240)
CPUFrom Intel Core i7-13620HAMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (Ryzen 7 5800H CPU in UK and AUS)Intel Core i9-13980HX (Up to 5.6 GHz)
GPUFrom NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4050Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 – RTX 3080Nvidia GeForce RTX 4080 – RTX 4090
RAMFrom 16GB DDR5-5200MHz16 – 32GB64 – 128GB DDR5 4800MHz
StorageFrom 1TB SSD512 GB – 1TB SSD2 TB – 4 TB SSD
Screen15.6-inch FHD, IPS-Level 144Hz16″ UHD+, 16:10 (3840 x 2400 WQUXGA) / FHD+ 16:10 (1920 x 1200, WUXGA)17.3-inch IPS, 4K 144Hz Mini LED, HDR 1000, 100% DCI-P3
Ports1x USB-C 3.2, 2x USB-A 3.2, 1x USB-A 2.0, HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm Combo-Jack2x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2x USB Type-A, 1x MicroSD, 1x HDMI 2.0b, 1x 3.5mm combo jack, 1x RJ45 Ethernet, 1x Kensington lock3x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 2x Thunderbolt 4 w/ DP, 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.4, 1x 3.5mm combo jack
WirelessWireless Wi-Fi 6 AX201, Bluetooth 5.2Wifi 6, BluetoothWi-Fi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera720pNoneIR 720p HD w/shutter
Weight4.96 lbs (2.25 kg)4.19lbs (1.9kg)7.28 lbs (3.30 kg)
Dimensions14.13 x 10.20 x 0.98 inches (359 x 259 x 25mm)13.97 x 9.59 x 0.78 inches (355 x 243.5 x 19.9 mm)15.63 x 12.99 x 0.91 inches (397 x 329.95 x 23.11 mm)

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