MSI is making a classy, 2.6-pound ultrabook that will actually be able to play real games

This year MSI made the best gaming laptop of the year with the stylish, thin, and powerful GS65 Stealth. It's a hair over four pounds but still manages to handle a GTX 1070 and maintain strong battery life. MSI's been improving its gaming laptop designs year after year, but has never done much outside the gaming space. I think this laptop is going to change that. The Prestige PS42 is an ultrabook, going after the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and Apple's tiny MacBook. And from what I've seen, it'll easily be able to compete with them on design. But it also has an ace up its sleeve: dedicated Nvidia graphics that could actually turn this into a genuine gaming ultraportable.

The PS42's body is all aluminum, and is so light at 2.6 pounds that it almost feels hollow. I almost think it feels too light, but I'm sure I'd appreciate the portability once I slipped it into a backpack. And thanks to the aluminum construction, it's plenty sturdy despite the barely there weight.

The screen is a contemporary near-bezel-less design, which only has one drawback: it pushes the webcam down to the center, underneath the display. That's a disappointment for a work-focused laptop, but hopefully not a dealbreaker; and it's one element MSI knows will be contentious, and is looking for feedback that could influence future iterations. Otherwise, the 14-inch 1080p IPS display looks great.

Classy. The PS42's screen also folds completely open, 180 degrees.

I don't have the full range of specs for the PS42, but it's going to run an Intel Coffee Lake "U" series processor and checks off most of the basic boxes: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, up to 16GB DDR4 RAM, support for NVMe SSD, about 10 hours of battery life.

Now here's the tantalizing bit: unlike all other ultraportable systems, which top out with Intel's integrated HD graphics, this one's going to have an option for Nvidia's MX150 dedicated GPU. Now if that was the full story, it would be a bit disappointing: the MX 150 is far slower than even the low-end of the laptop GeForce range in the GTX 1050. It's better than Intel's graphics, and powerful enough to run older or graphically simple games that wouldn't quite work just on integrated. But MSI's laptop product managment director Clifford Chun told me he's pushing for a model of the PS42 that includes a GTX 1050.

Ports include HDMI, USB-C x2, USB x2, 3.5mm, and card reader. It's too thin for Ethernet, but MSI will include a USB-C to Ethernet adapter in the box.

The big challenge there is being able to handle the increased heat of a more powerful GPU. But if MSI's engineers can do it—and I think they can, given the GS65 Stealth—this would be a hell of a laptop. It would be as thin and light as any business-focused laptop, but probably able to play a game like Fortnite at 60 frames per second on lower settings. That's the kind of system I'd happily shell out for.

The 14-inch PS42 should be available starting around July, and Chun says there's a 15-inch variant planned for this holiday season. The slight increase in size there may make the difference in cooling headroom and make that 1050 model a reality. But who knows: maybe we'll see it in the 14-inch version, too. I think MSI has the potential to break open a section of the laptop market that no one is currently competing in: great portable laptops that can actually play contemporary games without huge sacrifices. Even without that GTX 1050 model, though, the PS42 already looks like a damn good laptop for daily computing.

That's a fingerprint scanner in the touchpad, and a whole lot of air intake beneath the screen to keep things cool.