MSI Katana 15 Review (B13VGK-484US)

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7.9 Total Score
GOOD

The MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US is a decent, affordable gaming laptop that represents a new range of budget laptops powered by Raptor Lake and RTX 40 series chips, and designed for both work and play.

PROS
  • Impressive gaming performance
  • Good, full-size keyboard
  • Good value
  • Quiet fans
CONS
  • Low peak brightness
  • Abysmal battery life

MSI’s Katana gaming laptops are well known for decent gaming capability at a reasonable price, even if they rarely rival the most powerful gaming laptops around. A 2022 Katana GF66 with an RTX 3050 Ti is still my daily driver and it’s never missed a beat. For 2023, new MSI Katana 15 machines have landed with 13th-generation Intel chips and the latest Nvidia GPUs (in this case, the RTX 4070) inside.

Our review unit, the B13VGK-484US model, for the first time, crosses the $1000 price tag, which is the new rub in this category. However, for the slight price hike, it still manages to cram in a lot of bang for the buck with an Intel Raptor Lake processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 graphics card, 16GB of RAM, and a generous 1TB SSD.

If you’re looking for ultra-smooth 1080p gameplay on a high graphic preset, it’s graphics card and processor provide a good value for that. But if you’re willing to spend just a little more, there are better options available.

MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US Review lid

About the MSI Katana 15

Here are the specs on the B13VGK-484US model in this review:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-13620H
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070
  • Memory: 16GB RAM
  • Storage: 1TB NVMe SSD
  • Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz, IPS
  • Ports: 1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 w/ DisplayPort, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI 2.1 port, 1x Mini-DisplayPort
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
  • Battery: 53.5 watt-hours
  • Weight: 4.96 pounds
  • Dimensions: 14.13 x 10.2 x 0.98 inches

Along with the Core i7 in our review model, the MSI Katana 15 is also available in other variants: a choice of a Core i9-13900H, which also increases the memory to 32GB. This model is available with either RTX 4060 or RTX 4070 GPUs. The Core i7 variant is available with either the RTX 4050, RTX 4060, or RTX 4070, each with 16GB of memory.

MSI also has 12-th generation versions of the Katana, including the Core i5-12450H and Core i7-12650H with all three GPUs and maxes at 32GB of memory. All models come with a 1TB NVMe SSD.

What we like

Solid 1080p gaming performance

Since the launch of Nvidia’s RTX 40 series OF GPUs and competing AMD Radeon RX 7000 cards, we’ve seen flagship laptops push higher 1440p or even 4K resolutions, but the Katana 15 is well suited for 1080p gameplay. It packs a 10-core, 16-thread Intel Core i7-13620H processor that’s fast enough to support even the most CPU-intensive games.

Outside the 13th generation CPU, the Nvidia RTX 4070 does the heavy lifting for visuals, with enough power to run the most visually stunning games at high or max graphics settings, while maintaining high frame rates for buttery 1080p gameplay.

In Far Cry 6 (Ultra settings), the MSI Katana 15 averages 108 frames per second (fps), while on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it gets even more impressive, averaging 148fps in outdoor scenes and nearly 205 fps in indoor scenes. On games like Total War: Warhammer 3 that lean heavily on the CPU, the Katana 15 drops the average fps to 87 fps. Cyberpunk 2077 is a more graphically demanding game; it pushes the GPU hard but still manages to deliver a smooth 86 fps.

The RTX 4070 replaces the RTX 3070 and just like its desktop version, it can take advantage of Nvidia’s gaming-enhancing technologies like Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) to enhance gaming performance. DLSS allows the GPU to intelligently upscale supported games, so you can play games at higher frame rates without spending more money on a top-tier gaming laptop.

MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US Review screen

In Nvidia’s 40 series cards, DLSS Frame Generation takes centerstage by creating an additional frame and pairing it with the Super Sampling-created frame, and that means even better gaming performance due to the increased frame rates.

With Ray Tracing disabled, the Katana 15 manages 39 fps in Cyberpunk 2077, but enabling DLSSS with Frame Generation on Balanced Mode cranks up to 105 fps. And since DLSS bears a close resemblance to the native resolution, you might not notice a difference, so you lose nothing having it turned on wherever possible.

As a gaming machine, the Katana 15 doesn’t disappoint at all, especially in 1080p. But if you’re the kind of gamer that cares about topping the leaderboards, or often needs to render 3D images as fast as possible, you might need to look at something higher on the ladder, maybe an RTX 4080 or RTX 4090-based machine.

Perfectly balanced for work and play

Lately, we’re seeing a shift from the obtrusive gamer aesthetic on laptops, into modest styling but with gamer hardware on the inside. What that means, such machines, while designed for gaming, can also be used for school and work. The MSI Katana 15 is one such machine, it’s a good daily-commute laptop for both worlds.

Granted it doesn’t attempt to outshine the MSI GF63 Thin as one of the thinnest and lightest gaming laptops, but it still strikes a good balance between price, performance, and portability. If you’re looking forward to using the Katana 15 for more than just gaming, you’ll find it well-balanced, and versatile for use at work and school without a pause.

With a 15.6-inch screen and weighing just under 5 pounds, the Katana will slide into a backpack or briefcase and won’t bog you down on your daily commute. Outside the versatility it offers, the Intel Core i7-13620H, 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD storage make it powerful enough to run all your productivity and creative apps with ease.

MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US Review keys

To that, add the RTX 4070 GPU and you have a machine that’s powerful enough to handle moderate to heavy digital art, video editing, and other creative workloads you might have. Most productivity apps like Microsoft Word and Excel run flawlessly, as do online alternatives like Google Docs and Google Sheets. It also includes a fill Numpad, which makes data entry jobs a breeze.

It also doesn’t scream ‘gaming’ like, let’s say, the Alienware X16 R1, you’ll recognize the MSI logo on the lid but it doesn’t have flashy RGB accents to draw unwanted attention even when used in a classroom or meetings. The keyboard has four RGB zones behind its keys, but these can be turned off when you don’t need the lights show.

The only downside is that, like most gaming laptops, the Katana 15’s battery doesn’t last all day. If you plan to use it for more than a few hours, you’ll need to bring along the charger.

Incredible value for the buck

Beyond performance and function, another thing the Katana 15 has going for it is affordability. We have reviewed RTX 4070-powered laptops, but this is so far, the only laptop you can get with an Intel 13-th generation CPU for around $1500. The next closes laptop in price is the Gigabyte Aorus 15, which will set you back around $1700, but pack a few other hardware enhancements that justify the price.

Depending on the model you pick, the Katana 15 can be had for even $1000. The entry-level model uses an equally entry-level Nvidia RTX 4050, which will mean you tone down some in-game settings but still eke smooth 1080p gameplay. If you upgrade to the middle-ground RTX 3060, you can turn up the graphics quality and still save a few hundred dollars.

MSI still offers the 12th-generation processors, and that should lead to even better deals. If you opt for the 12-th gen RTX 4070 model, you’re assured of similar gaming performance for around $200 less, making it killer value.

Other gaming-enhancing features on the MSI B13VGK-484US include a 144Hz display for silky-smooth gameplay, better response, and less motion blur. It also comes with a fast 1TB NVMe SSD and 16GB of memory, so you can store and play all your games in one place. The memory is user upgradeable up to 64GB via two memory slots on the back panel.

What we don’t like

Battery life is just short

Battery life is never great on gaming laptops, but in recent years we’ve seen improvements with machines like the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 lasting up to 11 hours on a single charge. However, with the Katana 15, things dive: In balanced mode, it manages only two hours and 36 minutes with brightness set to around 200 nits.

Switching to Super Battery mode with MSI Hybrid graphics, the battery life improves to just over four hours, but performance takes a hit; the laptop stutters when you quickly scroll through long webpages or run demanding apps.

The included charger isn’t hefty, so you can carry it along with you to the office or college. If you intend on working in Google Docs, turning on power saver mode won’t make a big difference, but it should give you enough battery life to make it through most of your classes or most of the workday.

MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US Review keyboard

Build quality would be better

We’re getting accustomed to aluminum or carbon fiber builds on laptops that cost anything above $1,000, but as you’ll realize, that’s certainly not the case with the MSI Katana 15 – some corners were cut to achieve this price point.

The lid, chassis, and keyboard deck are all cut from plastic. It doesn’t boast any lightweight metal for added durability, so the Katana 15 will suffer a blow if you accidentally drop it. This plastic material is also a fingerprint magnet, so you’ll need to wipe the chassis down to keep the laptop looking clean.

There are other smaller things too: Speakers sound thin and hollow, the keys are slightly mushy, and the keyboard is a bit cramped. It doesn’t get a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello, it lacks USB charging, and the touchpad is slightly small.

None of these things are deal breakers and will not affect gaming performance, but they’re worth noting so that you can know exactly where your investment is going. The asking price leans heavily toward the graphics card and processor, then everything else is on the second row. That’s impressive if gaming is your priority but it is worth bearing in mind when comparing the B13VGK-484US against the competition.

Bottom Line

The MSI Katana 15 occupies an upper spot in the budget gaming laptop category. With an asking price of around $15000, the Katana 15 checks all the right boxes with a strong Intel Core i7-13620H processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. That’s impressive given that most gaming laptops at that price point give you just 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD (or smaller).

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 4070 makes the deal even better, and this is likely to be the new standard for low-priced, midrange gaming laptops, a spot previously reserved for the RTX 3070. On the other hand, the display is mediocre at best, favoring a high refresh rate over image quality. Additionally, the plastic chassis is uninspiring, and the short battery life significantly lags behind its peers. But they are not dealbreakers, but just worth keeping in mind when comparing it with competitors out there.

With that said the MSI Katana 15 B13VGK-484US ushers in the new breed of budget gaming laptops powered by Raptor Lake and RTX 40 chips for even better performance. And it easily earns a spot among the best gaming laptops under $1500.

Last update on 2024-07-16 at 02:37 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

MSI Katana 15 Review (B13VGK-484US)
MSI Katana 15 Review (B13VGK-484US)
$1,459.00
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