Okay guys, prepare for something big today – we have our first take on the RDNA 2 architecture. The laptop in question is the MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex), and it’s equipped with the Radeon RX 6600M. Indeed, this is not a top dog of a graphics card, but it should be comparable to the RTX 3060 to some extent.
Of course, you will need a powerful CPU in order to eliminate any bottleneck opportunity. This is why for the time being, MSI offers its device only with the Ryzen 7 5800H. This means that MSI is once again into entirely AMD builds. However, before we start, we want to talk a bit about the laptop itself.
It is a medium-to-high-end device that is relatively affordable, considering the hardware inside. Surely, we don’t really know how capable it is, and how well does it fare against its NVIDIA counterparts, but on paper, it looks promising. Ultimately, it seems like MSI is reusing the GL66 Pulse chassis, and we are not sure if this is for the best – especially if the cooling setup is the same. Nevertheless, we are about to find out.
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-alpha-15-b5ex/
MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) - Specs
All MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) configurations
What’s in the box?
Inside the package, you will find a 180W power adapter, some paper manuals, and the laptop, protected by an anti-static cloth.
Design and construction
According to the manufacturer, the black chassis of this notebook is made from metal. It is fairly strong in terms of rigidity, while the specs show a height of 24mm, and a weight of 2.35 kg. Pretty much right at the standard for a gaming laptop. Interestingly, much like ASUS and their ROG and TUF brands, MSI uses another logo for their Alpha laptops. It is located in the middle of the lid and looks pretty good.
Thankfully, the lid can be opened with a single hand. Additionally, it is pretty resistant to flex. Here, the side bezels are pretty thin, in contrast to the pronounced chin at the bottom. On the opposite side, though, you will find the HD Web camera.
As far as the keyboard goes, you get two options – one with a Red backlight, as well as an RGB unit. Despite that, both devices have the same relatively long key travel and clicky feedback. Moreover, it features a NumbarPad section and rather large Arrow keys. If you look closely at the image below, you will see that there are a ton of shortcuts, including an MSI Center key, and a CoolerBoost initiating shortcut.
Then, there is the touchpad. Honestly, it is a decent unit with fast and accurate tracking. However, we find it unimpressive, as the clicking mechanism has a dead zone before it registers your clicking input.
On the bottom panel, you can clearly see the huge ventilation grills. They are joined by a couple of speaker cutouts. As for the heat exhaust – it happens from three vents – two on the back, and one on the left side.
On the left side, there is the charging plug, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and a USB Type-A 2.0 port. Then, on the right, you will find an RJ-45 connector, an HDMI connector, a USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 1) port with DisplayPort connectivity, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and an audio jack.
Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance
This device’s bottom panel is held in place by 13 Phillips-head screws. After you undo them, pry the panel with a plastic tool, and remove it from the chassis.
We are impressed by the 90Wh battery pack, this laptop comes with.
Memory-wise, you get two RAM SODIMM slots for up to 64GB in total, working in dual-channel. As for the storage, you get two M.2 PCIe x4 slots.
Finally, there is the cooling. MSI uses only two heat pipes for the CPU. On the other hand, the graphics card is cooled by three heat pipes, two of which are also used to cool the VRMs. There is an additional heat pipe for the graphics memory.
MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) has a panel with a model number AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1080 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:9, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 142 ppi, and a pitch of 0.18 х 0.18 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 60cm (24″) (from this distance one’s eye stops differentiating the separate pixels, and it is normal for looking at a laptop).
Viewing angles are excellent. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.
Also, a video with locked focus and exposure.
We measured a maximum brightness of 305 nits in the middle of the screen and 310 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 8%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 8160K – colder the optimal for the sRGB standard of 6500K.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. In other words, the leakage of light from the light source.
Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work. The contrast ratio is good – 1270:1.
To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.
Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.
Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.
The yellow dotted line shows MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex)’s color gamut coverage.
Its display covers 93% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.
Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.
We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.
Below you can compare the scores of MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).
The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.
The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale, and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.
Response time (Gaming capabilities)
We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.
We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 8 ms.
After that, we test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.
PWM (Screen flickering)
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.
MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) doesn’t use PWM in the adjustment of its brightness. This makes the screen comfortable for extended periods of use, without presenting excessive harm to your eyesight in this aspect.
Blue light emissions
Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.
Buy our profiles
Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex) configurations with 15.6″ 144Hz FHD IPS AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED).
*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]
Read more about the profiles HERE.
In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.
Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.
Design and Gaming
This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.
Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.
MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex)’s speakers produce a sound of decent quality. Its low, mid, and high tones all have some deviations from clarity.
All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://www.msi.com/Laptop/support/Alpha-15-B5EX
Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits, and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This device’s 90Wh battery pack lasts for 10 hours and 41 minutes of Web browsing, and 9 hours and 41 minutes of video playback.
In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.
For every test like this, we use the same video in HD.
By the time of writing this review, the laptop was only available with AMD’s Ryzen 7 5800H – an 8-core/16-thread Zen 3 processor with a base clock speed of 3.20 GHz, and a Boost speed of up to 4.40 GHz.
Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Fritz chess benchmark (the higher the score, the better)
Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)
Respectively, this review marks the debut of RDNA 2 in our office. It is in the form of the Radeon RX 6600M.
Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark (higher the score, the better)
Results are from the Unigine Superposition benchmark (higher the score, the better)
|Borderlands 3||Full HD, V.Low (Check settings)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, High (Check settings)||Full HD, Badass (Check settings)|
|Average fps||110 fps||97 fps||77 fps||60 fps|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)||Full HD, Medium (Check settings)||Full HD, Very High (Check settings)||Full HD, MAX (Check settings)|
|Average||149 fps||83 fps||52 fps|
|Far Cry 5||Full HD, Normal (Check settings)||Full HD, High (Check settings)||Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)|
|Average||110 fps||105 fps||99 fps|
|Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands||Full HD, High (Check settings)||Full HD, Very High (Check settings)||Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)|
|Average||95 fps||82 fps||57 fps|
Temperatures and comfort
Max CPU load
In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.
Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.
|AMD Ryzen 7 5800H (45W TDP)||0:02 – 0:10 sec||0:15 – 0:30 sec||10:00 – 15:00 min|
|MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex)||3.35 GHz (B+5%) @ 75°C||3.27 GHz (B+2%) @ 93°C||3.29 GHz (B+3%) @ 95°C|
|Lenovo Legion 7 (16″, 2021)||3.41 GHz (B+7%) @ 71°C||3.41 GHz (B+7%) @ 75°C||3.53 GHz (B+10%) @ 87°C|
|Lenovo Legion 5 (15″ AMD, 2021)||3.17 GHz @ 61°C||3.17 GHz @ 64°C||3.17 GHz @ 75°C|
|HP Omen 15 (2021, 15-en1000)||3.33 GHz (B+4%) @ 78°C||3.33 GHz (B+4%) @ 85°C||3.42 GHz (B+7%) @ 88°C|
|ASUS ROG Strix SCAR 15 G533||3.43 GHz (B+7%) @ 76°C||3.35 GHz (B+5%) @ 80°C||3.47 GHz (B+8%) @ 82°C|
|ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 SE (GX551)||3.93 GHz (B+23%) @ 81°C||3.82 GHz (B+19%) @ 86°C||3.78 GHz (B+18%) @ 93°C|
|ASUS TUF A17 (FA706) 2021||3.42 GHz (B+7%) @ 74°C||3.34 GHz (B+4%) @ 78°C||3.35 GHz (B+5%) @ 84°C|
Well, we weren’t expecting much from this notebook’s cooling solution. However, the fact that it still managed to maintain clocks higher than the Base one is respectable.
|AMD Radeon RX 6600M||GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min)||GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min)||GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)|
|MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex)||2162 MHz @ 74°C @ 76W||2164 MHz @ 76°C @ 77W||2161 MHz @ 74°C @ 76W|
In this test, we saw that the Radeon RX 6600M is capable of running at really high frequencies. The temperature was okay, and running with the CoolerBoost option seemed to do pretty much nothing. Interestingly, the Chip Power Draw according to GPU-Z was about 76-77W.
Well, even without using the CoolerBoost option the laptop ran pretty loud. On the bright side, the warmest spot on the keyboard was about 45°C, which is not too hot. Moreover, the WASD area seemed to be a lot cooler than that.
First, let’s mention some of the downsides here. Undoubtedly, one of them is the I/O. Although you get most of what you’ll need, there is no SD card reader, one of the USB Type-A slots is limited to 2.0 speeds, and the USB Type-C port is only 3.2 (Gen. 1).
On the bright side, this unit was equipped with a huge 90Wh battery. It lasted for 10 hours and 41 minutes of Web browsing, and an hour less of video playback.
But before you get bored, it will be best to switch to the elephant in the room – the RX 6600M. In the beginning, we said that this notebook is somewhat of a carbon copy to the GL66 Pulse, but instead of the Intel/NVIDIA combo, there is a full AMD build. Well, we were intrigued by the similarity of these two notebooks’ performances. In some titles, like the Ghost Recon: Wildlands, the AMD machine has a slight advantage, while in others, like Borderlands 3, the RTX 3060 outperforms its counterpart.
Since this is the first laptop we test with this graphics card, we expect to see some improvement down the line as newer drivers get released, and more potent devices show the true potential of the GPU. Also, keep in mind that AMD is going to provide versions of the RX 6600M ranging from 50 to 100W of TGP.
MSI Alpha 15 (B5Ex)’s IPS panel has a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, and a good contrast ratio. It has a pretty high color coverage (93% of sRGB), and its backlight doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment. Not only does it have a good color accuracy thanks to our Gaming and Web design profile, but its default settings are great for gamers in terms of pixel response times.
Generally, we were happy with the input devices, although the touchpad could have been better. On the other hand, every touchpad is inferior to external mice for gaming.
You know, we don’t feel that this is the laptop that screams – bang for your buck. Its design is basically recycled, the hardware is good but definitely not great. Well, it will run all AAA titles out there at the moment. Don’t get us wrong, we love to see the revived competition between AMD and NVIDIA, but we are eager to test more devices to see if team Red can overthrow its opponent. At the end of the day, though, the display is great (especially with our Gaming and Web design profile), and the battery life is good enough for you to consider this as more than your daily driver.
You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-alpha-15-b5ex/
- Two SODIMM slots, two M.2 PCIe x4 slot
- Rigid structure
- Lacks PWM (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))
- 93% sRGB coverage and accurate colors with our Gaming and Web design profile (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))
- Fast pixel response times and 144Hz refresh rate (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))
- Powerful hardware
- Good battery life
- No SD card reader and Thunderbolt 4
- Runs hot