MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) review – aesthetics are above all

From making high-end gaming laptops to somewhat affordable office solutions, MSI is now well established in the portable computing industry. A couple of years ago, a market emerged seemingly out of nowhere – the content creator one. And last year, MSI converted its GS66 device into the MSI Creator 15. We can’t say it was a total hit among its target audience, but it was good enough to deserve our “Editor’s choice” award.

Today, however, we mark a step in a completely different direction, regarding the design. Gone is the industrially-inspired gaming look, the sharp corners, and the boxy design. Instead, MSI has chosen a MacBook Pro 16 approach. First of all, there is a 16-inch display with a 16:10 aspect ratio. Something that MSI insists it took from the Golden Ratio, but we all know where it comes from.

Next, there is the actual design, which incorporates round corners and sharp edges. Not to mention the color… Nevertheless, the Creator Z16 (A11Ux) is not a slouch. It can be maxed out with the Core i9-11900K, which is the latest and greatest from Intel. In addition to that, the graphics matters are taken care of by the RTX 3060, albeit with only 65W TGP. Expectedly, this is not an uncompromised package, but we hope that it is well optimized.

By the way, the display here has a 2560×1600 resolution, a 120Hz refresh rate, has optional touch sampling, and a ton of goodies regarding the colors. Rest assured that we are going to test every aspect of this panel.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-creator-z16-a11ux/

Contents


Specs Sheet

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) review – aesthetics are above all - Specs

  • AUO B160QAN02.P (AUOBF99)
  • Color accuracy  1.7  0.8
  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 8000GB SSD
  • M.2 Slot
  • 2x 2280 M.2 NVMe slots  See photo
  • RAM
  • up to 64GB
  • OS
  • Windows 10 Pro, Windows 11 Pro, No OS
  • Battery
  • 90Wh, 4-cell, 90Wh
  • Body material
  • Aluminum
  • Dimensions
  • 359 x 256 x 16.3 mm (14.13" x 10.08" x 0.64")
  • Weight
  • 2.30 kg (5.1 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 2x USB Type-A
  • 3.2 Gen 2 (10 Gbps)
  • 2x USB Type-C
  • Thunderbolt 4, DisplayPort
  • Card reader
  • MicroSD
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.2
  • Audio jack
  • 3.5mm Combo Jack
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • optional
  • Web camera
  • HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Speakers
  • 4 Stereo Speakers with Dynaudio
  • Optical drive

All MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) configurations

#CommissionsEarned

What’s in the box?

Inside of the packaging, you will find a 180W charger, as well as some paperwork. Nothing out of the ordinary in terms of contents, but the cardboard feels premium… if cardboard and premium can be used in the same sentence.


Design and construction

When it comes to appearance we see something marvelous. Tiny oval shapes, combined with sharp edges. All of this is executed from a CNC aluminum, which delivers a pretty rigid structure. Yet, the profile is extremely thin at 16.3mm, while the weight stands at 2.30 kg. This provides some sort of a view on the premium feel of the notebook. It is a bit heavy in the hand, but this adds to the experience. Especially, considering the 16-inch form factor.

Ultimately the MacBook Pro 16 vibes continue to the display, which is glass-covered and has thin black bezels around it. Thankfully, its 720 Web camera is paired with an IR face recognition sensor.

And this is not the only biometric signup offered by the Creator Z16. You also get a rather small fingerprint reader, placed below the large Arrow keys. In terms of usability, the keyboard is okay. Its key travel is not the longest out there, but the feedback is pretty satisfying. Interestingly, MSI managed to implement a MiniLED backlight for the keyboard, which can also be controlled in a Per-Key manner.

Weirdly enough, the 16:10 display is paired with a pretty wide aspect ratio touchpad. It’s not like MSI hasn’t had a choice, because there is a lot of space above the keyboard. Nevertheless, the unit is glass-covered and provides a comfortable experience.

By the way, if you are wondering, the huge space above the keyboard is not taken by a speaker grill. Instead, this is a ventilation slot for the triple fan setup.

On the bottom panel, there are four speaker cutouts, hiding 2W speakers. Additionally, you get another ventilation grill. Hot air, respectively, gets exhausted from two vents on the back, and one on each side of the laptop. Interestingly, opening the lid after about 100° lifts the backside of the bottom panel.


Ports

On the left side of the device, you will find the charging plug, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 2) port, a Thunderbolt 4 connector, and an audio jack. Then, on the right, there is another USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 2) port, one more Thunderbolt 4 connector, and a MicroSD card slot.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To get inside of this notebook, you need to undo 6 Phillips-head screws, two of which are located beneath the back rubber feet. After you’re done, pry the bottom panel with a plastic tool, and remove it from the chassis.

Unfortunately, your job does not end here. Since the motherboard is facing the wrong way around, you need to remove it to access the upgradeable parts. First, disconnect the 90Wh battery pack, and take it away from the chassis. Then, you will need to peel the plastic protective foil. After that, undo all screws holding the motherboard, including one for the Wi-Fi card, and two for the fans. Keep in mind that one of the fan screws is hiding beneath the display cable.

Speaking of cables, make sure you remove all connectors from the motherboard before you try lifting it away from the chassis.

Now that we have finally taken the motherboard out of the device, we can see the two RAM SODIMM slots, and the two M.2 PCIe x4 slots.

As for the cooling solution, it comprised two heat pipes for the CPU, two heat pipes for the graphics card, and an additional heat pipe, managing the thermals of the graphics memory.


Display quality

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) in the configuration we tested has a 120Hz WQXGA panel – AUO B160QAN02.P (AUOBF99). Its diagonal is 16″ (40.6 cm), and the resolution is 2560 х 1600 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:10, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 189 ppi, and a pitch of 0.13 х 0.13 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 46cm (18″) (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 350 nits in the middle of the screen and 331 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 9%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 6320K – slightly warmer than the optimal for the sRGB standard of 6500K.
In the illustration below you can see how the main 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 – 960:1.

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)’s software allows you to change image settings and calibrate your device’s colors.

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 Creator Z16 (A11Ux)’s color gamut coverage.

Its display is able to replicate the entire sRGB, and DCI-P3 gamut, as well as 92% of the Adobe RGB gamut.

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 Creator Z16 (A11Ux) with the default settings in sRGB mode (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. Interestingly, there is no OverDrive option inside of the MSI Center, as we saw on the MSI GE76 Raider.

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 Creator Z16 (A11Ux)’s display doesn’t use PWM to adjust its brightness at any point. This means it is comfortable for long gaming sessions without harming your eyes 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 Creator Z16 (A11Ux) configurations with 16″ WQXGA IPS AUO B160QAN02.P (AUOBF99).

*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

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

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.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Drivers

All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be found here: https://us.msi.com/Content-Creation/support/Creator-Z16-A11UX

Battery

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 9 hours and 8 minutes of Web browsing, and 6 hours and 32 minutes of video playback.

In order to simulate real-life conditions, we used our own script for automatic web browsing through over 70 websites.


CPU options

This device comes equipped with one of two 8-core processors from the Tiger Lake-H45 architecture of Intel. They are the Core i7-11800H and the Core i9-11900H.

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) CPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the CPUs that can be found in the MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different CPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / CPU.

Results are from the Cinebench 20 CPU test (the higher the score, the better)

Results are from our Photoshop benchmark test (the lower the score, the better)


GPU options

In terms of graphics, there are no options. The only configuration currently released includes the RTX 3060 with 6GB of VRAM and 65W of TGP.

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) GPU variants

Here you can see an approximate comparison between the GPUs that can be found in the MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) models on the market. This way you can decide for yourself which MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) model is the best bang for your buck.

Note: The chart shows the cheapest different GPU configurations so you should check what the other specifications of these laptops are by clicking on the laptop’s name / GPU.

Results are from the 3DMark: Fire Strike (Graphics) benchmark (higher the score, the better)


Gaming tests

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings) Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Average 130 fps 71 fps 48 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings) Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)
Average 87 fps 74 fps 49 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Highest (Check settings)
Average 87 fps 74 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.

Intel Core i7-11800H (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min Max Fans
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) 3.12 GHz (B+36%) @ 96°C @ 68W 3.03 GHz (B+32%) @ 95°C @ 62W 2.76 GHz (B+20%) @ 95°C @ 53W 2.90 GHz (B+26%) @ 95°C @ 59W
MSI GE76 Raider (2021) 3.22 GHz (B+40%) @ 95°C @ 67W 3.11 GHz (B+35%) @ 94°C @ 62W 3.14 GHz (B+37%) @ 94°C @ 61W 3.26 GHz (B+42%) @ 94°C @ 64W
ASUS TUF F15 (FX506, 2021) (Turbo Mode) 3.98 GHz (B+73%) @ 86°C @ 102W 3.88 GHz (B+69%) @ 95°C @ 100W 3.44 GHz (B+50%) @ 87°C @ 77W
MSI Pulse GL76 3.16 GHz (B+37%) @ 95°C @ 65W 3.00 GHz (B+30%) @ 95°C @ 59W 2.87 GHz (B+25%) @ 95°C @ 55W
MSI Pulse GL66 2.94 GHz (B+28%) @ 94°C @ 58W 2.76 GHz (B+20%) @ 94°C @ 52W 2.77 GHz (B+20%) @ 94°C @ 52W

In this test, the Creator Z16 performed similarly to the MSI Pulse GL66 and GL76. Additionally, using the Cooler Boost setting, which maximizes the fan speed, we only gained an increase of 140 MHz.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux) 1400 MHz @ 77°C @ 64W 1368 MHz @ 84°C @ 64W 1428 MHz @ 73°C @ 65W
Lenovo Legion 7 (16″, 2021) 1867 MHz @ 70°C @ 126W 1858 MHz @ 74°C @ 127W
Lenovo Legion 5 (15″ AMD, 2021) 1831 MHz @ 75°C @ 129W 1815 MHz @ 80°C @ 129W
Lenovo Legion 5 Pro (16″) 1803 MHz @ 76°C @ 129W 1787 MHz @ 81°C @ 129W
MSI GP66 Leopard 1863 MHz @ 72°C @ 124W 1852 MHz @ 75°C @ 125W 1849 MHz @ 69°C @ 127W
MSI GP76 Leopard 1860 MHz @ 71°C @ 129W 1857 MHz @ 73°C @ 128W 1869 MHz @ 67°C @ 128W

Although it is miles behind other RTX 3060 laptops we’ve tested, the Creator Z16 actually maintains its design TGP. Also, the Cooler Boost option here provides a healthy increase in clock speeds and an 11°C decrease in temperatures.

Comfort during combined load

When you are not using the Cooler Boost, the laptop is not too loud. And while the keyboard temperature is not too warm, the bottom panel and the bar above the keyboard do really heat up.


Verdict

In a couple of words, the Creator Z16 (A11Ux) is a well-designed laptop with great build quality, a performance that is not on the sharpest end of the sword, but it is still on point and battery life that should last you through an entire workday of low-intensity tasks. However, the full picture is a little different.

First of all, the battery. It won’t be a smart decision to do heavy-duty work away from the plug. Not only you won’t be able to get the maximum performance you need but your battery will drain extremely quickly. While on the note of computing power, we feel that content creators will be generally happy with the laptop. But from all devices we’ve tested with the Core i7-11800H, this was the worst in terms of performance.

Additionally, the 65W RTX 3060 is doing well. The cooling solution is calculated for exactly this GPU, but as we said a minute ago, the CPU will struggle a bit.

MSI Creator Z16 (A11Ux)’s touchscreen IPS panel has a 16:10 aspect ratio and 1600p resolution, comfortable viewing angles, and a good contrast ratio. Ultimately, it doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment and is able to cover the sRGB gamut and DCI-P3 gamut fully, as well as 92% of Adobe RGB. Its default color accuracy (or the factory calibration) is good enough, and it can become even better with our Gaming and Web design profile. However, the panel falls short of being ideal for professional work, due to the uneven color representation across the area of the display. Thankfully for gamers, the 120Hz refresh rate is paired with quick pixel response times.

The I/O is also pretty decent, providing two Thunderbolt 4 connectors, as well as a couple of USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 2) ports. You even get a MicroSD card reader. The trouble, however, comes when you want to upgrade your laptop. Not that this is impossible – you get two RAM SODIMM slots and two M.2 PCIe x4 slots for storage, The issue is that unlike most of the laptops out there, you need to remove the entire motherboard out of the machine, in order to make any changes. Yes, MSI has left one of the M.2 slots accessible without the need for this burdensome process. But to put more memory inside, you will need to do it. This is not new to the notebook world, though. We had the Acer Predator Triton 500, and the MSI GS65 Stealth, which required the same thing.

On the other hand, you are treated with а couple of biometric sign-in options – a fingerprint reader, as well as an IR face recognition sensor.

At the end of the day, as MSI states on their Web page, the Creator Z16 is all about aesthetics. Its beautiful, and tough body is definitely going to give you some respect points, but to be honest, the laptop is quite behind some competitors. For instance, there is the Lenovo Legion 7 (16″), which is more powerful, has a better cooling solution, and its display has a lot better color uniformity across the area of the panel. Of course, the purchase decision is entirely yours, but we feel that MSI could have done a better job, or at least they could have put a more competitive price tag.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-creator-z16-a11ux/

Pros

  • Aluminum design and great build quality
  • Large arrow keys, RGB backlight, and responsive touchpad
  • 2x SODIMM + 2x M.2 PCIe x4
  • No PWM (MNG007DA1-1 (CSO1600))
  • Full sRGB, and DCI-P3 coverage + 92% Adobe RGB coverage (MNG007DA1-1 (CSO1600))
  • 120Hz refresh rate with fast pixel response times (MNG007DA1-1 (CSO1600))
  • 2x Thunderbolt 4 + MicroSD card slot
  • IR face recognition + fingerprint reader


Cons

  • Underperforming CPU
  • Uneven color uniformity
  • Relatively difficult to upgrade

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O. Hunter
O. Hunter
1 year ago

“Its display is able to replicate the entire sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 gamuts.”

I would like to believe that — especially given that I own a Creator Z16. But is this what is being reflected in the supplied charts? If so, I’m clearly not interpreting them properly.

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