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Article updated on December 10, 2023 at 4:00 AM PST

MSI Modern 14 C13M Review: Solid Budget Laptop With a Few Shortcomings

Its audio-visual output won't wow you, but MSI's 14-inch budget offering boasts good build quality and competitive performance.

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Matt Elliott
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Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops, desktops, all-in-one PCs, streaming devices, streaming platforms
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MSI Modern 14 C13M
7.2/10 CNET Score
$699 at B&H
7.2/ 10
SCORE

MSI Modern 14 C13M

$699 at B&H

Pros

  • Sturdy metal-and-plastic chassis
  • Competitive performance for the price
  • Punchy keyboard

Cons

  • 14-inch, 16:9 display is dim and squat
  • Underpowered speakers
  • Short battery life

The MSI Modern 14 C13M is the smaller cousin to the Modern 15 B13M, not to mention the better deal. Like its larger, 15.6-inch sibling, the 14-inch Modern 14 C13M is centered around a full-HD, nontouch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio. Moving to a more, well, modern 16:10 display would be preferred, which provides a little more workspace. For a laptop that straddles the line between budget and mainstream, however, the $749 Modern 14 C13M provides strong build quality and an ample allotment of RAM to act as an everyday workhorse machine as long as you don't have any creative aspirations that require demanding graphics applications.

Based on a 13th-gen Intel Core i5 U-series CPU, the Modern 14 C13M is a capable laptop for general school and work use. And at just over 3 pounds, it's portable enough for daily treks across campus or to your local coffee shop. Just be sure to bring the charger for longer outings because battery life is below average. 

MSI Modern 14 C13M specifcations

Price as reviewed $750
Display size/resolution 14-inch 1,920x1,080 LCD
CPU Intel Core i5-1335U
Memory 16GB DDR4-3200
Graphics 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Bluetooth 5.2
Connections USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C , USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A (x3), HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm combo audio jack, microSD card slot
Operating system Windows Home 11 22H2

Our MSI Modern 14 test system (model C13M-606US) is not customizable and features a Core i5-1335U processor, 16GB of memory, integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics and a 512GB SSD. The 15.6-inch display features a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution but lacks touch support. It has a list price of $749, but at the time this review is published was on sale at B&H for $699 and Newegg for $700.

The Modern 14 C13M is not available in the UK, but you can get the previous model with a 12th-gen Intel processor for £490. The Modern 14 C13M is available in Australia starting at AU$899.

MSI Modern 14 C13M laptop from the back to show pink lid
Matt Elliott/CNET

The Modern 14 C13M proved to be an able mainstream performer in lab testing. Its benchmark scores were in the same ballpark as pricier systems with Core i7 chips. Its Core i5-1335U processor is very similar to the popular Core i7-1355U part. Both chips feature two performance cores, eight efficiency cores and a total of 12 processing threads. The Core i5-1335U just runs at a slower frequency. For most scenarios, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between the two. Neither is the right CPU for demanding graphics apps when paired with an integrated Intel GPU, but both offer up enough muscle for general office tasks and school work unless your academics include serious scientific, engineering or CAD work. 

I found the Modern C13M provided a smooth Windows experience, including during times when I was multitasking and browsing the web with dozens of open tabs in Chrome. It also operated coolly and quietly, with the bottom panel getting slightly warm only after long periods of use when I was running multiple apps while also streaming video. I also appreciated getting 512GB of solid-state storage because many laptops at this price supply only a 256GB SSD.

Despite using an efficient, 15-watt U-series processor, the Modern 14 C13M doesn't offer great battery life. It lasted just over 6 hours on our online streaming battery drain test, which is a shorter-than-average runtime. The culprit isn't the Intel U-series processor, but rather the undersize, three-cell, 38-watt-hour battery.

Better-than-budget build quality

Many laptops you'll encounter at a price of $700 to $800 feature flimsy, creaky plastic shells, but the Modern 14 C13M adds some metal to its makeup. It's not an all-metal enclosure, but there's more aluminum than plastic. The lid behind the display and the keyboard deck are aluminum, with the bottom panel made from plastic. It looks and feels more like a mainstream laptop than a budget model. Both metal and plastic surfaces feel rigid with only a slight amount of flex.

The Modern 14 C13M is available in one of three colors. We received the Beige Rose option. In truth, it's more pink than beige. I'd describe it as a muted pink. If pink isn't your color, you can opt for the more buttoned-up silver or black options. 

MSI Modern 14 C13M laptop 16:9 display
Matt Elliott/CNET

Weighing a trim 3.2 pounds, the laptop is light enough for daily travel but you might start to feel a bit cramped if you plan to use it as your primary work computer that you'll sit in front of day in and day out. I find there's an appreciable difference between working on a 14-inch display with a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 14-inch, 16:10 display. The added room from top to bottom makes a 16:10 screen at this size feel so much bigger. More lines of text fit on the screen, for instance, which makes reading documents and web pages easier since you don't need to scroll as much as you do on the Modern 14 C13M's display. And when you consider the large menus at the top of windows in apps like Chrome, Outlook and Word, the number of lines that fit on the screen is already limited.

The display's dimensions aren't its only shortcoming. The overall design of the Modern 14 C13M may be above the usual budget fare, but its display is no better than what you find on most lower-end laptops. It's dim with poor viewing angles. It measured a maximum of only 254 nits in testing a Spyder X Elite colorimeter, putting it on par with the basic 250-nit display of the typical budget laptop. The display's color performance was also poor; it covered only 69% of sRGB, 52% of AdobeRGB and 51% of P3 color spaces. 

On a positive note, the full-HD resolution offers enough pixel density on the 14-inch panel that text and the edges of images look crisp. And the display's antiglare finish means you won't be fighting against annoying glare while you work.

MSI Modern 14 C13M lying flat with display flipped
Matt Elliott/CNET

The display hinge can rotate 180 degrees so you can lay the display flat. This flexibility is used primarily to share the contents of your screen with someone sitting across from you. But in this scenario, this person would be looking at everything upside down. With MSI's Flip-n-Share feature, however, you can flip the screen by pressing the F12 key so everything appears right side up to the person sitting across from you. It's a feature you likely won't use all that much, but it's executed well. The display rotates quickly without any video artifacts showing or the screen going black for any amount of time.

Sharing audio on the Modern 14 C13M will be a challenge. The basic, 2-watt stereo speakers produce weak audio that's not suitable for music playback and only barely passes for watching YouTube, Netflix and the like. Even at max volume, I strained to hear dialog during shows and movies. 

Above the budget-level display is a budget-level webcam. It's a 720p webcam that produces a grainier image than you'd get with a more modern 1080p camera. Still, among 720p webcams, it's not bad. There was some noise with the picture, but the exposure was well balanced, and colors looked accurate.

Keyboard and touchpad of the MSI Modern 14 C13M
Matt Elliott/CNET


The AV aspect of the Modern 14 C13M is underwhelming, but the input options are solid for the price. The keyboard feels roomy, and the keys offer firm and quiet action. There's three-level backlight but no fingerprint reader. And without an IR sensor on the webcam, you'll need to key in passwords instead of being able to rely on secure biometrics. The touchpad's click response is a bit louder than I'd like but still falls short of being classified as "clacky."

Ports on left side of the MSI Modern 14 C13M
Matt Elliott/CNET

You get a useful selection of external connections with the Modern 14 C13M, with both USB-C and USB-A ports along with an HDMI port, a combo audio jack and even a microSD card slot. Like other budget models, the laptop lacks Thunderbolt 4 support; the lone USB-C offers slower USB 3.2 Gen 2 connectivity. We often balk at having only one USB-C port, but since the Modern 14 C13M's power adapter uses a barrel connector, having but a solo USB-C port ought to be enough.

The Modern 14 C13M has the same shortcomings as you'll find on many budget laptops. Namely, a dim display and weak speakers. While I'd like to see it updated with a 16:10 display, the 14-inch, 16:9 offers enough space for getting work done while keeping the laptop quite portable. The build quality of the metal-and-plastic enclosure is a step above the usual budget offering, and the keyboard and touchpad also have a more mainstream than budget feel. 

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How we test computers

The review process for laptops, desktops, tablets and other computerlike devices consists of two parts: performance testing under controlled conditions in the CNET Labs and extensive hands-on use by our expert reviewers. This includes evaluating a device's aesthetics, ergonomics and features. A final review verdict is a combination of both objective and subjective judgments. 

The list of benchmarking software we use changes over time as the devices we test evolve. The most important core tests we're currently running on every compatible computer include Primate Labs Geekbench 6, Cinebench R23, PCMark 10 and 3DMark Fire Strike Ultra

A more detailed description of each benchmark and how we use it can be found on our How We Test Computers page. 

Geekbench 5 (multicore)

MSI Modern 14 C13M 7,091MSI Modern 15 B13M 7,073HP Pavilion 14 7,034HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 6,871Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 6,749Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 5,326
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench 6 (multicore)

Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 10,900Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 8,702HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 7,827MSI Modern 14 C13M 7,483MSI Modern 15 B13M 7,431
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

JetStream2 (JavaScript and WebAssembly benchmark) in Chrome

MSI Modern 15 B13M 273.596Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 270.468Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 269.37MSI Modern 14 C13M 256.488HP Pavilion 14 225.444HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 222.793
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Wild Life Extreme Unlimited

Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 3,906Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 2,962HP Pavilion 14 2,809MSI Modern 15 B13M 2,728MSI Modern 14 C13M 2,259HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 2,191
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

PCMark 10 Pro Edition

HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 5,790Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 5,452Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 5,433MSI Modern 14 C13M 5,157MSI Modern 15 B13M 5,053HP Pavilion 14 4,980
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Online streaming battery drain test

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 728HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 640Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 432HP Pavilion 14 411MSI Modern 14 C13M 369MSI Modern 15 B13M 335
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

System configurations

MSI Modern 14 C13M Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i5-1335U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 512GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
MSI Modern 15 B13M Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1355U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 1TB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
HP Pavilion Aero Laptop 13 Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1355U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 256GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
HP Pavilion 14 Windows 11 Home; Intel Core i5-1235U, 16GB DDR4-3200 RAM, 256GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Dell XPS 13 Plus 9320 Windows 11 Home, Intel Core i7-1360P, 16GB DDR5-6400 RAM, 512GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 Windows 11 Pro, Intel Core i7-1355U, 16GB DDR5-6400 RAM, 512GB SSD, integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics