Apple’s MacBook Pro 16 is a creator’s dream machine, able to cruise through demanding creative workflows with ease. That’s thanks to its Apple M1 CPU, which offers unparalleled CPU performance that Windows machines are only starting to approach with Intel’s 12th-gen processors. MSI’s Creator Z17 is one of the first machines to offer Intel’s latest, and it’s a speedy laptop for it.
|MSI Creator Z17||Apple MacBook Pro 16|
|Dimensions||15.04 inches by 10.24 inches by 0.75 inches||14.01 inches x 9.77 inches x 0.66 inches|
|Weight||7.4 pounds||4.8 pounds|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900H
|Apple M1 Pro
Apple M1 Max
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti
|Integrated Apple GPU|
64GB (M1 Max)
|Display||17-inch 16:10 IPS QHD+ (2560 x 1600) 165Hz||16.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR (3456 x 2234)|
|Ports||2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 2
2 x USB-C 4 with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD card reader
|3 x USB-C 4 with Thunderbolt 4
1 x HDMI 2.0
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x SD Card reader
|Wireless||Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2||Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0|
|Webcam||1080p, Windows 11 Hello infrared camera||1080p|
|Operating system||Windows 11||MacOS Monterey|
|Battery||90 watt-hour||100 watt-hour|
|Rating||3.5 stars out of 5||5 out of 5 stars|
The MacBook Pro 16 is one of the newer laptops in Apple’s lineup, and it undoes some of the prior design choices that proved unpopular. It’s thicker than its predecessors, allowing for an HDMI port, it does away with the Touch Bar that never caught on, and it enjoys more modern (i.e., thinner) display bezels. But it’s still a MacBook through and through, with the same understated design that eschews any sort of bling and instead looks like it’s chiseled from a solid block of metal (which it is, CNC machined aluminum to be precise). It’s an iconic design that many laptops have attempted to emulate throughout the years, and it still exudes quality and elegance.
The Creator Z17 is also constructed from CNC machined aluminum, and it comes in a Lunar Grey (dark grey) color scheme with its own minimalist design. There’s no bling here either, although there are more angles and edges to make it stand out from Apple’s simpler design. Its venting also differentiates from the MacBook Pro 16, which is better at hiding its intake and exhaust ports, while Apple’s notch in the display is its oddity.
The MacBook Pro 16 is among the most solidly built laptops you can buy and is arguably the industry leader in build quality. You’ll find zero bending, flexing, or twisting anywhere in the lid, keyboard deck, or bottom chassis. The Creator Z17 is a step behind, with some bending in the lid that gives it less of a solid feel. It’s a well-built laptop for sure; it’s just not quite in the same class as the MacBook Pro 16.
You won’t find a better keyboard on a laptop in 2022 than Apple’s Magic Keyboard installed on the MacBook Pro 16. Gone is the previous Apple butterfly keyboard with its typing-on-a-block-of-wood feel. Now, you get scissor switches that don’t offer the most travel but have an unparalleled snappy and precise mechanism with the perfect bottoming action. The keycaps are perfectly sized, and there’s just the right amount of key spacing. Typing on the MacBook Pro 16 is a sublime experience for fast-touch typists, and it’s the least fatiguing keyboard you’ll use. Windows users should be jealous.
The Creator Z17’s keyboard is made by SteelSeries and has deep travel at 1.5mm with good key spacing and keycap size, and there’s per-key RGB lighting that’s incongruous on a non-gaming laptop (but fun nonetheless). The switches have an excellent click and a comfortable bottoming action. It fares well to other Windows machines, but it can’t stand up to the MacBook Pro 16’s Magic Keyboard.
The touchpad is another crucial point of distinction between these two laptops. While the Creator Z17’s mechanical touchpad is large and has a comfortable surface, and its buttons are quiet yet confident, it’s miles behind Apple’s Force Touch haptic touchpad. That is also large and precise across its entire surface, and you can click and double-click anywhere. The haptic feedback is perfect, making the touchpad feel like a mechanical version but without the limitations. As with the keyboard, the touchpad is the best you’ll find on a laptop today.
The Creator Z17 does have more diverse connectivity, with two USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 ports, two USB-C 4 ports with Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI 2.1 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. It’s well-equipped for both future and legacy peripherals. The MacBook Pro 16’s connectivity is more limited, with three USB-C 4 ports with Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, a 3.5mm audio jack, and a full-size SD card reader. The Creator Z17 also sports the faster Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 compared to the MacBook’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.
Password-less login is provided by a Windows 11 Hello infrared camera on the Creator Z17, while the MacBook Pro 16 uses the Touch ID fingerprint reader. Both solutions work reliably.
There’s a battle brewing between Apple’s M1 ARM CPUs and Intel’s 12th-gen hybrid processors, and the MacBook Pro 16 and Creator Z17 are two of the first to join the fight. We reviewed the MacBook Pro 16 with the M1 Pro, which features a 10-core CPU (eight performance and two efficiency) and a 16-core GPU. The MacBook Pro 16 can also use Apple’s M1 Max, which also has 10 CPU cores but ups the GPU to 24 or 32 cores. That’s compared to the Creator Z17, which we reviewed with the Intel Core i7-12700H, a 14-core CPU with six Performance cores and eight Efficient cores. You can also configure the Creator Z17 with a Core i9-12900H, a faster chip with the same core count. Our review unit was equipped with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU, but there are options for up to an RTX 3080 Ti if you need additional graphical power.
Both laptops have more headroom if you’re willing to spend the money.
In our CPU-intensive benchmarks, the two laptops performed similarly. One caveat is that the results in the table were generated with MSI’s performance utility set to “balanced” mode. Switch to “performance” mode, and the Creator Z17 pulled ahead in Geekbench 5 and Cinebench R23, and it was even faster in our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265.
The Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark, which runs in a live version of Adobe Premiere Pro and can utilize the GPU to accelerate various processes, gives interesting results. The MacBook Pro 16’s GPU isn’t nearly as fast as the Creator Z17’s, yet it still dominated. In performance mode, though, the Creator Z17 was a bit faster at 984. Note that the MacBook Pro 16 with the M1 Max CPU hit 1,167 in the benchmark, and the Creator Z17 would likely be competitive with that higher score when configured with the Core i9 and RTX 3080 Ti.
So, overall, these two laptops are similar performers, with the Creator Z17 pulling slightly ahead when switched to performance mode. And again, both have room for improvement if you have the cash to spare.
|MSI Creator Z17
|Apple MacBook Pro 16
(single / multi)
|1,744 / 11,750||1,773 / 12,605|
(single / multi)
|1,804 / 11,266||1,531 / 12,343|
|Pugetbench Premiere Pro||897||977|
Both laptops are designed with creators in mind, but the MacBook Pro 16 has a 16.2-inch 16:10 Liquid Retina XDR (3456 x 2234) mini-LED display that’s more in line with their needs. It was considerably brighter and had inky-black contrast, with similar color saturation and better accuracy. The Creator Z17’s 17-inch 16:10 IPS QHD+ (2560 x 1600) display’s low contrast is its primary downfall, and its AdobeRGB gamut is a little less than demanding creative owners would prefer. It does run at 165Hz, though, which gives it smoother responsiveness than the MacBook Pro 16’s 120Hz (which is still excellent).
The Creator Z17 has a touch-enabled panel, which the MacBook Pro 16 lacks, and interestingly MSI built-in active pen support, the first in a 17-inch laptop. If either of those features matters to you, they’re points in the Creator Z17’s favor.
It’s not that the Creator Z17’s display isn’t good enough for creators. It’s just not nearly as bright as Apple’s panel, and it can’t display the same kind of deep blacks.
|MSI Creator Z17||Apple MacBook Pro 16|
(DeltaE, lower is better)
The Creator Z17 is quite a bit wider and deeper than the MacBook Pro 16 thanks to its larger 17-inch display, and it’s thicker at 0.75 inches compared to 0.66 inches. More important, it’s considerably heavier, coming in at a hefty 7.4 pounds compared to the MacBook Pro 16’s much lighter 4.8 pounds. Both laptops will take up some space in your backpack, but your back will be feeling the Creator Z17 as you carry it around.
The battery life comparison borders on the comical. There’s not that much difference in battery size, with the Creator Z17 equipping a 90-watt-hour battery and the MacBook Pro 16 packing 100 watt-hours inside. Both laptops also have large, high-resolution displays, which are well documented for sapping battery. Nevertheless, the disparity in battery life is simply stunning. The Creator Z17 struggled to make it to lunchtime on our web browsing test that cycles through a series of popular and complex websites and our video test that loops a local Avengers trailer. The MacBook Pro 16, however, demonstrated multi-day battery life on both tests, among the best results we’ve seen yet.
It’s remarkable that the MacBook Pro 16 can last so long on a charge when it’s such a powerful machine, although, pushing the CPU in more intensive tasks will reduce these results. But no matter how hard you push it, you’ll still get close to a day’s battery life, while cranking up the Creator Z17 as hard will see it shutting within just a few hours.
There’s simply no comparison in portability. The MacBook Pro 16 manages to pack a ton of power into a chassis that’s relatively small for the class, and it manages to get some of the best battery life we’ve seen.
|MSI Creator Z17
|Apple MacBook Pro 16
|Web browsing||4 hours 23 minutes||18 hours 35 minutes|
|Video||4 hours 32 minutes||23 hours 11 minutes|
The Creator Z17 starts at $3,250 for our review unit, with a Core i7-12700H, 32GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and the RTX 3070 Ti. You can spend as much as $4,600 when configuring a Core i9-12900H, 64GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD, and the RTX 3080 Ti. It’s a costly laptop.
The MacBook Pro 16 is also an expensive machine. Its base configuration costs $2,499 with an Apple M1 Pro, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD. Fully equipped, it’s an incredible $6,099 for an M1 Max, 64GB of RAM, and an 8TB SSD.
The MSI Creator Z17 puts up a good fight, with strong performance and a mostly solid build. However, the MacBook Pro 16 is an elite laptop that’s just as fast, more solidly built, has a better keyboard, touchpad, and display, and lasts incredibly long on a single battery charge. It’s the winner in this shootout, and it’s not even close.
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