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MSI Bravo 15 review

The MSI Bravo 15 is a no-frills gaming laptop that offers decent performance at a fair price

MSI Bravo 15 open on desk
(Image: © Tom's Guide)

Tom's Guide Verdict

The MSI Bravo 15 leverages solid AMD components to deliver decent gaming performance, although it doesn’t have the prettiest design or screen.

Pros

  • +

    Decent components and performance

  • +

    Better-than-expected keyboard

  • +

    Reasonable price

Cons

  • -

    Dim screen

  • -

    Bulky, ugly chassis

  • -

    Cumbersome software

MSI Bravo 15: Specs

CPU: AMD Ryzen 5600H
GPU: AMD Radeon RX 5500M
Display: 15.6 inches, 1080p, 144 Hz
RAM: 16 GB
Storage: 512 GB SSD
Dimensions: 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches
Weight: 5.1 pounds

After a week with the MSI Bravo 15, I had a pleasant realization: I liked the machine a lot more than I had expected to. As gaming laptops go, it’s not exceptionally powerful, offering 1080p resolution and 30-ish fps frame rates, if you turn the settings all the way up. On the other hand, it’s not exceptionally expensive, either, retailing for less than $1,000, rather than $2,500 — or more.

I found that the Bravo 15 had a better keyboard than I expected, plenty of ports and a decent level of performance for both work and play. Granted, the screen could be a whole lot better, and getting games up and running was occasionally a frustrating process. But as a middle-of-the-road gaming laptop, the Bravo 15 delivers what it promises, and that’s arguably all it has to do.

If you have modest portable gaming needs and a budget to match, the Bravo 15 should serve you well. Otherwise, you’ll have to seek out a more powerful — and probably more expensive — machine. Read on for our full MSI Bravo 15 review.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Price and configurations

While the MSI Bravo 15 has had a number of prices and configurations over the past few years, there’s only one option for the current version. You can buy it at Sam’s Club (Walmart’s answer to Costco, for those who aren’t familiar with it) for $899. This means you’ll also need a Sam’s Club membership, which retails for $45 per year.

The current incarnation of the MSI Bravo comes with an AMD Ryzen 5600H CPU, an AMD Radeon 5500M GPU, 16 GB RAM, a 512 GB SSD and a 15.6-inch, 1080p screen with a 144 Hz refresh rate. These are modest specs, to be sure, but not bad at all for the price.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Design

The MSI Bravo 15 is a budget gaming laptop, and it looks the part. Unlike the sleek Razer Blade models or MSI’s own Stealth line of laptops, the Bravo 15 is a bulky, chunky thing, chock full of strange angles and unnecessary flourishes. At 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches, it’s almost twice as thick as some of its more premium competitors in the 15-inch gaming laptop space. And at 5.1 pounds, it’s also a good half-pound heavier. The device does fit easily into a standard commuter backpack, though, so carrying it around isn’t too much of a problem.

Top view of MSI Bravo 15

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The plain black chassis has some unusual design features, including a large gap at the hinge, and a raised geometric pattern on the lid. There’s also a phoenix symbol there, for good measure, although it doesn’t light up. 

Back view of MSI Bravo 15

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Bravo 15 is a strange-looking machine, and probably wouldn’t feel at home in an office environment — although it’s not terrible for productivity work, as we’ll touch on later.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Ports

Considering that it's not a huge machine, the MSI Bravo 15 packs a respectable number of ports. 

MSI Bravo 15 ports

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the left, there are two USB-A ports and a power port. On the right, there’s a 3.5 mm audio jack, a USB-A port, a USB-C port, an HDMI port and an Ethernet port. 

MSI Bravo 15 ports

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

While another USB-C port would have been nice, I didn’t have any trouble connecting the accessories that I needed. The lack of an SD card reader may be a hindrance to productivity-minded users, but the Bravo 15 is a gaming machine, first and foremost.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Keyboard and touchpad

The MSI Bravo 15’s keyboard turned out to be one of its most pleasant surprises. One of my frequent criticisms of gaming laptops is that they misplace their keyboards, cramming tiny setups into the center of the chassis, rather than using all available space. The Bravo 15 has a full keyboard — with a number pad! — that expands across the device’s whole face. 

MSI Bravo 15 number pad

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The numpad alone makes a huge difference for touch typists, while full-size Enter, Backspace and number keys make navigation a breeze. Frankly speaking, there are much fancier gaming laptops that could stand to learn a lesson from the Bravo 15 in this regard.

MSI Bravo 15 keyboard and trackpad

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The touchpad, on the other hand, is more of a mixed bag. It feels responsive enough, and didn’t get in the way while I was typing. But it’s a bit off-center from the rest of the machine, making it a pain to contort your arms into position for it. Consider one of our picks for the best gaming mouse instead.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Display

The most significant problem I ran into with the MSI Bravo 15 was its display. When I started using the machine, I thought it looked a little dim and lifeless for work, multimedia and gaming alike. Compared to some other gaming laptops that Tom’s Guide has reviewed recently, the numbers back up my observations:

MSI Bravo 15Asus ROG Flow X13Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Brightness (nits)251290313
sRGB Color Gamut (%)67114109
Delta-E0.250.280.24

Up against the Asus ROG Flow X13 and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, the Bravo 15 is somewhat less bright and offers considerably less color. The color accuracy is not bad (with Delta-E, closer to zero is better), but displaying only 67% of the sRGB spectrum isn’t particularly impressive when other gaming laptops routinely get more than 100%.

MSI Bravo 15 open on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I’ll grant that 1080p is a perfectly good resolution for a 15-inch screen, and the Bravo 15 can indeed run some games at up to 144 frames per second. But even if you crank up the brightness, the screen pales in comparison — both literally and figuratively — to some of its competitors.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Gaming performance

There are two ways to view the MSI Bravo 15’s gaming performance. One is as a $900 machine, which is where it does just fine. The other is in comparison to fancier gaming laptops, which is where it doesn’t do as well. Here’s how the device fared in gaming benchmarks, measured in fps at 1080p resolution:

MSI Bravo 15Asus ROG Flow X13Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla322966
Dirt 53029*78
Grand Theft Auto V4042106
Shadow of the Tomb Raider333582

*Measured at 1920 x 1200 resolution for benchmarking purposes

First and foremost, if you were wondering whether the Bravo 15 can go toe-to-toe with a premium gaming laptop, it can’t. Your extra $1,000 (or more) on something like the Razer Blade 15 will get you much better performance.

However, the Bravo 15 holds up admirably in its own price range, even against the somewhat more expensive ROG Flow X13. It didn’t fall below 30 fps in any of our benchmarks, which means you can expect performance comparable to a PS4 or Xbox One, potentially with better textures and lighting.

MSI Bravo 15 screen and light up keyboard

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It’s also worth noting that from a qualitative standpoint, you can coax much higher frame rates out of the Bravo 15. By using medium or high graphical settings, rather than cranking the visuals all the way up, I was able to run Age of Empires IV at 75 fps, Doom Eternal at 70 fps, Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen at 140 fps and Final Fantasy XIV at 140 fps. All of the games ran smoothly, even after playing them for long periods of time. However, I did notice that all of the games took a surprisingly long time to boot up, considering that they were running off of an SSD.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Productivity performance

As a productivity machine, the Bravo 15 is a bit of a mixed bag. Here’s how it stacked up against its competitors on an artificial Geekbench 5.4 benchmark, which measures overall system power, as well as a file transfer and video encoding test:

MSI Bravo 15Asus ROG Flow X13Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Geekbench 5.4 (artificial performance benchmark)6,6767,6406,924
Copying 25 GB from flash drive (MBps)4337501,796
Handbrake video encoding (minutes:seconds)7:558:138:46

While the Bravo 15 encodes video faster than I would have expected it to, it’s not incredibly fast or powerful for productivity work otherwise. On the other hand, as a gaming machine, the Bravo 15 generally has more than enough power to run whatever productivity apps you need without skipping a beat. As I write this review, I have Microsoft Word, Spotify, Notepad, Slack and Google Chrome with 10 demanding tabs open, and I’m using only about 8 GB of the available 16 GB RAM. Programs do sometimes take longer than expected to boot up, and 512 GB storage will fill up a lot faster than you expect, though.

My only big complaint about the Bravo 15’s performance has to do with the software that comes preinstalled. The AMD Radeon software is, charitably speaking, a bit of a mess. The Bravo 15 actually comes with the wrong version of the software installed (this is something of a theme with MSI machines). But even after I updated, it still wasn’t very good at optimizing games, measuring frame rates or even assigning the correct GPU to demanding applications. (I couldn’t run Doom Eternal at first, because the Radeon software absolutely, positively insisted that the Bravo 15 had to run it with integrated graphics). If you want to run games on the Bravo 15, you’ll need to have some DIY tech support know-how.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Battery life and heat

The MSI Bravo 15 has decent battery life for productivity, and abysmal battery life for gaming. It also gets a bit hot, whether or not you’re gaming on it. Both of these are par for the course in the land of gaming laptops:

MSI Bravo 15Asus ROG Flow X13Razer Blade 15 Advanced
Battery life – productivity (minutes:seconds)6:207:235:22
Battery life – gaming (minutes:seconds)1:141:341:35
Heat – productivity (°F)9410588
Heat – gaming (°F)115130123

The Bravo 15’s battery life is by no means best-in-class, but it’ll last for a long flight, if you need it for productivity. 

Bottom view of MSI Bravo 15

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

At 94 degrees, it’s not comfortable to keep in your lap for long periods of time — but it’s not quite as dire as the ROG Flow X13’s 105 degrees, either.

MSI Bravo 15 review: Verdict

At $900, the MSI Bravo 15 is a capable little machine. It’s competent rather than impressive, and workmanlike rather than innovative. But it plays games at respectable frame rates and runs productivity software for more than six hours on a single charge. It’s small enough to stash in a backpack comfortably, and the numpad on the keyboard is a nice touch.

If you need high-end performance, you’ll have to dig deep for Razer Blade money. It’s also worth considering that the Bravo 15 is pushing its limits to run the latest and greatest games at 30 fps, which means it may not be the most future-proof system on the market. But it’s not often that you can find a gaming laptop with so few compromises for less than $1,000. If you’re a Sam’s Club member already, you may as well put that membership to good use.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.