MSI GE66 Raider review: A daring desktop replacement

MSI GE66 Raider
  • MSI GE66 Raider
  • MSI GE66 Raider
  • MSI GE66 Raider
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Great performance
  • Solid build quality

Cons

  • Loud fans
  • Quite expensive

Bottom Line

Armed with an Intel Core i9 processor and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics tech, the GE66 Raider s the kind of laptop that declares open season on the notion that a laptop can’t replace your desktop PC.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 2,999.00 (AUD)

The Pitch

Announced at this year’s CES, the MSI GE66 Raider lacks the thinness found in the GS66 but makes up for it with extra grunt. Armed with an Intel Core i9 processor and Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2080 Super graphics tech, it’s the kind of laptop that declares open season on the notion that a laptop can’t replace your desktop PC. 

In addition to a cutting edge spec sheet, a big part of the pitch here comes via a more-or-less completely overhauled aesthetic. It wouldn’t be fair to say the GE66 Raider looks radically different to most gaming laptops but, by the standards of the brand’s past efforts, it’s a little more subdued and a lot more polished.

Best of all, the experience of actually gaming on this thing? It’s as good as it looks. 

Price

In Australia, local pricing for the MSI GE66 starts at $2999. However, the model we reviewed was valued at AU$6159. For a breakdown on the different models and where to find them, click over to the MSI website here.

Specs

  • Processor:  Intel Core i9-10980HK

  • Operating System:  Windows 10 Pro

  • RAM: 16GB

  • Storage:  1TB NVMe M.2 SSD

  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Super with Max-Q

  • MicroSD slot: No

  • Display:  15.6-inch FHD, IPS

  • Battery:  4-Cell Li-Ion 99.9wHr

  • Connectivity: Killer AX Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.1

  • Front-Facing Camera: FHD (30fps@1080p)    

  • Dimensions:  358 x 267 x 23.4 mm

  • Weight: 2.38 kg

Design

MSI’s new GE66 pulls more than a few cues from its contemporaries. 

Akin to something by Gigabyte or ASUS’ Republic of Gamers, the back half of the laptop is packing a dozen or so heat vents and other heavy hardware while the front touts a more streamlined aesthetic. The front-most edge of the laptop boasts a slick RGB LED light bar. This can be customised using MSI’s proprietary Dragon Center software but is otherwise well integrated into the body of the machine. It doesn’t feel tacked on in any way but rather like a natural extension of the piece.

Credit: MSI

These two elements - one function, one flair - are mirrored by the inner-side of the machine. On the inside, the GE66 features a SteelSeries-made keyboard with per-key RGB lighting and thrilling tactility. Then, there’s the main event: the 300Hz display. 

Paired up with a 1920 x 1080 IPS panel, it’s more practical than anything else. It’s not 4K but it does make a crystal clear canvas for gaming and video playback. 

Still, If you’re the kind of person who likes to buy on looks, I’m inclined to recommend the Dragonshield Limited edition. It’s a bit over-the-top but a whole lot less generic. I wouldn’t be against a world with more limited laptops that echo the vibe of a custom PC build in the way that this one does.

Credit: MSI

That being said, the baseline model doesn’t look too shabby. It feels smooth to the touch and doesn’t carry the usual plastic feel-factor that’s plagued MSI laptops in the past. This leads well into the thing that stuck out to me about the GE66 Raider. For the most part, this thing doesn’t take the easy way out. 

For reference, the MSI GE66 Raider has a total of 10 ports:

  • 2x USB-A 3.2 gen1 

  • 1x USB-A 3.2 gen2 

  • 2x USB-C 3.2 gen 2 (one with DP, no charging)

  • MiniDP 

  • HDMI 2.0b 

  • LAN

  • Combo audio jack

  • SD card reader

MSI are usually known for the parts they throw into their laptops than the sum thereof. They rarely venture into the realm of the terribly original but, if you’re looking to snag yourself a decent gaming laptop with the requisite hardware, they’ve always done a great job of satisfying that specific demand and staying sharp by taking shortcuts when necessary. 

However, when you’re playing at a price-point this premium, there are no shortcuts. The keyboard here feels good to type on because MSI actually went to the trouble of making sure the build quality and ergonomics are good. Likewise, the glass trackpad feels responsive and the hinge is easy to rely on. The seams have been neatly and thoroughly folded over and the final product feels as cohesive and considered as you’d hope it would given the price-tag. 

Credit: MSI

Even if it’s a little on the generic side when it comes to looks, the MSI GE66 Raider executes on a familiar formula well. 

Of course, there is one exception here that brings you back from the brink and reminds you that you’re using an MSI laptop. The fans. Under load, they roar. Obviously, if you’re playing with a set of quality gaming headphones, this might not be that much of an issue. 

However, if you’re planning on using the DynaAudio Duo Wave speakers in this thing, it’s something of a snag. If anyone else is in the room when you use this thing, the loud fans inside the GE66 are a rude reality they’re going to have to contend with. 

Performance

In terms of performance, I can’t say I was disappointed by what the MSI GE66 delivered. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

True to the paperwork, the machine blitzed through pretty much everything we threw at it. Cranking up the settings on the recent port of Death Stranding and playing Doom Eternal at a crisp 170 or so frames-per-second were distinct highlights here. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

Benchmarks

  • PC Mark - 5180

  • 3DMark TimeSpy  - 8645

  • 3DMark FireStrike - 19417

  • 3DMark FireStrike Ultra - 5483 

  • 3DMark Port Royal - 5353

  • VRMark Orange - 9244

  • VRMark Blue - 2790

  • Gears Tactics - 103.6

  • Geekbench Single - 1278

  • Geekbench Multi - 7793

  • Geekbench Compute - 93439

  • Death Stranding (Very High) - 95FPS

  • Monster Hunter: World (Ultra) - 78FPS

  • Doom Eternal (Ultra Nightmare) - 178FPS

  • Total War: Warhammer 2 (Ultra)

    • Battle: 84.7FPS

    • Campaign: 85.4FPS

    • Skaven: 61.5FPS

Battery Life

The fast charging is a nice inclusion but, subjected to our usual Battery Eater rundown test, it only took 1 hours and 21 minutes to run down the battery inside the MSI GE66 Raider from 100% to zero.

This isn’t necessarily indicative of everyday, regular usage but it is a metric by which we consistently measure the minimum battery life of any given laptop and, compared to the rest, it isn’t a particularly good result. It’s fairly standard for a high-spec gaming laptop like this one but it might put a damper on any ambitions you have to use the GE66 anywhere that isn’t near a power point. 

The Bottom Line

If you want the simple sell for the GE66 Raider, it’s that it does what the GS66 can’t. If you want something a little more lightweight, the latter remains the way to go but if you’re committed to sacrificing portability on the altar of performance, there aren’t many better bargains around. 

MSI’s GE66 has all the bells and whistles you could hope for. However, as someone who’s been writing about the brand for years, the biggest achievement here is in how much tighter and cohesive the sum of those parts actually is and what that means for MSI going forward than anything that’s on the table right now. 

MSI’s GE66 Raider shows that the brand already knows how to fix what have been their biggest problems.

Credit: MSI

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