MSI GF65 Thin review: portable gaming power on a budget

The MSI GF65 Thin offers a very good value for money proposition

MSI GF65 Thin
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

The MSI GF65 Thin brings with it two key selling points: an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU and one of the lowest prices for a gaming laptop you'll find right now. It has its weaknesses, but that price and power combination makes it worthy of consideration.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Lots of graphics power

  • +

    Affordable price

  • +

    Simple configuration tool

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Not much RAM

  • -

    Limited lighting options

  • -

    Rather plain design

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Looking for a laptop for playing the best games, but don't want to spend too much? The MSI GF65 Thin gaming laptop could be for you – in fact, it's one of the best value gaming laptop available on the market at the moment, as we'll explain.

Of course, that lower price means you don't quite get the level of specs, design and features as you do on more expensive hardware setups, but every laptop is a balance between price and performance. The MSI GF65 Thin manages that balance pretty well.

The Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 GPU is a definite highlight, and the 15.6-inch screen runs at 120Hz – so you shouldn't have any problems with dropped frame rates and ghosting effects. In terms of graphics power at least, you won't find many better options at this kind of price.

Our MSI GF65 Thin review will lay out everything you need to know about this laptop and whether it's the right choice for your future gaming sessions. It certainly has plenty of benefits making it easy to recommend, though the competition continues to be fierce in the gaming laptop market.

MSI GF65 Thin review: screen and design

The MSI GF65 Thin aims to hit good graphics performance at a very good price, and some of the cost cutting can be seen in the rather plain design – the display has chunky bezels top and bottom (with the MSI logo on show underneath the screen), while the keyboard sticks to red backlighting with variable brightness, so there's no varied RGB lighting available here (and no lighting anywhere else on the chassis either).

It's by no means a bad-looking laptop though. We like the brushed aluminium finish to the lid and the keyboard surround, and overall it feels like a well-built, solid bit of equipment. It could easily double as a business laptop if you turn the backlighting off – which may or may not be a positive for you – and the 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel screen offers a 120Hz refresh rate that we definitely appreciate. It's bright and crisp and suitable for movie watching as well as gaming.

If you flip the laptop over you'll see signs of the impressive cooling system that MSI has deployed here. SIx heatpipes and two fans are installed to move heat away from the CPU and GPU, which should in theory keep the laptop nice and cool – we found that it got relatively warm and relatively noisy, but well within acceptable levels, though you'll want to keep it on a smooth, hard surface.

We found keyboard and trackpad performance to be more than satisfactory, though it didn't exactly blow us away, and there's a good selection of ports here as well – you've got a headphone jack, an Ethernet port, two USB-C ports, two USB-A ports, and a HDMI out port. Stereo speakers provide sound, which do the job well enough (Hi-Res 192KHz / 24bit audio is available through headphones).

MSI GF65 Thin review: performance and features

MSI GF65 Thin

(Image credit: MSI)

You can pick up several configurations of the MSI GF65 Thin. Our review model came with a 9th-gen Intel Core i7-9750H processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD storage, with the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 with 6GB of video RAM on graphics duties. In every category that's a step down from the best specs available on the market, but they're still very respectable and capable of tackling the top games of the moment.

Those games might not run at the very best frame rates of course, but considering the amount that this laptop costs, it handles even the most demanding titles very well. The RTX 2060 is the stand-out component, and with higher-end cards now on the market, MSI has been able to cram this excellent GPU into a very affordable system. Ray tracing and VR gaming support isn't something you usually get at this price, but the MSI GF65 Thin has it.

We played a variety of games without issue. In Grand Theft Auto V we were seeing 80-90 frames per second most of the time, with no lag or glitching, and that's with the advanced graphical settings pushed pretty high – depending on the scene that FPS rate reached over 100 at times. In the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, the laptop hit a score of 5,834, which is just a touch above the 5,730 average score for gaming laptops in the 3DMark database.

Battery life is fairly uninspiring, with our two-hour streaming test knocking the battery life down almost half from 100 percent to 60 percent (that is with the screen at maximum brightness though). You're only going to get 4-5 hours at best between charges with the MSI GF65 Thin, but we're assuming this laptop is going to spend most of its life plugged into a power socket anyway.

MSI GF65 Thin review: price and verdict

MSI GF65 Thin

(Image credit: MSI)

The MSI GF65 Thin is really all about the price: to get Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics power inside a system that costs relatively little money is an impressive achievement. You can see where the compromises have been made – in the RAM and the storage for example – but if you're after a decent gaming setup at a very reasonable price then we think you're going to be prepared to put up with one or two trade-offs along the way.

In the actual game playing and benchmarking that we did, the laptop impressed – frame rates and benchmark scores were high, cooling was effective, and fan noise was acceptable – and really that's what counts when you're looking for a gaming machine. It's not our favourite model in terms of design, but it's fine, and it's relatively lightweight and easy to carry around, if needed.

You get a Dragon Centre utility included with the laptop that lets you switch between different modes of operation, depending on whether you want to push performance or extend battery life. It's another nice touch that we liked about the laptop, and it makes the portable computer more suitable for entry-level beginners to the scene rather than experienced pros – as indeed does the price.

Check the widgets on this page for the very latest prices on the MSI GF65 Thin gaming laptop, but at the time of writing we're seeing our review configuration available for around £1,100 (remember different specs are available). Considering the graphics power you get inside the laptop, that price is perhaps the most appealing selling point.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.