MSI Katana GF76 review: a solid gaming laptop for those on a budget

The MSI Katana GF76 offers value for money for gamers

MSI Katana GF76 gaming laptop review on T3 blue background
(Image credit: Future)
T3 Verdict

There's not too much to get excited about with the MSI Katana GF76 – but it does give you good performance for relatively low cost, as well as a large screen to enjoy your gaming on, which is going to be enough to satisfy a lot of people shopping for a new purchase.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Affordable price point

  • +

    Large 17.3-inch screen

  • +

    Decent GPU performance

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Relatively dim display

  • -

    Uninspiring overall design

  • -

    Poor battery life

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The MSI Katana GF76 is a budget gaming laptop gunning for a place on our best gaming laptops list, and this particular model brings with it a large 17.3-inch display, updated 12th Gen Intel processors and high-end Nvidia GPUs that are capable of some serious gaming.

As an upgrade to 2021's MSI Katana GF66, this updated model aims to find the same formula: reasonably decent specs that can handle the best games you can play right now, wrapped in a package that isn't going to cost you too much by gaming laptop standards.

Our in-depth MSI Katana GF76 review will tell you if this is the right gaming laptop for you – and then you can figure out which bits of kit you need to get from our best gaming chairs, best gaming monitors, best gaming keyboard and best gaming mouse buying guides.

MSI Katana GF76: price and availability

Several different configurations of the MSI Katana GF76 are now available to buy in the UK and the US. The widgets embedded on this page should tell you the latest prices for the laptop online, but at the time of writing you can get the MSI Katana GF76 for around £1,300 in the UK from retailers including Amazon (opens in new tab) and Ebuyer (opens in new tab).

MSI Katana GF76 review: design and screen

MSI Katana GF76

(Image credit: Future)

There aren't really any surprises when it comes to the design of MSI Katana GF76 – it looks very similar to other gaming laptops that MSI has put out. We're talking about a well-built, angular chassis that goes for subtlety rather than extravagance, and really the only sign that this is a gaming laptop is the red illumination behind the keys on the keyboard (and you can turn that off if you want).

The 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution display of course dominates the laptop, and is largely responsible for the overall dimensions of 398 x 273 x 28.2mm and the 2.6kg weight – this is not a lightweight laptop you can carry in a bag without noticing. The IPS LCD panel isn't the brightest or the richest screen you're going to come across when shopping for a gaming laptop, but we do like the maximum 144Hz refresh rate, which brings with it super-fluid motion while gaming.

The bezels aren't particularly thin around the screen, and a rather plain black plastic finish, but it's good enough as far as aesthetics go. You should be able to tell whether the design suits your tastes from the pictures accompanying this review, and it's undoubtedly unoffensive at the very least. It might not be particularly flashy or sleek, but it feels durable and solid.

When it comes to ports, you've got one USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, two USB-A 3.2 Gen 1, one USB-A 2.0, one HDMI, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm headphone jack. There's a 720p webcam embedded in the bezel above the screen, as well as stereo 2W speakers. Wi-Fi 6 is supported for super-speedy access to the web (assuming you've also got a Wi-Fi 6 router). What we don't have here is any sort of biometric login option (face or fingerprint), so you're stuck with the traditional ways of logging into Windows.

MSI Katana GF76 review: performance and features

MSI Katana GF76

(Image credit: MSI)

In terms of what's changed with the internal specs over earlier versions of this laptop, it's mainly the jump from 11th Gen to 12th Gen Intel processor options for improved performance and lower power draw. Our review model came with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H processor, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti GPU. RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 options are also available if you want to spend a little bit more money for extra graphics oomph – we tested the GF76-12UD model if you're comparing specs online.

We played games including Red Dead Redemption 2 (50-60 frames per second most of the time) and GTA 5 (120-130 frames per second most of the time), and this is certainly a laptop capable of playing the best games around nice and smoothly – albeit at a 1080p resolution and without the graphics settings inside these games set to the absolute maximum. For a lot of gamers, especially on a budget, that's more than good enough.

The laptop scores a respectable 5,971 in the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark, which according to the software itself is the equivalent of being able to play Battlefield V at more than 55 frames per second or Fornite at more than 45 frames per second (both at 1440p with dialled up graphics settings). That's fairly middle of the road when it comes to comparing this laptop against the competition, and slightly above the gaming laptop average for the benchmark of 5,730.

Of course the fans kick in as soon as you start doing any serious gaming, but we're impressed with the thermal management that MSI has been able to put in place here – the heat pipes have apparently been redesigned to shift warm air more effectively, and as a result the fans never really get too loud and the underside of the laptop never really gets too hot. We've come across many louder, hotter gaming laptops, that's for sure.

MSI Katana GF76

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to non-gaming matters, the laptop performs very well, as you would expect: that CPU and GPU combo gives you plenty of headroom for editing video and images, and for doing anything else you might need. The 16:9 aspect ratio of the display isn't ideal for working on documents and looking at websites, but it does obviously work well for videos as well as games.

As for the keyboard and the trackpad, they do their job and not much beyond that. The keys are well spaced, and we're pleased to see there's room for a full number pad, but the travel on the keys is rather mushy and forgettable. The trackpad is on the small side and not the most premium we've ever come across, but MSI has to save money somewhere, and you can always of course attach a mouse (or indeed a gamepad).

We should also mention the MSI Centre software that MSI provides for all its gaming laptops: you can use it to change the balance between performance and power draw, should you need to, and there's a diagnostics screen too that gives you detailed readouts on how much load the system is under. It might not make you choose this laptop over another, but it's still handy to have.

During our video streaming test – playing a video at maximum display brightness and a low volume – the battery level dropped 24 per cent in an hour, so you're only going to get four hours of watching movies and shows. Intensive gaming will drop the battery level much faster than that, so you're going to struggle to get through a full hour when gaming. You're going to have to stay pretty close to a power source when using the MSI Katana GF76, but that's standard for a gaming laptop.

MSI Katana GF76: verdict

MSI Katana GF76

(Image credit: Future)

Any laptop, gaming focused or not, has to find a compromise between power, portability and price, and the MSI Katana GF76 is no different. It gets that balance just about right for our money too. That's no surprise really, considering MSI has been in the business of putting together quietly competent gaming laptops for a long time now.

The Nvidia RTX 3050 Ti inside this review unit is slowly sliding down the ranks in terms of performance when it comes to the graphics cards you can get nowadays, but as you're also looking at one of the cheapest laptops that can still handle the top games of the moment it's a sensible pairing. 

The upgrade to the 12th Gen Intel processors is definitely a welcome one, but aside from that it's difficult to get too excited about anything new here – it's all satisfactory and that's about it, just as could be said of the previous GF model. 

It's also worth weighing up the configurations of this laptop with the more powerful GPUs inside, as they may give you a better price versus performance trade-off – it depends on your budget, but it could be worth paying a bit more for a bit more power. 

Ultimately the Katana GF76 delivers on value for money for your gaming above all else. It's a dependable gaming laptop rather than a spectacular one, but it certainly delivers on what it promises.

Also consider

If you like the MSI styling and have a bit more money to spend, then the MSI Pulse GL76 is an obvious alternative. You get the same 17.3-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel screen, but the refresh rate goes up to 360Hz – and crucially, there's a 12th Gen Intel Core i9 processor and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card inside, giving you a substantial performance boost.

Meanwhile, for those looking for value for money from another brand, the Gigabyte G5 is definitely worth weighing up. It's even cheaper than the MSI laptop we've reviewed here, and while the internal specs aren't quite as good it is a significantly cheaper buy. It comes with a 15.6-inch screen as well, which means it's a little bit more portable if you're having to carry it around from place to place – and the display's refresh rate can go all the way up to 240Hz too.

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.