The MSI GE66 Raider is a step up from entry-level gaming laptops while not being quite at the most expensive end of the spectrum, packing in plenty of performance and power without veering out of the price range that most of us are likely to be able to afford.
In some ways it's the perfect balance of power and price: you get a spacious 15.6-inch display and top-tier specs that will run the best games at very respectable settings, and as you would expect there are a choice of different CPU and RAM configurations available.
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The lighting system in use here is of interest: as well as controlling the lights on the keyboard, there's also a couple of light bars down at the front of the chassis, which you can again configure to show a pulsating colour show or one specific static colour.
This is all well-handled with the software on board the laptop, which lets you set up the colours as you like (or switch the lights off altogether). Read on for our full MSI GE66 Raider review, which should give you a better idea of whether this is the laptop for you.
MSI GE66 Raider review: screen and design
The MSI GE66 Raider comes with a 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 IPS LCD display that reaches a maximum refresh rate of 240Hz or 300Hz (ours was the former). It's crisp, bright, and great for typing out documents and browsing the web as well as playing games. You get a thick chin with the MSI logo on it at the bottom, and a reasonably bulky bezel at the top (hiding a webcam), but the side bezels at least are pleasingly thin.
Viewing angles are good, and the 3 ms response time means super-smooth playback for games and videos alike (more on the performance shortly). MSI claims a close to 100 percent SRGB colour gamut, and we certainly had no complaints in terms of how vibrant and punchy the screen was, or how well it coped with both bright and dark shades. Games look great on this, and of course it has the performance inside to let you ramp up the relevant settings as well.
In terms of overall looks, we like the approach that MSI has taken with the MSI GE66 Raider: it's stylish, but it's not too flashy. Turn the keyboard and chassis lighting effects off, and this could pass for a chunky business laptop (which may or may not be what you're looking for). The aluminium finish around the keyboard is a premium touch for wrist-resting, while typing is smooth and pleasant. The laptop lid also has a quality feel, made of granite grey aluminium with the MSI gaming dragon logo on top.
As for those lighting effects, once we realised how to configure them (it's the SteelSeries app, if you're wondering), we were impressed by the choice of colours and modes – whether you want a pulsating rainbow effect or just a bright plain white, you can easily get it configured here. You can even highlight different keys for different types of games. In terms of ports, meanwhile, we've got 1 x headphone jack, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x memory card slot, 1 x HDMI (4K @ 60Hz), 1x Mini-DisplayPort, 3 x USB-A 3.2 and 2 x USB-C.
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MSI GE66 Raider review: performance and features
Our review laptop came with a 10th-gen Intel Comet Lake i7-10750H processor, 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, all topped off with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card running inside – not quite the very best in terms of specs, but definitely more than capable of handling the most demanding games on the market at the moment. As we've said, multiple configurations are available, and you can go all the way up to an i9 processor if you've got the cash.
The laptop clocked in with a very respectable 3D Mark Time Spy benchmark score of 7,345, which is higher than your average gaming laptop (5,730) but lower than a entry-level gaming PC tower (9,216). Games were smooth and responsive, with nary a blip when it came to performance, even with graphics settings ramped right up – on GTA V with just about every visual option set to the max, we were seeing frame rates of at least 70 and sometimes more than 100, depending on how much scenery was being drawn in the background at the time.
All of the games we tried produced frame rates that were more than respectable and more than what most people are looking for (you will be able to get higher frame rates from other laptops, but you're going to have to pay more to get them). The fans do kick in quite loudly when the laptop is being worked hard – par for the course for a gaming laptop obviously, but something to bear in mind (you'll probably want to raise the in-game volume quite a lot so you can still hear what's going on).
When it comes to battery life, our two-hour video streaming test knocked the battery level down from 100 percent to 63 percent, so you're looking at around 5-6 hours of movie watching in total. That was with screen brightness ramped right up but the keyboard lighting switched off, but of course demanding games will have a bigger hit on battery life than plain old video streaming. As far as heavy duty laptops like this go, it's respectable in terms of battery life.
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MSI GE66 Raider review: price and verdict
We've talked up the affordability of the MSI GE66 Raider, but what we actually mean is relatively affordable, for a gaming laptop: depending on the internal spec configuration you go for, this is a laptop that goes from expensive to very expensive (check the widgets on this page for the latest prices). Still, if you're in the market for a gaming laptop then you'll be braced for that, and when you weigh it up against the other makes and models on the market, you're definitely not spending over-the-odds.
In terms of specs and performance, the MSI GE66 Raider is very hard to beat – you'll have no worries getting the very best games running at the very best settings here, especially if you go for the most powerful configuration available in the range (our review unit was just a little lower than the best). During our testing, all the games we tried ran smoothly and without any blips, at high frame rates – and that's not something we can say about every laptop we've come across.
The lighting show of course dominates the design of the laptop, which means you can make the MSI GE66 Raider as eye-catching or otherwise as you like. Overall, we're impressed with the look of the laptop, which manages to stay nice and cool to the touch on the top of the chassis even while the fans are churning out hot air at the sides.
As for negatives, there aren't really any – you might not like the design of the laptop, but that's really down to personal preference. The battery life and audio are so-so, but these aren't particularly high priorities for a gaming laptop: in all the categories that matter, the MSI GE66 Raider scores highly, and we'd say it's absolutely worth considering for anyone in the market for a top gaming laptop.
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