MSI GE66 Raider Gaming Laptop Review: The Exciting And Cheerier-Looking One

Back at CES 2020, MSI’s GE66 Raider was introduced at the same time as its thin and light counterpart, the GS66 Stealth, but only arrived in our market after its counterpart nearly a month after. Despite sharing nearly identical internals, its aesthetics are certainly a far cry from the stealthy, all-black motif employed by its sibling.

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By contrast, the GE66 Raider seems to be given a heaping serving of RGB LEDs, is slightly chunky, and a fairly aggressive yet appealing design overall.

Specifications

The GE66 Raider comes in three variants, and the model I have in my lab is the middle child of the three. Mind you, it is only this SKU and the one after it that is fitted with a 10th generation Intel Core i9-10980HK, while the base model sports a Core i7-10875H.

The discrete GPU also differs for each variant, but starts from an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 for the lowest tier version, while the fully-loaded GE66 Raider runs on an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.

Design

At the start of this review, I said that the GE66 Raider shows off a fairly aggressive, if not rugged design. To be fair, however, I think the laptop takes its inspiration from the GT76 Titan, MSI’s plus-sized gaming laptop cum desktop replacement that launched back in 2019. And yes, that includes the Lamborghini-esque design and angular cuts.

If looks could kill, the GE66 Raider would definitely be a prime suspect.

The most obvious difference between the two models is the size; the GE66 Raider sporting a significantly smaller chassis than its predecessor, but its powerful internals clearly show that it isn’t a slouch in the performance department. More on that later.

I like the fact that the GE66 Raider makes full use of its real estate in back, installing several key IO ports like the HDMI 2.0b port, mini DisplayPort, USB-C Thunderbolt 3 port, as well as the port for its unique power connector. Still on the subject of IOs, there is still a healthy amount of ports on both sides, but more surprising is the full-size SD Card slot on the right.

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Moving on, the GE66 Raider gets the same Steel Series, per-key RGB chiclet keyboard MSI is clearly very fond of. And yes, the pretty colours are customisable via the preinstalled Steel Series program.

The laptop is not shy with its RGB.

On the subject of RGB, there’s nothing modest about the GE66 Raider use of it and the large LED strip built into the front of the laptop is proof of that. Let me be clear: the physical feature is pretty to look at and like the keyboard, it is customisable. However, I think its over-the-top effects are lost to someone like me, and when I’m on the go, I simply disable it.

One thing to note is that unlike its predecessor, the power button isn’t isolated from the rest of the keys anymore. I was – still am, to some varying degree – a fan of that design and frankly, I feel a bit sad that the brand seems to have given it up in favour of a more streamline design.

Another gripe I have with the notebook is battery indicator or in this case, a pinhole-size LED that’s located on the side. I have never and, till this day, still do not understand why some laptop manufacturers keep doing this; it’s as though MSI expects me to tilt my head every so often and peer at its status. In the grand scheme of things, it’s actually not a big deal, but it still remains an odd choice in my eyes.

The 240Hz Full HD display is still a welcome feature.

Of course, there’s also the GE66 Raider’s ultra-fast 240Hz refresh rate Full HD display that, as I have often argued as well, is far higher than what I need, especially since the games I happen to play are graphically demanding triple-A titles. And don’t normally exceed the 150 fps line often in Full HD resolution.

On the off-chance that 240Hz still isn’t enough for you, you can opt for the GE66 Raider model with the 300Hz refresh rate display, and it will also cost more. Like the chassis, the display itself is sturdy and shows minimal flex.

User Experience

Compared to the GS66 Stealth, there is little doubt that the GE66 Raider has slightly more heft to its size, and for several reasons. Firstly, the GE series was never designed or catered towards the thin and light market segment, but it is still portable enough that you can lug it around without being encumbered by its weight. Ultimately, it’s a small price to pay if you’re looking for a middle-ground between power and portability.

The laptop gets screaming hot and loud while gaming.

As with any gaming laptop equipped with a beefy GPU like NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2070 Super and a top-tier Intel 10th generation Core i9 CPU, the GE66 Raider’s performance is just as potent as you can imagine it to be. Albeit, at the cost of decibels.

On full load, the fans spin at top speed, producing a cartoonishly loud whine that gives the impression that it’s preparing for take-off. Funny thing is, this isn’t even the cooling solutions “final form”; through a combination of keys, I can activate the laptop’s Cooler Boost Trinity feature, that further increases the rotations of the fans.

At that point, the cooling system is whining anymore, so much as it is howling at the massive heat being generated by both CPU and GPU.

The typing experience is decent while the trackpad is responsive.

Moving on, typing on the GE66 Raider’s keyboard is a rather unexciting affair. The key travel distance isn’t as shallow as it looks, and the resistance is so taut that your fingers will feel any fatigue when typing over a long period of time.

It’s the same story when I begin gaming. The keys are responsive and there is absolutely no key-ghosting present, which is expected of a gaming-grade keyboard. And yes, the per-key RGB LEDs are pre-programmed to act as an indicator with specific video game titles, but frankly, the gimmick is commonplace enough that other gaming laptops also feature their own version of it.

As for the Full 15.6-inch Full HD display’s performance, no argument can be made to suggest that the addition of a 240Hz refresh rate is an absolute treat for the eyes, even despite my ramblings of personally under-utilising it. I personally use a gaming monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate, so I fully appreciate the smooth scrolling rate brought about by it.

Getting back on point with the viewing experience, I have not experienced any issue with screen glare but more importantly, the panel doesn’t suffer from the washout effect when viewed at angles other than a straight one.

Battery life is not quite as long-lasting, despite the 99.9WHr battery.

Regarding the GE66 Raider’s battery performance, I can’t really say that I’m impressed with it. Despite the massive 99.9WHr battery nestled within it, I’m barely squeezing eight hours of use from it. Mind you, that’s on a full charge and all RBG lighting disabled. Yes, even the RGB strip at the front of it.

In relation to this, I suspect the culprit behind this power inefficiency is the Core i9-10980HK; in all fairness, this is Intel’s top-of-the-line mobile CPU and while power efficiency is still miles ahead of its predecessor, it is undeniably a pretty power-hungry CPU.

Benchmarks

Competition

At a starting price of RM9999 and with this particular model of the GE66 Raider retailing for RM11999, there are, quite literally, plenty of other options to the notebook, both with a similar pricetag and hardware. Here are a couple of models.

ASUS ROG Zephyrus S15

ASUS’ ROG Zephyrus lineup of gaming laptops has long been a staple since its introduction in 2016, so it comes as no surprise that the Zephyrus S15 is listed as a viable contender.

On paper, this gaming laptop retails for RM10499. At that pricetag, it comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS display with a 300Hz refresh rate, but its CPU is just a 10th generation Core i7-10875H, instead of the Core i9-10980HK. That said, you still get 16GB DDR4-2666MHz RAM, a 1TB of NVMe Gen3 M.2 SSD with additional NVMe slot for expansion, but more to the point. The discrete GPU inside the machine is an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super, just like the GE66 Raider.

Other features include a per-key RGB keyboard, and the ability to charge the laptop via USB-C.

Gigabyte AORUS 15G XB

The Gigabyte AORUS 15G actually comes in three configurations, but the one that best matches the GE66 Raider is the 15G XB, that also happens to be the middle child of its own gaming laptop lineup. Specs-wise, the notebook sports a 10th generation Intel Core i7-10875H, 16GB DDR4 RAM, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super, but just 512GB of storage, although it is supported by Intel Optane technology.

As for its display, the AORUS 15G comes with a 15.6-inch Full HD IPS panel that is Xrite Pantone validated plus a refresh rate of 240Hz. Do note that the display is also available with refresh rates of 144Hz and 300Hz for both a lower and higher-tier variant, respectively.

Conclusion

If I am absolutely honest, I think that the MSI GE66 Raider is about as straightforward as notebooks come in terms of performance; it clearly isn’t lacking in power, and if nothing else, it is the laptop’s generous use of RGB that kind of sells it.

The MSI GE66 Raider is a fun and powerful gaming laptop for those who have been indoctrinated into the RGB trend.

On that note, if ever I was asked to choose between the GS66 Stealth and GE66 Raider, my decision would sway towards the latter for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s relatively cheaper – I’m using the word loosely – compared to the former laptop, yet the performance of the GE66 Raider is almost identical to the GS66 Stealth.

Second is the GE66 Raider’s weight. At 2.38kg, it’s only ever so slightly heavier than MSI’s “thin and light” gaming laptop, and given that its more angular design doesn’t present a problem when stowing it away in my backpack. Recommending this gaming laptop to people isn’t all that difficult.

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