Friday, 07 June 2019 13:23

Hands on with MSI’s new gaming laptops

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MSI unveiled new gaming and design laptops at Computex 2019 MSI unveiled new gaming and design laptops at Computex 2019 Nick Ross

Computex gave us the opportunity to get hands on with two of MSI’s new gaming laptops: the all-rounder GE65 Raider which offers plenty of portable power and the beastly GT76 Titan which eschews portability in favour of even more power. Their predecessors have been particular favourites of ours in recent years so we were looking forward to seeing what the latest iterations brought with them.

MSI 15.6-inch GE65 Raider

The Raider offers up good build quality thanks to a largely-aluminium chassis which makes it more feel more sturdy when compared to other MSI ultraportable gaming laptops. The lid is solid and flexes little and the previously-garish red-and-black design ethos has been toned down.

The RGB SteelSeries keyboard is well-laid out and, thankfully, stretches across the entire chassis (there’s no dead space at the sides) which means there’s room for a full number pad and full-size arrow keys. The trackpad shows no issues.

MSI GE65 Raider

The insides housed a ninth generation 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-9750H CPU and a huge 32GB RAM although it can also be configured with a top-end Core i9 9880H and 64GB RAM. There’s space for two, speedy M.2 NVMe drives plus a 2.5-inch hard drive so storage can range into the terabytes. To top it off, graphics goes up to Nvidia’s RTX 2070 so there’s plenty of gaming power. However, this all needs plenty of cooling.

While we couldn’t run punishing tests to max out all components, we’d be surprised if some throttling didn’t occur. That said, MSI has traditionally offered some of the best cooling systems that we’ve seen in any powerful laptops.

Another potentially-useful touch is the 802.11ax (aka Wi-Fi 6) card. While we’re some way from mass adoption of this standard, our initial tests show that it certainly does offer better speeds at better ranges even when on networks crowded with older, slower devices.

The top-end models use 240Hz IPS panels which look good and offer ridonculous levels of motion-smoothness. However, it’s only rarely that you’ll be able to notice any difference over 144Hz screens – so far racing games seem to demonstrate the best improvements.

Connectivity is impressive for a device this small. While many business notebooks are reducing everything down to USB-C ports it’s good to see gaming notebooks like the Raider offer as much legacy support as possible. There are Ethernet, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, USB-A 3.1 Gen2, USB-C and two audio-jacks on the left. There are two more USB-A 3.1 Gen.2 ports on the right plus a full-size SD-Card slot.

Australian price and availability hasn’t been confirmed yet, but portable power like this doesn’t come cheap.

MSI GT76 Titan

The GT76 won one of Computex’s many Best Choice awards. It’s from the bread-basket school of gaming laptop design but then it needs to be, considering what’s in it. It features the 3.6GHz Intel i9-9900K which, MSI is adamant, can run comfortably at 5GHz across all eight cores to the point where they’re checking this when it leaves the factory.

MSI GT76 Titan gaming laptop

Of particular note is the new cooling system which features 11 copper heat pipes and four fans - two of which are particularly beefy. This allows it, the company says, to run the CPU and GPU at full-power without throttling. This will be interesting to test as we’ve tried Crypto-mining on its predecessor and the beast gets as hot as it is fast. However, the latest Intel and Nvidia components do deal with heat better so we're inclined to believe the claims. We suspect noise will be an issue, though.

MSI Titan Cooling System

While we’ve never been fans of lids that don’t have hinges at the back of the chassis, the Titan is large enough for this not to be an issue. It’s been styled to resemble a sports car (mainly at the rear) which will attract people or turn them off (depending on their personal preferences) as will the “Mystic lighting” which manifests as RGB flashes at the sides and a full-width bar at the front. Beyond this the design is actually quite minimalist and sophisticated with few garish details.

Inside it can fit three NVMe hard drives and a 2.5-inch SSD. Plus, there are four RAM slots which can support up to 120GB(!) The IPS screen can be either 144Hz Full HD or 4K – there’s no 240Hz option. For such a large machine it’s good to see a thin, 12mm bezel. They keyboard and mouse are similar to the Raider.

Connectivity sees miniSD on the right (it's a mystery why there's no full-size slot) and it's joined by two USB-A ports, USB-C, mini DisplayPort and HDMI. On the left are two audio jacks, two USB-A, Ethernet and Thunderbolt 3. All USB is 3.1 Gen.2. Note that it requires two hefty power bricks to proivide the juice. Finally, the large speakers are tuned by Dynaudio.

While it’s not particularly portable, it is a very-powerful desktop replacement that can be easily taken to LANs or locked in a drawer. Local pricing isn’t confirmed but it will get very expensive for top spec'd SKUs.

Other MSI laptops

MSI also featured new Workstation, Creator and Prestige laptops. The “WS” and "WE" workstations feature various flavours of Nvidia’s Quadro RTX GPUs while the new Prestige range features solid-but-ultralight aluminium chassis with, in some cases, some fierce gaming performance. Much was made about recognising 3D and VR design professionals use gaming notebooks for work. Consequently MSI and other vendors are now tinkering with gaming laptops to make them even better suited for designers.

MSI WE75

MSI WE65: A Creator's laptop featuring Nvidia Quaddro RTX 3000 graphics and a Military-grade MIL-STD-810G toughness rating.

MSI creative laptop lid

We're big fans of the MSI logo on the creative laptops. It's a bit more refined than the Dragon.

MSI prestige laptops

The all-Aluminium MSI Prestige range is super-solid, super-light, offers great battery life and is impressively powerful.

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Nick Ross

Nick Ross is a veteran technology journalist who has contributed to many of Australia's top technology titles and edited several of them. He was the launch editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation online Technology section.

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