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MSI GE66 Raider notebook review, specifications, features

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When MSI announced the GE66 Raider at CES 2020, everyone in attendance was thrilled not only by its quirky new design, but also by the high-tech components that the user can insert into the case. The sample review that was received from MSI comes with an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, 32GB DDr4 RAM, 2TB NVMe SSD in RAID0 configuration, and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.

MSI has completely redesigned and upgraded the hardware to some of the most powerful mobile platforms available today, a Core i9 HK processor and an Nvidia RTX 2080 Super graphics chip, all in our test sample. They also changed the design, inputs and IO, and included a 99Wh battery.

The GE66 Raider is a modern product and you should definitely consider it when purchasing a no-compromise 15-inch gaming / performance laptop in Q4 2020 and even later in the first half of 2021.

The survey model has been used for the past three weeks. After testing it a little later than other equally interesting models, we were able to run it on mature software, so your device should work just like ours if you are going to purchase it.
MSI offers the GE66 Raider in a variety of configurations, ranging from 6-core Intel i7-10750H processors and RTX 2060/2070 graphics and 240Hz screen at the bottom, to the 8Core i9-10980HK configuration with RTX 2070/2080 Super. Graphics and an optional 300Hz display work at altitude.
Although our review unit is the best performing configuration, most of the conclusions we draw apply to other notebook variants as well.
Needless to say, don’t expect this laptop to be cheap, it will take an investment like that. Let’s find out what to expect from the GE66.

General characteristics

If you haven’t forgotten about the GE63 Raider RGB laptop, which is filled to the brim with RGB, even on the lid itself it had two bright stripes. This feature only lasted one generation and did not return to the GE65 Raider, although the chassis design is much the same.
This time around, the GE66 Raider somehow brings back the RGB spirit with that kind of disco light on the front of the case. Bright RGB lighting is the complete opposite of the GS66 Stealth. In other words, MSI now has two different products for different user groups.
This piece of smoky plastic covers the entire front of the keyboard and creates a light effect that can be seen from different angles. Luckily, the lighting effect is very cool. One thing MSI could improve is the joint between the keyboard and the light diffuser. You can be very uncomfortable, especially when you place your wrist on it.

Design and build

As mentioned, the GE66 Raider has been completely redesigned from the ground up, both outside and inside, and is not much different from its predecessor, the GE65. As a result, it is slightly larger and heavier than the GE65, but makes up for these aspects with solid build and excellent workmanship. In fact, this is by far the nicest MSI laptop.
Thick pieces of metal are used for the main deck and lid, which feel strong and will hardly stick out even when you press hard. MSI has also adopted strong hinges and made sure that the screen does not warp or bend when lifted from the sides. However, it only returns to 145 degrees.
In addition, since it is still not a one-piece design and uses pieces of metal over the plastic inner frame, some squeaky sounds were noticed when pressing the armrest hard or when gripping this laptop. They are not as noticeable as on older MSI models or even the GE66 Stealth.

Apart from the build, MSI has also improved the design of the Raider, which now has a pure silver exterior and a slightly darker interior with shades of blue. In terms of overall design, MSI kicked off such a new theme with the GT76 Titan, which we first saw at Computex 2019. It is difficult to find indifferent to this word of design. The new embossed Dragon Shield logo is especially cool.
The lid opens approximately 130-140 degrees and the display looks amazing. This is a 15.6 ” IPS panel with Full HD resolution. It has a refresh rate of 240Hz and an sRGB 99% color gamut, which is suitable for both gaming and basic color work.
The keyboard is very durable thanks to its aluminum construction. This is one of many favorite laptop keyboards. Each of the keys has a decent sized surface and, most importantly, the travel distance and feedback are very comfortable.
On the other hand, while the MSI Steelseries Engine software is still mostly functional, if you understand how it works, it looks dated, has antique graphics and tiny interfaces. As mentioned in previous reviews, this entire software package of theirs could be completely updated.
As for the mouse, MSI opted for a narrower and taller touchpad than the GS66 series. It’s still a Precision driver glass surface that handles everyday use and gestures smoothly and reliably. However, I wanted it to be tougher. The physical clicks are good, smooth and quiet.
However, the same cannot be said about the trackpad. This trackpad works if you need it. It uses the Precision Touchpad driver, so finger and gesture tracking is not a problem. The main complaint from model testers is physical clicking under the trackpad surface. It is very hard and difficult to push.

The choice of I / O for this laptop is very large:

  • Rear
  • Mini DisplayPort
  • USB Type-C (10 Gb / s, DisplayPort)
  • Gigabit Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • Charging port
  • 2x USB Type-A (5 Gbps)
  • SD card reader
  • USB Type-A (10 Gbps)
  • USB Type-C (20 Gbps)
  • 3.5mm combo audio jack

The GE66 Raider is a modern product and you should definitely consider it when purchasing a no-compromise 15-inch gaming / performance laptop in Q4 2020 and even later in the first half of 2021.
The survey model has been used for the past three weeks. After testing it a little later than other publications, we were able to run it on mature software, so your device should work just like ours if you want it.
MSI offers the GE66 Raider in a variety of configurations, ranging from 6-core Intel i7-10750H processors and RTX 2060/2070 graphics and 240Hz screen at the bottom, to the 8Core i9-10980HK configuration with RTX 2070/2080 Super. graphics and optional 300Hz display at the very top.
While our review unit is the best performing configuration, most of the conclusions will apply to other notebook variants.

Screen

MSI offers the GE66 Raider with several different display options including 144/240 and 300Hz FHD IPS panels, as well as a UHD 60Hz option with wider color gamut support, a potential option for creators.
Our test device shipped with a 240Hz mid-range IPS panel, a popular choice in this niche and found on many other mid-to-high-end gaming laptops in this generation. If you’re interested in a 300Hz panel, it’s very similar to the one we tested in the Zephyrus S15 and Predator Triton 500. Competitive FPS games can benefit from this, but for the most part, the 240Hz option is fine.
It is an excellent panel for gaming with high refresh rates and response times, and is also a pretty good option for everyday use with good contrast, brightness and color gamut. We also found it to be brighter than the same panel tested in the MSI GS66 Stealth, with a maximum brightness of 320+ nits, which is sufficient for indoor use but still not enough for outdoor or bright environments.

  • Here’s what to expect according to our Sypder4 sensor:
  • Panel Hardware ID: Sharp SHP14C5 (LQ156M1JW03);
  • Coverage: 97.9% sRGB, 68.3% NTSC, 71.2% AdobeRGB
  • Measured gamma: 2.34;
  • Maximum brightness in the center of the screen: 323.18 cd / m2 with the power on;
  • Minimum brightness in the center of the screen: 17.12 cd / m2 at power-on;
  • Contrast at maximum brightness: 1174: 1;
  • White point: 7900 K;
  • Black at maximum brightness: 0.27 cd / m2;
  • PWM: Yes, 23.6 kHz @ <19% brightness;
  • Response time: ~ 16ms GTG (source).

What we got on this test model required calibration to correct the WhitePoint and Gamma imbalance. This lowered the maximum brightness even further, but after calibration we measured the solid color / brightness uniformity and did not notice any obvious light leakage against the black background, with only one small pinch on the bottom panel.

Side speakers

We all know how awful most bottom speakers sound on laptops, and in most cases we wouldn’t talk about it. But now, if you look closely at the sides of the GE66, you will notice a lot of micro-holes for the side speakers. In truth, no one expected anything like this from this laptop until they actually used it. The sound quality is simply amazing.

Performance

Let’s focus on the performance. The Intel Core i9-10980HK does not keep up with the performance of the processor, especially the multi-core. It performs about the same as the Intel Core i7-10875H, except that the single core processor performs better than the rest. It seems to us that the CPU regulator is not as aggressive as its i7 competitor, presumably for temperature control.

Games

Synthetic benchmarks aside, and diving deeper into actual gaming performance, we can see that the overall frame rate is higher than the Zephyrus S15, even though the GE66 was supposed to be outperformed by the synthetic benchmarks.

Temperature

Again, not only did the gaming performance take us by surprise, even the gaming temperature is something we didn’t expect. The GPU temperature has never broken the 70-degree barrier. When compared to the Zephyrus S15, there is a sharp contrast. The S15 processor runs cooler, presumably due to the use of liquid metal thermal grease, while the GE66, even if the processor temperature is higher.

Upgradeability

In terms of upgradeability, you will most likely have to take extra precautions when removing the bottom case. MSI uses a variety of plastic latches and clips to hold the bottom cover in place, so open it slowly to avoid damaging it. After you sit down at the laptop, you will see two RAM slots and two M.2 slots that are upgradeable. In our review sample, these slots are heavily occupied by high-end components. Unless your wallet can afford two 2TB SSDs.

Battery life

MSI also boasted a 99.9 Wh built-in battery. Yes, MSI has literally provided this laptop with a battery that is 0.1 Wh more than the maximum limit for an in-flight check-in device. Our initial test didn’t go as well as the battery drained to 50% in just an hour. Then we realized that Gaming Mode is enabled inside MSI Dragon Center, and furthermore, the monitor does not automatically switch to 60Hz when we turn off the laptop.
This is where we found that the laptop does not automatically switch between display refresh rate and performance mode when you are using the laptop in battery mode. The hope remains that this can be resolved to reduce anxiety and confusion among users. After switching to 60Hz refresh rate and silent power mode, this laptop can easily last 6 hours on one full charge. Not the longest battery life, but pretty decent.

Outcome

Pros
Well built, clean design and excellent workmanship. Fast and quiet keyboard, good trackpad, 240Hz solid IPS screen. Excellent balance of performance, thermal characteristics and noise level, competent 99 Wh power profiles.

Cons
Quite large and heavy. No Thunderbolt 3, tiny rubber feet, soft and shallow keyboard underneath takes a while to get used to. Difficult to open and update.

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