MSI announced earlier this year that it was updating its 15-inch laptop, the GE66 Raider, and I’ve been looking forward to getting my hands on it for several months now.
This Raider GE66 had some great shoes to fill after the competent Raider GE65 model of 2019, and MSI completely redesigned, raising the hardware specifications to almost the most powerful mobile platforms available: a Core i9 HK processor and a Nvidia RTX 2080 Super graphics chip, which we had on our revision unit. They also changed the design, the inputs and outputs and added a 99-watt battery.
Even if our evaluation is a little late, the GE66 Raider is still a modern product and you should definitely take this into account when buying a 15-inch notebook without compromising gaming and performance in the fourth quarter of 2020 and even later in the first part of 2021.
We have enjoyed our test block for the past three weeks and have brought our thoughts and impressions together in the article below, along with the positives and curiosities you know best before jumping into a device. Because we tested it a bit later than the other versions, we were able to make it work with mature software, so your device should work just like ours if you want it to.
specifications according to test – MSI GE66 Raider
|MSI GE66 Raider 10SGS|
|Screen||15.6 1920 x 1080 pixels IPS 240Hz 3ms, 16:9, non-contact, matte, sharp panel LQ156M1JW03|
|Processor||Intel Comet Lake-H Core i9-10980HK CPU, 8C/16T|
|Video||Intel UHD + Nvidia RTX 2080 Super 8 GB GDDR6 (90-105 W Max-Q, GeForce 456/71), with Optimus|
|Memory||32 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs)|
|Storage||1x 1TB SSD (WDC PC SN730 SDBPNTY-1T00) – 2x M.2 NVMe slots|
|Link||Wireless 6 (Killer AC 1650i), Bluetooth 5.0, 2.5 Gigabit LAN (Killer E3100)|
|Ports||2x USB-A 3.1 gen1, 1x SUB-A 3.2 gen2, 2x USB-C 3.2 gen2, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort, LAN, card reader, headset, lock|
|Battery||99.9 W supply voltage, 230 W, USB-C charging cradle|
|Size||358 mm or 14.1 (W) x 267 mm or 10.51 (D) x 23.4 mm or 0.93 (H)|
|Weight||5.35 kg (2.42 kg) + 1.95 kg (88 kg) Bricks and electric cables, CE model|
|Besides..,||on RGB backlit keyboard for each key, HD webcam + IR, 2x 2W stereo speakers|
MSI offers the GE66 Raider in different configurations, from 6Core Intel i7-10750H processors with RTX 2060/2070 graphics and 240Hz display at the bottom, to an 8Core i9-10980HK configuration with RTX 2070/2080 Super graphics and an additional 300Hz display at the top.
Although our assessment unit is a high-end configuration, most of our conclusions also apply to other options, and we will discuss other CPU/GPU options in the chapter on performance.
Design and construction
As mentioned above, the GE66 Raider has been completely redesigned, both externally and internally, and differs little from its GE65 predecessor. It is therefore slightly larger and heavier than the GE65, but compensates for these aspects with its robust construction and excellent build quality. In fact, this is by far the most beautiful MSI laptop I have come across in recent years.
For the main deck and lid, thick pieces of metal are used, which appear solid and hardly swell, even under higher pressure. MSI has also installed solid hinges to ensure that the screen does not twist or bend when handled from the side. However, it only rises to about 145 degrees.
Because it is not yet a single seat and metal parts are used on a plastic inner frame, I did notice a few beeps when you press hard on the armrest or touch the laptop. They are not as striking as on the older MSI models or even the GE66 Stealth, and I would say most of you probably won’t even notice them, but what I have done is look specifically at the build quality of this new model.
That said, MSI has also cleaned up the design of this update of the Raider, which now has a light silver exterior and a slightly darker interior with a hint of blue. I like the new Dragon Shield badge on the cover, it looks beautiful. I also like the interior a little more than that of the GS66 Stealth; it still has stains after a while, but not as much as the keys and keyboard, which need to be cleaned often. I voluntarily photographed the interior after using this GE66 for the last two days without any cleaning, so you know what to expect.
As far as the elephant in the room is concerned, MSI has installed a huge light bar on the front of the laptop that can be adjusted using the Steelseries application. I think it’s too much, but it’s taken me a while, so I can see why some of you might like it. Don’t worry, if you don’t want to, you can turn it off in the settings. I must warn you that this piece is made of shiny plastic and should be pampered; I’m afraid it will scratch quite easily and will not look good after a while, especially if you wear the watch like I do all the time.
And while we’re at it, I have to praise MSI for the way this plastic light bar seamlessly connects to the main deck and the metal sides, as well as to the underside, which is a significant improvement over what they did to the GS66’s plastic front lip. I also appreciate them putting a rubber cushion around the entire screen to protect the screen when the notebook is closed and stored in a backpack.
On the other hand, I don’t like the way MSI designed the bottom, especially because they added small rubber feet with a hard plastic foot in the middle. Normally the laptop should just rest on a flat surface on soft rubber feet, but the laptop also uses this hard piece of plastic as a support that comes into contact with the desk and can certainly scratch delicate surfaces. I know he can because I can see his prints on my desk. In addition, the rubber feet barely push the laptop out of the office and don’t allow enough fresh air to reach the fans, which somewhat obstructs the otherwise excellent air intakes, as you’ll see in the performance section. In summary: I wish this laptop had big rubber feet.
I also said that the GE66 Raider takes up more space than the GE65, and that’s because it now has a bump behind the screen to leave enough space for the thermal design, the large battery and the I/O.
Most inputs and outputs are now conveniently located here, hiding the cables when connecting peripherals, with just a few USB-A, USB-C and a card reader on the sides. You’ll find most of the ports you need on this laptop, but I don’t understand why MSI dropped support for Thunderbolt 3. You still get the DP video via USB-C and charge it, but not the ability to connect TB3 devices. It’s even more incomprehensible when they actually provide TB3 support on the ultra-portable GS66 series.
Keyboard and touchpad
The GE66 Raider keyboard is identical to the GS66 Stealth keyboard examined earlier this year and is generally a mixed bag.
On the one hand, the layout does not contain a NumPad section, allowing MSI to implement this keyboard centered in the chassis. I appreciate the size, but some of you may feel differently.
In return you get the extra function key column on the right and the normal size arrows, but also some of the annoying layout functions that are common on MSI laptops, such as B. the large left CTRL key that sends the Fn key to the right, which is now pressed in the right CTRL key. The on/off button is also a button in the upper right corner and has an orange light that always lights up, which makes no sense to me. It’s small, but still visible in the darkroom.
In terms of everyday use, this keyboard is one of the smoothest and flattest implementations in the 15-inch laptop niche, and even flatter than what you get in most portable formats. With a stroke of 1.5 mm and very little force required to record a stroke, the keyboard looks very much like an Ultrabook, so people who are used to more difficult inputs can hardly get used to it.
In fact, I can imagine using the device on a daily basis for typing. It’s very fast and very quiet, but it’s also quite unforgivable to roam with those soft pushes, and it influenced my typing experience a bit and it took me a while to get used to it.
RGB lighting on each button, from previous generations, with reasonably bright LEDs, good uniformity and almost creeping light under the caps. The design also includes CasLock and NumLk physical indicators, and MSI laptops also offer this neat trick that emphasizes functions only available when the Fn key is pressed.
On the other hand, the MSI Steelseries Engine software is for the most part functional, but once you understand how it works, it looks and feels outdated, with outdated graphics and miniaturized interfaces. As mentioned in previous reports, I feel that their entire software suite could benefit from a complete update.
Here MSI uses a narrower and higher clippad for the mouse than in the GS66 series. It is still a glass surface with precision guides that handles daily use and gestures smoothly and reliably. I wish she’d been stiffer, because I’ve learned that she clings to the softer pranks. However, the physical clicks are pleasant, smooth and calm.
Still, I would expect most of you to connect an external monitor to this type of laptop.
As far as biometrics are concerned, the GS66 is equipped with an IR camera, but no finger sensor.
MSI offers the GE66 rider several display options, including 144/240 and 300Hz FHD IPS panels, as well as a 60Hz UHD panel with support for a wider colour gamut, making it a potential option for creative people.
Our research unit is equipped with a 240 Hz mid-range IPS panel, which is popular in this niche and is used on many other mid to high-end gaming laptops of this generation. If you are interested in the 300Hz panel, it is very similar to the panel we tested on the Zephyrus S15 and the Predator Triton 500. Powerful fps games could benefit from this, but for most, this 240Hz option is well suited.
This is an excellent panel for gaming, with a fast refresh rate and response time, and a pretty good option for everyday use, with the right contrast, brightness and color coverage. We also found it brighter than the same panel we tested in the MSI GS66 Stealth, with a maximum brightness of 320+ nits, which is sufficient for indoor use, but not yet sufficient for outdoor use or in a light environment.
This is what you can expect from our Sypder4 sensor:
- Identification of the panel material : Sharp SHP14C5 (LQ156M1JW03);
- Coverage: 97.9% sRGB, 68.3% NTSC, 71.2% AdobeRGB ;
- Measured range: 2.34 ;
- Maximum brightness in the center of the screen: 323.18 cd/m2 per power supply;
- Minimum brightness in the center of the screen: 17.12 cd/m2 at power ;
- Contrast at maximum brightness : 1174:1 ;
- White dot: 7900 K ;
- Black at maximum brightness: 0.27 cd/m2 ;
- PWM: Yes, 23.6 kHz at a luminance of <19%;
- Response time: ~16 ms GTG (source).
This test model required calibration to correct for white point and gamma unbalance. This lowered the maximum brightness even further, but after calibration we measured the uniformity of the color/brightness and saw no clear light bleeding on the dark background, with a small click at the bottom.
Equipment and performance
Our test model is the high-end MSI GE66 Raider configuration with an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, 16GB 3200MHz DDR4 RAM, a fast 1TB SSD drive and dual graphics: Nvidia RTX 2070 dGPU and Intel UHD on Intel platforms, with Optimus.
Before going any further, we should keep in mind that our rating unit was sent by MSI with software available in mid-October 2020 (BIOS E1541IMS.30A, Dragon Center 18.104.22.168, GeForce Game Ready 456.71 driver).
MSI offers the GE66 in different configurations. The 8Core i9-10980HK unlockable and overclockable processor outperforms the multithreaded processor, but it is an expensive upgrade and requires a lot of power to operate in full load mode, resulting in thermal effects. That’s why the 6Core Intel i7-10750H processor should be a more balanced model for most buyers, especially if you buy the GE66 Raider mainly for gaming.
This brings us to the selection of the GPU. We have the Nvidia 2080 Super 2020 in Max-Q that works between 80W and 105W between different power profiles. It is the most powerful GPU you can get in this form factor, which leaves room for overclocking in this implementation, but it is also expensive and not necessarily worth the significant premium over the other GPU options available for this chassis, namely RTX 2070 Super 115W or RTX 2060 110W.
Intel’s updated platform also supports up to 32 GB of DDR4 memory at 3200 MHz, which is also the case on this research unit. Two DIMMs are easily accessible inside for upgrades, you will also find two SSD M.2 slots and a WiFi chip. Our unit came with a single 1TB SSD, the WDC SN730 high-speed drive.
To access the parts, slide the tailgate, which is held in place by a handle of Phillips screws. This may seem like a simple task, but it’s not. First of all, please note that MSI always has a warranty sticker on one of the screws in some places, so you should check the warranty conditions if you want to open the unit. For my part, I hope that MSI will stop using these warranty stickers that prevent users from updating their products because they are one of the last to do so, and I am sure that this practice alone will be enough to send some potential buyers to more brand friendly updates.
The plastic back panel requires some effort to remove as it is quite fragile and held in place by strong clamps. I suggest you start at the front, around the light bar, and work your way back. Watch this video, but there was a lot more teasing in the back before she left my camera. Don’t pull too hard or you might break some plastic hooks.
As mentioned earlier, the MSI software package is quite functional, but outdated in terms of design and interfaces. The Dragon Center application manages basic power, fan, display and battery settings, while sound and keyboard are controlled by separate applications. Unlike the GS66, there is no discrete GPU mode on this notebook, but the iGPU is still active. There is also no support for GSync.
The GE66 is first and foremost a high-performance notebook, but it can also handle everyday multitasking, web browsing and video, while remaining cool and above all quiet. In fact, the fans run in slow motion during video and other basic stuff, and only the CPU fan runs in multitasking mode.
For more demanding jobs, we first test CPU performance by running the Cinebench R15 test 15 or more times per cycle, with a delay of 2-3 seconds between each run.
In our configuration, the i9 processor stabilizes at 70+W on the default Extreme Performance setting, which means that 3.9+GHz and temperatures around 90C, has a score of over 1700, and the fans 46-47dB at head height.
I would add that the processor runs at 80+W for the first few cycles, and is thermally capped at about 95C, until it is finally capped at ~70W, at about 90 degrees Celsius.
By default, the undervoltage is switched off, but it can be switched on in the BIOS. To do this, restart in BIOS mode and simultaneously press Right Ctrl + Right Shift + Left Alt + F2 to unlock the advanced BIOS features, then browse through the overclocking settings, enable overclocking and XTU support, and restart Windows.
Our example crashed at -80 mV, so we drove at -50 mV to avoid stability problems. We’ve used this reduced voltage in all our tests.
On this extremely low voltage profile, the CPU shows similar performance, limited to 70+W, but with stabilized clocks and slightly higher scores. The limiting factor here, too, is performance.
Surprisingly, the switch to a quiet profile has virtually no effect on the performance of the processor, which initially always runs with more power and is ultimately limited to around 70W. The fans in this case are much quieter, although they are only 36-37dB at head height, and the CPU has been reduced to 95C throughout the test. The power limit does not work in this mode.
Finally, the performance of the battery-powered CPU is limited to 54+W (in Extreme Performance mode), with the corresponding points. Details below.
For the sake of clarity I have added the Asus ROG Scar and Zephyrus Duo i9-10980HK configurations in the table below, as well as the Ryzen 4800H version on Legion 5 case 15. AMD still has an advantage in this test, but Intel’s i9 models are pretty close. In addition, these results place the GE66 i9 between the other two implementations, while consuming less power and operating more quietly. I also included a high-end implementation of the i7-10750H, so you know what to expect when using this option with the processor.
We then tested our results with the longer Cinebench R20 shredding test and the dreaded Prime 95 in the Extreme Performance profile. The processor stabilizes in both tests at 70+W at about 90 degrees C and a fan noise of 46-47 dB.
We also performed our combined CPU+GPU stress tests with this laptop. The latest 3DMark performs the same test 20 times per cycle, looking for variations in performance and degradation over time, and this device has passed. Luxmark 3.1 fully charges the CPU and GPU at the same time, but is not properly supported on the i9-10980HK and is therefore not relevant here.
We then performed all tests and benchmarking using the standard Extreme Performance profile in Dragon Center.
- 3DMark 13 – Shooting : 19837 (Graph – 22822, Physics – 21756, Combined – 9387) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal : 5309 ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 8850 (Graph – 8707, CPU – 9764) ;
- AIDA memory test64 : The writing: 48461 Mbps, running : 44732 Mbps, latency: 57.3 ns ;
- Motor Overlay – 1080p Extreme : 5433 ;
- Uniengine Overlay – Environment 1080p : 17102 ;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K coding at 1080p): 43.11 fps on average ;
- PassMark: Assessment: 7134 (CPU: 20923, 3D graphics: 13711, HDD: 24674) ;
- PCMark 10 : 5946 (Essentials – 9593, Productivity – 7679, Digital Content Creation – 7744) ;
- GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit : Mononuclear: 6145, multi-core: 33972 ;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 1329, multi-core: 7017 ;
- CineBench R15 (best odometer reading) : Processor 1828 kb, single core processor 207 kb ;
- CineBench R20 (best performance): 4044kb processor, 485kb single-core processor;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit : Pass 1 is 236.78 fps, Pass 2 is 107.83 fps ;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 34.53 s.
The standard Extreme Performance profile has no effect on the GPU, so we also repeated some tests with the -50mV Undervolted Extreme Performance profile, as well as overclocking the GPU in MSI Afterburner at +120MHz clock and +200MHz memory. Next we call the profile Extreme Tweak. Between the different tests the GPU runs at 90 to 105W, as expected to run the Super Max-Q 2080.
That’s what we have in this case:
- 3DMark 13 – Shooting : 20757 (Graph – 24016, Physics – 22507, Combined – 9727) ;
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal : 5560 ;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy : 9135 (Graph – 9177, CPU – 10186) ;
- Motor Overlay – 1080p Extreme : 5756 ;
- Uniengine Overlay – Environment 1080p : 17938 ;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K coding at 1080p): 45.74 fps on average ;
- PassMark: Assessment: 7224 (CPU: 21185, 3D graphics: 13811, Player: 22074) ;
- PCMark 10 : 5931 (Foundations – 9510, Productivity – 7590, Creation of digital content – 7843) ;
- GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit : Mononuclear: 1302, multi-core: 8383 ;
- CineBench R15 (best odometer reading) : CPU 1907 kb, single-core CPU 212 kb ;
- CineBench R20 (best performance): 4303kb processor, 499kb single-core processor;
- x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit : Pass 1 is at 253.34 fps, Pass 2 at 108.04 fps ;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 33.88 s.
We have also performed tasks related to workstations with Extreme and Extreme Tweaked profiles:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW car scene – CPU calculation: 3m 39s (extreme), 3m 44s (modified extreme) ;
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car Scene – GPU Computing: 1m 11s (CUDA), 32s (Optix) ;
- Blender 2.90 – cool scene – CPU: 10m 12s (Extreme), 10m 25s (Extreme Tweaked) ;
- Blender 2.90 – Cool Scene – GPU Computing: 3m 20 (CUDA), 1m 50 (Optix) ;
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPU + GPU Evaluation : The CPU is not recognized;
- SPEC Viewfinder Paint 13 – 3DSMax: 193,27 (extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder Page 13 – Katia : 143,42 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder Paint 13 – Creo: 187,24 (extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder 13 – Energy : 18.96 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder Paint 13 – Maya : 226.15 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder 13 – Medical : 60.15 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder 13 – Showcase : 105.43 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder Paint 13 – SNX : 21.13 (Extreme) ;
- SPEC Viewfinder 13 – SW : 94.09 (Extreme).
Overall, we see a slight improvement of 2-3% in CPU scores and 2-5% in GPU tests. Not much.
The i9 processor and the RTX 2080 super graphics chip are also firmly implanted. In comparison, several other i9-10980HK configurations tested by us, namely the ROG Scar and the Zephyrus DUO, received the same results in the CPU and GPU tests.
Let’s see some games. We have run DX11, DX12 and Vulkan games with the standard Extreme and Extreme Tweaked profiles, with fans in auto mode, FHD (internal monitor) and QHD (external monitor) resolution. Here’s what we’ve got:
|i9-10980HK + RTX 2080 Super Max-Q||FHD Extreme||FHD Extremely tweaked||FCD Silence||QHD Extreme|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, ultra-pre-set, beam tracks AUS)||121 frames per second (81 frames per second – 1% drop)||129 frames per second (78 frames per second – 1% drop)||118 frames per second (68 frames per second – 1% drop)||–|
|Battlefield V (DX 12, Ultra Preset, Beam Tracking Mode On, DLSS Off)||77 frames per second (58 frames per second – 1% drop)||82 frames per second (52 frames per second – 1% decrease)||65 frames per second (49 frames per second – 1% drop)||–|
|Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)||112 fps (87 fps or 1% less)||118 frames per second (90 frames per second is 1% less)||96 frames per second (68 frames per second is 1% less)||88 frames per second (66 frames per second is 1% less)|
|Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset)||175 frames per second (118 frames per second – 1% drop)||184 frames per second (121 frames per second – 1% drop)||158 frames per second (114 frames per second, or 1% less)||125 frames per second (28 frames per second – 1% reduction)|
|Red Dead Redemption 2 (DX 12, ultra-optimized, TAA)||94 frames per second (66 frames per second – 1% drop)||98 frames per second (67 frames per second – 1% drop)||–||–|
|Rise of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, high preset, FXAA)||125 frames per second (67 frames per second – 1% decrease)||126 frames per second (69 frames per second – 1% decrease)||112 frames per second (62 frames per second – 1% drop)||98 frames per second (58 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Shadow of the Tomb Raider (DX 12, high preset, TAA)||105 fps (76 fps or 1% less)||109 frames per second (78 frames per second – 1% drop)||98 frames per second (68 frames per second is 1% less)||74 frames per second (57 frames per second – 1% decrease)|
|The Foreign Brigade. (Volcano, ultra predetermined)||160 frames per second (120 frames per second, or 1% less)||169 frames per second (128 frames per second or 1% less)||142 frames per second (111 frames per second – 1% drop)||121 frames per second (98 frames per second – 1% drop)|
|Witch 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Haircut at 4)||114 frames per second (75 frames per second, or 1% less)||118 frames per second (77 frames per second – 1% drop)||104 frames per second (69 frames per second – 1% decrease)||88 frames per second (25 frames per second is 1% less)|
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recording with the Fraps counter/in game FPS in campaign mode ;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider Games – registered with reference utilities enabled;
- The optimized profile of Red Dead Redemption 2 is based on these parameters.
The HWinfo logs below show CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Far Cry 5, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Witcher 3 in the extreme performance profile.
The performance and temperature of this notebook are the highest in most titles: In Witcher 3, Red Dead Redemption 2, or Battlefield 5, the CPU operates in the mid-70s and the GPU in the mid-70s. The exception is the heavy Far Cry 5 processor. The i9 processor heats up in the 80’s and 90’s in this case. All this with the standard Extreme performance profile, while the fans increase to approximately 46-47 dB at head height.
Lifting the laptop from the desktop can dramatically improve performance and temperature by lowering the CPU by approximately 5-10 degrees and the GPU by 5 degrees, allowing the GPU to run at higher clock speeds in most cases. As said, the small rubber feet on the back of the laptop don’t let in fresh air, higher feet would have made a big difference here.
Second, CPU underclocking and especially GPU overclocking slightly increase performance, but the actual increase makes a big difference. Of course you can both speed up and raise the floor for maximum effect.
This laptop is not as noisy as the other games in its niche, but with 46-47 dB the fans are still quite irritated. By switching to a silent power profile, the fans can be reduced to less than 38 dB, but with a significant temperature rise and a fairly limited loss of performance. When the notebook is on a desktop, both the CPU and the GPU are thermally limited and work in the 80s (for the GPU) and 90s (for the CPU). Gaming is ideal even when the components are running on heat, but high indoor and outdoor temperatures discourage the use of a laptop in this way for long periods of time, especially for demanding games.
Still, even in this silent mode, lifting the notebook helps a lot, allowing for both a more comfortable temperature and better performance.
MSI also offers a Cooler Boost fan profile for this notebook, which improves the temperature and performance of the CPU and GPU and pushes the fan noise to an unusable 52-53 dB. Even the headphones are struggling, and I don’t see how you can use the laptop in real life in this mode.
Finally, the GE66 can also be used with an external monitor when the laptop cover is closed and the device is in a vertical rack. This ensures that the entrances and exits are not obstructed in any way. Keep in mind that with some racks you have trouble connecting an external monitor because the ports are in the background.
In short, the MSI GE66 Raider performs well in daily use, in synthetic tests, under load and in games. For the most part it runs cooler and quieter than the competition, although the small rubber rear feet obstruct the air intake.
Lifted up or placed on a cool package, this laptop really shines and is ultimately one of the most balanced laptops we’ve ever tested in terms of performance, temperature and sound. And don’t forget that our test model is an i9 + RTX 2080 graphics chip configuration; the i7 models should work even better on the CPU side.
Sound, heat, communication, speakers and other
The MSI GE66 Raider is equipped with an advanced cooling system with two powerful fans and multiple heat pipes distributed over the CPU, GPU and VRM, but without the northern heat sink. Most of this thermal module is for the GPU, but there is also enough for the i9 CPU, as explained in the previous paragraph.
Another example: The large mesh opening at the back provides excellent ventilation, especially when the laptop is lifted to improve air circulation underneath, but this design also allows dust to easily accumulate inside the laptop. I recommend a complete cleaning with a compressed air can every 2 or 3 months.
As mentioned before, this notebook is very quiet in daily use. While streaming videos and the simplest exercises, both fans drop, the CPU fan goes into multitasking mode and runs up to 37dB. I haven’t noticed any winning coils or electronic noise on our unit.
This is what you can expect in terms of head height sound.
- Extremely powerful Cooler Boost fans reach 52-53dB in games;
- Extreme performance, fan on the car – 46-47dB on the game, 46-47dB on the Cinebench loop test ;
- Quiet, fan on the car – 37-38dB for games, 0-37dB for everyday use.
During gaming, fans only reach 46-47 dB of headroom on the standard Extreme profile, which is quieter than other high-performance notebooks in this segment. Switching the fans to Max Cooler Boost mode pushes the sound to an unusable level of 52-53 dB, while switching to Silent mode reduces the sound to less than 38 dB during playback but when the temperature rises.
By the way, we already showed you that the GE66 maintains the internal organs and a pleasant temperature even during long play sessions, so the fact that the external case works so reasonably is certainly no surprise.
We see temperatures of 40°C in the middle of the keyboard on the Extreme Performance profile, 40°C around the WASD area, 30°C around the arrow keys, and up to 50°C in some places on the back. By lifting the laptop, these temperatures are lowered by 5 degrees in the hottest places.
Of course, a laptop works much faster on Silent, especially if it’s on a desktop, and even then it’s handy to install it honestly. Playing sessions with the laptop on the table is therefore a serious setback with this laptop, but if you run most games on Silent with the laptop in place, the outside temperature stays within acceptable limits, with temperatures in the hottest parts of the interior in the 1950s and in the low to mid-40s range around WASD and arrow keys.
Note that we have conducted our tests in a controlled environment with the air conditioning set at 24-25 degrees Celsius, so these temperatures may vary under different conditions.
*Games – Day – Watch Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, silent profile, fan at 0-36dB
*Games – Quiet – Play Far Cry 5 game for 30 minutes, silent profile, fan at 36-37dB
*Games – Extreme Performance, Fan on Auto – Far Cry 5 game for 30 minutes, extreme performance, fan at 46-47dB
*Games – Extreme Performance, Fan on Cooler Boost – Far Cry 5 game for 30 minutes, extreme performance, fan at 52-53dB
For the network connection, this device has Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5 via the Intel AX201 chip, as well as 2.5 Gigabit Lan. Our review unit showed good wifi performance, both close to the router and above 30 feet with obstacles in between.
The sound is diffused by a pair of fairly powerful speakers that shoot through the small holes on the right and left edges. It took me a while to figure out where the sounds were coming from.
They sound quite loud in the musical profile of the Nahimic software, at 80-82 dB in the head. However, they are very bad in bass and have a weird sound, and the handyman once put them at 50% above volume. Just like the GS66 Stealth, a pair of earphones is a must for this laptop if you value sound quality.
The webcam is located at the top of the screen with microphones. The image quality is not surprising, but generally better than the standard laptop webcam available today.
The GE66 Stealth contains a 99.9 Watt battery, the highest power allowed by law for a laptop, only for charging.
Please note, however, that the system does not automatically switch to 60 Hz when the notebook is switched off, which may be necessary if you want to maximise battery life, as operation at 240 Hz is detrimental.
Here we have the device, the brightness of the screen is set to about 120 nits (60%) and the refresh rate is 240 Hz :
- 16W (~6+ hours usage) – Google Drive text editing, sleep mode, display set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 15.5 W (~6+ operating hours) – Full screen 1080p video on Youtube in edge mode, silent mode, screen set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.5 W (~6+ hours usage) – Netflix full screen Edge, silent mode, screen set to 60%, Wi-Fi ON ;
- 24W (~4+ hours usage) – Edge mode display, balanced mode, 60% display, Wi-Fi ON.
Overall, this GE66 worked more efficiently than the one we tested some time ago, and was in line with what I expected from this type of hardware platform.
MSI combines the notebook with a generic and fairly compact Chicony 230W power supply unit, which still weighs approximately 0.88kg with the cables included in the European version. Charging the battery takes 2 to 3 hours. A compatible charger also makes it possible to charge up to 65W via USB-C, for those moments when you don’t want to carry a main power brick.
Prices and availability
The MSI GE66 Raider 2020 is now available worldwide.
The higher version tested here with an i9-10980HK processor, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD storage, Nvidia RTX 2080 super graphics and a 300Hz display costs 2999 US dollar in the US and about 3500 euro in Europe (RRP).
However, more balanced versions are available from 1800 USD/ 2000 EUR with an i7 processor, Nvidia RTX 2070 graphics and a 240 Hz screen. However, nothing is known yet about the RTX 2060 model.
Follow this link for the latest configurations and prices in your region at the time of reading this article.
It is one of the most balanced laptops we have tested in years.
It is a fully-fledged computer that is not as portable as some other modern options, but it makes up for that with an excellent balance between performance, temperature and noise level for almost any activity, from daily use to the most demanding workloads and games. Of course, MSI could have improved this laptop with slightly higher rubber feet that would have helped the thermal module even more, but still it runs cooler and quieter than the few competitors with similar specifications we tested.
In addition, the GE66 Raider is a clear step forward for MSI in terms of design and build quality, and does not detract from any of its important features.
On the other hand, I must add that for some of you it might be difficult to get used to a flat and flexible keyboard like the one usually found in an ultrabook and not in a gaming laptop like this one. In addition, some may be annoyed by the wrong sound solution or ignore the lack of support for Thunderbolt 3, but these are small peculiarities in the big picture of things, apart from the speakers, which are my only big grievance with this device.
While the GE66 Raider is not a low-cost notebook, especially in the highest performance configuration with an i9 processor and RTX 2080 graphics, it is also priced, if not cheaper, than some of the alternatives that offer similar specifications, and can in fact use them well and keep them at the right operating temperature in a way that many competitors cannot. MSI also offers a laptop with lower specifications, and I especially recommend the RTX 2070 Super variant with the i7 notebook as one of the best uncompromising gaming notebooks of this generation.
The Asus ROG Strix Scar, the Gigabyte Aorus 15X and the Lenovo Legion 7i are challenged as competitors. We only tested the ROG Scar 2020, so you should consider the other two before making a choice in this category of high-performance, full-size 15-inch laptops.
This concludes our review of the MSI GE66 Raider, but I would like to hear your thoughts and impressions about it, both if you are looking for one and especially if you have already bought one and can share your experience as an owner. Please contact us in the Responses section below.
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Andrei Girbea, editor of Ultrabookreview.com. I’ve been involved in mobile computing since the 2000’s, and you’ll find here mainly reviews and detailed tutorials written by me.
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