When MSI announced the GE66 Raider during CES 2020, I got really excited not just because of its fancy new design but also because of all the high-end components you can shove into the chassis. The review sample we received from MSI comes with Intel Core i9-10980HK, 32GB DDr4 RAM, 2TB of NVMe SSD in RAID0 configuration and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2080 Super Max-Q.
That goes without saying, don’t expect this laptop to come cheap, this kind of setup would need you to fork out RM15,999 meanwhile the lower configuration comes at RM11,999. Let’s find out what you can expect from GE66 right after this.
GE66 Raider: New Chassis & Light Show
If you still remember the GE63 Raider RGB, that laptop is filled with RGB to the brim where even the lid itself has two bright RGB strips. That feature only lasted for a generation and didn’t make a comeback on the GE65 Raider even though the chassis design is almost similar. This time, the GE66 Raider somehow brings back the RGB spirit with this disco light at the front of the chassis. This kind of flashy RGB is an exact opposite of the GS66 Stealth. In other words, MSI has two different product to cater to a different group of users.
This piece of smoked plastic covers the whole front keyboard deck and diffuses the lighting effect which can be seen from various angles. Fortunately, the lighting effect is very classy. One thing I hope MSI could’ve improved is the flush between the keyboard deck and the light diffuser. It can get really uncomfortable especially when you place your wrist on it.
In terms of the overall design, MSI started this new theme with the GT76 Titan which we first saw at the Computex 2019. I’m really loving this design language, notably the new embossed Dragon Shield logo.
The lid opens up to about 130-140 degree angle and the display is looking amazing. It is a 15.6-inch IPS panel that comes with Full HD resolution. It has 240Hz refresh rate and 99% sRGB colour gamut coverage, good for both gaming and basic colour work.
The keyboard deck is very sturdy thanks to the aluminium construction. This is one of my favourite laptop keyboards I have tested so far. Each of the keys has decent size surface and most importantly, the travel distance and feedback is just about right for me to churn out articles after articles. However, not that I would say the same to the trackpad. I would say this trackpad works if you need it to. It uses Precision Touchpad driver so finger and gesture tracking is not really an issue. My major complaint is the physical click underneath the trackpad surface – it is very stiff and hard to press. Maybe this just for me because I prefer to feel the click instead of light tapping on the surface.
The IO selection is very generous on this laptop.
- Mini DisplayPort
- USB Type-C (10Gbps, DisplayPort)
- Gigabit Ethernet
- Charging port
- 2x USB Type-A (5Gbps)
- SD card reader
- USB Type-A (10Gbps)
- USB Type-C (20Gbps)
- 3.5mm Audio combo jack
Side Firing Speakers
We all know how terrible most of the bottom-firing speakers sound like on a laptop and most of the time I wouldn’t bother talking about them. Now, if you look closely at the sides of the GE66, you will notice an array of micro-holes which is for the side-firing speakers. Truth be told, I was not expecting anything from this laptop until I actually used it and I was immediately blown away by the sound quality. That’s the difference you can hear when the hardware is well-positioned.
Let’s shift the focus to the performance. The Intel Core i9-10980HK is falling short when it comes to the CPU performance especially with the multi-core score. It performs roughly similar to the Intel Core i7-10875H with the exception of the single-core performance doing a better job than the rest. It seems to us that the CPU governor is not as aggressive as its competition’s i7 counterpart, presumably to keep the temperature in check.
Leaving aside the synthetic benchmarks and dive deeper into the actual gaming performance, we can see that the overall frame rates are higher than the Zephyrus S15 even though the GE66 was supposed to be losing out on the synthetic benchmarks.
Again, it is not just the gaming performance that caught us by surprise, even the gaming temperature is something we did not expect. The GPU temperature never once went pass the 70c barrier. There is a stark contrast when comparing it with the Zephyrus S15. The S15’s CPU runs cooler presumable due to the use of the liquid metal thermal compound, meanwhile, the GE66 even if the CPU temperature is higher but still not what I would worry about.
When it comes to the upgradability, you might need to take extra precaution when removing the bottom chassis. MSI uses quite a number of plastic latches and clips to hold the bottom cover in place, so you have to slowly pry it open to prevent damaging it. Once you get into the laptop, there are two RAM slots and two M.2 slots available for you to upgrade. In our review sample, those slots are pretty much occupied with high-end components. Unless your wallet can afford two sticks of 2TB SSD.
Another thing MSI kept boasting is the 99.9Whr internal battery. Yes my friends, MSI literally gave this laptop a battery that is 0.1Whr away from the maximum limit for a device to be able to check into a flight. Our initial test didn’t go that well as the battery went down to 50% in just one hour. Then we realised the Gaming Mode is turned on inside the MSI Dragon Center and on top of that the monitor did not automatically switch to 60Hz when we unplug the laptop.
This is where we found out the laptop did not automatically switch the display refresh rate and performance mode when you use the laptop in battery mode. Hopefully, this can be resolved to reduce the hassle and confusion among the users. After changing to 60Hz refresh rate and Silent Power Mode, this laptop can easily extract 6 hours of use for a single full charge. Not the longest battery life, but it is decent enough.
The MSI GE66 Raider in Malaysia comes in two configurations – the price starts from RM11,999 to RM15,999 for RTX 2070 and RTX 2080 Max-Q respectively. The decision to use Intel Core i9 feels like a marketing gimmick as the real-world usage hardly justify the need of it. Then again, we’re not too sure what kind of price difference there would be given if MSI had chosen to use the Intel Core i7-10875H.
Looking at the competition, the closest one should be the ROG Zephyrus S15 series. Despite the close pricing, however, I see this GE66 as a completely different product for a different group of users. As I mentioned earlier, this laptop is for those who want a high-end gaming laptop with the capability to personalise with fancy custom RGB lightings. Meanwhile, the GS66 Stealth or the Zephyrus S15 is for those who want a low profile design.
- Excellent build quality
- Classy RGB & design
- Good keyboard
- Excellent port selection
- Excellent performance and cooling
- Power settings not switching automatically when unplugged