In this article, I give you my MSI GE76 Raider review with specs included. This is a 17,3-inch gaming laptop for 2021 and it is the fastest gaming laptop I’ve ever tested. For those who prefer a smaller size, there is also the GE66 which is the 15,6-inch version which is a very similar motherboard layout design and a similar array of specs are available to it too.
GE66 is probably a little bit more thermally challenged because of the smaller chassis but I won’t worry about it. But, MSI GE76 Raider is an upper but not the highest in the configuration which has the Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU inside, the 16-gigabyte version.
Often we see the eight-gigabyte version of this GPU in laptops. So, that’s pretty exciting but as you’ve no doubt learned already with Nvidia GPUs for this generation they don’t call it Max-P and Max-Q anymore they just ask that the manufacturers tell you which watts they are (which to most people is probably a lot of gibberish sadly enough) and a lot of manufacturers don’t.
However, MSI does list all specs and this is a 150-watt GPU which is the highest wattage, and most powerful that you can get with a Dynamic Boost 2.0 to 155-watts. So, if you’re expecting good things you’re not wrong.
This is a redesigned chassis. In 2020 we saw the GE66, the 15-inch size, get the redesign but they delayed the redesign work for the 17-inch and we now have that. So, that whole brushed black metal look is that loves fingerprints are now gone and obviously we have what they call the titanium blue. It is a very subtle blue.
It’s an angular look, it’s kind of masculine but not like grotesquely so. It’s gamery but not wildly gamery. I think it’s a reasonably good design so I leave that up to you. Beauty’s in the eye beholder.
The chassis, the top, and the keyboard deck are aluminum and very rigid, very sturdy. There are no creaky sounds here, everything is solid and fits flawlessly.
The bottom panel has been redesigned and whereas it used to be like one big screen door now they have sort of a honeycomb design like in Alienware going on and not as much of the bottom is open. Why that is? I don’t know other than to prevent dust from getting in but that is what it is.
Inside we have Intel 10th generation CPUs, the H-series, which you would expect to see in a gaming laptop. I know some of you prefer Ryzen but nobody else is making a laptop of the big laptop manufacturers (there might be some of the smaller manufacturers who are doing this) by pairing some of the really high-wattage versions of these GPUs with Ryzen.
For games, the GPU is the most important and you have your choice of several different CPUs inside. Core i7 or Core i9 is the only option.
There’s a six Core i7 at the very base model. There are two different eight-core i7s. I have an 8-core i7 and I would totally recommend that for the best performance. You don’t want your CPU to be a bottleneck which it would be with the six-core in some games.
And then there’s the Core i9, also an eight-core. I don’t recommend that so much because the thermals are just too limited for that really to be worth it.
As ever with Intel CPUs, their heat and cooling is an issue. And there’s also the elephant in the room which is Intel 11th gen CPUs are available for laptops. There are some thermal improvements as they switch down to a 10 nanometer kind of design but not much noticeable gain overall.
The displays on this are good but there are some disappointments here, not in the quality of the displays that are offered. For example, I have the full HD, IPS, 300 hertz, and 5-millisecond refresh display. For those who play esports titles where you really want to go as high as you can with refresh rate, well, you’ll be thrilled with that.
The color gamut is pretty good too. You get full sRGB coverage and decent on the Adobe and the p3. So, it’s a nice display, really good black level, the contrast is nice on it.
The base model is 144-hertz, IPS, Full HD display. Also, there’s a 4K and that’s a 60hz, IPS panel, wide gamut. So it’s there for content creators and not for gamers.
So then, why do I say it’s a disappointment? Well, because look at what Asus is doing with the Rogue line and offering QHD displays. You got your 1440 nice displays there. These GPUs are so strong they’re kind of wasted on 1080p at this point in most cases.
It would have been nice to see from the get-go the MSI releasing this with 1440p or with a 4K 120-hertz display, at least for those who are gaming. I want to make use of higher resolutions. I mean, it’s possible, that’s how powerful this thing is.
MSI GE76 Raider has two RAM slots. You can get it with 16 or 32 GB of DDR4, and 3200 megahertz RAM from the factory. You can upgrade it to 64 GB yourself.
There are two M.2 SSD slots compatible with SATA and NVMe and mine has a fast NVMe boot SSD.
For those who are thinking about other gaming laptops with high-watt GPUs inside, you can consider the Alienware m17 R4 for example, or the m15 R4. And those also are supporting high-wattage GPUs inside.
But, here’s where MSI has the leg-up. Well, this is very upgradable and very easy to take apart too. You have RAM slots, you have a socketed wifi card. In fact, it’s the new intel wi-fi 6e card it’s the ax210 with BlueTooth 5.2 on board. And that’s a big selling point for a lot of laptop enthusiasts.
Let’s talk about the pricing for a moment. It starts at a very approachable fifteen hundred dollars and that gets you the six-core i7 and an RTX 3060 and it goes obviously up from there.
I don’t even know what the Core i9 with the 4K display and an RTX 3080 16 gigabyte cost but it’s got to be over three thousand dollars.
And then there are the mid-tier ones. There’s again RTX 3070, which is a pretty good value proposition honestly, and an eight-core i7 for the mid $2000s. You get the idea about what to expect for prices.
So yeah, it can get expensive but given the amount of performance and the specs that you’re getting for it it’s pretty good.
Despite the fact that this is an intel product there is no Thunderbolt on board. So for some of you who think of going with Ryzen but need that Thunderbolt, well this isn’t the solution either.
It’s interesting to see how a lot of gaming laptop manufacturers have backed away from Thunderbolt. Maybe because gaming laptop folks are not business users who want docs on the desktop for example and you have enough ports onboard.
If you need Thunderbolt, no-go. But it does have USB-C 3.2 Gen2. So you’ve got fast USB-C ports at least and you can use USB-C docks or monitors and so on.
Speaking of using external monitors, we have HDMI and mini DisplayPorts (HDMI 2.0b, Mini Displayport 1.4) or you could use the USB-C output too. The built-in panel and all of those are connected directly to the dedicated GPU. So, for those who are worried about switchable graphics and the hit it can take, well, less of a concern there.
But beyond that, there’s a Mux switch. It’s software-controlled in dragon center so you can set it to DGPU mode only if you want to gain some frames. Now in benchmarks, I actually didn’t see appreciably different numbers by switching between Optimus and dedicated graphics mode only. So there’s that.
In some games like Cyberpunk, I saw about three to four frames gained. So it’s not huge here it’s not exactly like we saw with the Asus Rogue Zephyrus G15 with AMD that does route through the iGPU. So continuing on with that GPU MSI has done it right here.
If you look at the NVidia control panel you can see all the features there available to you. They’re new for the 3000 series which are backported to 2000. But we have dynamic boost 2.0 we have whisper mode 2.0 and so on. So it’s nice to see a very good straight shall I say vanilla implementation where all the features of the new GPU are available to you along with all of the watts.
So what about performance and thermals. Benchmarks are great on these really very nice numbers. As you can see gaming performance, I mean you know. This laptop is really an overkill for the 1080p panel a lot of the time. But when it isn’t an overkill is for something like cyberpunk 2077 which is so graphics intensive when you’re running ray tracing.
A feature that a lot of us tend to turn off even if it does look kind of pretty right. See those nice reflections oh look my face in the puddle that sort of thing. Because it was such a burden on the frame rate. Well, here it’s not so. I was averaging around 60 frames per second at 1080p using the ultra ray tracing setting. And that’s what basically all the bells and whistles turn on.
So this gaming laptop is for those of you who want to have it all turned on and turned up to the max. Now when it comes to other games that are not as heavy on ray tracing. Yeah, you can play at 1440p or even 4k if you have an external monitor that you want to hook up. Say Assassin’s Creed Valhalla for example which is it hits the GPU it also hits the CPU.
It’s a more balanced thing there we’re not doing ray tracing so much and it’s almost like overkill with this laptop at 1080p that’s for sure. For things like competitive esports kind of tiles sailing apex we’re going near 200 frames per second in the frame right here and that’s what the settings all you know on the maxed out to the high end.
So if you’re doing competitive stuff you’re going to absolutely love this. You could still do it even at 1440p and really not see much of a frame drop versus the 1080p. So I’m going to harp on that because I really can’t wait to see this with a 1440p panel built-in. Now games like far cry 5e that one is really much more CPU intensive and at this point a little bit older title.
So we’re playing far cry 5 new dawn essentially the mega expansion pack for far cry 5. And that plays perfectly fluidly and smoothly and again you could play this at 1440p or even 4k because it’s up to the CPU here. And even ain’t no AMD Ryzen the Core i7 is more than up for the task.
In terms of the cooling on board when you look inside you’ll see that most of the heat pipe love is really on the GPU and not on the CPU which and this generation of NVidia GPUs actually do use more watts and generate more heat.
So before that would have seemed like a foolish thing to do because intel CPUs tend to run hot. But I get while they’re doing it but the CPU will be the one that’s more thermally challenged. So in some games like running cyberpunk with the ultra ray tracing going on there and DLSS and all that sort of thing we did see the GPU hitting like 86 which is pretty much where it’s set as its thermal max and most games you’re going to see it in the 70s which is pretty chill.
The CPU well yeah it’s conservative. Now we’re running this in extreme performance mode at all times. Mostly because that ramps up the fans a bit it really doesn’t change the power output so much so you don’t want to just toast the thing right. And you’ll see CPUs hitting into the 90s and sometimes thermal throttling like by 92. So MSI has something conservative set in bios there.
But does it spend a lot of time being that hot? No, it does not. Most of the time the CPU is in the 70s to the 80s in games. But again it’s intel. The cooling solution is beefy they’ve done well here. Again that’s going to be a step ahead of Alienware who’s always more thermally challenged because to be fair they make a thinner lighter chassis that’s more like going after the gs 66 kind of line of laptops.
That said I did replace this with icy diamond seven. I know some of you are not so keen on icy diamonds some of you like them. I do like it for laptops because it’s very viscous it fills in the typically not really great contact between the CPU die and the heatsink and it lasts like forever anyway. I repasted it and I dropped my CPU temperatures by about five degrees centigrade. So that’s certainly a worthwhile proposition.
The other thing you can do is under bolt it. And yes you can it’s just not enabled by default. You’ll have to go into bios by hitting the dell key and then when you’re in the advanced menu or you can go to the advanced menu later but anyway you hit the right shift right control left alt and f2 at the same time briefly. If you hit it too long you might cycle it on and off.
That brings up the advanced option so you can go to overclocking and then enable Intel xtu mode. Now our particular copy did not actually undervolt really well. Even something as conservative as a negative 70 millivolt still we’d see occasional crashes. Not consistent but it could be something as weird as every time we ran crystal disk mark benchmark it would crash or 3d marks benchmarks wouldn’t run to completion that sort of thing.
So anything below negative 70 millivolts is just probably not even worthwhile. But if you get a copy and you can undervolt it more power to you. The steel series keyboard on this is definitely a go. Now for some of MSI’s smaller chassis, I haven’t been real fond of what they’ve done with the keyboard but this perky RGB keyboard has a really good tactile feel and key return in spring.
1.5 millimeters of travel it’s not like ultra-deep or something but then this is about an inch thick we’re not talking a super thick laptop right. It feels nice to type on I’m so glad. It has a number pad obviously because this is the 17-inch the 15-inch will not have the number pad.
The trackpad on this is glass it’s Microsoft precision relatively speaking by today’s standards it seems kind of on the small side other than that it works fine. Obviously, it doesn’t have dedicated clicker buttons for those who like that but I think most people who are gaming are going to be using a mouse or a controller.
The sound on this is also quite good again gaming laptops, in general, are often a disappointment and the raiders have always had really good speakers and we’re getting there again. We got four speakers. We have two normal speakers and two what they call woofers. Two and we’re firing up from the keyboard and the other two are firing from the front sides.
And the sound is pretty nice and full. Like I didn’t want to run and put my headphones on. And speaking of headphones if you’re playing in extreme performance mode which I would suggest for gaming because you’re going to have some better cooling there. It’s a nice balance without using the cooler boost 5 or up to now function it really blasts the fans.
And even in extreme performance mode, I didn’t have to use headphones when gaming with those aaa titles at ultra settings. So that’s pretty good. But for those of you who do wish to use wired headphones you’re in for a treat because you know MSI makes a big deal about their high-quality audio deck and it was noticeably better.
I was using a set of sound core headphones and I was like oh wow I didn’t realize the game sounded that well listen to that bass. So that’s a pleasant experience there. So what about battery life this is a 6.39 pound 2.9-kilogram laptop and part of that weight is the fact that it’s a 99.9 watt-hour battery which is the highest you can use and still be allowed to take it on an airplane.
Sounds promising right. It’s not bad. Using NVidia Optimus switchable graphics mode doing light productivity work a little streaming video the usual kind of stuff at 200 nits of brightness I was getting between five and six hours. Which I suppose for something that’s so powerful that MSI has decided not to make the titan line of desktop replacements anymore that’s pretty good.
But given the size of the battery, it’s not amazing I guess. You get a 280-watt charger with this which is your usual 280-watt gaming laptop charging brick. So it’s another probably 1.1 kilograms of carrying weight to bring along with you.
If you go with the six-core i7 and an RTX 3060 I bet you’d get a smaller charger I’m not sure though. And it uses a rectangular style connector much like the Lenovo ThinkPad. So I’m actually fine with that it’s a pretty robust connector compared to the barrel pin.
This requires way too much power to actually charge over USB-C so that’s not an option. So first is the competition I think you know how I feel about the Alienware comparison the lack of upgradeability the hotter thermals but in return, you do get a thinner machine and a lighter machine too.
So what about the Asus rogue Strix and Strix scar 15 and 17. Those have the AMD Ryzen the zen 3 architecture really exciting CPUs but they don’t have the really high watt GPUs. Which is a shame right. If we can only glom all these things together we can come up with the perfect laptop.
Wouldn’t you like that if we could build one right the way we would like it to be? So it’s going to depend on what you want to do with it. Obviously, you’re going to have cooler temperatures. I mean xen3 in a gaming laptop still can get kind of hot but not as hot as intel less thermal throttling going on.
But if you’re going to be using this for productivity work for compiling code or working on premiere blender that sort of thing then Ryzen has a strong edge at this point. But for those who are mostly looking at gaming then intel is actually fine and you’re going to want the higher wattage GPU. Most definitely. So there’s that.
To take off the bottom cover by MSI standards is less traumatic than it used to be. Maybe they listened to all my moaning about all the plastic clips and how hard it was to get it off. You still need to use a guitar pick or something to pry around the edges but it’s not so difficult and the clips don’t all break off and subsequent removals become easier. Just Phillips head screws they’re all visible they’re all the same size.
There was a tamper-proof seal here or a factory seal as it’s labeled by MSI that always makes people worry about not being able to open it up to do upgrades but they claim it’s there at least in the united states just so you know nobody has stolen parts of the laptop before giving it to you.
I don’t know why they do that anyway. Honeycomb ventilation as you can see here replaces the old big screen door that they used to use. And this is what the underside looks like. And the light bar you don’t have to worry about that it’s not like some of the Asus Rogue Strix, the connector for that is down below so you’re not connected to the bottom section or for the light cables.
So inside it’s delightful. A giant battery over here you have some particularly large speaker drivers and these would be the so-called woofers and they do well woof they have some bass going on. But what’s delightful here is the fact we have our two ram slots and we have two 16 gig Samsung ddr4 3200 megahertz modules that came with ours and two m.2 SSD slots.
So this is the boot SSD right here and you know one thing I will say is it’s awful close to this heat pipe right. And in fact, the SSD does run a little toastier than on average. Plus it’s a pretty fast western digital SSD. Nothing alarmingly hot but just yeah proximity devil is the proximity there. And you could put a second one in there if you wanted.
We have a socketed intel wi-fi card that new ax210 like I said wi-fi 6e car going on with Bluetooth. So yeah that. Our pch right there exposed which is fairly typical. And look at all these heat pipes going on here so the GPU gets most of the heat pipe love as I mentioned and our CPU over here.
We have some shared heat pipe going on some independent and tripod heatsink for the CPU. You know me I always like to see four corners better contact. But I see diamond help with that and there’s that. Your fans very easy if you want to take this apart to replace it. It’s nice old-school stuff.
No inverted motherboards no tricky business so you just basically unscrew all the numbered screws and the fan screws and they’re actually numbered too to make it easy and then lift it off and you can repaste it and so on. So very easy to do there. And the fans exhaust out the back and the sides as is typical for MSI.
The intake happens at the bottom so don’t put it on your lap when you’re gaming don’t strangle it. By the way, one thing I will mention is I elevate the back a bit or the bottom of the laptop when you’re gaming it makes a big difference because the rubber feet on this bottom cover are not very tall so it really helps.
Even if you’re not using a laptop cooler or something like that just giving it a little more room for airflow really helps. So that’s the MSI raider ge76 the 2021 edition with RTX 3000 series high wattage GPUs. And on the plus side, you got the idea this is going to be one of the fastest laptops probably of the year unless intel pulls off something absolutely incredible with 11th gen which I can’t doubt, or AMD manufacturers of start actually putting in higher watch GPUs with their laptops.
And we’re really going to get interesting. I do wish for a QHD display you know or a faster refresh 4k to take advantage of all the horsepower inside of here without having to plug in an external monitor. But the rest of it they’ve done a pretty good job with and the cooling, given the hot CPU that we’re talking about inside, is pretty well done.
MSI GE76 Raider