MSI GE76 Raider Laptop Review: speedy and expensive
CPU runs hot
MSI’s GE76 Raider is one of the most cutting-edge gaming laptops on the market.
About the MSI GE76 Raider
Here are the specs of the laptop we tested:
- Processor: Intel Core i9-11980HK (Intel Core i7 also available)
- Memory: 32GB RAM (16GB also available)
- Storage: 1TB SSD (1TB+512GB also available)
- Display: 17.3-inch 1080p resolution at 360Hz (144Hz also available)
- Ports: 1x Ethernet port, 2x USB-C ports, 3x USB-A 3 ports, 1x 3.5mm headphone jack, 1x HDMI port, 1x Mini-DisplayPort, 1x SD Express
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 (RTX 3070 and RTX 3060 also available)
- Wireless: WiFi 6E, Bluetooth 5.2
- Battery: 99.9 Whr battery
- Weight: 6.4 pounds
- Dimensions: 15.6 x 10.6 x 1.1 inches
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty
The price as configured for this review is an eye-watering $3,399. For the cost, you’re getting top-tier, cutting-edge components like Intel’s 11th Generation Core i9-11980HK CPU and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU, as well as a 32GB of DDR4 memory and a 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD. On paper, this combination delivers the highest possible frame rates in games and will look good doing so thanks to a slick gunmetal gray chassis and bold front-facing RGB strip.
If that price is too high for you, MSI is offering other configurations with Intel Core i7 processors, 144Hz FHD displays, and either an RTX 3070 or RTX 3060 for a reduced cost. Currently, the Core i9, RTX 3080 varients are hard to find, but Core i7 and RTX 3080 configurations are available. For full availability, visit the MSI website.
What We Like
Seriously great gaming performance
The GE76 Raider is one of the most cutting-edge gaming laptops on the market. It’s a double-whammy of an outstanding CPU and a powerful GPU that can run even the most demanding games on the highest graphics settings. The GE76 is the first laptop we’ve tested that features Intel’s new Core i9-11980HK processor, which delivers outstanding results whether you’re looking to get lost in your favorite game, stream to Twitch, or edit videos for your YouTube channel.
The Core i9-11980HK features eight cores and sixteen threads, so processor-intensive tasks like rendering video or live streaming while also running multiple other apps in the background are easy for this machine. For pure gaming it features a blistering fast 5.0 GHz single-core turbo clock speed, allowing it to deliver higher fps than slower clocked CPUs.
Paired with Nvidia’s top mobile graphics card, the RTX 3080, the GE76 is a portable powerhouse. In Far Cry 5 and Total War: Warhammer 2 it output 111 and 99.7 fps respectively with both games set to their highest graphics presets at a 1080p resolution. In Control, it dished out 62.1 fps with ray tracing enabled and 106.4 with it off.
That’s not to say everything will run perfectly without a little help. Turning on ray tracing in Cyberpunk 2077 on Ultra settings left us with an average of only 43 fps, which is a little low when you’re in the middle of a firefight. Since the RTX 3080 supports Nvidia’s DLSS upscaling technology, boosting that above 60 fps was as simple as toggling an option with barely any difference to visual quality.
Of course, performance isn’t all about the CPU and GPU. MSI has equipped this laptop with 32GB of high-performance RAM that can be removed and upgraded over time. The included SSD also leverages PCIe Gen 4 fast transfer speeds. Using CrystalDiskMark, a benchmarking tool for measuring storage speed, we found maximum read and write speeds of 6056.7 MB/s and 4532.9 MB/s respectively. Both are well over the demands of modern games and will ensure that massive file transfers, like editing HD video, won’t leave you waiting unnecessarily long.
A big, esports-ready screen
Outside of its internals, the screen is the standout feature of the GE76 Raider. At 17.3 inches, it’s capable of delivering an immersive gaming experience at that size. With a resolution of 1080p, the pixel density isn’t quite as high as a smaller 15.6-inch screen, but the difference in clarity is hardly perceptible. That extra real estate makes it easier to pick out enemies sneaking through the underbrush and to pull off headshots that would otherwise leave you squinting.
Though desktop gaming monitors have been driving up refresh rates for years, it’s only recently that we’ve seen the trend hit gaming laptops. The GE76 features a ridiculously fast 360Hz IPS display. Such a high refresh rate not only reduces motion blur during quick turns but also increases responsiveness. This is especially meaningful for competitive first-person shooters as it minimizes latency, or the time between seeing an enemy, pulling the trigger, and when that action is reflected on-screen. This can be enhanced further in titles that use Nvidia Reflex, Team Green’s latency-reducing technology.
That high refresh rate screen does come with a couple of caveats. Hitting 360 fps isn’t going to be possible outside of esports titles and coming close will require turning down many graphics settings. Overwatch, for example, only averaged 191 fps on Ultra settings in our tests. Likewise, that high refresh rate will drain the laptop’s battery faster than a standard 60Hz display.
This isn’t as big of an issue as it might first seem, however, because the laptop will automatically swap to the processor’s built-in graphics chip outside of games to save on power. If you’d rather maintain peak performance at all times, the laptop can be set to run exclusively on the discrete GPU within MSI’s software. Finally, if you’re already used to a high refresh rate screen, don’t expect the same jump in smoothness as upgrading from 60Hz for the first time. It’s certainly perceptible but the jump feels much more minor in comparison.
Exceptional connectivity options
Even though the GE76 is designed for gaming on the go, many gamers do use their gaming laptop as a desktop replacement. If you plan to play games mostly at home, this laptop offers lots of connectivity options for connecting everything from gaming peripherals to external monitors. There are three ports on either side: a USB Type-A, Type-C, and combined audio jack on the left, and two USB Type-A ports and an SD card reader around the right.
On the back of the laptop is another USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 4, a full-size HDMI, a Mini-DisplayPort, and a jack for the AC adapter. It’s entirely possible to dock the laptop with a full-size gaming monitor and set of desktop peripherals for space-constrained setups that may not accommodate a full tower.
The port arrangement isn’t the most convenient, however. With only one USB Type-A port on the left, using two USB Type-A peripherals leaves unwanted cable clutter in the way of the mouse hand. At the same time, the decision to move the AC adapter and video output ports to the rear of the laptop is a welcome one, keeping the thickest, hardest-to-manage cables out of sight and out of mind. The only thing missing is USB-C or Thunderbolt charging so we could leave the bulky power brick at home.
What We Don’t Like
It’s the opposite of thin and light
The GE76 Raider is closer to a desktop replacement than your average gaming laptop, and that’s not a complete positive. Compared to the competition, it’s big, heavy, and can be a literal pain in the back, coming in shy of six and a half pounds and 1.1 inches thick. Compared to the similarly specced ASUS ROG Strix G17, the GE76 is 12% heavier and 39% thicker. While that might not seem like much on paper, you’ll likely feel some muscle strain if you carry it around in a messenger bag or backpack for an entire day. Over time, we could see the GE76 being left home instead of on the go for some impromptu gaming.
Toasty CPU and loud fans
Gaming laptops have always struggled to balance their three key elements: performance, heat, and noise. This laptop has performance down but struggles with noise and high temps. Even though the MSI’s marketing plays up the wider heat pipes and larger fans of its Cooler Boost 5 system, it only manages to keep the GPU cool. Through several passes of Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s in-game benchmark, the CPU repeatedly spiked to 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) and hovered between 93-95 C (199-203 F). That’s concerning, as high temperatures can lead to thermal throttling and early failure. The GPU fared much better, peaking at 75 C (167 F) and hovering around 72 C (161 F).
Multiple modes allow you to dial in your perfect balance of performance, noise, and battery: Extreme Performance, Balanced, Silent, Super Battery, and User. Anything outside of Silent mode becomes quite loud as the fans ramp up to dissipate heat. Gaming on Silent mode limits the decibels but at expense of performance, which isn’t ideal for a laptop priced highly precisely because of its performance. MSI also includes a Cooler Boost mode which ramps both fans to their maximum and leaves them there but is so loud that it seems more like an emergency valve rather than a viable feature to use while gaming.
When it comes to the temperature of the chassis and keyboard, things are much better in Balanced and Extreme Modes. Playing a round of Overwatch, the keyboard only reached 33.4 C (93.9 F) after the first match. After several hours, the deck warmed up to 40.3 C (104.5 F). The area on top of the keyboard, directly above the CPU and GPU, did become hot to the touch over an hour of play, measuring 47.1 C (116.7 F).
No USB-C charging
Given the size of the laptop, the last thing you want to do is carry around a bulky power brick but that’s exactly what you’ll have to do if you’re running low on juice. Even though the GE76 supports Thunderbolt 4, its included port does not support Power Delivery like many other laptops in this price category. This omission is particularly noteworthy as even much cheaper MSI laptops, like the Stealth 15M feature it.
Thankfully, it features a huge 99.9 Whr battery that can carry you through most of a workday before needing to be plugged in. To test the battery, we set the screen brightness to as close to 200-nits as possible and used an extension to rotate webpages until the battery ran dry. With Super Battery enabled in MSI Center and Power Saving Mode enabled in Windows, the battery lasted a total of just under five and nineteen minutes. With such a large screen and powerful hardware, this is an impressive result but still not enough to see you through a full 9-to-5 without needing to recharge.
Should You Buy It?
Yes, if you have the money to burn
The MSI GE76 Raider is an excellent gaming laptop. It’s big and heavy, but it’s also excellent for gaming and content creation. It delivers top-tier performance in nearly all types of games even with ray tracing enabled, has enough gusto to stream to Twitch, and won’t break a sweat handling a large edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. It features enough connectivity to replace a desktop in space-constrained scenarios and will look good doing it thanks to its metal chassis and eye-catching RGB. In sheer horsepower, this PC is a winner.
That level of performance and cutting-edge componentry comes with a steep price, however. At $3,399, this is an exceptionally expensive laptop and warrants considering alternative options by price alone. If you can live without the absolute latest processor, stepping back to the 10th generation version of the GE76 (albeit with a 300Hz display) saves a whopping $500 off MSRP. If you’re looking for similar specs in a thinner package, the Razer Blade 15 Advanced might be more your speed. (Or you can go all-AMD and get similar performance for thousands of dollars less with Asus’ ROG Strix G15.) We’re also concerned about how hot the processor becomes, especially in light of the laptop’s increased size. If you’re planning on gaming in a quiet environment, the noisy fans are another thing to consider.
Still, the MSI GE76 remains a killer gaming laptop—if you can afford it and live with its few challenges. It’s fast enough to handle modern games and has a speedy screen for high-intensity esports. If you’re looking for top-of-the-line gaming in a package you can take anywhere, and don’t mind paying for the privilege, this is a laptop well worth considering.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Chris has been specializing in PC and audio-related tech since 2015. Find him at IGN, Tom’s Hardware, PC Perspective, MMORPG.com, and more.
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