MSI’s GE76 Raider Laptop Delivers Insanely High-Frame-Rate Gaming
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The MSI GE76 Raider laptop is like a restaurant that only serves one thing. There may not be much variety, but you know what you get will be good. In this case, the GE76 Raider doesn’t concern itself with being particularly portable. It’s not slim; it’s not light; and it doesn’t care about blending in with fancy productivity laptops. It’s built for one thing: raw speed.
Under the dark, angular shell of our $3,400 test unit is a collection of the most powerful processors available for laptops today. Pair that with a 1080p, 360Hz display, and you have a recipe for speed. I’m talking about three-figure frame rates in just about any game you throw at it.
That makes the GE76 Raider a dream laptop for competitive gamers who rely on fast display response times and zero input lag to gain an edge against their opponents. And anyone with a taste for pushing triple-A games to their limits will have a blast with what is certainly one of the fastest gaming laptops you can buy right now.
MSI GE76 Raider Gaming Laptop Technical Specifications
Intel Core i9-11980HK
17.3 inch 1920×1080 IPS display
360Hz refresh rate, 3ms response
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU (16GB GDDR6)
32GB (16GB x2) DDR4 3200Hz
1TB NVMe SSD
Killer WiFi 6E AX1675 (2×2)
Mystic Light with panoramic aurora lighting design
Per-Key RGB gaming keyboard by SteelSeries
Duo Wave woofer speakers designed by Dynaudio system
HDMI 2.1, Mini DisplaPort 1.4
3x USB Type A, 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4, full SD Card slot, Ethernet, Aux out
$3,399.99 as tested
Purpose-Built for Maximum Power and Speed
The overclockable 11th Gen Intel Core i9 11980HK is the fastest Tiger Lake CPU available in a gaming laptop right now. Likewise, the GeForce RTX 3080 currently represents the peak of Nvidia’s laptop graphics hardware. In terms of raw power, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Normally, you’d find such insanely powerful hardware in the company of a high-end 4K display. Yet the GE76 Raider’s internal screen is a modest 1080p resolution. But that screen can also ramp all the way up to a lofty 360Hz refresh rate, making it among the fastest panels available in a laptop right now.
And so the intention of this configuration is clear. This laptop is all about super high frame-rate gaming. And it’s not just so that games look smoother, but so that even the most competitive of gamers will get the razor-sharp response times they need in the heat of battle.
Calling it “Fast” Would Be an Understatement
Boy does this laptop deliver. DOOM Eternal — a great benchmark for how first-person shooters will run — screams along at over 200fps, spiking as high as 300fps in less chaotic moments. That’s with all settings on ultra. Add ray tracing to the mix, with DLSS set to Quality mode, and it’s still able to maintain 160fps while looking absolutely incredible.
Forza Horizon 4, with ultra settings at 1080p, benchmarks at 152fps and looks smooth even when zooming down a freeway at 200 mph. Rainbow Six Siege lays down an insane benchmark of 454fps. You want high frame rates? You’ve got them.
Pulling clear of 12,000 points in 3DMark Time Spy, and getting over 7,000 in the Port Royale ray tracing test, there’s so much horsepower here that it’d be a shame if you didn’t connect this laptop to a 4K TV or gaming monitor now and then.
The video output on the back supports the full HDMI 2.1 standard, which is perfect for 4K gaming at up to 120fps. And the GE76 Raider has enough power to render modern games in 4K at a solid 60fps, including all of the aforementioned titles.
A Tried-and-True Approach to Heat Management
It’s clear that MSI took a no-holds-barred approach to this laptop. The processors used are uncompromising, and so too is the heat they inevitably produce. To prevent a nuclear meltdown on your desk, MSI simply subscribes to the bigger-is-better school of heatsink design.
There’s no fancy liquid metal thermal interface and no exotic vapor chamber. It’s just a good old-fashioned heat pipe and dual blower combo. These are mated to two huge heatsinks on either side of the laptop (one for the CPU, one for the GPU).
It certainly lacks some sophistication when compared to the cooling systems in something like the Alienware x17. But it gets the job done because it isn’t concerned with being the thinnest, lightest laptop in its class. That also means it’s several hundred dollars cheaper than an Alienware.
Having a traditional design also means it’s easier to customize if you’re so inclined. RAM, storage and the Wi-Fi card are all easily accessed. The heatsink can also be easily removed if you want to add a nicer thermal paste of your own.
The Right Tools for the Job
Even if you’re not the type to modify your hardware, having all this power at your fingertips requires a little more user-level oversight than you might be used to. MSI Center, the included hardware management application, lets you pick from four performance profiles: Extreme, Balanced, Silent and Super Battery.
Extreme mode gets you the best gaming performance by ramping up the fans aggressively under load. The CPU still runs hot, spiking to 90 degrees Celsius at times, and according to my wife, the fans “sound like someone’s taking a shower.” But those temps are to be expected from such a high-end Intel chip. And critically, gaming performance is consistent with the GPU hovering in the 70s to low 80s.
Normally, I’d just leave my laptops in Extreme mode, but that’s not the case with the GE76 Raider. In Extreme mode, the CPU gets obscenely hot even when not being pushed hard. I saw 90 degrees C at only 12% CPU utilization (I was only installing a game on Steam), suggesting this mode keeps CPU voltages really high at all times. This causes the fans to go berserk at seemingly innocuous moments, which can be bothersome if you’re trying to work or stream a show.
Switching down to ‘Silent’ or ‘Super Battery’ mode drops the fan noise and, ironically, the CPU temps simultaneously, making the GE76 Raider a more usable laptop outside of gaming. Clearly, it was important for MSI to give you the tools needed to reign in all of its performance. Luckily, the MSI Center app delivers in a clean, intuitive way.
Having these high-end processors also inevitably means a compromise to battery life, even in those low-performance modes. MSI does its best to counteract this caveat by including a massive 99Whr battery (the largest allowed on a plane without regulatory issues). This stretches battery life to around five hours of casual use, which is good considering the horsepower available on tap was never going to achieve all-day battery life anyways.
Bold and Beautiful
The GE76 Raider may be a big laptop, but it still manages to pull off cool looks with that striking light bar illuminating the front edge, a full RGB keyboard and the three-sided thin bezel display.
I quite like the stealthy, angular external design, too, despite the use of some cheaper-feeling plastics. With plenty of room inside, the quad array of speakers sound pretty decent — this is a welcomed surprise as most other gaming laptop speakers are typically terrible. The bass is light, but good enough to get the point across, and loud enough to be heard clearly from another room.
The display hinge is nicely weighted with no screen wobble. But while closing the lid, the upper hinge can occasionally get caught on a rubber spacer on the lower body, causing a clunk that could be damaging over time. It seemed harmless enough during my testing, though.
These design quirks have been typical to gaming laptops over the years. It’s clear that the majority of your money goes toward what’s under the hood and not fancy building materials. Bear in mind that, while brands like Alienware have made great strides in refining gaming laptop design in recent years, those machines tend to command a higher price for the performance that you get (as much as $200 to $300 more depending on the spec).
Should You Buy the MSI GE76 Raider Gaming Laptop?
Unencumbered by the cosmetic pursuits of more exotic machines from the likes of Alienware or Razer, the MSI GE76 Raider is laser-focused on one, simple objective: delivering maximum performance.
The result? It may not be the most refined device, but it earns itself bragging rights as quite possibly the fastest gaming laptop available today. It also offers better value from a price-to-performance perspective versus more premium machines.
If you simply want the highest possible frame rates for competitive gaming, or you’re looking for a powerful desktop replacement to save on space, this is the laptop for you.
It’s also worth noting that, while I haven’t personally tested one, the smaller 15.6-inch GE66 model can be spec’ed with a more ideal 1440p display, providing a thinner and lighter alternative to the 17-inch GE76.
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