(Pocket-lint) - The last time we saw an MSI Raider laptop we found ourselves seriously impressed with not only the design aesthetic but the overall combination of power and capabilities. So when the latest and greatest MSI GE76 Raider for 2021 arrived, we were confident that we were going to have a good time gaming on this machine.
But things have changed a bit since last time. Now the Raider has a snazzy RGB lighting bar, a much faster refresh rate screen, PCIe Gen 4 NVMe storage and, of course, the latest in Nvidia graphics tech too. But does all that make it worth the hefty price tag?
Stylish spec-rich gaming
- Intel Core i9-11980HK CPU, 64GB DDR4-3200MHz RAM
- Up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics
- 1x M.2 NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 4)
The MSI GE76 Raider has serious hardware under the hood. The model we tested not only has a high-end Intel Core i9 CPU, but also boasts a massive 64GB of RAM, and an Nvidia RTX 3080 GPU in this setup.
This is a high specification that ticks all the boxes. Not only is there have enough power to manage the majority of modern triple-A games, but also to do other things like stream, capture footage and video edit all from one place too.
The included RTX 3080 graphics also has support for Resizable BAR, which means that the Intel CPU and Nvidia graphics card can communicate more efficiently and deliver better performance. Meanwhile, PCIe Gen 4 storage gives you faster boot times and faster load times for games too.
- 17.3-inch IPS-level display options:
- 2560 x 1440 @ 165Hz
- 1920 x 1080 @ 360Hz
- 2560 x 1440 @ 240Hz
- 3840 x 2160 @ 120Hz
- Ghostrunner - max settings, DLSS, 120fps
- Far Cry New Dawn - max settings, 90fps
- The Outer Worlds - max settings, 200fps
- Rainbow Six Siege - high settings, 300fps
- Synthetic benchmarks: PC Mark, TimeSpy Extreme, TimeSpy, Port Royal, Fire Strike Ultra, Fire Strike Extreme, CPU Profile
The MSI GE76 Raider has a number of different screen options depending on your preference. You can either choose a 4K display with 120Hz refresh rate or opt for Full HD with a buttery smooth 360Hz. It's the latter that we played around with.
Naturally, if you have a fast refresh-rate screen you need the powerful tech to maximise the performance and get the frame rates to justify it. As you might expect, this laptop can manage that too. We ran a number of different games to put it through its paces, including Dirt 5, Far Cry New Dawn, The Outer Worlds, Rainbow Six Siege and more.
On high settings, we managed to get up to 300fps with Rainbow Six Siege - which is exactly what you want if you're playing competitively or like to think of yourself as a pro gamer. Other games like The Outer Worlds managed up to 200fps on maximum settings too. The smooth and slick cyberpunk first-person shooter Ghostrunner topped out at 120fps with some help from Nvidia DLSS and looked glorious on this machine too.
To really push the laptop, we also hooked it up to the Pimax Vision 8K X. That's a virtual reality headset with dual native 4K screens that requires an extreme gaming PC in order to run well - yet the MSI managed the task perfectly. The laptop managed to deliver some great visuals in the VR world and did so without batting an eyelid too.
The display is great too. It's nice and bright with good colour and pleasant viewing angles. Having a 17.3-inch panel also means you're not squinting at the screen and wishing you could plug into a monitor.
The GE76 Raider also has a number of options for tweaking the display. It has some True Colour display options for gaming, anti-blue light, movies and more controllable via MSI Center. So you can ease the misery on your eyes while working but also soak up the glorious gaming goodness when it's time to get to play.
Copious convenient connectivity
- 1x USB Type-C (Thunderbolt 4), 1x USB Type-C (3.2 Gen2), 2x USB Type-A (3.2 Gen1), 1x USB Type-A (3.2 Gen2)
- 1x (8K @ 60Hz / 4K @ 120Hz) HDMI and 1x Mini-DisplayPort
- SD Express card reader
- RJ45 Ethernet port
- 99.9WHr battery
- Wi-Fi 6E
There's no denying that the MSI GE76 Raider has very nice highlights about it, including when it comes to connectivity. We had some complaints about the MSI GF65 Thin that the USB ports were, um, thin on the ground and all on the right-hand side - meaning they got in the way of your mouse - but that issue isn't an issue with the Raider.
The GE76 has a good mix of USB-A and USB-C ports on either side and its rear too. There's also access to both HDMI and Mini-DisplayPort connections so you can plug into an external gaming monitor (or even monitors). You can also get 120Hz 4K on an external monitor, so you have plenty of options.
In terms of internet connectivity, this laptop sports an RJ45 Ethernet port and Wi-Fi 6E - so you've got everything you need for a solid experience. We found the Wi-Fi connection to be solid even when gaming at the other end of our house, but obviously for streaming or competitive play the Ethernet connection will give you the edge.
One small lowlight is the battery life. MSI says the Raider has a 99.9whr battery and should last longer than others. But our testing showed around three hours max out of the laptop during standard use. You can get a tad more with battery setting tweaks, turning brightness down and lighting off, but it's still not amazing.
Atmospheric RGB lighting
- MSI Center controls
- SteelSeries Engine keyboard lighting controls
- Mystic Light with panoramic aurora lighting design
This Raider continues to impress in the overall aesthetic. It's built to be solid and sturdy but also easy on the eye. The design includes an aurora lighting bar at the front which offers some interesting visual effects you can customise within the software. Naturally, you can turn it off if you don't want to use it, but it adds a nice glow to your gaming space without being unnecessarily gaudy.
Add to that a SteelSeries keyboard setup includes per-key illumination and a variety of controls in SteelSeries GG software, and you get an idea of the extra style you're getting. That keyboard design has a slightly raised housing that lets RGB lighting bleed through. It's also a nice setup with a full-sized layout that's slightly compacted.
Function keys give you plenty of extra control too. There's one for the lighting, an adjustable fan button, a virtual on-screen crosshair, volume and brightness adjustment, keyboard brightness adjustment, and more besides. No media playback controls sadly, but you can't have it all.
All told, the MSI GE76 Raider is a pleasing gaming laptop with plenty to offer. It's powerful, portable and plentiful in terms of the fun and thrills it delivers. Obviously, all that power comes at a price, but it's well worth the expense in our mind.
MSI GF65 Thin
If you want something that's thin but still has the power to deliver, then the GF65 Thin is worth a look too. It's not as spec-rich as the Raider, but it's also a lot cheaper.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M16
Brilliantly balancing style and power to deliver a laptop that's able to game brilliantly and still work well for productivity too. It's reasonably affordable considering the specs and worth a look as a result.
Writing by Adrian Willings. Editing by Mike Lowe. Originally published on 26 August 2021.