Saturday, June 12, 2021

MSI GE76 Raider review: High-wattage RTX 3080 GPU for the win

Does RGB really make a laptop go faster? Indeed it does. At least, you’ll probably believe that after seeing the in-your-face RGB bar running across the front of the MSI GE76 Raider gaming laptop. 

Because it couldn’t be the 8-core Core i7-10870H CPU, nor the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU set to a blistering 155 watts, that makes the laptop go fast. It’s all in the RGB light strip. 

Yes, we’re being facetious, but let’s be honest that looks typically matter more than specs to most people. In the case of the MSI GE76, however, there’s plenty of substance to back up all that flash, namely its high-wattage GPU. It’s an expensive machine, but it’s worth it.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best gaming laptops. Go there for information on competing models and how we tested them.

Gordon Mah Ung

The secret to the GE76 Raider’s performance lies in the mesmerizing RGB in front.

MSI GE76 specs and features

Sure, we’ve reviewed some impressively thin, light, and fast gaming laptops lately, like the Asus ROG Flow X13. But the MSI GE76 Raider, like its close competitor the Gigabyte Aorus 17G, is an unapologetically big, heavy, traditional gaming rig. Is the MSI as stunningly quiet as the Gigabyte? We’ll see in the performance section. Meanwhile, here are the MSI GE76 Raider’s basic specs.

  • CPU: Intel 10th-gen 8-core Core i7-10870H
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 @155 watts
  • RAM: 32GB DDR4/3200 in dual-channel mode
  • Storage: Samung PM981 NVMe SSD (two slots in system)
  • Display: 17.3-inch AU Optronics 300Hz IPS-like
  • Networking: 802.116E Intel AX210, Killer 3100X 2.5Gb ethernet 
  • Size and weight: The laptop measures 15.75 x 11.5 x 1.1 inches and weighs 6.6 pounds. Add another 2.2 pounds for the 280-watt power brick.
  • Ports: MSI takes advantage of the large body to give you about as many ports as you could ever need. Illustrated in the photos below, the right side offers two USB-A 5Gbps and a UHS-II SD card. The card reader is a UHS-II reader hooked into the PCIe bus for high speed card transfers.
ge76 right Gordon Mah Ung

The right side of the MSI GE76 Raider features two USB-A 5Gbps ports and UHS-II SD Card reader on the PCIe bus.

Moving to the left side (see photo below), you’ll find USB-A 10Gbps, USB-C 10Gbps, and a combo analog jack. 

ge76 left Gordon Mah Ung

The left side of the MSI GE76 Raider adds a faster 10Gbps USB-A, plus USB-C 10Gbps, and a combo analog jack.

Ports are back—on the back panel of gaming laptops, that is, reversing a concerning trend of fewer connectivity options. On the rear of the GE76 Raider you’ll find a miniDisplayPort, USB-C 10Gbps with DisplayPort support, full-size HDMI, 2.5Gbps ethernet, and a dedicated rectangular charging port for the power brick.

ge76 back Gordon Mah Ung

We like the trend of putting ports on the back of gaming laptops again.

1080p webcam FTW!

Some people might be most excited about what’s on front: a 1080p webcam. Although you can find 1080p webcams in a smattering of higher-end laptops (Microsoft’s Surface line has used 1080p webcams for some time, for example), this resolution is definitely unique in a gaming laptop.

You can see the MSI GE76 Raider’s webcam below on the left, showing good color and white-balance rendition. For the comparison image, we blew up the 720p image produced by the HP Elite Dragonfly, a corporate laptop, to match the MSI’s 1080p. Obviously, the higher-resolution camera produces a sharper image. But manage your expectations—it’s still a small sensor in a laptop bezel, so don’t expect DSLR results, nor a nice optic stack like on a pricier Logitech C920 webcam. We should nevertheless applaud MSI for including one (when some gaming laptops have no webcam), and making it a good one.

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