Hands on: MSI GE63 Raider RGB Edition review

New Coffee Lake processors stimulate MSI’s GE series

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

This year’s GE63 and GE73 laptops offer a considerable CPU performance boost and game synchronized RGB lighting. Although bulkier and a little less portable than some gaming laptops, this series’ power-to-price ratio will hit the sweet spot for many gamers.

For

  • 6-core CPU
  • Solid gaming components
  • 120Hz screen
  • Reasonable price
  • GameSense RGB lighting

Against

  • Heavy and bulky
  • Minimal battery life
  • Sticky trackpad
  • Left-aligned touchpad isn’t ideal

 MSI’s GE series aren’t quite as powerful as their beefier GT siblings, but the range are still in line to receive a considerable performance boost following Intel’s jump to hexa-core mobile processors. We’ve grown accustomed to the 10% or so CPU performance boost Intel offers with each year’s updated mobile CPUs, but this two core increase marks a big shift in the CPU upgrade landscape. These additional cores offer considerable performance boosts to the GE63 and GE73 gaming laptops from MSI, both of which are powered by the Intel Core i7-8750H. 

The GE series has traditionally been MSI’s value proposition, offering a well-rounded set of powerful gaming components in a package that isn’t cutting edge, but at the same time won’t cost an absolute fortune. This year’s edition keeps the tradition going while dropping the price and adding some novel RGB lighting synchronizations. But is this enough to get an edge on 2018’s mid-range gaming laptops?

Spec Sheet

 Here is the MSI GE63 Raider 8RF configuration sent to TechRadar for review:

CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H (hexa-core, 9MB cache, up to 4.1GHz)
Graphics:
Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (8GB GDDR5, Max-Q)
RAM: 16GB DDR4 (8GB x 2, 2,400MHz)
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD (1,920 x 1,080), anti-glare, wide view angle display (120Hz, 3ms response, 94% NTSC color gamut, 16:9)
Storage: 128GB Samsung SATA SSD (on sale models: 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD)
Ports: USB 3.1 Gen2, USB 3.1 Gen1 x 2, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), miniDisplayPort, HDMI 2.0, RJ-45 Ethernet, SD card reader, 1/1 SPDIF (ESS Sabre HiFi)
Connectivity: Killer Wireless AC 1550i 802.11ac Wi-Fi (2x2 MIMO); Bluetooth 5.0; Killer 2500 Gigabit Ethernet
Camera: 720p HD webcam
Weight: 5.5 pounds (2.5kg)
Size: 15.07 x 10.23 x 1.08 inches (383 x 260 x 27.5mm; W x H x D) 

Price and availability

The MSI GE63 and GE73 Raider devices will be available for pre-order globally as of April 3 from $1,599 (AU$2699, about £1470) with the device officially hitting shelves on the 16th. This price is for the GE63 8RE Raider fitted with a 15.6-inch Full HD 120Hz IPS Display, Intel Core i7-8750, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, 128GB SATA 3 SSD (256GB NVMe PCIe SSD in AU) and a 1TB HDD. Alternatively you can beef up the GPU spec for a total cost of $450 (AU$300, about £164) or boost the SATA SSD to a 256GB NVMe PCIe SSD for $100 (about £70) in regions outside of Australia.

If you’re looking for a bigger display, you can grab the GE73 with a 17.3-inch Full HD 120Hz IPS display and a GTX 1060 for $150 more than the entry 15-inch models at $1749 (AU$2799, about £1525).

MSI hasn’t released prices on the GE73 8RF models yet and there’s no info on the costs for upgrading to the 4K screen (a planned option for the entire range), but with the laptops being available in the next few days, we expect to know soon.

Design and feel

 

MSI’s GE series has always focused on performance and price, so the GE63 and 73 units are a little bulkier than the latest sleek gaming ultrabooks. At 1.08 inches (2.8cm) thick this range wedges itself into a gaming-specific size bracket that offers ample space for internal components, which in turn cuts out a lot of thermal and space management engineering costs. 

The GE63 shifts all the ventilation to the sides and the underside of the unit, keeping it off the screen and away from the rear (both common output points on gaming laptops). We tested an engineering sample ahead of the launch and we noticed some CPU temperature spikes at 100°C , which we’re hoping can be cooled down in consumer models as we expect thermals and stability to be the areas that differ the most from the final model. 

We liked the generous key size and standard layout of the GE63 Raider’s full-sized keyboard, but the travel depth was a little on the shallow side and the typing experience was too spongy. 

 

The Full HD 120Hz screen was the big new feature on the GE63 and 73 devices for 2017, and the speedy screen’s return on this year’s iteration is definitely still a highlight. Sitting neatly within a relatively compact border, the responsive screen doesn’t have an ideal color gamut for editing photos or working on design projects (94% NTSC), but it’s perfectly tailored to performance gaming. While both the 8RE and 8RF models are capable of producing high enough frame rates to utilize the faster screen on less demanding games, if you are wanting to push past 60fps on the latest FPS titles using Ultra settings, you’d want to opt for the more powerful GTX 1070 GPU configuration. This will allow you to consistently get above 60fps (the max rate of a regular screen) on anything you throw at it. 

The two ‘Giant’ speakers have also returned to the underside of the front edge, giving the keyboard surround a particularly clean look. These two speakers are loud, but they have their limitations and don’t sound great on anything but a flat desktop. 

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RGB Lighting is a feature this reviewer can take or leave, but if your perky for per-key RGB backlighting then the GS63/73 has you covered. Returning with the SteelSeries keyboard partnership form last year, this hardware/software combo gives you complete control over every color on the keyboard backlight and offers some unique gaming lighting synchronizations through the GameSense software. This configurable lighting scheme integrates with the two speed stripes on the shell that have come to signify the GE range and will cooperate with a variety of popular games to provide color feedback and interaction.  

Losing health in Counter Strike: GO? You can program a section of the keyboard to simulate a health bar that will dip as your in-game health does. The same can be done for ammunition, team goals and more.

And, this is just the beginning. As GameSense gains support for more games, the GE63 Raider RGB will be only that much more versatile, promoting a HUD-less gaming environment.

Pair that with the beautiful, vibrant 4K display, and you’re looking at that much more enrapturing gaming sessions from the laptop.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.