The MSI Pulse GL66 is a gaming laptop that gets a number of things right and misses the mark elsewhere. Overall, it’s a great value for a budget gaming laptop, but there are arguably better options.
Terrific GPU performance
Slick RGB Lighting
Only one video port
Underwhelming battery life
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MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): One minute review
The MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) is a sweet looking gaming laptop that has the power to let you play the latest games, stream movies, and get work done.
Whether you want to test your patience with Elden Ring or get freaky in CyberPunk 2077, the MSI Pulse GL66 will do the job handily. The model we tested featured a 12th-generation Intel Core i7, but the latest GL66 models can feature the newest 12th-generation Core i9 CPU for amazing processing power.
The laptop features NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 3000-series GPUs, which utilize NVIDIA’s 2nd generation RTX architecture which features exceptional ray tracing capability and NVIDIA’s DLSS resolution upscaling tech to provide superfast frame rates, though to a lesser extent than the higher-powered graphics cards in the best gaming PCs.
The Pulse GL66 has a maximum resolution of 1920 x 1080p, and while this isn't the sharpest resolution available, it's pretty much the gaming standard for the best cheap gaming laptops to the higher midrange gaming laptops at the moment.
The Pulse GL66 features Hi-Res Audio reproduction capabilities coupled with Nahimic’s “in-game 3D surround sound” according to MSI. The Pulse GL66 does reproduce audio with excellent quality if you’re listening with your headset or connected to an external audio system. Headset audio output quality is fantastic but the laptop’s built-in speaker quality is average at best, though they're fine for things like video conferencing and the like.
Overall, the MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) is a good value for a gaming laptop. It has strong processing capabilities and easily accepts peripherals like monitors, gaming mice and audio speakers. It can get a little noisy when gaming as the cooling fans kick in, and it is somewhat heavy to carry around if you’re on the go, but a slim form factor on a gaming laptop is a very premium feature nowadays, so this is an inevitable tradeoff for a value item. We wish the battery was better, but the Pulse GL66 is still a solid device, especially for those on a tighter budget.
MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): Price and availability
- How much does it cost? Starting at $1,599 (about £1,360 / AU$2,300),
- When is it out? It is available now
- Where can you get it? Available in the US, UK, and Australia
Here is the MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: Intel Core i7-12700H
Graphics: Nvidia RTX 3070
RAM: 16GB DDR4
Screen: 15.6-inch FHD 1920 x 1080p, 144 hz
Storage: 512GB PCIe SSD
Ports: 2 x USB-A 3.2, 1 x USB-A 2.0, 1x USB-C, 1 x HDMI 2.1, 1 x RJ45 ethernet, 1 x 3.5mm audio
Connectivity: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2
Camera: 720p HD
Weight: 4.96 lbs | 2.25kg
Size (W x D x H): 14.13 x 10.20 x 0.94 ins | 359 x 259 x 29mm
The MSI Pulse GL66 is a good gaming laptop for the money and it performed well on our performance benchmarks. However, it does have some issues worth considering. At a starting price of $1,599, it’s a good choice for gaming but there might be some better choices on the market if you have the money to spare.
But, for its current price, you're looking at a pretty solid value with the Pulse GL66, something that we're happy to see MSI correct from the model in our MSI Pulse GL66 review from last year.
You could wait for the prices on the best 4K laptops to come down if you are looking for the best mobile workstations for creating content, but if you need to play the latest games now, the Pulse GL66 should definitely be on your shortlist.
- Value: 3.5 / 5
MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): Design
- Decent number of ports, other than just one video port
- Single zone RGB lighting
The MSI Pulse GL66 gaming laptop sports a plastic/aluminum chassis designed by renowned Belgian artist Maarten Verhoeven, and is generally pleasing to look at while housing all of the components very well. There is ample ventilation running through the vents on the left side, back and underside of the laptop.
There is a nearly full size keyboard built into the Pulse GL66, and the keyboard has incorporated single-zone RGB lighting into the keyboard, so this is great in low-light environments. There will be people who will grumble about the “softness” of the keys but we’ve had no issue. There is no tactile “bump” that some individuals would like, but the keys are soft, quiet, and work fine.
The screen measures 15.6 inches with a maximum refresh rate of 144Hz and the screen’s thin bezels allow for a good screen-to-body ratio.
At a weight of approximately five pounds, the Pulse GL66 is slightly cumbersome to carry around but it’s not the heaviest laptop.
The Pulse GL66 comes with the MSI Center application which allows you to program the keyboard’s RGB lighting, as well as turn RGB lighting off. If you’re into RGB lighting, you’ll be able to choose your keyboard color as well as choose different effects. While RGB lighting looks great, it is a significant drain on the battery life, and the battery life for the Pulse 66 is not great (more on this later), so having control over this function is important.
The Pulse GL66 comes with three USB-A (2-USB 3.0 / 1-USB 2.0) ports, one USB-C port, an HDMI port, and an RJ-45 Ethernet port. This means that you won’t have to succumb to the torture of finding dongles whenever you go out, but on the downside, the USB-C port doesn't support power transfer or video. The lone video port is the HDMI , but it can still power a 4K display at 60 fps.
The Pulse 66 comes with the MSI Center and MSI APP Player applications preinstalled, but otherwise has fairly minimal bloatware. The laptop has a slim 150W power supply to round out the package. Overall, your standard options are all included.
- Design: 4 / 5
MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): Performance
- Solid gaming/audio performance
- Only one video port
- Some fan noise/heat concerns
Here is how the MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
Cinebench R23 Multi-core: 14,883
3DMark Fire Strike: 22,257; Night Raid: 25,573
GeekBench 5: 1,758 (single-core); 10,927 (multi-core)
Battery Life (TechRadar movie test): 3:26
Total War: Warhammer III: 203 fps (1080p, Low); 75 fps (1080p, Ultra)
Cyberpunk 2077: 115 fps (1080p, Low); 66 fps (1080p, Ultra)
Dirt 5: 141 fps (1080p, Low); 70 fps (1080p, Ultra)
The MSI Pulse GL66 Gaming Laptop is a good laptop for gaming. There are a few issues that appear to be puzzling. The screen's 1080p resolution works fine and the HDMI port displays 4K@60fps, but it would have been nice to see MSI upgrade the USB-C port to an actual Thunderbolt port or at least enable video support on the USB-C port.
The model that we tested had a single USB-C port that did not support video. Considering that users often utilize a video port to display the desktop on a bigger screen, the lack of a second video port definitely stands out. It would not have been too difficult to incorporate a Thunderbolt port given the size of the laptop.
The Hi-Res Audio performs admirably if you’re gaming on a gaming headset or using speakers. The Nahimic program offers flexibility including “3D Audio” in your audio options. The difference can really be felt when you are gaming.
The computer performs fine in most conditions. The GPU powers the best PC games at high frame rates, and its benchmark scores are solid. The bloatware is minimal and the computer operation is mostly quiet, at least when you're not gaming. When you are, you’ll hear the fans downright roaring and the computer can run hot, however, the noise and heat are mostly within expectations of even the best gaming laptops.
- Performance: 4 / 5
MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): Battery life
- [Is the battery life better or worse than rivals in its class?]
- [How fast does the laptop charge to full from a dead battery?]
The MSI Pulse 66 has a number of really cool features but the battery life is mediocre. In addition to the hefty, power-hungry hardware, the Cooler Boost 5 mechanisms as well as the RGB lighting drain the battery pretty quickly.
You’ll be able to extend battery life by turning off RGB lighting in the MSI Center application, but with RGB lighting turned on, we had a battery benchmark test duration of 3 hours and 26 minutes on a full battery charge.
- Battery Life: 3 / 5
Should you buy an MSI Pulse GL66 (2022)?
Buy it if...
You want good gaming performance
The MSI Pulse GL66 offers the capability of playing the latest games with great graphical quality, without totally breaking the bank.
You want a visually pleasing device
The MSI Pulse 66 looks very sleek. Between the contours of the chassis and the RGB lighting, it’s an attention getter.
You want to utilize a 4K monitor
The MSI Pulse 66 may have a maximum screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 but the HDMI port can produce 4K resolution @ 60fps on a connected 4K monitor.
Don't buy it if...
You want to connect to two monitors
This never used to be an issue, but some newer laptops are furnished with at least two video ports (almost always HMDI / sometimes Mini-Displayport / often Thunderbolt). The MSI Pulse 66 lacks this capability and dongles can’t help.
You need decent battery life
The battery life on the MSI Pulse GL66 isn't something you can use for long away from an outlet.
Lenovo Legion 7
The Lenovo Legion line of gaming PCs and laptops produces some of the best gaming gear around, with highly customizable systems that can start out pretty affordable, like the Lenovo Legion 7. While not quite as affordable as the Pulse GL66, if you're able to stretch your bedget a bit, this one is definitely worth checking out.
Read the full Lenovo Legion 7 review
Asus ROG Zephyrus G15
Easily one of the best gaming laptops around, the Zephyrus G15 consistently produces top-tier gaming laptops year after year, and the more entry-level configurations can provide some very compelling value.
Read the full Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 review
MSI Pulse GL66 (2022): Report card
|Value||The MSI Pulse GL66 is a decent value for the specs, but there might be better options out there, especially if you're willing to pay a little bit more.||3.5 / 5|
|Design||Sleek design and RGB lighting give it fantastic aesthetic appeal.||4 / 5|
|Performance||Processing power allows the latest games with ray tracing and Hi-Res audio. Screen resolution could be better but graphics look great.||4 / 5|
|Battery Life||Battery life is decidely average for a gaming laptop.||3 / 5|
|Total||While not without compromises, the Pulse GL66 (2022) is a great value if you're looking to game on a tighter budget.||3.7 / 5|
- First reviewed September 2022
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
Jeffrey (he/him/his) is an Audio Visual professional who has spent years working in the Corporate Audio Visual Industry. Specializing in audio, video, lighting, and computers, he has developed a deep interest in all live sound and event technology. Jeffrey currently lives in Texas.