MSI: Best and Worst Laptop Brands
MSI's lineup of mostly gaming laptops is packed with new and intriguing features, such as mechanical keyboards and eye-tracking sensors. We love the performance, design and innovation of the company's products. The brand places fifth — but that's not because of any flaw in its laptops but rather the company's mediocre tech support, weak warranty and very limited selection.
MSI takes risks, and they usually pay off. Case in point: the GT72S Dominator Pro Dragon Edition and its bright-red aluminum lid, complete with a dragon imprint. But if you prefer your mammoth gaming system to be a bit more subdued, there's the regular GT72 2QE Dominator Pro. And the GT80 Titan SLI is the only gaming laptop with a mechanical keyboard.
The company isn't all play, though, delivering slim, stately, aluminum workstations like the WS60 that offer customizable backlighting. The PE60 Prestige is the unfortunate exception to the rule, with a chintzy plastic chassis that's thick around the edges.
MSI doesn't have the most diverse portfolio of laptops, but they are quality machines. Out of the five MSI laptops we reviewed, the lowest score was 3.5. The 4.5-star MSI GT72 Dominator Pro Dragon Edition was also a real standout in the increasingly competitive gaming category, featuring a brilliant mechanical keyboard, a gorgeous red-and-black paint job and sky-high graphics performance from its desktop-level Nvidia 980 GPU. MSI exemplifies the principle of staying focused on your strengths.
Tech Support (15/20)
MSI's phone support is limited to 12 hours daily (9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET), and the company ranked dead last in the most recent Tech Support Showdown. Some of our calls went unanswered, and a lack of live chat or online database built for power users limits the usefulness of MSI's support. When we finally connected with customer-support reps over the phone, however, our calls were concise and valuable.
MORE: MSI Tech Support Rating
The company provides a two-year limited warranty on its laptops, which is longer than most of its competitors offer. However, you must pay for your own shipping costs. You can upgrade the RAM or storage without voiding the warranty, provided that you don't damage your computer.
Last year, many of MSI's gaming laptops, including the GT72 Dominator Pro Dragon Edition, included the Dragon Gaming Center (pictured below), a hub for your settings and other features to customize and elevate your gaming setup. Many of the company's laptops also included System Monitor, which keeps tabs on your CPU and GPU temperatures, network connection and fan speed. They also have the SteelSeries Engine, GeForce Experience and XSplit Gamecaster built in.
Unfortunately, the focus hasn't been entirely on gaming. There's been plenty of bloatware on Titan and Dominator models, including Flipboard, Music Maker Jam, So Cookbook, Evernote Touch and Norton Studio. The nongaming WS60 came preloaded with trials of Microsoft Office, Symantec’s security suite, and WinZip, along with MSI's own Battery Calibration program.
If there's a high-end gaming feature, MSI will usually be the first to implement it. In 2015, the company was the first major manufacturer to use a mechanical keyboard on a gaming laptop and among the first to offer Nvidia's G-Sync anti-tearing technology. In 2016, MSI unveiled the GT72 Dominator Pro, which uses a desktop-class graphics card to provide high enough performance for virtual-reality gaming, and the GT72 G Tobii, the first gaming laptop with built-in eye-tracking technology.
Value and Selection (7/15)
Almost all of the laptops MSI releases in the U.S. are high-end gaming rigs, from the $950 PE60 Prestige to the $3,400 GT80 Titan SLI, with a handful of models in between. The WS60 workstation was the only MSI nongaming system we reviewed in the past year. If you're looking for serious mobile gaming hardware, MSI has more than its fair share of pricey options, but forget about budget laptops or mainstream consumer products.
MORE: Best MSI Laptops
How MSI Can Improve
MSI's products are top-notch, but its warranty and support don't match up. The company should offer 24-hour phone support, improve its online resources and pay for return shipping on defective laptops.