MSI Gaming Laptops – 2018 Brand Rating and Report Card
MSI knows how to make a gaming laptop. Over the past year, the company pumped out ridiculously colorful displays embedded between sexy, slim and intimately thick designs, and each laptop is outfitted with the company's gloriously convenient software.
The GS65 Stealth Thin, GT75 Titan and GT75VR Titan Pro all earned Editors' Choice awards for their intense performance, comfortable keyboards and the rest of MSI's aforementioned features. MSI is still the only laptop manufacturer that provides free accidental-damage repairs.
We tested nine MSI laptops, and none scored below a 3 out of 5. In fact, the average score was a solid 3.7. Of those, it earned three Editors' Choice awards — more than any other gaming company within the testing period. MSI's standout laptop was the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, which has a beautiful chassis, long battery life and powerful performance.
The GT75 Titan is a mammoth machine with a mechanical keyboard and great heat management, as was its predecessor, the GT75VR Titan Pro. Some of its cheaper laptops, like the GL62M 7REX, have more drawbacks, like a dim display.
MSI's extensive gaming laptop catalog means that gamers can choose from something either really slim or massive and imposing. Or you can get something somewhere in between. But the company's crown jewel, the GS65 Stealth Thin, clearly favors the former. The system stands out from the crowd with its black, sandblasted aluminum alloy with its elegant golden accents. And at 4.1-pounds, 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7-inches, it's one of the thinnest gaming systems on the market.
But while the Stealth Thin is living its life like it's golden, the rest of MSI's line is stuck in black and red. Larger systems like the GT75 Titan and GT75VR Titan Pro have blood-red dragon fang accents on the hood with the backlit red-and-white dragon sigil. The sheer size of these behemoths allow for a bevy of ports so you can set up legitimate gaming battlestations.
As the name suggests, the GE63 Raider RGB injected a bit of color into the equation with the pair of large customizable RGB accents on the lid paired with the keyboard. That and the Stealth Thin show that MSI is looking to evolve beyond what's expected towards what's possible.
MSI boasts the most colorful selection of displays across all gaming brands, reproducing an average of 158 percent of the sRGB gamut. The highlight is the MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Pro, which covered a whopping 185 percent. However, MSI’s displays are dimmer than we would like, with an average of 254 nits of brightness. The brightest display among them was from the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin, which emitted 293 nits.
While MSI hasn't broken a ton of new ground over the past year, the company remains on the cutting edge of laptop design. From the kitchen-sink approach of the GT75 Titan and its mechanical keyboard and full GTX 1080 GPU to the Stealth Thin and its barely-there bezel, MSI has a knack for cramming a lot of cool stuff into notebooks big and small.
The company's recent Raider Pro has some of the coolest backlighting around, and MSI's entire lineup continues to boast the best speakers you can find on any gaming system.
MSI is a standard bearer for software that supports gaming. The story here begins with the Dragon Center utility, found in systems such as the MSI GV62 8RE, MSI GT75VR Titan Pro and MSI GS65 Stealth Thin. Dragon Center allows for detailed system monitoring, including of the power produced by the CPU and GPU, and controls for fan speed, RGB range, DPI and the speed at which your CPU/GPU clock. Also, these MSIs have tools for freeing storage and memory.
Dragon Center gets even better on faster systems, such as the MSI GT75VR Titan Pro, where you get tools for VR optimization and to adjust the display's color temperature. That machine includes a year of free access to XSplit Gamecaster streaming, though it additionally has GeForce Experience (a free download if you don't have it), which also includes streaming tools, among other system-optimizing utilities.
Killer Network Manager rounds out the package; it optimizes bandwidth, so you can make sure your games get every drip of your connection.
MSI laptops — including the MSI GE63 Raider RGB, MSI GL62M 7REX and MSI GP72VR 7RFX Leopard Pro — benefit from the company's long-running partnership with the sound wizards at Nahimic. The Nahimic 2 (as well as 2+ and 3) utilities provide game-specific sound profiles, making the clanging steel swords of RPGs sound stronger and tweaking reverb to make music sound truer. Nahimic's Sound Tracker tool gives visual clues about where sounds are coming from in games (if you need some extra help). Also, if you use chat in games, you'll like that Nahimic allows you to gain clearer vocals by adjusting static noise suppression and echo cancellation.
MSI also provides tip-top keyboard tools, with models like the MSI GT75VR Titan Pro and MSI G75 Titan boasting SteelSeries Engine 3 software for customizing your keyboard with key-specific specialized lighting. This comes with 16.7 million colors and visual effects, as well as programmable macros. You can also use SSE3 to adjust the light bars for the lid of the MSI GE63 Raider RGB.
The included SSE 3 apps make up a library of utilities that enhance the keyboard experience. CloudSync synchronizes lighting across compatible devices, similar to what you'd find in Razer's Synapse software. There's also an app for Discord and one for Audio Visualizer, which turns your keyboard into a big equalizer as you play music
On the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro and MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Pro, you get the TriDef SmartCam for webcam software. This is especially neat for streamers, as you can edit out your background and embed yourself in your footage. Also, streamers can turn into morning radio DJ's with the included HD Audio Recorder 2 software, used to map sound effects to hot keys.
Configurations and Warranty (4/5)
MSI claims the largest selection of configurations and models of any brand on this list. In fact, the best way to search for the your ideal MSI machine is to go to the company’s website and filter down to the graphics, screen size and processor you want. You’re bound to find something that fits your specs requirements out of the 70+ options — even if all the company’s laptops tend to look extremely similar from the exterior.
MORE: The Best Gaming Laptops
As an added bonus to the standard one-year warranty, MSI owners are eligible for a year of accidental damage protection and a three-month extension on their factory warranty if they register their machine within the first 30 days after purchase. MSI is the only manufacturer in this year’s ranking that does this, and it’s something we wish we saw more often among other gaming laptop makers. However, customers will still have to pay to ship their product in for service, which is something many of MSI’s competitors don’t force you to put up with. At least changes to RAM and storage are permitted under the warranty.