MSI Gaming Laptops – 2017 Brand Rating and Report Card
MSI has a broad lineup of powerful gaming laptops with innovative features, such as mechanical keyboards and advanced cooling systems. The company is always among the first to implement new technologies, whether it's employing Nvidia Max-Q technology to stuff a powerful GTX 1070 GPU into a 0.7-inch-thick laptop or equipping one of its systems with new Cherry MX Silver key switches.
Its Dragon Center software is among the best, allowing users to customize their lighting and tweak their system performance extensively. MSI is also the only company to back all of its gaming laptops with two years of accidental-damage protection, at no additional cost.
Three of the five MSI laptops we reviewed during our test period earned Editors' Choice awards. MSI had two 4.5-star laptops, one 4-star laptop and two 3-star laptops. The company's standouts included the Titan SLI, with its mechanical keyboard and dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs, and the portable Stealth Pro for gaming on the go.
Big or small, thick or thin, MSI has a gaming notebook for everybody, whether it's the highly portable GS63VR Stealth Pro or the the slurgetastic desktop replacement the GT83VR Titan SLI. But for all the size and and weight differences among the MSI's gaming laptops, there tends to be a common design theme: black aluminum chassis with red and white accents.
We wish the company would consider playing with more color, like it does with its limited-edition systems that are cast in a gorgeous red. Fortunately, MSI is planning to remedy at least some of our complaints with its new Raider line of notebooks that will offer a more head-turning design, complete with racing stripes.
MSI laptops pack some highly vivid displays. The laptops we reviewed during our test period reproduced an average of 115 percent of the sRGB color gamut (above 100 percent is good). The PE60 Prestige clocked in at an eye-popping 133 percent.
The notebooks average a modest 261 nits for brightness, with the GT62VR outshining the others, at 301 nits. Overall, you'll definitely enjoy playing a game on an MSI, but we'd like them to work on the accuracy and the brightness.
MSI was the first company to bring mechanical keyboards to gaming laptops, with the 2016 Titan. For 2017, the company upped its game, becoming the first to use Cherry MX Silver switches on the new Titan. Even better, this Titan is the first to feature RGB LED backlighting, allowing consumers to program every single key to flash one of the 16.8 million colors available. Most MSI laptops have customizable backlighting and programmable hot keys.
But MSI keyboards are more than just pretty to look at; they're pretty freaking comfortable, too. The company has a 2.4mm and 64g average. It says a lot when the company's "worst" keyboard is the PE60 Prestige, which has 1.8mm of key travel with 60g of force.
Gaming has always been a strong focus for MSI, and the company has worked hard to stay at the top of its field. The MSI GT83VR Titan SLI blows away the competition with dual-GPUs, doubling up on Nvidia's GTX 1080 graphics cards for unparalleled performance. The laptop also features an awesome 4K display with G-Sync, Nahimic 2 audio software for deeper immersion and pinpoint-accurate audio tracking in VR, not to mention a full mechanical keyboard and touchpad/number pad combination that switches at the touch of a button.
This year, the company was the first to use Cherry MX Silver switches in a laptop keyboard. The impressive work doesn't stop there, either, with the GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro delivering VR gaming in one of the slimmest laptops on the market. An upcoming version of the GS63 uses Nvidia's Max-Q technology to pack a speedy Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU into a 0.69-inch thick chassis.
The company's new GT75VR Titan has an impressive cooling system with 12 different heat pipes so you can easily run dual GTX 1070 GPUs or a single GTX 1080 chip, along with a Core i7 CPU that's overclocked to 4GHz.
MSI's Dragon Center app hub, found in all of the company's gaming laptops, packs many features designed to optimize system performance and gameplay, like the ability to tweak fan and clock speeds. The hits don't stop there. MSI notebooks, such as the GS63VR 6RF Stealth Pro, feature SteelSeries keyboard customization, including keystroke tracking, mappable macros and color-lighting changes.
You can also customize the sound using bundled Nahimic Audio 2 software. That means that all your audio, from your favorite tunes to the plinking staccato of an assault rifle, sounds loud and crystal clear. The Sound Tracker feature uses audio cues to help alert you of enemy locations, so no one gets the drop on you. Audio Launchpad lets you map sound effects to your keyboard, practically turning it into a soundboard.
Folks who like to stream their gameplay, will appreciate that most MSI gaming rigs come with a one-year license for XSplit Gamecaster. And you have Killer Network Manager to prioritize your internet bandwidth toward your games. If that weren't enough, MSI machines also pack the system performance and battery-life tweaks of Nvidia GeForce Experience.
Selection and Customization (5/5)
With the largest portfolio of gaming laptops available, comprising over 75 different systems across five different lines, MSI is the king of choice for picky laptop gamers.
Systems range from slim, 14-inch notebooks like the GS43VR Phantom Pro to massive 18-inch behemoths such as the GT83VR Titan SLI, which sports dual Nvidia 1080 GPUs and a full mechanical keyboard with silver Cherry MX switches. And if you want to upgrade the GT8VR yourself, it's simple to swap in new RAM or SSD storage.
MSI is the only brand to offer free accidental-damage protection on all of its gaming laptops, provided that you register for this option within 30 days of purchase, a huge benefit. As with most manufacturers, MSI backs its notebooks with a limited one-year warranty on parts and labor. You can also purchase an extended warranty from a reseller or via MSI customer service.
Upgrading your storage or RAM does not void this warranty. However, if you need service for any reason, you have to pay for one-way shipping when you send your laptop in.