For the past two years, MSI has come in last place in our Tech Support Showdown. It's a poor showing, to be sure. While the company's phone support has typically been both fast and accurate, its website has been almost impossible to navigate, and its social media support options have been limited.
|MSI Tech Support|
|Overall||Web Score||Phone Score||Avg Call Time||Phone Number||Web Support|
|Phone Hours (PST): 5 am - 4 am, Mon - Fri|
The bad news is that MSI's web and social support haven't improved. The worse news is that the company's phone support has gone downhill, too. While you can get ahold of an MSI representative on the phone quickly and easily, you're not guaranteed to get a correct answer. That's admittedly better than what you get on the company's website, where you're not guaranteed to get an answer at all.
I tested MSI customer support by registering a GL63 8RD-066US laptop, then asking five questions, both by web and by phone. Three could apply to any Windows 10 machine: "How do I turn off forced updates?", "How do I stop my computer from going to sleep?" and "How do I disable my webcam." Two were specific to MSI: "How do I connect Dragon Center with the MSI mobile app?" and "How do I change the fan speed?"
Web support proved disastrous, while phone support was a mixed bag. Like last year, if you have a tech question about an MSI machine, my recommendation is to let Reddit or the Tom's Hardware forums handle it.
Web and Social Support (10/60)
Before we launched our tech support investigation this year, MSI informed us that it had completely revamped its website:
"In the past 12 months, we've updated our service support page to streamline quick information to our users," an MSI representative told Laptop via email. "Our laptop FAQ page is also now more concise and easier to navigate."
While it's true that the MSI website is prettier and has a better layout than before, it's not really any more helpful — or functional. I tried to search all five questions on MSI's website, and found answers for only three of them. Even then, those answers weren't easy to find.
When you search for answers through MSI's default Service Portal, it always defaults to a product search. Naturally, if you're searching for a tech support question, a product search will return zero results. It took me a minute to even notice that there were FAQ options off to the left side of the screen. Even then, the site defaulted back to the product search with each new question I asked, adding a tedious extra step to my investigation.
When I finally found my way to the FAQ section, I learned that the search results weren't optimized, either. I usually had to scroll halfway down any given page to find an appropriate article. Even when I found the correct article, there was a chance that the page wouldn't load.
To be fair, I eventually discovered straightforward, helpful FAQs for the webcam, sleep mode and fan questions. But the Windows update FAQ led to a broken link, while the mobile-app FAQ directed me to a very general YouTube video.
There's also a way to submit a tech support ticket to MSI through the website, but this process is more trouble than it's worth. For a single question, you have to fill out a two-page form, on which you have to give your name, address, phone number, serial number, BIOS version and build of Windows. A technician will respond within 24 hours with an accurate answer, but the convoluted form seems to be making things easier for MSI, not the user.
MSI claims that it offers "quick replies" via Facebook private messages, but in practice, I've never found that to work. Last year, I messaged the MSI page with a simple tech-support query and never received an answer.
While I had initially chalked this up to a crossed wire somewhere, I was surprised to go through exactly the same experience this year. I sent a polite, concise message asking for help setting up the MSI Dragon Center mobile app ... and waited. And waited. After about a week, I had to concede that MSI was simply not going to respond.
Don't bother looking for help on Twitter, either. MSI's official Twitter page does not respond to tech support queries, directing users to call the company instead.
Phone Support (20/40)
What redeemed MSI last year was its phone support: quick, polite and, above all else, accurate. One MSI technician last year, in fact, gave me the best answer I ever got to an open-ended tech-support question.
(I'd asked how to defend against the Spectre/Meltdown flaw, and with great honesty and humility, he admitted there was no perfect way and recommended a few potential workarounds. Many other companies claimed that their systems had perfect defenses against the flaw.)
MSI phone support is still quick and fairly polite, but the accuracy has taken a nosedive since then. Of the three questions I asked, only one received an accurate answer from technicians. One rep found the correct answer during a tedious, 18-minute process, and the other whiffed a question completely.
I first called MSI at 3:30 p.m. EDT on a Wednesday to ask how to disable Windows 10 updates. I spoke with Kien, who, like all MSI tech support personnel, was located in City of Industry, California. Having native English speakers in a North American call center is a big advantage by itself, and Kien's knowledgeable response only made things easier. He led me right to Windows Administrative Tools, where he helped me work a little registry magic. The call took 4 minutes and 58 seconds, with less than a minute on hold.
After my encounter with Kien, I had high hopes when I called MSI again at 10:45 a.m. EDT on a Thursday. This time, I spoke with Jose and asked him a brand-specific question: "How do I change the fan speed?"
For those of you who don't know, new MSI laptops have a built-in program called Dragon Center, which allows you to monitor CPU, GPU, memory and disk usage. The center has a few other tabs as well, which let you program voice commands, customize gaming modes and tune system options. One tuning option is, in these exact words, Fan Speed.
This is why I almost didn't believe my ears when Jose told me that changing fan speed on an MSI notebook was impossible.
With Dragon Center, not only can you set the fan speed to Auto, Basic or Cooler Boost; you can even set it to Advanced and then customize the fan speeds for both the CPU and GPU. Doing so is nearly trivial. But Jose insisted that it could not be done unless I wanted to install third-party firmware.
He then gave me some (admittedly correct) information about how to check my BIOS version, since installing firmware for the incorrect BIOS can be disastrous. I was on hold for less than a minute, and the call overall took only 5 minutes and 26 seconds.
The last call, which I made at 10:20 p.m. EDT on a Thursday night, was easily the longest, at 18 minutes and 21 seconds. This is partially because the fix involved installing a program and restarting my system a few times, but also partially because the tech support representative started off with the wrong answer.
This time, I spoke with Tyler (and I got to the rep, once again, after less than a minute on hold). I asked him how to connect Dragon Center with the MSI mobile app. I confess that this is the one tech support question to which I did not know the answer in advance. That's because there are about seven different MSI apps and the PC program does not tell you which one to install.
Tyler first told me to install the MSI Notebook app, which was not correct. Once we found the proper app, he told me to install the proper program and scan a QR code in the Dragon Center PC program. However, I got an error message. Apparently, my version of Dragon Center (on a brand-new laptop) was out of date, and the program cannot update itself.
After finding and installing the latest version of Dragon Center, I had to restart my computer, which wound up taking quite a long time; apparently, the program does elaborate things to a PC's registry. At this point, Tyler informed me that he was on the night shift, and it might be easier if I just called him back with any further questions. I agreed and let him go.
I have mixed feelings about Tyler shooing me away. I appreciate that the night shift has limited staff and that every minute he waited for my computer to restart, he was potentially missing out on helping another customer. And he was right: After the restart, I had no problem completing the connection. But I still think tech support reps should generally stay with customers until the repair is complete, unless a customer requests otherwise.
MSI notebooks come with a one-year warranty by default. Users can buy up to two years of additional coverage at $80 for one year or $140 for two years. All MSI warranties include one-time accidental-damage repair, but that does not cover the cost of sending a laptop to MSI. (The company, however, will pay for return shipping.) Users are also free to upgrade a laptop's RAM or storage without voiding anything, provided they don't damage a system's internal workings.
MSI produces high-quality gear at reasonable prices, but the company's tech support has actually gotten worse. The website is a frustrating labyrinth, social media support is nonexistent, and phone support, while fast and courteous, was accurate only half the time.
The good news is that if you have an MSI machine, you're probably a PC gamer and therefore used to solving esoteric problems with a limited toolkit. This DIY attitude should serve you well, because you're essentially flipping a coin if you hand the problem over to MSI. Sometimes you'll get a quick, accurate answer — and sometimes, you'll get something that's vague, half-right or just flat-out wrong. At least you won't spend very much time on the phone finding out which one is the case.
Tech Support Showdown