Way back before Kanye West started donning a Make America Great Again hat, he recorded a song with Rihanna and Kid Cudi called "All of the Lights." And that's what I heard in my head when I first saw the MSI GE63 Raider RGB 8RF ($1,999 as tested; $1,599 to start). Sure, Razer and Alienware have lights on their laptops, but the Raider RGB's massive light stripes, RGB keyboard and USB lights glow to the point of overkill. When you look past the illumination, you get a GTX 1070 and an 8th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU, as well as a great keyboard. But the display isn't as bright as I'd like, and that's hard not to notice when it's surrounded by RGBs.
MSI didn't call this the Raider RGB for nothing. The lid is typical for MSI, with the company's logo and red dragon shield on aluminum with a brushed pattern. But where you'd usually find two red accents are two customizable light stripes, and they sure do draw attention. It feels like overkill to have RGB where you can't see it, but, hey, gaming headphone manufacturers do it all the time, and it sure is pretty to onlookers.
When you lift the lid, you'll find that the 15.6-inch, 1080p display is surrounded by a thick bezel. The deck is also brushed aluminum, and the keys, too, are RGB backlit and customizable.
On the right side of the laptop are a pair of USB 3.0 ports and an SD Card reader. The left side is where you'll find the Ethernet jack, an HDMI output, a mini DisplayPort, another USB 3.0 port, a USB Type-C port, and speaker, headphone and microphone jacks. And just in case you were wondering, yes, some of the ports (specifically, the USB Type-A ports) also have lights, though those are solely red.
At 5.5 pounds and 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.2 inches, the Raider is both thinner and lighter than the Alienware 15 R3 (7.4 pounds, 15.3 x 12 x 1 inches) and the PowerSpec 1510 (6.5 pounds, 15.3 x 10.8 x 1.3 inches). But MSI's own GS65 Stealth Thin is slighter in every way, at 4.1 pounds and 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches.
The Raider RGB's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080p display looks nice, but I wish it were just a tad brighter. Just a smidge. When I watched the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp, the titular characters' costumes were the perfect shades of red, blue and gold, respectively. However, when I tried to increase the brightness a notch or two, I found it was already as bright as the display could go.
Still, it's sharp, and I could see every splat from a giant tomato that the Wasp was running from. When I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the grass around an orc camp was lush and green, but it was too dark to see in the shadow of log cabins.
The display covers a magnificent 184 percent of the sRGB color gamut, easily proving more vivid than the premium gaming average (134 percent), the Stealth Thin (150 percent), the Alienware 15 (114 percent) and the PowerSpec (113 percent).
But it's not as bright as any of those displays. It measured 253 nits on our light meter, less than the premium gaming average (282 nits), the Stealth Thin (293 nits), the PowerSpec (306 nits) and the Alienware (374 nits).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Raider continues MSI's grand tradition of working with peripheral-maker SteelSeries for its keyboards. This one has 2 millimeters of travel and requires 71 grams of force to press, resulting in a clicky, tactile sensation that's a pleasure to type on. I reached 111 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, with my usual 2 percent error rate. Not bad at all.
The 4.3 x 2.4-inch touchpad was responsive to all of my gestures, whether I was two-finger scrolling or tapping four fingers to open the Action Center. I do wish it were a bit farther from the keyboard, though, as I found my palms sometimes moved the mouse while I was typing.
The Dynaudio speakers on the Raider are loud and proud. When I tested the machine, the sounds of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" filled the room with clear guitar notes, vocals and horns. I could make out the bass, but I wish it were more powerful. The included Nahimic 3 software has some effects and other sound modes, like Movie, Communication and Gaming, but it sounded best on the default music option.
And it sounds great while gaming, too. I could hear orcs taunting Talion during sword fights, and it was clear as day when the hero stealthily stuck a blade through an enemy's head.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
With an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 boasting 8GB of VRAM, the Raider can handle any game you throw at it on high settings. I played Middle-earth: Shadow of War on Ultra settings and 1080p, and the game ran between 58 and 67 frames per second (fps) as I staked out an orc camp. When I knocked it down to Very High, it ran between 70 and 92 fps.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark (1920 x 1080, Very High), the Raider rendered the game at 53 fps, which is better than the Stealth Thin (44 fps, GTX 1070 with Max-Q design) and the Alienware (52 fps, GTX 1070). But the Raider trailed the PowerSpec 1510 (GTX 1070), which matched the premium gaming average of 56 fps.
The Raider ran Hitman (1920 x 1080, Ultra) at 92 fps, surpassing the average (85 fps), the Stealth Thin (79 fps) and the PowerSpec (60 fps), but lagging behind the Alienware (98 fps).
MSI's laptop ran the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark (1920 x 1080, Very High) at 70 frames per second, falling short of the average (77 fps) but beating both the Alienware (68 fps) and PowerSpec (60 fps)
And if you want to play games on your Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, the Raider should work great. It earned a perfect score of 11 on the SteamVR Performance test, matching the Alienware and PowerSpec and beating the average (10.2) and the Stealth Thin (9.5).
The Raider RGB comes with an Intel Core i7-8750H Coffee Lake CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256TB, M.2 SATA SSD and a 1TB, 7,200-RPM HDD. Even with 25 tabs open in Google Chrome, including one streaming a live, 1080p episode of Twitch's weekly talk show, I didn't notice any stuttering or lag.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance benchmark, the Raider notched a score of 18,944, bettering the premium gaming average (17,920), the Stealth Thin (17,184 Core i7-8750H), the Alienware (14,932, Core i7-7820HK) and the PowerSpec (14,233, Core i7-7700HQ).
The Raider transferred 4.97GB of mixed-media files at a rate of 195.7MBps, beating the Stealth Thin (193.3Mbps) but proving slower than the average (489.82MBps), the PowerSpec (391.5Mbps) and the Alienware (299.3 MBps).
MSI's light-laden laptop paired 65,000 names and addresses in our Excel macro test in 42 seconds, just ahead of the average (0:44), as well as the Stealth Thin (0:54) and the PowerSpec (1:08).
And on our Handbrake video-editing test, the Raider outperformed when transcoding a 4K video to 1080p. It took the Raider 9 minutes and 10 seconds to complete the task, ahead of the average (9:41), the PowerSpec (14:00) and the Stealth Thin (12:01).
You'll need to keep the Raider plugged in most of the time, as those RGB lights suck up power. With the lid lights on, the Raider lasted only 1 hour and 31 minutes on Laptop Mag's Battery Test 2.0, which continuously browses websites, videos and performance tests. The premium gaming average is 3:33, and the Stealth Thin lasted for 5:40.
With the lights off, though, the Raider lasted 3:52 -- more than double the time with the lights on.
MSI's laptop gets toasty, and that's before you even start gaming on it. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, it measured 86 degrees Fahrenheit on the touchpad, 102 degrees between the G and H keys and 105 degrees on the bottom. The latter two measurements are both higher than our 95-degree comfort threshold.
After playing Middle-earth: Shadow of War, the bottom of the laptop hit 111 degrees (with the fans working overtime).
The 720p webcam on the Raider is a muddy mess. A picture I took while sitting at my desk skewed cool when it came to color temperature, and you couldn't see my eyes due to all of the shadows.
The lighting behind me didn't blow out, but my red shirt appeared more of an orange. In one instance, when I moved the camera closer to a window, the color temperature swung the other way and went way too warm.
Dragon Center, Software and Warranty
As usual, MSI has bundled the Raider RGB with a suite of gaming software. The completely redesigned Dragon Center features a transparent background, an easier-to-read layout, and gaming profile recommendations based on the game you're using to jump right in with the best settings possible (the few supported games are primarily eSports titles like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Overwatch, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, StarCraft II and Rocket League). As usual, there's CPU, GPU memory and disk usage, fan controls and lots of other customizations and options.
There's also Nahimic 3 to adjust audio quality while gaming and SteelSeries Engine 3 to customize your keyboard with specialized lighting and programmable macro keys. SSE3 is also where you can go to adjust the light bars on the Raider's lid (the one exception here are lights on the USB ports, which you can turn on and off in Dragon Center). MSI True Color changes the screen's color temperature for late-night gaming and browsing as well as for a series of productivity tasks. Finally, Killer Control Center lets you decide which programs and games should get priority on your network.
But MSI has also put a bunch of bloat on this machine. It has tiles for Microsoft Jigsaw and Minesweeper, as well as for Music Maker Jam, LinkedIn, Evernote, PhotoDirector 8 and PowerDirector 14.
That's on top of the bloat included in Windows 10, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Candy Crush Saga, Hidden City: Hidden Object Adventure, Royal Revolt 2: Tower Defense and Dolby Access.
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We reviewed a $1,999 version of the MSI GE63 Raider RGB 8RF with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB, M.2 SATA SSD and a 1TB, 7,200-RPM HDD.
A cheaper model with a GTX 1060 GPU and a 128GB SSD (but otherwise identical specs) goes for $1,599.
The MSI GE63 Raider RGB 8RF is a high-end laptop that goes beyond over the top with its bells and whistles. Specifically, while those RGB lights on the lid sure are pretty, they drain the battery when you're not plugged in. The Raider offers strong performance, a comfortable keyboard and great sound, but the display is on the dim side.
If you want something thinner and more portable, MSI's GS65 Stealth Thin is a good option (starting at $1,799). It lasted 5 hours and 40 minutes on our battery test, and with its subdued design stands out far less in a crowd . But you'll also get slightly lesser gaming performance with its GTX 1070 GPU with Max-Q design.
Alternatively, the PowerSpec 1510 offers a GTX 1070 for just $1,400, but it's only in MicroCenter stores and uses a last-gen processor.
But if you like colors or want full GTX 1070 power, the Raider's a great computer. I just wish the screen were as bright as the RGB lighting.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag