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MSI Katana GF66 review

Performance is the MSI Katana GF66’s only asset

MSI Katana GF66 review
(Image: © Rami Tabari)

Our Verdict

The MSI Katana GF66 boasts powerful performance and graphics, but craps out on everything else.

For

  • Strong performance and graphics

Against

  • Dim and dull display
  • Fan is too loud
  • Boring design
  • Meh speakers
  • Poor battery life

If you've found yourself in a Micro Center with the MSI Katana GF66 staring you down, approach with caution.

The MSI Katana GF66 boasts powerful performance with its Intel Core i7-11800H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU packed in a $1,399 laptop. Sounds great, right? Well, when you’re hit with its dull 15.6-inch display, shallow speakers and loud fans, you might reconsider. Then again, you can't experience it for long, as this laptop lasts less than three hours on a charge.

MSI’s Katana GF66 is a good choice if you’re looking for pure performance, are using an extended display, and are constantly plugged in. Otherwise, check out our best gaming laptops page for better options.

MSI Katana GF66 price and configuration options

MSI Katana GF66 specs

Price: $1,399
CPU: Intel Core i7-11800H
GPU: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
RAM: 16GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080, 144Hz
Battery: 2:30
Size: 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches
Weight: 5.1 pounds 

The MSI Katana GF66 I reviewed costs $1,399 and comes with an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 15.6-inch, 1080p at 144Hz display.

The next step down puts you at $999 (on sale; originally $1,199), and you’re dropped to an RTX 3050 Ti GPU and a 512GB SSD. Meanwhile, you can get the cheapest model for $879, which gets you a Core i5-11400H CPU, RTX 3050 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.

If you’re looking for a laptop that’ll offer more for a cheaper price, check out our best cheap gaming laptops page.

MSI Katana GF66 design

If you’re looking for a discreet gaming laptop, the MSI Katana GF66 does you a favor by opting for a plain plastic black lid home only to an engraved MSI logo. The bottom of the lid subtly curves downward and blends in with the hinge.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

Opening the MSI Katana GF66 reveals a more gaudy design. Most people will know this is a gaming laptop from the edgy red keyboard, not to mention to red keyboard lighting. It also denotes that it’s a cheap one at that. The bezels on the display aren’t too thick, but we've seen slimmer. The design is simple, but an affordable gaming laptop doesn’t have to look cheap. 

At 5.1 pounds and 14.1 x 10.2 x 1.0 inches, the MSI Katana GF66 11UE is heavier and thicker than its competitors. The Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (4.2 pounds, 14 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches), Acer Predator Triton 300 SE (3.8 pounds, 12.7 x 9.0 x 0.7 inches) and MSI Stealth 15M (3.7 pounds, 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches) all featured sleeker profiles.

MSI Katana GF66 ports

There is a decent selection of ports on board the MSI Katana GF66, but it would have been nice to see a Mini DisplayPort.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

On the left side, there’s the power jack and two USB Type-A ports, while the right features an RJ45 Ethernet port, an HDMI port, a USB Type-C port, a USB Type-A port and a headphone jack.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

If you’re looking for more ports, check out our best USB Type-C hubs and best laptop docking stations pages.

MSI Katana GF66 display

The MSI Katana GF66’s 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display looks flat and isn’t bright enough to highlight anything on screen. Its 144Hz refresh rate can’t save the viewing experience.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

In the trailer for Protégé, I couldn’t make out any detail in the guard’s dark suits as they were searching Maggie Q’s character. The rainforest shot of Maggie Q on a boat looked dull despite all of the greenery around her. However, the display was sharp enough to capture the individual strands of hair on Michael Keaton’s head.

When I played Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I couldn’t see what was going on in the cave I was fighting in because of how dim the panel was. England’s countryside wasn’t nearly as impressive as I remember, as the colorful grass and trees looked muted on the Katana’s screen. The 144Hz panel made the game look smooth, but it’s not worth sacrificing color and brightness.

According to our colorimeter, the MSI Katana GF66 covered a measly 43.9% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, falling well below the 70% mainstream gaming laptop average. It was outclassed by all of its competitors, including the Zephyrus M16 (75.8%), Triton 300 SE (80.6%) and Stealth 15M (45.3%).

At 247 nits of brightness, the MSI Katana GF66’s panel is disappointing compared to the average mainstream gaming laptop (303 nits). It even fell behind the Zephyrus M16 (479 nits), Triton 300 SE (292 nits) and Stealth 15M (255 nits).

MSI Katana GF66 keyboard and touchpad

Typing on the MSI Katana GF66’s keyboard was OK. The keys ride a thin line between clicky and mushy. I’m not a fan of the feel, but it certainly isn't the worst gaming keyboard I've typed on. In fact, it’s what you’d expect from a budget gaming laptop.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

I hit 80 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is slightly above my 78-wpm average. While I don’t like the keys themselves, the spacing between the keys made for a solid typing experience.

The red keyboard lighting is a drag as always on these gaming laptops — MSI should either go white or full RGB. 

The 4.1 x 2.6-inch touchpad is smooth but can sometimes feel sticky. The clickers are stiff, too. Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing, worked well.

MSI Katana GF66 audio

The MSI Katana GF66’s bottom-firing speakers are shallow and don’t have any business being in a gaming laptop.

I listened to Elliot Lee’s “TV Head,” and the opening vocals sounded decent, but there was some depth lost due to the lack of bass. The sharper percussion instruments sounded fine, but the piano was muddy. During the chorus, the instruments clashed, only highlighting the treble notes.

In Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, I had a conversation with the Norse Man musician, and the voices between Eivor and the NPC sounded raspy and sharp. When I fired an arrow at an enemy, there was an unpleasant bassy rumble upon impact. I switched to my axe and I was met with a dull slicing sound.

MSI includes the Nahimic audio app by SteelSeries, and while it changed the sound, it still didn't sound good. There are settings for surround sound, volume stabilization, voices, bass, and treble.

MSI Katana GF66 gaming, graphics and VR

Jam packed within the MSI Katana GF66’s chassis is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU with  6GB of VRAM. It ran Assassin’s Creed Valhalla at 61 frames per second on Ultra, 1080p settings as I decapitated enemies along my way through the villages of England.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

On the Assassin’s Creed Odyssey benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the Katana GF66 nailed 63 fps, climbing over the mainstream gaming laptop average (55 fps). Despite rocking the same GPU, the Zephyrus M16 (59 fps), Triton 300 SE (51 fps) and Stealth 15M (55 fps) couldn’t break that 60-fps threshold.

The MSI Katana GF66 hit 69 fps on the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark (Highest, 1080p), sliding past the 66 fps category average. It matched the Zephyrus M16 (69 fps), but still surpassed the Triton 300 SE (61 fps) and Stealth 15M (64 fps).

On the Far Cry New Dawn benchmark (Ultra, 1080p), the MSI Katana GF66 hit 94 fps, crushing the mainstream gaming laptop average (78 fps). It even killed the Zephyrus M16 (84 fps), Triton 300 SE (73 fps) and Stealth 15M (77 fps).

When running the Borderlands 3 benchmark (Badass, 1080p), the Katana scored 61 fps, which is just short of the 62-fps category average. It still surpassed the Triton 300 SE (57 fps) and Stealth 15M (60), but it couldn’t match the Zephyrus M16 (64 fps).

MSI Katana GF66 performance

Outfitted with the latest Intel Core i7-11800H processor and 16GB of RAM, the MSI Katana GF66 easily juggled 40 Google Chrome tabs and five 1080p YouTube videos while running Assassin's Creed Valhalla in the background.

On the Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, the MSI Katana GF66 scored 8,897, sailing over the mainstream gaming laptop average (6,878). The Zephyrus M16’s Core i9-11900H (8,495), the Triton 300 SE’s Core i7-11375H (5,234) and the Stealth 15M’s Core i7-11375H (5,363) couldn’t quite catch up.

The MSI Katana GF66 transcoded a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark in just 6 minutes and 37 seconds, speeding past the 9:20 category average. The Zephyrus M16 (7:58), Triton 300 SE (11:36) and Stealth 15M (11:03) were minutes behind.

MSI’s 1TB SSD had a transfer rate of 651 megabytes per second, which isn’t as fast as the average mainstream gaming laptop (750 MBps). It did outclass the Zephyrus M16’s 1TB SSD (567 MBps), and practically matched the Stealth 15M’s 1TB SSD (652 MBps), but it fell behind the Triton 300 SE’s 993 MBps.

MSI Katana GF66 battery life

Battery life in gaming laptops has been getting better, but there are still some pretty bad apples, and the MSI Katana GF66 is one of them. 

On the Laptop Mag battery test, the Katana lasted only 2 hours and 30 minutes. You can’t even finish Avengers: Endgame before this thing dies. The mainstream gaming laptop average is twice as long, at 6:04. The Zephyrus M16 (6:34), Triton 300 SE (6:41) and Stealth 15M (3:41) all have much better lifespan.

MSI Katana GF66 webcam

Laptops with 720p webcams usually struggle when it comes to photo and video quality. While the MSI Katana GF66’s webcam is limited by its resolution, the image it captures isn't too bad.

MSI Katana GF66 review

(Image credit: Rami Tabari)

There was a lot of noise, but it captured the color of my blue shirt well. The contrast blew out my face, making me whiter than my tan skin would have liked. It also made the text on my Blue Yeti X illegible. Whether you’re livestreaming games, or playing D&D Online like me, you’re going to want one of the best webcams around to show off that beautiful face.

MSI Katana GF66 heat

The MSI Katana GF66 has the most annoying fans I’ve heard in a while, but at least they're good at managing heat in the right places. 

After playing a game for 15 minutes, the underside hit 96 degrees Fahrenheit, only one degree away from our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard and touchpad averaged 106 degrees and 80 degrees, respectively. The hottest it got was 128 degrees, located on the F8 key. After streaming a 15-minute video, the underside measured 78 degrees, the keyboard got 87 degrees and the touchpad hit 74 degrees.

MSI Katana GF66 software and warranty

Unlike most MSI gaming laptops, the MSI Katana GF66 features the MSI Center as its central app. It monitors CPU, GPU, disk and memory usage. It also has performance settings, general Windows settings and a section to update the laptop’s drivers, which is helpful. Apart from that, MSI doesn’t include other branded apps. There is, however, Music Maker Jam, an audio-mixing software.

Also installed on the GF66 is some Windows 10 bloatware, like Roblox, Solitaire and Hidden City.

The Katana GF66 comes with a one-year limited warranty. See how MSI performed on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.

Bottom line

There’s not a lot going for the MSI Katana GF66 apart from its strong performance. It overcame its competitors in most of our CPU and GPU benchmarks. But that’s not enough when the GF66 falters when it comes to the key pillars of a gaming laptop. The display is dull, the battery life is shorter than a feature film, and it’s not nearly as portable as other laptops.

For the same price, you can pick up the Acer Predator Triton 300 SE, which features 6-plus hours of battery life, a colorful display and a sleek chassis. However, it didn’t perform as well as the Katana.

Overall, the MSI Katana GF66 isn’t a terrible choice if you want to prioritize performance, but you can do much better for the price.

Rami Tabari

Rami Tabari is a Senior Writer for Laptop Mag. He reviews every shape and form of a laptop as well as all sorts of cool tech. You can find him sitting at his desk surrounded by a hoarder's dream of laptops, and when he navigates his way out to civilization, you can catch him watching really bad anime or playing some kind of painfully difficult game. He’s the best at every game and he just doesn’t lose. That’s why you’ll occasionally catch his byline attached to the latest Souls-like challenge.