MSI GE76 Raider 11th Gen Core i9 RTX 3080 Review: Gaming Greatness

But there are a few caveats.

In a world where the world’s most powerful laptops are shedding their bulk and slimming down, the MSI GE76 Raider makes no such attempts, in a bid to not compromise on the performance and offer desktop-grade performance in a larger-than-usual mobile chassis. No gamer is a stranger to big, bulky gaming laptops, and the MSI GE76 Raider is not going to raise expectations on that front. Instead, it uses all that bulk, and power and performance to make you forget about costly gaming PCs. Inside is a powerful Intel Tiger Lake Core i9 combined with a NVIDIA RTX 3080, with the action playing out on a large 17.3-inch 360Hz IPS panel. The laptop is studded with RGB lighting, and as far as the gamer aesthetics are concerned, this one hits a home run. But for a hefty price tag of Rs 3,91,990, does it make sense to go for a desktop build instead? Let’s find out —

Design and Build

At a hefty 2.8Kgs, the MSI GE76 Raider is one bulky beast, and is quite a departure from some of the slimmer designs we saw last year from Asus and Alienware. Intel too is working hard at making slim gaming laptops a reality, but this one bucks that trend. At least, it doesn’t come with two power bricks now. Instead, a single 6A socket is enough to power this beast. The build quality of the laptop, however, remains a bit questionable. Save for the metallic lid, the chassis is built entirely of plastic, which for a machine priced nearly Rs 4 lakhs, is disappointing to say the least. But well, it does bring forth the aesthetics preferred by gamers.

The GE76 Raider features a blue and black finish. MSI calls it “titanium blue” but it looks more grey than blue. The lid only has the MSI logo, thickly engraved into the body, and when shut, there’s hardly any indicator of its gaming status. That goes away quickly as you turn it on. A thick multi-zone RGB light bar at the base of the chassis, sharp angular corners, per-key RGB keyboard, and large cooling vents on three sides, complete the gamer aesthetics. The lights are controlled by the SteelSeries app, the popular gaming accessories maker, that regularly lends its expertise on MSI keyboards.

Like I mentioned, the laptop is primarily built out of plastic, and because of a 1-inch thick chassis, the body feels hollowed out. It also sits flat on the surface, unlike the new ROG designs, where the hinge raises the body up for more air-flow and better ergonomics. Thankfully, there’s enough space to rest your palm while gaming, but the plastic surface tends to get smudged with sweat. The hinge feels solid, and considering the weight of the chassis, it’s easy to open this one-handed, but it also makes the screen wobble a bit when done too fast, which makes me wonder if the hinge could have been a little tighter, especially when you consider long-term usage.

The GE76 Raider offers a decent number of I/O options. You get USB-A Gen-1 ports on both sides, a Type-C and 3.5mm headphone jack on the left edge, along with a SDCard reader on the right. The rear is where the power cable goes in, and there’s also the DisplayPort, a USB-C Thunderbolt 4, HDMI, and Ethernet port.. I quite like the arrangement of the ports. The rear end is kept for things you plug and forget, while the side ports are for accessories that are used sparingly.

Considering the size and weight of the laptop, I wouldn’t call it particularly portable. It’s best to keep it in one place, like you would a desktop, which once again, raises the question — Why not just build a desktop?

Display and Audio

The MSI GE76 Raider sports a 17.3-inch IPS display with 360Hz refresh rate and Full HD resolution. It’s a fast and responsive panel, but the 1080p resolution seems out of place. At that size, and especially at that price, it’s normal to demand at least 1440p, if not the full 2160p treatment. The good thing is, it’s adequately bright to light up even the darkest scenes, but it’s just not as sharp as I’d have liked on this big screen. The laptop compensates for this with boosted contrast and saturation, that makes the colours on the screen pop out, but that’s about it. The large screen needed more pixels, and that’s sorely missing on this one.

That said, MSI does sell a QHD and UHD variant of the display with up to 240Hz and 120Hz refresh rate respectively, which is listed on MSI’s website, but can’t be found anywhere online for sale. So I’m assuming the company is only selling the FHD variant here in India, which itself is priced nearly Rs 4 lakhs.

Audio comes from a quad-speaker array placed near the edges of the chassis. It’s louder than most budget gaming laptops, and is decent enough for listening to music and podcasts, but you can’t rely on them for serious gaming, or while paying attention to dialogues in movies, especially with the ceiling fan on. I didn’t have any problem using the loudspeakers during winter when the surrounding was generally quieter, but come summer, I had to resort to using my headphones while gaming.

Performance

The Core i9 11980HK on the MSI GE76 Raider was the most powerful mobile offering from Team Blue last year, and for most games and tasks, the CPU is adequately powerful. With 8 cores and 16 threads, and max clock speed of 5GHz, this high-performance Core i9 CPU acts as the perfect foil to the AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, with a few added benefits that include support for PCIe 4.0, Thunderbolt 4 ports, and more. The Core i9 can scale up to a higher TDP, indicating more energy use, but no matter what I did on the MSI GE76 Raider, I couldn’t get the CPU shift to the higher PL2 state where it would have spiked energy intake to match the 65W TDP value. Instead, the CPU operated just below the PL1 value of 45W, despite the performance mode selected with the fans running at full speed. This had a major impact on the benchmark scores, resulting in values lower than what the Core i7 achieves. It’s likely a fault with my review unit, but truth be told, this did not impact my gaming escapades at all!

In the graph above, you can see how the CPU behaves during a CineBench R23 multi-core run. The laptop scored 7983, much lower than the MSI GE66’s 8370 (that runs on the Core i7 11800H). The reason for the lower score is that the CPU doesn’t kick in its high-power mode during the benchmark run, with the CPU Package Power remaining well below 40W. This despite the CPU temperature never crossing beyond its TjMax value of 100-degrees, which should have ideally triggered thermal throttling. As a result, even the effective core clock speed never breached the 3GHz mark, resulting in the lower scores. I’m not really why this is happening, and will likely create a bottleneck in CPU-heavy tasks. But considering how games barely test the CPUs these days, the gaming performance didn’t get affected at all.

That’s because the Nvidia RTX 3080 performs without a hitch, drawing enough power to run games at 60 FPS and beyond, with everything maxed out. Games like Cyberpunk 2077 clocked 88FPS with everything maxed out (it was a glorious experience), while the newly launched Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy clocking 59.3FPS, with ray tracing and DLSS turned on, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider dished out an impressive 89FPS with everything maxed out.

Design and Build

For the latter, I measured the GPU power intake and CPU power intake, and found the same results. The GPU behaves normally, hitting close to its 165W TGP value, but the CPU barely breaches the 40W mark, despite the Performance Mode notching up the PL1 value to 60W and PL2 value to 200W. Had the CPU been behaving normally, would FPS go even higher? Perhaps.

One of the good things about this weird phenomenon is that the laptop surface doesn’t get super hot, especially the WASD complex which never went beyond 40 degrees. I never had an issue gaming for long hours on this, unlike last year’s Zephyrus M16 which became too hot to handle after a point. The temperatures around the airvents were expectedly quite high though, and any object placed beside the airvents will get hot. A nice way to keep your coffee while you game.

So, here’s a laptop priced around Rs 4 lakhs, that can run all the latest games you throw at it, but seems to struggle with CPU-heavy tasks. Again, this could likely be an issue with my review unit.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Like most MSI gaming laptops, the GE76 Raider is blessed with a full-sized SteelSeries keyboard, with a number pad. With per-key RGB and many customisable patterns, it adds heavily to the flavour. But it’s a membrane keyboard, not mechanical, as most SteelSeries keyboards are. But don’t let that fret you, because the keys are extremely tactile and responsive. They spring back in an instant, ready for the next press. Naturally, this helps in gaming, and it’s equally useful for typing. But it’s not without it’s flaws.

My biggest gripe is the arrangement. It’s just weird. The arrow cluster is merged with the rest of the keys, making it easy to confuse. The Fn key, which should ideally be beside the Windows key, is cramped near the arrow cluster. Reason being, the volume and brightness controls are on the arrow keys, enabled in combination with the Fn keys. This should ideally help with quickly adjusting volumes, but the cramped space makes it counterproductive.

As for the trackpad, it feels tiny for the large 17.3-inch chassis. Being left aligned, it also comes in the way of gaming, when you’re resting your palm while on the WASD cluster. The palm rejection algorithms can clearly improve, but there’s an option to disable the trackpad altogether. You’ll anyway be pairing this with a gaming mouse.

Battery Life

The MSI GE76 Raider tames the 65W Intel Core i9 with a 99.9Whr battery, which is more or less the standard. With the performance profile set to balanced, the laptop gave around 3-4 hours of battery life in my usage. That’s quite poor for a modern-day portable computer, but this one’s hardly portable. So there’s a high chance you’ll keep this tethered to power, where the battery life won’t really matter. Just In case you’re wondering, I could play just two matches of FIFA 21 on battery with the discrete GPU engaged.

Verdict

I have mixed feelings about the MSI GE76 Raider. On paper, this monstrous laptop is easily one of the most powerful machines you can buy, promising desktop-grade performance with all the necessary ports and jacks. The display, while not the best suited for creative workloads, is excellent for gaming. And speaking of games, there’s nothing that this can’t run among the recent roster of AAA games, replete with personalised RGB treatment. The keyboard too is one of the most responsive, even though it’s not the most intuitive. However, as demonstrated in the performance section, the laptop struggles with scaling up the CPU performance, which may prove counterproductive if you also want to partake in creative tasks on the GE76 Raider.

MSI GE76 Raider

3,91,990
7.3

Design and Build

6.1/10

Keyboard and Trackpad

6.9/10

Display

7.0/10

Ports and I/O

8.5/10

CPU Performance

7.3/10

GPU Performance

7.8/10

Gaming Performance

9.0/10

Storage

8.6/10

Day to Day Usage

8.0/10

Value For Money

4.0/10

What Is Good?

  • Top Notch Gaming Performance
  • No surface heating
  • RGB Underglow

What Is Bad?

  • Bulky Build
  • Confusing keyboard
  • CPU power intake doesn't scale up

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