PC gaming is a market that only continues to grow, and an area that is expanding faster than ever before is the laptop space. Each year, companies look to best their competition with the top products for consumers. The 2022 version of the MSI Raider GE76 gaming laptop is the Taiwanese computer giant’s attempt at just that, and we received one to test and review.
Of course, when it comes to buying a gaming laptop, there are a lot of things to consider. It’s not like a desktop, where you can simply replace a CPU or motherboard every couple of years and stay current. Gaming laptops are (usually) longer-term investments, so buying one that has the latest and greatest components may be at the top of your list. Doing so can keep you up and running smooth for the next handful of years.
The Raider GE76 features just that. An Intel Core i9-12900HK, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 32 GB of DDR5-4800 MHz RAM, a 1 TB NVMe SSD, and a 4K display make up one of the most powerful laptops on the market. Obviously, with that power comes a hefty price tag. And the MSI Raider GE76 isn’t cheap. The model we received for testing comes in at $4,200 USD. You aren’t going to find many cheaper with this much going for it.
Most laptop reviews simply go through a number of benchmarks and thermals and call it a day. But what about daily use? How does it hold up and work from a practicality standpoint? Are all the bells and whistles worth the large price tag?
First thing’s first, let’s talk about aesthetics. Right out of the box, the look and feel of the MSI Raider GE76 is impressive. It looks like the kind a top-of-the-line machine you expect for what’s inside.
The laptop weighs a mighty 6.39 pounds, and measures 15.63 x 11.18 x 1.02 inches in size. The included 330W power brick is also no pushover, as it takes up plenty of space. It is definitely something you’ll want to try and keep out of your walking area when plugged in.
Because of the size and weight of the MSI Raider GE76, portability may be a concern for you. And, while it definitely is a tank to haul around throughout the house or even on the go, it needs to be as big as it is in order to support the high-end components inside. That said, if small is your goal, this might turn you off immediately before even getting into the performance.
Using a color dubbed “Titanium Blue,” the laptop is one of the nicest looking I’ve ever used. It’s definitely subjective, but I don’t think I’ve found a more aesthetically pleasing laptop chassis than that of the Raider GE76.
You are going to love this machine if you’re a fan of RGB — there’s a lot of it. Each key on the full-size SteelSeries keyboard – more on that later – is individually backlit, and there’s an RGB strip right in front under the wrist rest. It stands out immediately upon booting, and the pop of it just never dissipates. Unless, of course, you turn it off via the pre-installed SteelSeries GG software.
On the outside of the machine you’ll find all of your I/O ports. On the right side of the laptop, you’ll find two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports along with an SD card reader. The left side features a headphone jack, USB-A 3.2 Gen 2 port, and a USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port. Lastly, on the rear is where you’ll find the charging port, ethernet port, an HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort 1.4, and a ThunderBolt 4 port.
The HDMI port, MSI claims, can support up to 8K output at 60Hz. I wasn’t able to test this due to the lack of 8K displays and, of course, the practicality of it all.
Performance is key
The main selling point of the MSI Raider GE76 is its gaming ability. After all, that’s the main reason you’re reading this: you want to know how it handles the latest games and some of the more popular titles out there. It should come as no surprise to anyone that gaming on this laptop is as fast and smooth as any flagship on the market, laptop or desktop.
You won’t find much in the way of issues when playing games. Forza Horizon 5 hits over 60 fps – about 62-64 on average – when running the game on Extreme settings at 4K. Grid Legends hit just under 70 fps on Ultra settings. Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V) reached 120 fps with ease on Very High settings. In fact, no matter what game I decided to play, the frame rate was great and everything ran as smooth as you’d expect. Well, other than Elden Ring, but that has nothing to do with the laptop.
At the end of the day, you’ll find yourself enjoying 60+ fps on the higher settings for most games. There will be games, however, where 4K resolutions and high settings will result in 30-40 fps.
The one annoyance is that it took some tinkering to get the display to look how I felt it should. Some of the colors just feel too dim, while others look too bright. It’s a weird thing to explain without being able to show it first hand. For an IPS display, colors within the environment in Forza Horizon 5, Rise of the Tomb Raider, GTA V, etc. just felt muted.
On the audio side, the built-in speakers have a quality sound to them. Music sounds great, and the speakers get loud enough to avoid the need for external ones. In a game, vehicle sounds come across as deep and well rounded as you’d like without a major surround system. Audiophiles might find some things they don’t care for, but for most users, including myself, you’ll be satisfied with what you get from MSI in this department.
The battery life of the Raider GE76, while serviceable, isn’t as high as I wanted it to be. It averaged about three and a half hours on a full charge in the high performance mode. For most people, that’s going to be just fine. For me, I was hoping to see something along the lines of what companies like Razer are starting to produce: four to five hours of battery life.
Now, cooling is always a hot topic (see what I did there?) when talking about laptops. Your hands touch the keys and trackpad often, which sit right above all of the components. With the MSI Raider GE76, I was pleasantly surprised at the overall cooling power, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t concerned a bit.
While most of the keyboard area stayed cool enough to use, there were some areas, mainly in the middle of the board, that got a little bit too hot to the touch at times. When putting it under a heavy load, the fans get quite loud. The noise is almost to the point of drowning out any sound coming from the speakers. If you are going to put it under a heavy load, like rendering or resource-intensive games, I’d suggest a third-party cooler for underneath. That way, you don’t have to worry much about any concerns when using the keyboard during your longer sessions.
When buying a new machine, laptop or otherwise, you aren’t likely to just be doing one activity on it. While the MSI Raider GE76 is a gaming laptop first, it can easily handle much more than that.
Since receiving the laptop, I made it a goal to use it as a daily driver. That meant I would stop using my desktop and other laptop for the sole purpose of emulating what it would be like if I decided that this was going to be the only computer I had. How much of a hassle would it be moving it around? What about my daily work of writing, editing, and producing videos?
The laptop runs Windows 11, and with it comes some unnecessary bloat. Software like Norton AntiVirus and Music Maker Jam take up space on your SSD, so removing those apps was one of the first things I did. Also, Norton stopped my machine from running initial updates when setting up, which is always nice. It’s what you have to deal with when buying a prebuilt desktop or, in this case, a laptop. There’s bound to be bloat that you don’t want or need. But though that’s “how it is,” it doesn’t make it any less annoying.
The laptop has the resources to handle video rendering while doing other tasks like creating graphics in Photoshop or even motion graphic editing in After Effects. The inclusion of DDR5-4800 MHz memory really makes this machine fly when multi-tasking.
Gaming on the MSI Raider GE76, as mentioned earlier in the review, is an excellent experience even with the concerns with the display. Everything ran smooth and it didn’t struggle with anything I tried to throw at it. I can’t tell you how nice it is to just sit in my bed, open the laptop, and start gaming in the most comfortable spot in my home without compromise.
When typing, it’s a fine experience overall. However, I will always prefer keys that are more concave because of how they fit my fingers. The SteelSeries keyboard has flat keycaps that left me sliding around a bit too much at times when typing. Still, that’s a personal preference and feel, so your experience may obviously vary.
The only thing I really don’t like in this instance is the trackpad. While it’s large and responsive, (most of the time), it feels cheap. For a laptop as pricey as this, it’s surprising that such an expected component comes off as lacking. If possible, I’d recommend a separate mouse unless you have absolutely no way to accommodate one.
Traveling with the laptop can definitely become a hassle if you have to do it a lot. The weight and general size of the Raider GE76 is one thing, but finding a place to store the power brick is a completely different animal. If you think carrying it all in your run-of-the-mill travel case is going to work, you might want to think again. For this, I find it best to use a full backpack as my transport of choice. It’s big enough and padded enough to provide the protection you’d like while having enough space for more than just the laptop and power supply.
Lastly, the included 1080p webcam is solid enough for video calls and the like. But it’s just a bit too grainy for my liking, despite capturing solid colors under various lighting conditions. I just wouldn’t choose it as a primary streaming camera unless you have no other option.
Upgrading the MSI Raider GE76
Despite being a traditionally built gaming laptop, there are some things you are able to upgrade and change within the MSI Raider GE76. The battery, SSDs (two slots), and RAM can all be upgraded down the line if need be. For the CPU, GPU, and motherboard, you are out of luck. Still, being able to swap for better memory or storage down the line will certainly add life to the machine in the years to come.
MSI Raider GE76 review verdict
Make no mistake, the latest version of the MSI Raider GE76 laptop is one beastly device. The first to feature the Intel Core i9-12900HK and RTX 3080 Ti, it packs quite an impressive punch. Gaming and everyday usage work flawlessly, and the available ports for connectivity make this a solid consideration for those looking to even replace their desktop altogether.
The fan noise under heavy usage and the possible portability concerns are sure to turn some off. But I still believe this is a laptop worth considering if you truly want to have a high-end gaming machine without the bulkiness of a desktop. If you don’t want to be a (somewhat) early adopter though, there will be ample opportunities down the line to pick one up, and it’ll likely be at a lower price point.