Earlier this year MSI announced the GE76 Raider, their updated 17-inch full-performance laptop, and the larger kin of the GE66 Raider we’ve reviewed last year, this time available with a 17-inch display, a full-keyboard, and more powerful hardware.
This is one of the few available laptops that can be specced up to an RTX 3080 Laptop GPU running at up to 155W of power, as well as one of the few available with a MUX switch. Paired with a competent thermal design and an i9 processor, all these make the GE76 Raider the fastest gaming laptop we’ve tested so far and one of the fastest money can buy right now.
Furthermore, the GE76 inherits the clean design lines and sturdy craftsmanship of the GE66, and improves on the keyboard and audio.
At the same time, though, this is built on Intel hardware, and not on the versatile Ryzen 5000 platform, which alone could be a deal-breaker for some of you. I’d advise you to keep an open mind here and look past this aspect unless you primarily want a 17-inch laptop for specific workloads that would benefit from those AMD processors. I’ll explain why in this detailed article, that will take you through all the important aspects that you should be aware of before spending the kind of money MSI asks for this series (which is a lot).
Specs as reviewed – MSI GE76 Raider 2021
||2021 MSI GE76 Raider 10UH
||17.3-inch 1920 x 1080 px IPS 300 Hz 3ms, 16:9, non-touch, matte, AU Optronics B173HAN05.1 panel
||Intel Comet Lake-H Core i9-10980HK CPU, 8C/16T
||Intel UHD + Nvidia RTX 3080 16 GB GDDR6 (155 W Max-P with Dyn Boost, GeForce 461.92), with MUX and without Optimus
||64 GB DDR4 3200 MHz (2x DIMMs)
||1x 2 TB SSD (Samsung PM981) – 2x M.2 NVMe 80 mm slots
||Wireless 6 (Intel AX210), Bluetooth 5.2, 2.5 Gigabit LAN (Killer E3100x)
||2x USB-A 3.1 gen1, 1x SUB-A 3.2 gen2, 2x USB-C 3.2 gen2 (one with DP, no charging), HDMI 2.0, miniDP, LAN, SD card reader, mic/earphone, Lock
||99.9 Wh, 280 W power brick, without USB-C charging support
||397 mm or 15.62” (w) x 284 mm or 11.18 (d) x 25.9 mm or 1.02” (h)
||8.7 lbs (3.97 kg) + 2.22 lbs (1.01 kg) power brick and cables, EU model
||per-key RGB backlit keyboard, HD + IR webcam, quad speakers
MSI offers the GE76 Raider in a multitude of configurations, starting with 8Core Intel i7-10875H processors and RTX 3060/3070 graphics, and up to the 8Core i9-10980HK configuration with the RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU that we have here.
All the Nvidia GPU options are running at higher clocks and power than what you’ll normally find in most other options out there, with support for Dynamic Boost 2.0. At the same time, neither of these configurations offer any sort of Optimus, which greatly affects battery life when using them unplugged, or any of the versatile QHD 165 Hz and 4K 120 Hz screen options available with the competition (only FHD 240/300 Hz and 4K 60 Hz panels available). That might change at some future point.
Those panel options might be available later in the year, though, alongside the bump to Intel’s 11th gen hardware, which should also address some of the IPC and overall performance gap to the AMD hardware in demanding loads.
Design and build
MSI built the GE76 Raider as a larger update of the GE66 from 2020, following the same design and construction lines and completely stepping away from the GE75 models of the past.
As a result, the GE76 is a much better built and nicer polished laptop, but is also slightly heavier now with all the metals used for the exterior and a large 99.9 Wh battery inside. It accounts for roughly 3 kilos, plus one more for the chunky power-brick, which I wish MSI would have redesigned to make it more in line with what the competition offers in terms of size and weight.
The GE76 is also a larger footprint than the previous GE75 series, and that’s because it now gets a hump behind the screen in order to allow enough room for the thermal design, and the IO, as most of the ports are placed back there. As a result, the GE76 Raider series is mostly suited for desk-use, and less so for traveling or commuting.
As far as the choice in materials goes, thick pieces of metal are used for the main deck and the lid-cover, which feel strong and barely bulge even when pressed harder. MSI have also implemented sturdy hinges and made sure the screen doesn’t warp or bend when picked up from the sides. It only goes back to about 145 degrees, though.
Speaking of, the plastic used for the screen’s bezel feels quality and I do like that they put a rubber grommet around the entire screen-frame on this laptop, which will protect the panel when carrying it in your backpack.
Now, despite the overall solid feeling of this GE76 Raider, I still noticed the slight creaks that were also present in the GE66, when grabbing the laptop or placing your hands on the palm-rest. They’re not as bad as on older MSI products, but they’re still there eating into the otherwise premium feel of this laptop.
MSI have cleaned up the design of this updated Raider series, which now gets a clean silver exterior and a slightly dark-blue interior. I like the new Dragon Shield badge on the lid, it looks exquisite. The interior finishing still shows smudges after a while, but not as badly as other dark laptops out there.
I’ve purposely taken a picture of the interior after using this GE76 for the last two days without cleaning it in any way, so you’ll know what to expect.
The GE76 also gets the huge light-bar on the front that we’ve seen on the GE66, placed behind a glossy piece of plastic. This perfectly connects to the metal chassis, leaving no gaps or sharp-edges, and despite being glossy, hasn’t dented or scratched so far, on this sort of a test laptop that hasn’t been pampered. I had my watch on all the time during my time with it, and the buckle didn’t leave any scuffs.
The illumination might seem a bit much at first, but it grew on me over time. It can be customized in the Steelseries app (which still looks dated and non-intuitive, but works once you figure it out) and can be switched off as well if you want to.
As a novelty for this larger 17-inch model, MSI put a set of quad-speakers on the GE76, with two of them firing on the sides and two firing through those subtle grills that flank the keyboard. The Audio quality is a step-up from the GE66 series, but still not on par with the older GE75 models. Dirt and dust also seem to easily gather inside the punctured holes around the keyboard, so you’ll need to use a vacuum cleaner to clear that out.
On the other hand, MSI haven’t changed the underbelly design from the GE66 series, and I wish they would have. They still put small rubber feet there supplemented by hard plastic pieces in the middle, which can scratch sensitive surfaces. Furthermore, these rubber feet don’t provide much grip and barely push up the laptop from the desk and thus choke the fans. This aspect somewhat negates the otherwise excellent open-back intakes and negatively impacts the CPU/GPU temperatures, as you’ll see in the Performance section of this article.
Finally, as far as the IO goes, most of it is conveniently placed on the back edge, hiding away the cables when connecting peripherals, with only some USB-As, USB-C, the audio-jack, and a card-reader on the sides. You’ll find most of the needed ports on this laptop, but I still don’t understand why MSI opted out of Thunderbolt 3 support. You still get DP video via USB-C, but not the ability to hook up TB3 peripherals or USB-C charging.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard on this GE76 Raider is an update of the ones used in the GE66 and GS66 models.
The layout includes a set of full-size main keys and a cramped NumPad section, with full-size arrows, but rather annoyingly squeezed in between everything else. MSI also have their pesky particularities, such as that big left CTRL-key that sends the Fn key to the right. The power button is also a key, in the top right corner, and incorporates an always-on orange light into it that doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s tiny, but still noticeable in a dark room.
These aside, I actually got along surprisingly well with this GE76 Raider keyboard, as this is no longer as shallow as the keyboards on the 15-inch models. It’s still a rubber dome keyboard, so it’s quiet, and the keystroke is still fairly limited (1.5 mm), but the overall feedback is alright now, not too mushy and not too hard either. I’m confident most of you will find this keyboard fine well, once you get used to the layout.
The per-key RGB illumination carries over from the previous generations, with averagely-bright LEDs, good uniformity, and almost no light creeping out from under the keycaps. The design also includes a physical CapsLock indicator, and MSI notebooks also offer this neat trick that only lights up the available functions when you press the Fn key.
On the other hand, while still mostly functional once you understand how it works, MSI’s Steelseries Engine control software looks and feels dated, with obsolete graphics and minuscule interfaces. As already mentioned in previous reviews, I still feel that MSI’s entire software suite would benefit from a complete revamp.
For mouse, MSI went here with the same mid-sized clickpad they also put in the GE66. It’s a glass surface with Precision drivers and handles everyday use and gestures smoothly and reliably, but I find it rather small and awkward with gestures.
At least it is stiff in this implementation and no longer rattles with regular taps, as experienced on the GE66. This change does make the physicals clicks rather stiff as well, but I’m OK with that, plus I’d expect most of you to hook up an external monitor in this sort of a laptop anyway.
As for biometrics, I’m not seeing any on this laptop.
MSI offers the GE76 Raider series with a couple of different screen options, including 240/300 Hz FHD IPS panels, as well as a 60 Hz UHD option with wider color-gamut support, a potential option for creators. There’s no QHD 165 Hz or UHD 120 Hz panel, the kind you can get with the competition these days.
Our unit is the FHD 300 Hz, an excellent choice for gaming, fine for general use, and merely OK for professional use. It’s still 100% sRGB with average brightness, deep blacks, and good contrast, so it should be alright for most of you, especially as long as you’re keeping your laptop indoors.
Here’s what we got in our tests, with an X-Rite i1 Display Pro sensor:
- Panel HardwareID: AU Optronics AUO348E1 (B173HAN05.1);
- Coverage: 96.4% sRGB, 72.4% AdobeRGB, 75.2% DCI-P3;
- Measured gamma: 2.13;
- Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 328.37 cd/m2 on power;
- Min brightness in the middle of the screen: 15.21 cd/m2 on power;
- Contrast at max brightness: 1316:1;
- White point: 6300 K;
- Black on max brightness: 0.25 cd/m2;
- PWM: No.
- Reponse: ~5.5 GtG (source)
The panel comes pre-calibrated out of the box, and we’re not seeing any noticeable color or luminosity uniformity issues. There is some bleeding on the lower edge, with the bezel pinching the panel in a couple of places. There’s a degree of variation between panels, so make sure to properly test yours for any hidden flaws.
I’m not happy with the lack of any of those modern 17-inch screens on the GE76 Raider, the QHD 165 Hz with 100% DCI-P3 colors, or the 4K 120 Hz, both available with the competition (Jarrod’s Youtube review of the GE76 mentions a 4K 120 Hz on his sample, but that’s not yet on MSI’s website or available in retail). As it is, the 300 Hz FHD is alright for gaming, but doesn’t make that much sense on an RTX 3080 150+W configuration such as this one, which truly shows its strength when running games at QHD or 4K resolutions. Hopefully, MSI will add those on the updated GE76 models that should be available in the second part of this year.
Update: Looks like the 4K 120 Hz screen is available not on the GE76 in some countries. That’s good news, if this panel is within your budget. Id’ still like to see a Middle-ground QHD option as well, though, especially on the 3060/3070 configurations.
Furthermore, since this GE76 Raider is specifically catered for gamers, I would have expected GSync or some sort of ActiveSync support to be offered, but, for some reason, MSI opted out of it. I’m not sure how much this matters for you on a 300 Hz screen, since tearing is not really an issue at this refresh rate, but it’s weird, because other laptops do offer GSync with this exact panel. You only get GSync support onto a compatible external monitor with DP/HDMI.
Hardware and performance
Our test model is a top-specced configuration of the MSI GE76 Raider, with an Intel Core i9-10980HK processor, 32 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz of memory, 2 TB of fast SSD storage, and dual graphics: the Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop dGPU and the Intel UHD within the Intel platforms. The laptop gets a MUX switch and can change between a hybrid and a discrete mode, via a software toggle in the MSI Control Center app, with a restart in between.
Before we proceed, keep in mind that our review unit was sent over by MSI for this review and runs on the software available as of Mid-March 2021 (BIOS E17K2IMS.109, Dragon Center 18.104.22.168, GeForce Game Ready 461.92 drivers).
Spec-wise, MSI offers the GE76 in a multitude of configurations. For now, the CPU options top-up at the i9-10980HK, an 8C/16T processor that requires plenty of power to run at full-speed, with the associated heat output. 11th gen processors will be available on this laptop later in the year.
For the GPU, our configuration gets the Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop chip running at 150W, and up to 155W with Dynamic Boost 2.0 in supported applications. Resizable BAR is supported. Lower-tier configurations get an RTX 3070 (up to 140W) or RTX 3060 (up to 130W) graphics chip instead.
There are two memory slots inside, which can be maxed-out at 64 GB of DDR4 3200 MHz, the kind we have on this laptop. There are also two M.2 SSDs, and our unit gets a fast 2TB Samsung PM981 SSD included.
You need to pop out the back cover in order to get to the components, which is hold in place by a handful of Philips screws. Careful that in some regions MSI still put a warranty sticker on one of the screws, so you might want to inquire about warranty conditions in your area if you plan to open this up. I hope MSI stops using these sorts of warranty stickers that prevent users from performing upgrades, especially on this sort of laptop. This alone could be enough to steer some potential buyers away towards the more upgrade-friendly brands.
Then, the plastic back panel takes a fair bit of effort to take apart, as it’s a rather flimsy piece and is held in place by strong clips. I’d suggest starting from the sides and front, around the light-bar, and work your way around to the back with a prying tool. Take your time and don’t pull too hard, or you’ll risk snapping up some of the plastic hooks.
As mentioned already, MSI’s software suite is fairly functional, but dated in terms of design and interfaces. The Dragon Center app controls the main performance/fans/screen/battery settings, while the sound and keyboard are controlled through separated apps. There’s also a toggle to switch between Hybrid and Discrete GPU modes in Dragon Center >> General settings, and we ran all our performance tests on the Discrete mode, and only used Hybrid for some of the battery tests.
MSI should also revamp their power profiles. I don’t see the point of having both a Silent and a Super Battery mode, one should be enough for low-power use. I also don’t understand why MSI doesn’t apply any sort of GPU overclocking by default on their top-tier profile, especially since the higher-power envelope would allow it, as you’ll see with our manual tweaks. Finally, Balanced does a fair job at limiting the noise, but is hardly a usable option with games because of the high CPU/GPU temperatures, as this profile doesn’t affect the components’ allocated power in any way.
In fact, switching between Balanced and Extreme Performance only seems to impact the fans speed in this laptop, which is lackluster for this day and age.
Now, the GE76 is primarily a performance laptop, but it can also handle everyday multitasking, browsing, and video, while running coolly and mostly quietly (details below, on both Hybrid and Discrete modes). In fact, the fans rest idle with video and other basic stuff, but the CPU fan kicks in with multitasking.
On to more demanding loads, we start by testing the CPU’s performance by running the Cinebench R15 test for 15+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
The i9 processor in our configuration only stabilizes at around ~48W on the standard Extreme Performance settings, which is much lower than the same processor tested in the GE66 chassis last year. This results in lower frequencies and scores of only around 1400 points, poor for an 8Core i9 processor. The fans spin at around 44-45 dB at head-level, a little bit quieter than on the GE66.
Overall, thermal throttling is the limiting factor here, with the CPU quickly spiking to 95+ C, despite the low power envelope.
Undervolting is disabled by default, but you can enable it in BIOS. For that, reboot in BIOS mode and press Right Ctrl + Right Shift + Left Alt + F2 at the same time to unlock the Advanced BIOS functions, and then scroll down to Overclocking settings, enable Overclocking and XTU support, and then reboot back into Windows. Now you’ll be able to adjust the voltage offset in XTU (which you’ll have to manually install, it doesn’t come on the laptop by default).
Our sample ran fine at -100 mV, but we dialed back -80 mV to prevent any stability issue. We used this undervolting setting in all of our tests. However, based on past experience with 10th gen i9 processors, the -80mV undervolt might cause crashes on some units, and you might have to dial the CPU back to -50 mV.
Nonetheless, on this undervolted Extreme Profile, the CPU ends-up running at around 50W, with higher stable clocks and scores. Thermals are still the limiting factor, with the CPU runnings at 95+ C.
Surprisingly, switching over to the Balanced profile limits the CPU at around 45W, with quieter fans and nearly the same scores as on the Extreme Performance mode. This is weird. Further commuting to the Silent profile limits the CPU at 30W with a significant toll in performance, but quiet fans at sub 35 dB.
Finally, the CPU power is limited at only 20W on battery (in the Extreme Performance mode), with matching poor scores. Details below.
To put these findings in perspective, I’ve added a couple more 8Core configurations down below, both from Intel and AMD. AMD Ryzen 5000 is in a league of its own, but interestingly, the same i9 in the smaller GE66 scored higher, as it was able to run at higher power. In comparison, the i9 in this GE76 only performs about on par with the Intel 8Core i7s due to the thermal throttling we’ve seen here.
We then went ahead and further verified our findings with the longer Cinebench R23 loop test and the gruesome Prime 95, on the Extreme Performance profile. The CPU stabilizes at 52+ W on both tests, with temperatures of around 95 degrees C and 44-45 dB fan noise.
We also ran our combined CPU+GPU stress tests on this notebook. 3DMark stress runs the same test for 20 times in a loop and looks for performance variation and degradation over time, and this unit passed it just fine.
Next, we ran the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on the stock Extreme Performance profile in Dragon Center.
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 23581 (Graphics – 32205, Physics – 19215, Combined – 8841);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike Ultra DX11 4K: 7995 (Graphics – 7954, Physics – 19547, Combined – 4329);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 7624;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 11894 (Graphics – 12696, CPU – 8760);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy Extreme DX12 4K: 5624 (Graphics – 6228, CPU – 3631);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 7957;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 22849;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 40.88 average fps;
- PassMark10: Rating: 7822 (CPU: 16395, 3D Graphics: 20873, Disk: 24523);
- PCMark 10: 6750 (Essentials – 9921, Productivity – 8383, Digital Content Creation – 10305);
- GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1273, Multi-core: 7270;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1553 cb, CPU Single Core 199 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3605 cb, CPU Single Core 478 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 9374 cb, CPU Single Core 1252 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 39.22 s.
Excellent GPU scores, but sub-par CPU scores for an 8Core i9.
The default Extreme Performance profile doesn’t impact the GPU in any way, that’s why we also reran some of the tests on a -80mV undervolted CPU in XTU, alongside an overclocked GPU in MSI Afterburner at +150 MHz Clock and +300 MHz Memory. We’ll further call this the Tweaked profile, and it proved to be perfectly stable on our sample. GPU overclocking is also possible in the customizable User profile in Dragon Center.
Here’s what we got on this Tweaked profile:
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 24798 (Graphics – 34275, Physics – 19848, Combined – 9187);
- 3DMark 13 – Fire Strike Ultra DX11 4K: 7995 (Graphics – 7954, Physics – 19547, Combined – 4329);
- 3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 8034;
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 12380 (Graphics – 13281, CPU – 8945);
- 3DMark 13 – Time Spy Extreme DX12 4K: 5884 (Graphics – 6528, CPU – 3774);
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Extreme: 8281;
- Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 23606;
- Handbrake 1.3.1 (4K to 1080p encode): 40.57 average fps;
- PCMark 10: 6835 (Essentials – 10010, Productivity – 8507, Digital Content Creation – 10180);
- GeekBench 5.3.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1303, Multi-core: 8135;
- CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1589 cb, CPU Single Core 202 cb;
- CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3781 cb, CPU Single Core 505 cb;
- CineBench R23 (best run): CPU 9571 cb, CPU Single Core 1275 cb;
- x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 38.16 s.
The results show quite a significant bump in GPU performance in tests such as Uniengine and 3DMark, paired with a 3-7% bump in CPU multi-core tests. However, the CPU gains are mostly in the shorter duration loads, such as Geekbench or Cinebench. In comparison, the longer loads such as X265 or Handbrake show a marginal performance increase, and that’s because the CPU is still thermally limited in this design with both stock and undervolted settings, as explained in a previous section.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, on the Extreme and Extreme Tweaked profiles:
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- CPU Compute: 4m 13s (Extreme), 4m 14s (Extreme Tweaked);
- Blender 2.90 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute: 35s (CUDA), 15s (Optix);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: 11m 56s (Extreme), 11m 39s (Extreme Tweaked);
- Blender 2.90 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute: 2m 0s (CUDA), 56s (Optix);
- Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: CPU not recognized;
- SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 213.14 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 155.95 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 219.74 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 27.17 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 329.74 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 73.42 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 147.3 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 20.55 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 102.13 (Extreme).
And the newer SPECviewperf 2020 test:
- SPECviewerf 2020 – 3DSMax: 131.49 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Catia: 69.06 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Creo: 84.16 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Energy: 27.24 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Maya: 355.24 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – Medical: 33.61 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SNX: 20.32 (Extreme);
- SPECviewerf 2020 – SW: 237.54 (Extreme).
These are some solid results in the GPU heavy-tests such as Maya or Showcase, and the Intel i9 CPU performs alright even in this mid-powered implementation. In comparison, the 2020 GE66 Raider (same i9 + RTX 2080 Super 80+W) falls behind in the GPU tests, but wins in the CPU Specviewperf loads and in Blender, thanks to its higher-power CPU implementation.
As for the ROG Scar 17 built on a Ryzen 9 5900HX processor and RTX 3080 115+W, this lags in the GPU-heavy activities, trades blows with the GE76 Raider in most of the combined Specviewperf tests, and blows it out of the way in Blender.
Update: We’ve also put up a comparison of other popular RTX 3080 laptops that we’ve reviewed here on the site, the Lenovo Legion 7, Asus ROG Zephyrus S17 and the Asus ROG Scar 17.
However, don’t forget that the GE76 will soon get a bump to 11th gen Core H processors as well, which should push it closer to the AMD-built options in some of these tests.
With these out of the way, let’s look at some games. We ran all these tests on the Discrete Mode in the MSI control app.
We ran a couple of DX11, DX12, and Vulkan titles on the stock Extreme and Silent profiles, as well as on the Extreme Tweaked profile with the undervolted processor and overclocked GPU. We also tested FHD (internal display) and QHD (external monitor) resolutions.
Since the internal display is directly hooked into the Nvidia GPU on the GE76 Raider, that means there’s no Optimus to interfere with the performance in the higher fps titles. So you’ll get the full capabilities on the RTX 3080 Laptop GPU while playing games on either the laptop’s main screen, or an external monitor, without a noticeable difference between the two modes.
Ideally, I should have also tested the 4K gaming performance, where this 150+W 3080 implementation truly shines over the more power-limited 3080 models, but I no longer have a 4K monitor around, hence, we only did QHD resolution.
Here’s what we got:
RTX 3080 Laptop 155W
||FHD Extreme Tweaked
||QHD Extreme Tweaked,
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|154 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
||156 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
||121 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
||134 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|79 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||88 fps (67 fps – 1% low)
||68 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
||58 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
(DX 11, Best Looking Preset)
|117 fps (64 fps – 1% low)
||117 fps (65 fps – 1% low)
|Far Cry 5
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA)
|120 fps (86 fps – 1% low)
||125 fps (93 fps – 1% low)
||102 fps (74 fps – 1% low)
||112 fps (87 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX OFF)
|87 fps (51 fps – 1% low)
||92 fps (52 fps – 1% low)
||82 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
|Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor
(DX 11, Ultra Preset)
|220 fps (139 fps – 1% low)
||193 fps (132 fps – 1% low)
||176 fps (96 fps – 1% low)
|Red Dead Redemption 2
(DX 12, Ultra Optimized, TAA)
|124 fps (82 fps – 1% low)
||136 fps (86 fps – 1% low)
||98 fps (68 fps – 1% low)
|Rise of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA)
|125 fps (58 fps – 1% low)
||157 fps (78 fps – 1% low)
||132 fps (59 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA)
|109 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||122 fps (78 fps – 1% low)
||93 fps (56 fps – 1% low)
||101 fps (38 fps – 1% low)
(Vulkan, Ultra Preset)
|238 fps (161 fps – 1% low)
||248 fps (164 fps – 1% low)
||222 fps (162 fps – 1% low)
||188 fps (163 fps – 1% low)
|The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4)
|145 fps (86 fps – 1% low)
||147 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
||123 fps (76 fps – 1% low)
||123 fps (84 fps – 1% low)
- Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
- Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Strange Brigade, Red Dead Redemption 2, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities;
- Red Dead Redemption 2 Optimized profile based on these settings.
Those above are rasterization-only tests, and here are some results for RTX titles. For some reason Metro Exodus crashed with RTX settings, so we’re still digging into it.
RTX 3080 Laptop 150W
||FHD Extreme Tweaked
||QHD Extreme Tweaked,
(DX 12, Ultra Preset, RTX ON, DLSS OFF)
|108 fps (73 fps – 1% low)
||113 fps (72 fps – 1% low)
||92 fps (62 fps – 1% low)
||88 fps (33 fps – 1% low)
(DX 12, Ultra Preset + RTX, DLSS Auto)
|70 fps (55 fps – 1% low)
||77 fps (57 fps – 1% low)
||61 fps (46 fps – 1% low)
||56 fps (34 fps – 1% low)
|Shadow of Tomb Raider
(DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA, RTX Ultra)
|88 fps (48 fps – 1% low)
||95 fps (49 fps – 1% low)
||79 fps (23 fps – 1% low)
||70 fps (28 fps – 1% low)
There are a lot of numbers here, so let’s get into some context.
As far as the gaming performance goes, this is a beast. Once undervolted and overclocked, it ends up 10-25% faster than 115-130 W RTX 3080 Laptop configurations tested in the Scar 15 and Scar 17. Keep in mind that those models use Optimus and don’t get a MUX switch, though, so the performance gap dwindles to around ~10% on a FHD external monitor, and then jumps up again to 10-15% at QHD resolution, also on an external screen.
Now, you’ll be the judge of whether these differences matter for you, but all in all, this GE76 Raider is the best gaming laptop we’ve tested so far here on the site, and one of the fastest-performers on the market in these kinds of loads.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into some of the performance logs. Here’s a summary of the CPU/GPU temperatures recorded in a couple of different games and different power profiles, at FHD resolution and Ultra settings.
First off, let’s look at the stock Extreme Performance mode with the laptop sitting on a desk, which is what most of you will use the laptop in.
The fans ramp up to between 45-48 dB in this mode, which is OK for a top-performance setting. The GPU temperatures are also solid, in the mid to high 70s. Far Cry 5 only registers 68C on the GPU, but that’s because the GPU only runs at around 110W at FHD in this title, and not close to 150W as in all the others.
The CPU, on the other hand, runs hot in most titles, and spikes extremely hot at up to 100 C in all titles. Cyberpunk scores the best here, as it seems to allocate less power and a lower-clock to the processor, with Red Dead and Witcher 3 at the other end, allocating the most power and highest-frequencies. Check out the detailed logs below for more details.
I mentioned before that the bottom-panel design with small rubber feet choke the intakes on this laptop, and that’s why lifting up the back by a few inches has a significant impact on both the CPU and GPU temperatures. The CPU spikes are still high, though.
So what if you’d rather have a quieter experience. MSI offers a Balanced and a Silent profile on this laptop, both only impacting the fans’ speeds. As a result, expect 40-41 dB on Balanced and 36-37 dB on Silent.
Here are the Balanced logs.
And these are the Silent logs.
Since these profiles do not set any power limits for the GPU (and CPU), both of these end up running very hot and thermal throttle in most titles. FarCry 5 is again the exception, because the GPU only runs at lower power in this game at FHD resolution.
Long story short, the Silent profile is unusable for gaming on this laptop, and the Balanced profile is only usable with older and less demanding titles that won’t fully push the CPU and GPU.
Compared to other modern laptops, Whisper Mode 2.0 is not supported here on the Silent mode. You could limit the fps with Riva Tuner and that should lead to better temperatures on Balanced and even a usable Silent profile, but I didn’t get the time to properly test that, so I’ll leave it to you to experiment.
Back to that Extreme profile, let’s see what happens when we undervolt the CPU (-80mV) and overclock the GPU (+150 MHz Core, +300 MHz Memory), on what we call the Tweaked profile.
Performance-wise, the impact is between 0-10% between the tested titles, higher in those that put a greater load on the GPU.
Temperatures-wise, not much is changing, but the GPU tends to run at slightly higher clocks and higher temperatures in some titles.
Lifting up the laptop from the desk in order to improve the airflow into the fans helps once more, allowing to shed 2-5 degrees out of both the CPU and GPU.
Finally, I should mention that MSI also offers a Cooler Boost fan setting (a toggle in the User power profile), which spins the fans at their maximum capacity and noise-levels of 52-53 dB at head level.
This is hardly usable imo, as the noise would be difficult to cover even with headphones on, but it also helps lower the internal and external temperatures.
Still, based on our tests, having the laptop on the desk with Cooler Boost on leads to similar results as we measured when lifting up the laptop on the standard Extreme profile, and I’d recommend the latter as the more convenient way to deal with the CPU/GPU temperatures.
One final aspect we looked into is the performance when hooked to an external monitor, especially a higher resolution one that would alleviate some of the CPU load and put a bigger strain on the GPU.
We only tested at QHD though, as we don’t have a 4K monitor around, and this generally leads to lower CPU temperatures and slightly higher GPU temperatures than on the standard Extreme profile at FHD, with the laptop sitting on a desk.
Again, pushing the back up helps a fair bit. Furthermore, closing the lid and placing the laptop in a vertical stand helps as well, allowing unobstructed fresh-air into the intakes and 2-8 degrees lower CPU/GPU temperatures than with the laptop sitting on a desk.
With the 155W RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, the MSI GE76 Raider is clearly made for gaming and any sorts of loads that can benefit from that beastly graphics implementation. The Intel i9 CPU is rather thermal capped in this implementation, even more than on the GE66 Raider tested last year, and this might vary between samples. Our unit didn’t do great in the CPU tests, but did alright in the combined loads and in games.
This whole design is nonetheless made to primarily cater to the GPU, which leads to the CPU running hot and throttling in benchmarks and some games. The small rubber feet on the bottom choking the intakes surely don’t help here, and lifting up the laptop leads to significantly lower CPU and GPU temperatures, as well as a cooler exterior chassis. I’d also recommend undervolting the CPU.
Even so, this MSI GE76 Raider is the fastest gaming laptop we’ve tested so far, a fair step-up from the ROG Scar 17 with the 115-130W RTX 3080 Laptop GPU. This also gets a MUX switch, so Optimus doesn’t take a toll on the framerates.
At the same time MSI only offers a 300 Hz FHD screen on this notebook, which doesn’t do the hardware justice. It’s a shame you can’t get the 165 Hz QHD or 4K 120 Hz panels here, those are a proper match for the 150+W GPU. Hopefully, these will be added with the mid-year GE76 update, once this also gets a bump to Intel’s 11th gen Core H platform. If you’re going to buy one of these, I’d definitely wait for that update to be available.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
The MSI GE76 Raider gets a complex cooling design, with two high-capacity fans and a multitude of heatpipes spread over the CPU, GPU, and VRMs.
However, most of this thermal module addresses the GPU, and what’s left for the i9 CPU doesn’t seem to properly handle it on this unit. That surprising, as the i9 GE66 Raider tested last year did much better in terms of CPU temps and performance, with the same kind of thermal design. I’d suggest looking into a couple more reviews for more opinions on the thermals and CPU performance.
As an extra note, the wide-open bottom mesh provides excellent ventilation as long as you lift up the laptop to improve the airflow underneath, but dust also easily gathers inside with this design. I’d advise giving it a thorough cleanup once every 2-3 months with a can of compressed air. At the same time, the fans are choked up by those slim rubber feet when the laptop sits on a desk, with a significant impact over the CPU/GPU temperatures, as explained in the previous section.
With that out of the way, let’s look into the noise levels and external temperatures. The laptop runs quietly with daily use. Both fans rest idly with video streaming and very basic activities, and the CPU fan kicks in with multitasking, spinning at up to 35 dB, enough to hear it in a silent room. I haven’t noticed any coil winning or electronic noises on our unit.
Here’s what to expect in terms of noise, at head-level.
- Extreme Performance, fans on Cooler Boost – 52-53 dB with games;
- Extreme Performance, fans on Auto – 45-48 dB with games, 44-45 dB with Cinebench loop test;
- Silent – 37-38 dB with games, 0-35 dB with daily use.
With games, the fans ramp up to 45-48 dB at head-level on the standard Extreme Profile, which is alright for a performance laptop. Ramping up the fans to their max Cooler Boost mode pushes the noise to unusable 52-53 dB levels, while switching over to Silent lowers the noise under 38 dB when running games, but with a massive increase in temperatures. As explained above, gaming on either Silent on Balanced is hardly an option here with the existing power profiles.
For temperatures, everything looks good with daily use. With games, though, the WASD and arrows regions stay under 40 degrees C on the Extreme Performance profile, but the middle of the laptop and parts of the back reach high-40s and low-50s. Raising up the laptop lowers these temperatures by up to 5 degrees in the hottest parts. Of course, the laptop runs hotter on Silent, with some parts reaching high-50s on the interior and high-60s on the back.
Keep in mind we’ve run our tests in a controlled environment with the AC set at 24-25 degrees Celsius, so these temperatures might differ in other conditions.
*Daily Use – streaming Netflix in EDGE for 30 minutes, Super Saver profile, fans at 0-35 dB
*Gaming – Silent – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, fans at 36-37 dB
*Gaming – Extreme Performance Tweaked, fans on Auto – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes fans at 45-48 dB
For connectivity, there’s Wireless 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 through an Intel AX210 chip on this unit, as well as 2.5 Gigabit Lan. Our sample performed well on WiFi both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between.
Audio is handled by a set of four speakers here, two of them on the belly and two more that fire through those grills that flank the keyboard. These get loud and punchy, at 80+ dB at head-level, but the audio quality is weird, overprocessed and muffled somehow at the lower end, to the point where I couldn’t bear listening to anything above 50% volumes.
By default, the laptop comes with the Music profile selected in Nahimic, which does a lot of processing. Disabling the effects, though, makes the speakers sound even worse, much tinnier, and with very little bass. I’d suggest playing with the settings to figure out something that could work for you.
Overall, though, while the audio is a step-up from the GE66 and GS66 models here, it’s still not amazing. You’ll most likely still want to use a pair of proper headphones instead.
The webcam is placed at the top of the screen flanked by microphones. The image quality is better than the standard laptop webcam available these days, and with a wide-angle lens.
There’s a 99.9 Wh battery inside the GE76 Raider, the largest legally allowed on a notebook.
However, keep in mind that the system down not automatically switch the screen to 60 Hz when unplugging the laptop, which you might want to when looking to maximize runtimes, as running it at 300 Hz takes its slight toll. You’ll also want to disable the light-bar and keyboard’s illumination, as well as make sure to use the laptop on the Hybrid mode that enables the Intel iGPU when looking to squeeze the longest runtimes.
Here’s what we got on our unit on Hybrid, with the screen’s brightness set at around 120-nits (60%) and 60 Hz refresh:
- 20 W (~5 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 14.8 W (~6+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 15 W (~6+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 25 W (~4 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Not bad, not great.
And here’s what happens on the Discrete mode with 300 Hz screen refresh:
- 60 W (~1+ h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 30 W (~3+ h of use) – 1080p fullscreen video on Youtube in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 30 W (~3+ h of use) – Netflix fullscreen in Edge, Silent Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
- 40 W (~2-2.5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Balanced Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
MSI pairs this laptop with a chunky and heavy 280W power-brick, which weighs around 1 kilo with the included cables in the EU version. I wish they would have made a more compact charger, the kind the competition offers. There’s also no support for USB-C charging, which means you’ll have to grab this chunky brick along when traveling.
Price and availability- MSI GE76 Raider
The 2021 MSI GE76 Raider is widely available at this point all around the world.
This top-version tested here, with the i9-10980HK processor, 64 GB of RAM, 2 TB of SSD storage, Nvidia RTX 3080 Laptop graphics, and the 300 Hz screen, MSRPs at $3399 in the US and around 4000 EUR in Europe. Configurations with 32 GB of RAM and 1 TB of storage are available for a couple of hundreds USD/EUR less, and you’re also going to pay extra for the 4K 120 Hz screen, where available.
Mid-specced versions with an 8Core i7 processor and the RTX 3070 GPU (up to 140W) are available from 2300 USD/ 2500 EUR, and the RTX 3060 models should also be available in the near future, but are not for now.
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices in your region at the time you’re reading this article.
Final thoughts- MSI GE76 Raider review
I’ve said it throughout this review and I will say it again: this top-configuration of the MSI GE76 Raider is the fastest gaming laptop we’ve tested so far and one of the fastest currently available on the market. Having a 155W 3080 and i9 inside is what’s driving the performance, paired with an alright thermal solution, a MUX switch, and a fast display.
Throw in the premium design and craftsmanship, good inputs and IO, and the big battery, and this looks like a hard-to-match performance laptop. The devil is in the details, though, and you should carefully consider some of the quirks discovered in the article above, especially in a product that demands a premium over its competitors. We’ll get to that in a bit.
First off, this laptop is built on 10th gen Intel hardware, and with the bump to 11th gen scheduled for May-June of this year, waiting for that is a no-brainer imo. On one hand, that’s could improve on the IPC, overall performance, and possibly on CPU thermals, and if it doesn’t, these early-2021 SKUs will be available at sale prices once those are out.
And I’m not even going to debate the choice of AMD vs Intel right now, as it’s pretty obvious that AMD have a competing advantage in terms of efficiency and multi-threaded performance and that’s not going to change with 11th gen Core, so if that’s what’s going to benefit your workloads, an AMD-based unit is the way to go. Unfortunately, the options for AMD models with the same kind of high-power GPU are limited, at least for now.
Then, I don’t think the 300 Hz screen available on this laptop does the hardware justice, and MSI should offer 165 Hz QHD or 4K 120 Hz panels for this GE76 series, especially on the RTX 3080 Laptop configurations, which truly show their worth at these higher resolutions. I’m pretty sure those will be added at some point in the next few months, but are not available as of March 2021. Update: 4K 120 Hz screen options are now available in some regions.
Add in the short battery life even when you restart the laptop on Hybrid, the lacks of biometrics and USB-C charging, the chunky power-brick, and the unpolished power profiles that require manual-tweaking to get the most of this sort of hardware, and the GE76 Raider might not be that great of a deal.
And that circles us back to the fact that this sells for more than competition right now, such as the Asus ROG Scar 17, the Eluktronics Prometeus XVII (and XMG, Schenker similar models), or the Dell Alienware m17. The former is AMD-based and not as fast in games, but cheaper, more efficient, faster in CPU workloads, and available with a QHD 165 Hz screen by default. The barebones are also AMD-based with up to 150W 3080s and 165Hz QHD screens, usually excellent value and cheaper than the A-brands, and the latter is still Intel-based with a similar 150+W RTX 3080, available with optional GSync or 360 Hz screen, and still cheaper at base, especially with the occasional sales that Dell’s running time and about.
Update: In the meantime, we’ve covered a couple of other more recent RTX 3080 full-performance laptops, and you can find our reviews here: Alienware X17 (3080 165W), Acer Predator Helios 500 (3080 165W), Asus Zephyrus S17 (3080 140W) and the Lenovo Legion 7 (3080 165W).
All these accounted for, I feel that the MSI GE76 Raider should be on your to-be-considered list, but is not necessarily a top pick for everyone.
If you’re looking for a multi-purpose 17-inch performance laptop that you can occasionally use unplugged or plan to lug around to work, this might not be for you. However, as a gaming machine that’s going to sit on a desk, plugged in most of the time, this is hard to beat. But even so, I’d still recommend holding off for a few more months and get the mid-year update instead, especially if you’re interested in the 3080 models. A faster and better-managed CPU and higher resolution display options would truly make this an amazing gamer. If you will afford it, that is, given this is already expensive and those screens would further add up to the cost.
That wraps up our review of the MSI GE76 Raider, but I’d love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and impressions on it. Please get in touch in the comments section down below.
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