Review: MSI Pulse GL66 Gaming Laptop

MSI has always had a long-lasting concept of offering either futuristic or sci-fi designs for its gaming laptop. The hardware manufacturer is able to include modern parts to keep gaming at the forefront of its laptops. Having a few different lines such as the Katana and Pulse, there’s generally a setup for everyone’s needs whether it be multimedia, multi-tasking or purely gaming. MSI sent over the Pulse GL66 for review and this laptop model sits at about a mid-tier for its users. This specific model is a solid laptop across the board that ends up being thick in its futuristic sci-fi design.

There isn’t a ton that stands out with the Pulse GL66, but there also isn’t anything lacking. This build includes an Intel i7-11800H eight core processor that’s no slouch and offers a more competitive processor for the price than some of the competition. It’s rated at 4.6 GHz, which is plenty quick. MSI includes 16GB DDR4 RAM at 3200MHz, which is high for a laptop. It also supports up to 64GB for expansion, which means the every day workload is snappy and responsive. Match this with a 512GB NVMe SSD and an additional 1 TB HDD, this would be a good laptop for doing video editing and everyday work. It also includes the latest Windows 11 as its operating system.

MSI has made sure to include the latest GPU tech on the market in its laptops. This review model includes a NVIDIA RTX 3060 6GB to allow for solid gaming options with some Ray Tracing options thrown in. The GPU has a power rating of 85 watts, so it’s not the highest power rating, but with the heat of this laptop, anything higher would be an issue. This includes the latest DLSS model to squeeze extra performance out of the build. The display that’s included is 1080p with a 144hz refresh rate that best matches this setup. There will be some games out there that will push it to its limits if running at the highest settings, but it’s still the best matchup as 1440p would be pushing things.

The design is akin to past MSI gaming laptops. On the lid exterior is a gray metallic-looking cover that’s designed to look like armor. It dawns a laser-etched modern MSI dragon logo design, but no RGB so it ends up being more low profile. It’s also hefty compared to many gaming laptops. I do like how the hinges are placed for the display as it feels sturdy. A big plus is having the number key on a laptop and MSI managed to squeeze this in. The RGB on the keyboard is luminous as it shines around the exterior of each key and through the font. The font does seem tacky, but it goes along with that sci-fi look. Keys are responsive and the touch pad is placed directly where you can’t bump it by accident while typing.

If the laptop is plugged in, the battery obviously won’t be an issue, but another major issue crops up. The battery life, even though MSI does everything with its software to curb it, isn’t great. It seems that people do try to game on a battery, but there’s no point as I’m only seeing two to three hours of battery life when being used. The system will use the iGPU to help alleviate battery drain when you’re not gaming and off the battery. Using this laptop in a stationary dock, especially with the ability to output 4K at 60hz with the HDMI for doing work, seems to be the best way to utilize. The bottom of the laptop includes built-in rising bumps for helping air flow, but that doesn’t help the heat of the unit.

Playing a game on this with a controller or exterior mouse and keyboard is really the only option. This is due to the heat issues as this is the hottest laptop that I’ve tested under load. The keyboard becomes hot to the touch and it still gets warm even with basic use, but at least it’s usable. MSI has touted the latest Cooler Boost 5 that offers redesigned heat pipes with two fans and also MSI thermal grease for a better transfer of heat. I understand the heat has to go somewhere, and the system doesn’t throttle while gaming. The CPU peaked at 97 degrees and the GPU at 86. You can argue that’s the “safe” zone, but it’s toasty on top of those two fans getting loud. It’s worth playing a game with a headset if noise bothers you.

The 3DMark benchmark came in at 7183 with a CPU score of 8451 and a GPU score of 6998. The Port Royal score, which benchmarks the Ray Tracing capabilities of the system, comes in at 4073. Both scored below average, but were halfway up the curve, although I believe that metric should be taken with a grain of salt. With the benchmarks, I ran the latest benchmark from Cyberpunk 2077 with a combination of Ray Tracing and DLSS. The latest patch for the game seemed to up the ante for graphical fidelity. Doom Eternal was the other game I benchmarked with a mix of NVIDIA technologies. The other two I ran were for Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite. Halo and Doom allowed for higher than 60 FPS, but unfortunately do the GPU memory limitations, Doom was run at high settings. The other three were ran at maximum settings at 1080p with an uncapped frame rate. The results are below:

Closing Comments:

The MSI Pulse GL66 embodies the mid-level gaming laptop setup with a good amount of ability to be used for video editing and other work-related duties. The RTX 3060 allows for proficient gaming that, in most cases, will net around 60 FPS on major titles with settings cranked. Some games may be hampered by the 6 GB limit of the GPU, but if you’re not looking to play the top AAA games, it’s even more of a bonus. It clearly can run these games, but this system will undoubtedly get hot and get loud. This retails for $1,499.99 but looks to be currently discounted through various retailers. It’s a solid system for the price that won’t blow you away, but can accomplish everything that’s thrown at it.

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