MSI Katana GF66 Evaluation | PCMag

Depend on a gaming laptop computer named after a legendary blade to outline the innovative in funds gear. The MSI Katana GF66 (begins at $799; $1,199 for the in-store Micro Heart mannequin examined right here) is a powerful worth amongst 15.6-inch funds gaming laptops, providing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU at a value you’d usually anticipate finding an RTX 3050 Ti, plus an eight-core Intel Core i7 CPU and a roomy 1TB solid-state drive. Although its battery life is shorter and its display screen much less vivid than we would like, the Katana however covers the gaming necessities with out main weaknesses, particularly in lately of rising core-component costs and a redefinition of what makes for a “funds” gaming laptop computer. It replaces MSI’s Bravo 15 as our Editors’ Alternative winner amongst inexpensive 15-inch gaming rigs.

Staying on the Price range Rails

The Katana GF66 is about as wallet-friendly a gaming laptop computer as you’ll discover. The $799 base mannequin is nice for primary 1080p gaming and esports, with a six-core Core i5-11400H processor, a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, a 144Hz display screen refresh price, 8GB of reminiscence, and 512GB of solid-state storage. Step-up fashions supply Nvidia’s 4GB RTX 3050 Ti for peppier efficiency. Home windows 10 Dwelling and a one-year guarantee are commonplace throughout the board.

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MSI Katana GF66 right angle

(Picture: Molly Flores)

The highest-tier $1,199 mannequin seen and examined right here has an eight-core, 2.3GHz (4.6GHz turbo) Core i7-11800H, GeForce RTX 3060 graphics with 6GB of show reminiscence, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The worth solely applies in-store at Micro Heart, however even if you happen to spend as much as $200 extra on-line, it is nonetheless affordable: Asus’ comparably geared up TUF Gaming F15 instructions $1,399 on Amazon. You’ll find an RTX 3060 for much less within the Gigabyte G5 KC (I noticed that mannequin for $1,049 after rebate), however that laptop computer is saddled with a previous-generation Core i5-10500H chip and half the storage (512GB).

MSI Katana GF66 left angle

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Visually, the Katana GF66 makes its gaming credentials plain. The black-and-red shade scheme is much from distinctive amongst gaming laptops (check out the Acer Nitro 5 for a seeming sibling), however it nonetheless supplies a way of id. An angled lid and huge cooling vents complement the look.

MSI Katana GF66 rear view

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Inward-sloped edges assist the Katana look sleeker than its precise measurements of 0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD). Its weight is inside funds gaming expectations at 4.96 kilos. Ditto for its all-plastic construct, which feels stable if not luxurious.

MSI Katana GF66 front view

(Picture: Molly Flores)

The Katana GF66’s 1,920-by-1,080-pixel show could possibly be higher. Its 144Hz refresh price is its finest characteristic, enabling a silky-smooth gaming expertise; the GeForce RTX 3060 GPU has no hassle pushing it to the restrict in lots of video games, as our benchmark checks will present beneath. However its image high quality is ho-hum for discriminating eyes; our Datacolor SpyderX Elite measured a meager 62% protection of the sRGB shade gamut and a peak brightness of a modest 267 nits.

Common Inputs and Outputs

Pink keyboard backlighting is the MSI Katana GF66’s solely actual nod to gamer-style bling. Each the tops and the perimeters of the keys are illuminated, and I just like the futuristic font on the keycaps.

MSI Katana GF66 keyboard

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Keypresses, sadly, lack tactile engagement; there ought to be extra up-and-down journey. The quantity pad additionally looks like a squeezed-in afterthought, with undersize keys and a nonstandard three-column format. The touchpad, offset in keeping with the keyboard, has an analogous mixture of execs and cons: It is rightly sized and has a {smooth}, stutter-free floor, however it makes you’re employed with its stiff bodily click-down motion. Counting on light, digital tap-to-click is a simple option to get round that.

The bodily connectors arrayed on the Katana’s sides embody three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (two Kind-A and one Kind-C), a legacy USB 2.0 port (properly fitted to plugging in a mouse), headset and Ethernet jacks, and an HDMI 2.0b video output.

MSI Katana GF66 left ports

(Picture: Molly Flores)

MSI Katana GF66 right ports

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Thunderbolt 4 stays on the want checklist. There are not any built-in biometric options, and the 720p webcam atop the show lacks a privateness shutter. Twin audio system beneath the palm relaxation challenge strained however loud-enough sound.

The reminiscence and storage are user-upgradable, although eradicating the underside panel is hard. After taking out quite a few screws, you will want a trim-removal instrument to softly pry round its edges earlier than it comes free. Inside, you will discover two M.2 2280 PCI Specific 3.0 SSD slots and two DDR4-3200 reminiscence sockets. The higher RAM restrict is 64GB (through two 32GB modules). Additionally accessible are the Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 card and the 53.5-watt-hour battery. (See our characteristic on the way to improve your laptop computer.)

Testing the Katana GF66: Stable Efficiency for the Cash

To refresh, our Katana GF66 take a look at unit has an eight-core Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, a 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive. That recipe is well-suited for 1080p gaming, as our benchmarks will present. The RTX 3060 GPU, as carried out right here, is rated for 85 watts.

As for cooling, the Katana is not a silent runner by any means, however its followers aren’t distracting, and its chassis has no hotspots the place you’d usually put your fingers.

MSI Katana GF66 underside

(Picture: Molly Flores)

The Katana GF66 faces an uphill battle towards many of the gaming laptops I used for comparisons, that are listed beneath. They embody the Alienware x15, MSI’s personal Delta 15, and the XPG Xenia 15 KC. The smaller Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is the one one which additionally sports activities an RTX 3060 GPU. As examined, nonetheless, all of those fashions value at the very least a number of hundred {dollars} greater than the Katana.

Productiveness and Content material Creation Checks

Our first take a look at is UL’s PCMark 10, which simulates a wide range of real-world productiveness and workplace workflows to measure general system efficiency and likewise features a storage subtest for the first drive. The Katana GF66 scored properly, hitting far above the 4,000 factors we take into account an indication of robust productiveness efficiency. Although it did not excel within the storage take a look at, its SSD presents ample pep for common use.

Our different three benchmarks deal with the CPU, utilizing all obtainable cores and threads, to price a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 makes use of that firm’s Cinema 4D engine to render a fancy scene, whereas Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Professional simulates well-liked apps starting from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine studying. Lastly, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to transform a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p decision (decrease occasions are higher).

Our last productiveness take a look at is Puget Techniques’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which makes use of the Inventive Cloud model 22 of Adobe’s well-known picture editor to price a PC’s efficiency for content material creation and multimedia functions. It is an automatic extension that executes a wide range of common and GPU-accelerated Photoshop duties starting from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving a picture to making use of masks, gradient fills, and filters.

The Katana GF66’s middling CPU efficiency is disappointing; the XPG and particularly the Alienware outperformed it utilizing the identical Core i7-11800H. This type of efficiency deficiency suggests its CPU is reaching an influence or thermal restrict. The cut price MSI remains to be a potent performer, however not as potent appropriately.

Graphics and Gaming Checks

For Home windows PCs, we run each artificial and real-world gaming checks. The previous consists of two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark take a look at suite: Evening Raid (extra modest, appropriate for techniques with built-in graphics) and Time Spy (extra demanding, appropriate for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). Additionally looped into that group is the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which we use to gauge OpenGL efficiency.

Shifting on, our real-world gaming testing comes from the in-game benchmarks of F1 2021, Murderer’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege, representing simulation, open-world action-adventure, and aggressive/esports shooter video games, respectively. On laptops, Valhalla and Siege are run twice (Valhalla at Medium and Extremely high quality, Siege at Low and Extremely high quality), whereas we run F1 2021 as soon as at Extremely high quality settings and, for GeForce RTX laptops, a second time with Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing turned on.

Thankfully, the Katana GF66’s CPU efficiency difficulties did not appear to hold over into the GPU-focused checks, the place it usually outperformed the Asus, additionally geared up with the RTX 3060. Of observe: It achieved properly over 144fps in Rainbow Six Siege, making full use of its 144Hz display screen. No latest RTX 3050 laptop computer has gone by way of our new benchmark suite but, however the RTX 3060 is a far superior performer and has extra video reminiscence (6GB versus 4GB). If you happen to can afford the bounce, it is worthwhile.

Battery and Show Checks

PCMag checks laptops’ battery life by taking part in a regionally saved 720p video file (the open-source Blender film Tears of Metal) with display screen brightness at 50% and audio quantity at 100% till the system quits. Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting are turned off throughout the take a look at.

We additionally use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its software program to measure a laptop computer display screen’s shade saturation—what proportion of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 shade gamuts or palettes the show can present—and its brightness in nits (candelas per sq. meter) on the display screen’s 50% and peak settings.

Neither battery life nor show high quality is a energy for the Katana GF66. We anticipate at the very least six hours from a 15-inch gaming laptop computer, and on the show aspect, 100% of sRGB and at the very least 300 nits of brightness can be good. As I famous, what salvages the Katana’s display screen for gaming is its 144Hz refresh price.

The Essence of Laptop computer Price range Gaming

Although we want the MSI Katana GF66 had a extra vivid display screen, slightly extra CPU muscle, and longer battery life, none of these flaws stops it from being a good funds gaming laptop computer. It presents GeForce RTX 3060 graphics at an RTX 3050 Ti (and even common RTX 3050) value, and that GPU helps it benefit from its 144Hz show. That is a uncommon achievement for a laptop computer on this value class, and equally uncommon for the cash is its roomy 1TB solid-state drive, properly suited to the ballooning sizes of at the moment’s sport installs. All informed, the Katana GF66 is a standout worth and earns an Editors’ Alternative award for cash-strapped avid gamers’ consideration.

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