• Justin-Rey

Long-term Review: Early 2019 MSI GS65

TLDR: The early 2019 GS65 held up very well to my daily use with some minor issues.

It’s been a little over 8 months since MSI launched the 2019 GS65 with RTX GPUs. This review will cover how this laptop has performed as my daily driver since its release. I’ll go over the build, provide new performance numbers (including 2560x1080 Ultrawide), additional tweaks I’ve made, some issues I ran into, and if I still recommend this laptop.


For my initial launch review, click HERE

For a comparison to the 2018 GS65, click HERE


Let’s get started!


Specs:

The 2019 GS65 has many different configurations to choose from.


Base Specs

  • 15.6 inch thin-bezel, 144Hz, IPS-level display

  • Intel i7 8750H

  • Nvidia RTX 2060 up to RTX 2080 Max-Q (80w variant)

  • 16GB DDR4 (single channel) up to 64GB DDR4 (dual channel) RAM @2666MHz

  • Up to 2x 2TB PCIe NVME drives


My Unit

  • 15.6 inch thin-bezel, 144Hz, IPS-level display

  • Intel i7 8750H

  • Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q

  • 32GB DDR4 (dual channel) RAM @2666MHz, tweaked

  • 2x 2TB Intel 660p NVME

*Conductonaut Liquid Metal (LM) repaste on CPU and GPU by HIDevolution to improve thermal cooling and performance


My laptop remains mostly the same since launch but I tweaked the ram to be slightly faster and also swapped out the 2 Samsung drives (500gb 970 Evo / 1TB 960 Evo) for dual 2TB Intel 660p drives.


Build

This laptop is my daily driver and has been used extensively over the past 8 months. One of the concerns with this laptop is how the frame and its components will survive continuous use since it’s so thin and light. Well, let me give you a quick rundown of what this thing has been through the past 8 months.


This laptop is stuffed in a backpack filled with a MINIMUM of 10lbs of additional gear. It goes with me EVERYDAY to work, cafes, friends/family houses, etc. I’ve taken this thing on a total of 5 domestic and international flights combined, storing it under chairs or overhead bins.

I edit 4k videos and play games on this laptop at LEAST 4 times a week.


NO MAJOR BENDS. NO BREAKS. NO CHIPPING OR SCUFFED PAINT.


Yup, this version has a very rugged frame. I will say though that I take extra precaution with storing and transporting the laptop by using a travel lapdesk. Even with the extra care I give this laptop, there is some slight bowing at the rear of the frame, probably because of the laptop stand I use. It hasn’t gotten any worse over the past 8 months so this may be the extent of the bowing. It doesn’t bother me at all.


If you look closely, you'll see a slight bow

Opening the laptop is still smooth and only requires one hand. I haven’t developed any squeaks or additional resistance since I purchased it. Everything under the lid looks and feels new with no real signs of usage. The screen is still bright, the keys register input, the trackpad is still very smooth and responsive. I do wipe down the keyboard weekly to reduce oil and smudges from sitting too long on the keys and trackpad.


All ports still function with no issues as well. The awesome headphone jack still works flawlessly and powered MANY of my high-end headphones just fine. I only use the headphone jack when I’m not at my computer desk as I use a DAC/Amp setup at home (Review coming in the future!)


One thing I noted in my previous review was how MSI skipped the SD card reader but it honestly didn’t affect my workflow much, if at all. I have a portable USB-C dock that has an SD card reader built-in so having one on the laptop itself wasn’t necessary, especially because some implemented SD card readers are SUPER SLOW compared to using an adapter.


Looks like the G in RGB died

The only issue I encountered is that the RGB LED under some keys has died, resulting in some colors not showing up at all. I revered all key colors to red since it’s the only color that displays correctly on all keys. I had this issue with the previous 2018 GS65 and GS43. I’m still under warranty so I can ship it to HIDevolution for replacement, but I’ll wait until it’s closer to the end of my warranty period.



Overall, the build of this laptop has stood up to my daily usage very well. It looks and feels like new with the exception of the RGB light dying on some keys. I’m VERY happy with this build and I expect this laptop to last until the next generation of laptop RTX GPUs, which I think is 2-3 years.


Software

MSI includes a good bundle of software with all of its laptops. While they're helpful for new customers, I uninstalled or disabled ALL OF THEM.


Dragon Center 2.0 – It’s a great software for casual users but once you start undervolting and tweaking settings, this software can/will conflict with other software, like ThrottleStop. I disabled this in Task Scheduler instead of uninstalling because the Microsoft Store REQUIRES the app to be active when downloading Nvidia/Intel control panels.


Nahimic 3.0 – Don’t need it since I have a Dac/Amp combo. Even without my external DAC/amp setup, I didn’t need the extra sound processing and app running in the background. This was fully uninstalled.


True Color 2.0 – Uninstalled since I custom calibrate my screen with an iDisplayPro. The color calibration is actually decent so I wouldn’t uninstall it unless you have a calibrator to use.


Performance and Temps

Alright, it’s been a little over 8 months and TONS of new games have been released. How does this laptop compare now that drivers have matured? And, how does it perform with a 1080P ultrawide screen?


Let’s find out.


Performance has remained high for this thin and light laptop. I’m able to play ALL new games at max settings with no issues, even at 2560 x 1080 with the exception of Metro Exodus, that game is just SUPER hard to run with a higher resolution. The other game that’s hard to run but feels fine is Control. It’s not an ultra fast-paced game so 30FPS is fine for me.

For those that play more competitive games like Overwatch, Apex Legends, and Rainbow 6, turning the graphics settings to medium or low will yield VERY high FPS, at least 144FPS.


To achieve these scores, I did do some additional tweaks prior to the driver install process. They’re described below in the “My Improvements” portion. I personally use my 3.6GHz profile 95% of the time since there isn’t much (if any) of an FPS difference between it and 3.9Ghz. Also, the slightly slower clock speeds lead to lower CPU temps and less fan noise.


Temps have remained about the same as when I first got the GS65 in February. Please keep in mind that I’m running a custom fan curve and have Conductonaut applied from HIDevolution.


Overall, I am VERY HAPPY with the performance of the GS65. It’s only been 8 months, but that’s considered a LONG time in the technology world. 3 months after I got this laptop, 9th Gen Intel CPUs launched and ALL major manufacturers refreshed their laptops with them, including the GS65. This laptop holds up VERY WELL to it’s refreshed version.


Battery life

MSI advertises 8+ hours of battery life, but it will really depend on what you’re doing and what your laptop settings are. The below numbers are what I've experienced over the past 8 months using Throttlestop and utilizing 30% display brightness.


  • Productivity - Over 9 hours (30% brightness, keyboard lights off, very minimal browsing)

  • Web surfing - Over 6 hours, depending on how often I refresh a page

  • Streaming Video - Over 4 hours


My Improvements

Here are my personal improvements that have been refined over the past 8 months.


1 – Uninstall or disable Dragon Center, Nahimic, and True Color

I disabled Dragon Center to ensure that it doesn’t conflict with Throttlestop, MSI afterburner, and Silent Option. Dragon Center must be running when trying to install the Nvidia Control Panel and Intel Control panel from the Microsoft Store, so it stays installed but disabled in Task manager. The Nahimic and True Color programs weren’t needed and I didn’t want them running in the background.


2 - Install and configure Throttlestop

Throttlestop Guide - Click Here

"How to take Full Control of the 8750H" - By Hackness of NotebookReview.com - Click Here


3 - CPU Undervolt, and Underclock profiles

Using Throttlestop, I generated 3 profiles

  • 3.9GHz - 4.1GHz

3.9GHz - 4.1GHz: This is the stock speed of the CPU with undervolt
  • 3.6GHz – 3.8GHz

3.5GHz – 3.7GHz: Underclocked the CPU and applied a larger undervolt
  • .8GHz – 1.4GHz

.8GHz – 1.4GHz: This is my battery profile that automatically switches on when on battery power. The CPU runs at 800MHz up to 1.4GHz when turbo is enabled.

4 - Use a Driver Slimmer when installing new Nvidia Drivers

Download it HERE

I noticed better performance in most games when I used this program. The reason for using this program is to remove any bloatware Nvidia baked into its driver that runs in the background and negatively affects performance.

When you use the program, this is what it looks like and this is what I check off before hitting install.

I suggest you use DDU in combination with CCleaner to remove the driver and clean out the registry prior to installing new drivers. I've been using these 2 programs when installing drivers for years without issues.


5 - GPU overclock

I applied +120 to the core via MSI Afterburner. I didn’t overclock the memory because it actually caused the dGPU to be active at all times, reducing battery life when using the laptop for general computing. Also, there wasn’t any REAL performance increase from overclocking the memory.

I also made a custom curve once I added +120 to the clock. The purpose of the curve is to increase clock speeds at a lower voltage which may lead to a more efficient system and reduced heat. Although I saw a slight 1c or 2c difference in GPU temps, I was within the margin of error so results may vary.

One thing to note is that in some games, you might see a DECREASE in FPS with a flat voltage curve. During my testing, the GPU averaged around 1350MHz boost when gaming but some games/situations will make the GPU want to boost above that. If you want to avoid this potential limitation, just overclock the core. For me, I added +120 then flattened the curve out at 681mV which comes out to 1395MHz max boost.


6 - Custom Fan Curve

My custom fan curve has remained the same as my initial review.

I carried over my fan profile from last year’s model. I used “Silent Option” to set my fan curve. Below are my settings and a chart showing the various activation levels.

Download Silent Option HERE - Use the "Skylake" version.

Ex: 66c on the CPU will activate level 3. This ramps the fans up to 70% or 4200rpm

7 - Bios Optimizations

*WARNING* DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

-Bios Unlock and Optimization guide by Falkentyne of NotebookReview.com - Click Here


8 - Flash the 2080 Max-Q from 80w to 90w

*WARNING* DO THIS AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!

You can flash the 80w 2080 Max-Q to a 90w version. Here's my blog talking about performance between the 2 versions and how to do it. Click Here

I personally don't use the 90w BIOS anymore, I just don't like the extra heat generated. Maybe in the future, I'll reflash my GPU to utilize the full 90w if a game requires more speed that an simple overclock can't provide.


9 - Optimize RAM

I went into the advanced BIOS, under Overclock Performance and Memory, and made the following tweaks.


I noticed a small improvement in CPU performance which leads to a frame or 2 more in CPU-intensive games. It's nothing major and most people probably won't feel the difference, but it's there.


10 - Reduce battery charge and perform quarterly calibration

To try to extend the lifespan on my battery, I've limited the max charge to 50% at all times. I use my laptop plugged in most of the time as I don't like keeping the battery charged at 100% for long periods of time. It can also be a safety hazard as lithium batteries can swell if overcharged/discharged.

Using Dragon Center, I go to the battery tab and choose "Best for Battery". I then go into Task Scheduler and disable Dragon Center. The laptop will remember to limit the max charge to 50%. If I know I'm going somewhere and will need longer battery life (like a flight), I'll re-enable Dragon Center and change the max charge level to 100% and then disabling it.

I also perform quarterly calibrations on the battery. My current wear level (based on HWiNFO64) is 2.6% over the past 8 months. If this persists, I should be at 80% max capacity in 5 years which is a perfect time to upgrade.


Who should buy this laptop?

My thoughts on who should get this laptop remain the same.

  1. Those with an Intel 6th gen processor, Nvidia 900 series GPU, or older. These people have systems that are barely performing with current programs and needs

  2. Someone who wants to get their first high-performance laptop that doesn’t sacrifice battery life and portability. They want to use this device for many years without fear of owning a laptop that underperforms a year from now.

  3. The “Everyday Enthusiasts” who want it all, regardless of how well their current setup performs. They want high performance blended with portability, and are willing to “upgrade” from a laptop they purchased a year ago... Enthusiasts like me.

Should you buy this laptop if you already own last year’s GS65 or similar?

IMHO, unless you’re a #3, NO. The 2018 GS65, other GTX 1060 and GTX 1070 laptops are still amazing performers and can play all of the latest games with no issues.


If you do decide to upgrade to the early 2019 GS65, this is what you get:

  1. Improved cooling solution

  2. More rigid body

  3. Faster GPU

  4. Larger and improved trackpad

What about the refreshed version with a 9th gen processor?


Eh.


The latest version of the GS65 stuffs a 9th Gen Intel processors and 240Hz screens BUT, you pay a BIG price premium for that stuff.

I don't think a slightly faster CPU and 240Hz screen justifies a $605 price increase. I think you should skip the 9th gen version and get the 8th gen version. Click the links above to check them out for yourself.


Conclusion

It's been 8 months since this laptop launched and I still believe it's the best laptop I've ever owned. I'm the kind of user that wants it all. I want desktop-like performance in a small package, I want long battery life for general productivity, and I want something that is portable so I can bring it with me anywhere. In my opinion, the early 2019 GS65 has it all.


Pros

  • Thin and light – At 4.2 lbs, this laptop is very light compared to the competition. MSI accomplished this by making the frame out of thin pieces of aluminum.

  • Low profile – The GS65 looks and acts like a business laptop. It doesn’t scream GAMER at all, even with the gold accents and MSI Dragon logo on the back.

  • Excellent performance – The new GS65 is a beast of a laptop. With the LM repaste, it has the ability to power and cool both the Nvidia RTX 2080 Max-Q and the Intel 8750H with no throttling. This is an improvement over last year's model that had issues with throttling even with LM applied. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you order this laptop with LM from an authorized e-tailer unless you're comfortable applying it yourself.

  • Great battery life – When doing basic productivity, you’ll be able to squeeze at least 8 hours of battery out of this system Just don’t expect the same when playing games or surfing the web. Undervolting helps and I believe everyone should do it to maximize battery life.

Cons

  • Frame design – Even though MSI has improved the frame to feel more stable, I still think they can do more to make it solid. My scale shows 4.2lbs of weight which means they have some room to thicken up the frame a bit and stay under 5lbs. The only bend I can see is the slight bowing at the back of the laptop.

  • RGB key lights - I think MSI has an issue with their RGB. For the last MSI models I owned, I had issues with RGB lights dying and this model is no exception. Whatever is causing the RGB LEDs to go out prematurely, they need to fix it for future models.

  • Self-Maintenance – I didn’t list this last year, but I should have. The motherboard is upside down which means you can’t just open up the bottom cover and swap out Ram or SSDs. You’ll have to disconnect ribbons and wires and CAREFULLY remove the motherboard. If you accidentally break a wire, R.I.P. I have no idea why MSI couldn’t have a better design for this but I’m hoping that they revise this in future iterations.

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, one that you can use for hours of productivity with great battery life AND to play games at MAXIMUM SETTINGS, this is the one I recommend.


I love this thing!


Have fun!


-The Everyday Enthusiast


*Disclaimer – I purchased this laptop with my own money


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