Review: 2020 MSI GS66
TLDR: Very fast, very hot, very loud
Another year, another revision to MSI's 15-inch GS line of gaming notebooks. In this revision, MSI has somehow stuffed the new 10th-Gen Intel i9 processor and the new Nvidia RTX Super GPUs into a thin package. To accomplish this, MSI had to give up the title of the "Thinnest 15-inch Gaming Laptop" by increasing the thickness to accommodate an improved heatsink and to also increase the rigidity of the chassis.
Let's see if the GS66 is a worthy successor to the GS65.
Comparison vs the 2019 GS65 - Click Here
Specs as reviewed
Display – 15.6-inch, 1080P, 300Hz Refresh Rate, 3ms Response Time, IPS-Level (AUO328E Panel)
CPU – Intel i9 10980HK (2.4GHz Base, 4.4GHz All-Core Boost, 5.3GHz Single-Core Boost)
GPU – Nvidia RTX 2080 Super Max-Q (80 Watts), 8GB GDDR6
Ram – 32GB DDR4 RAM (2666MHz, Dual Channel)
Storage – 1TB NVMe SSD
Wireless – Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
OS – Windows 10 Pro (November 1909)
Battery – 4 cell, 99.9Wh
Weight – 4.63lbs, 6.3lbs including the charger.
CPU and GPU repasted with Conductonaut by HIDevolution
There are some major differences between the 2019 GS65 models and the 2020 GS66 models.
Intel 10th Gen i7 and i9 processors – This year’s model includes a 10th gen 6-core processor and an 8-core processor. Last year only came with a 6-core CPU. Oh, the 8-core processor is also unlocked… Wee!
RTX Super Graphics – Nvidia updated their RTX 2000 series with new Super graphics models which have higher CUDA core counts and efficiency improvements such as lower voltage GDDR6 VRAM and more efficient Voltage regulators (VRMs). This potentially means higher performance within the same power limits (TDP).
Faster Display – 300Hz is in but 240Hz screens are still available. Response time remains the same at 3ms. There’s also a 4k panel available if that’s your flavor.
Improved cooling – The Cooler Boost Trinity+ has been updated from 6 to 7 heat-pipes and the fan blades have been redesigned to be thinner at .1mm per blade vs .2mm in the old design. MSI claims this leads to 15% more airflow.
Easier maintenance – Opening the bottom cover exposes the 2 DDR4 RAM slots, 2x m.2 slots, wifi card, and the heatsink. Previous models had the motherboard flipped around which meant more work to access those parts. THANK YOU, MSI!
Sleeker design – Gone is the matte black with gold accent colors, this chassis is completely murdered out in black. It’s a truly stealthy look.
Larger Battery –MSI crammed in a 99.9Wh battery, upgraded from the 82Whr battery from last year. MSI is claiming 9 hours of productivity battery life, 1 hour more than the GS65.
Other things – Wi-Fi 6 is standard, speakers fire upward instead of downward, and Windows Hello is standard via webcam.
From the 2018 model to the 2019 model, MSI improved the chassis and the 2020 model is no different. The all-aluminum chassis is SOLID. MSI took all the complaints from the previous models and really made this year’s model feel like a tank. The only area that has some flex is the lid but only when you try to flex it. Gone are the gold accents from the previous models, this is murdered out in black. Even the logo is black! It’s really a beautiful device.
Another highlight of the new chassis is the improved hinge design. It feels more stable when opening and closing the lid and also doesn’t creak which is appreciated.
Even with all the design and chassis improvements, this can be a fingerprint magnet due to the materials and color used. Be prepared to wipe this thing down at the end of a long gaming session!
The GS66 has these available ports on each side:
Exhaust Vent (CPU Side)
USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, miniDP, and PD3.0 (up to 100W)
3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack
Exhaust Vent (GPU Side)
Exhaust Vents (GPU Side --> CPU Side)
There are no ports at the front of the machine.
I prefer that the 3.5mm jack is on the left side since some of my headphones have a wire coming from the left earcup, but it’s a minor inconvenience I can adjust too.
Underneath is the bottom cover that leads to some replaceable components and also the heatsink.
Removing the cover only requires a Phillips screwdriver. Underneath the cover, you can see the motherboard along with the following components:
1TB NVME Drive + empty M.2 NVME slot
Intel WiFi-6 Card
32GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM (2x 16GB sticks)
4-cell 99.9Wh battery
CoolerBoost Trinty+ Heatsink
Thankfully, this year’s model doesn’t have an inverted motherboard and all components are accessible just by removing the bottom cover (Yay!). All of these components are upgradeable or replaceable.
A couple of notable improvements from the 2019 model are the heatsink and the battery.
The entire heatsink has been upgraded with larger (and more) heatpipes along with thinner (and more) fan blades. MSI says this increases airflow by 15% and also improves overall cooling. You’ll see my results in the “Temps, Power, and Noise” section of the review.
Battery size has been increased to just-below the maximum legal limit for aircraft travel (100Wh is the maximum). This will increase battery life while on the move making this laptop much more portable. Also, there are rubber pads placed all over the motherboard and battery to reduce any creaking and bending of the bottom panel while in use. In my experience, there was some creaking but compared to last year's model, it's substantially less.
The lid doesn’t have a notch to help with opening the laptop but the lower chassis does have an angled edge that helps to open the lid with a single finger. That edge is made of plastic and, along with the side exhaust ports, are the ONLY glossy pieces on the laptop. MSI should have made this matte black as I can see that glossy molding getting scratches over time.
While opening the lid isn’t as easy as before, it’s still possible thanks to that glossy edge.
Opening the lid, you’re greeted by a beautiful 15.6 inch FHD IPS-level display. At just over 300 nits, the display is plenty bright for indoor use but may not be enough for outdoor use. I noticed a very small amount of backlight bleed at the bottom of the screen while using a solid black background at max brightness. In practice, it's not noticeable at all. Colors looked vibrant and alive without being oversaturated. All of this is great and all but the real star of the show is the 300Hz refresh rate. I’ll talk about the panel in my “Performance” portion of the review.
Something I noticed is that the rear exhaust vents may get obstructed due to the new hinge design. When at a certain lid angle (3rd picture above), the exhaust air will flow up the lid to the screen. This may negatively affect cooling potential since the exhaust flow is disrupted and hot air can get sucked in through the top intake vents.
Above the screen is a 720P webcam with Windows Hello enabled and below is the MSI logo. Unfortunately, MSI decided to make the logo silver instead of black to match with the rest of the system.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Steelseries keyboard still has its per-key RGB but also has some minor changes in usage and functionality. Firstly, the power button is now at the top right of the keyboard. It was previously found above the air vents directly in the middle. The power button also has an LED that changes color depending on if the iGPU is on (white) or if the dGPU is on (amber).
Next, the left CTRL is now the same size as the left Shift key. To accommodate this, all keys to the right of the CTRL key have been pushed over and the right FN and CTRL keys have been combined. I’m OK with this change as it’s easier to hit the Left-CTRL key instead of accidentally hitting the Windows key but also because I can more easily hit the left ALT key with my thumb. Also, holding the FN key will only light up usable functions which is helpful.
The F-key row has been updated to include more functions an FN lock (with LED on the ESC key) like turning on a crosshair and turning on MSI’s CoolerBoost. Activating the CoolerBoost function (FN+F8) automatically maxes the fans out. Turning it off will immediately revert to the previous fan speed without any slow deceleration. I LOVE this feature because I can blast the fans at any time without ALT-TABing out of a game to make adjustments, and also because I like to cool down my laptop before I shut it off; this will speed up the cooldown process.
Something I’m not fond of is the missing LED of the camera on/off function (F4) to let you know if the webcam is on or off. It’s a small detail that I appreciated in the previous model. Another weird change is the keyboard brightness controls are reversed. F10 raises brightness while F11 lowers brightness. That’s like using the left arrow to increase volume and the right arrow to decrease volume. It’s such a strange design choice.
Keystroke has been upgraded to have slightly longer key travel at 1.5mm vs 1.15mm on the previous models. This makes typing feel more natural and also makes the click-feel slightly less resistant. For me, it’s a great improvement that didn’t need to be implemented but is much appreciated.
One thing to note is that I didn’t have any issues with my wrist touching the touchpad while typing. This will greatly depend on your typing posture. As an FYI, my wrists are slightly twisted with my palms facing each other (about 15-ish degrees) which stops my right wrist from touching the touchpad.
The large glass touchpad makes a return. It’s about the size of an iPhone X and is “silky smooth” as MSI likes to say. The touchpad utilizes Microsoft precision drivers for a responsive and accurate experience. Swiping is very smooth and clicking is very solid. Left and right click can be done with tapping or through a physical click.
Finally, the Dynaudio speakers have been changed from down-firing to up-firing. We’ll talk about audio for these speakers and headphones in the “Performance” section of the review.
The GS66 is a very solid machine with a good assortment of ports although it’s missing a dedicated mini display port. The build quality is a HUGE leap from the 2018 model and a decent step up from the 2019 model. The materials used have increased the weight a bit but the benefit is a much stronger frame with increased resistivity to bending. I feel comfortable stuffing this in a backpack without worrying about bending it during transportation. The keyboard and touchpad have minor but noticeable improvements that make the general computing experience feel more natural and pleasant. Good work MSI!
The GS66 comes with 3 software suites to help control the GS66.
Dragon Center is your all-in-one software package. Within the package, you can:
Monitor system performance (temps, fan speed, disk usage, etc)
Overclock the GPU
Create a custom fan profile
Choose a performance preset
Turn off functions of the laptop (enable/disable webcam, windows key, choose between hybrid graphics or discreet graphics, etc)
Choose a color profile
Update system drivers
Choose a battery mode
This is the most complete version of this package and will be enough for most users. Right now, the software is a bit buggy. Overclocking doesn’t work and some menu items disappear until you restart the computer.
Nahimic Audio is the main piece of software used to control audio. Just like Dragon Center, this iteration has greatly improved and has more choices to customize the audio experience. To me, this is MSI's response to other laptop manufacturers having Dolby. It's decent, but not as good IMO.
Steelseries Engine controls the keyboard. You can adjust RGB lighting, create macros, and also control other Steelseries peripherals you may use.
Overall, this is a good software package that most users will appreciate since they are able to control practically everything the laptop has to offer.
Before we dive into performance, I’ll go over some adjustments I made and my testing methodology.
In Nvidia Control Panel, I changed the Global Setting for Texture Filtering Quality to High Quality (default is Quality). This will slightly improve image quality but may reduce FPS in some games.
All drivers (both Intel and Nvidia) were updated to the latest driver as of May 6th.
The laptop was set to Discreet GPU Mode via Dragon Center. Default is Hybrid Graphics Mode (Optimus). These settings can also be changed in the BIOS.
I also disabled 2 cores in the BIOS to simulate an Intel i7 10750H. With Throttlestop, I also adjusted boost clock speeds per core to match an actual 10750H. Take my results with a grain of salt though as a 10750H has 12MB of L3 cache while the 10980HK has 16MB.
I used the Highest presets for all games and included the Lowest presets for “competitive” multiplayer games so you can get an idea of maximum FPS.
Built-in benchmarks (marked with *) were used when possible. If the game didn’t support a benchmark, I played the game at specific parts of the game while eyeballing FPS via RTSS.
The benchmarks/runs are done 3 times with my scores reflecting the average.
I’ll be showing stock performance (Extreme Mode with and without overclock) alongside my optimized profile results. Towards the end of the blog, I go over how to set up my optimized settings.
CoolerBoost was enabled for the “Extreme Mode” and “Max Performance Mode” and "Simulated 6-Core" profiles, Optimized and Quiet used a custom fan curve.
Finally, since Dragon Center is buggy, I used MSI Afterburner to overclock the GPU to +100 core and +200 mem, the same speeds that “Extreme Mode” would have applied. This overclock is also applied to Max Performance mode to get a proper apple-to-apples comparison.
Now, onto the benchmarks!
Synthetic benchmarks show just how powerful the GS66 is, especially in the CPU department.
Let’s talk about the Cinebench Multi-core results at stock and optimized settings:
Run 1 hit 3.9GHz at 95W, then 3.5GHz at 65 watts – 3995 score, 96c temp
Run 2 stayed at 3.5GHz at 65W – 3750 score, 81c temp
Run 3 was the same as run 2 – 3743 score, 82c temp
Each run peaked at 133w for a couple of seconds before coming down to 65W. Run 1 had a gradual reduction of clock speeds (40 seconds) to come down from 3.9GHz at 95W to 3.5GHz at 65W. Run 2 and 3 peaked at 133W-135W for 10 seconds before immediately dropping to 65W.
Run 1 stayed at 4.4GHz until temps hit 95c, it then dropped to 4.3GHz at 133W – 4601 score, 96c
Run 2 stayed at the 4.3GHz speed with some peaks up to 4.4GHz – 4545 score, 96c
Run 3 was the same as run 2 – 4538 score, 96c
With my optimized results, I achieved much higher clocks but could not get 4.4GHz stable due to the thermal limitations of the system, even with CoolerBoost enabled. Despite the thermal limitations, I could still sustain 4.3GHz-4.4GHz through all of my runs.
For Cinebench Single-Core results:
All 3 runs stayed between 5GHz-5.1GHz at 50W, 68c average. Score 519, 520, and 521.
All 3 runs stayed between 5.1GHz-5.3Ghz at 55W, 70c average. Score 533, 532, and 537.
I couldn’t hit 5.3GHz perfectly due to how Thermal Velocity Boost (TVB) works which requires the CPU to stay under 65c to activate.
Overall, the stock Extreme Mode performance was good but optimizing the system clearly brought the scores up by a decent amount, especially in the CPU department.
Now, let’s go over gaming performance.
The GS66 is able to pump out some really good frame rates. At the highest presets, I was able to record at LEAST 60FPS with the exceptions of Assassins Creed Odyssey and Metro Exodus (Extreme preset). Turning on Ray Tracing brought down FPS by almost 50% but once again, most games could hit at least 60FPS with the exceptions of Battlefield V, Control (no DLSS), and Metro Exodus (Extreme preset).
For multiplayer games, I could hit at LEAST 144FPS and even hit or exceed 300FPS (Overwatch and Rainbow Six Siege) when graphics are set to the lowest preset/settings available.
With my "Simulated 6-Core" profile, I was very close, if not already matching, 8-core performance. The CPU was rock solid at 4.3GHz for gaming with my tweaks which you can find in the "My Improvements" section of the review.
VR was 100% usable with this laptop but I only chose to showcase Half-Life: Alyx since it’s probably the hardest VR title to run at the moment. I used to Oculus Rift S which caps at 80Hz refresh rates and FPS. To not get any stuttering (and potential motion sickness), the game needs to be consistent at 80 FPS. In my testing, Medium was the best option overall to be consistent at 80 FPS with the best graphical quality possible. The High preset was usable but you can see and feel the dips below 80 FPS which happens often in graphics-heavy sequences. I was able to play at high for the entire duration of my test but it’ll depend on your sensitivity to motion sickness.
With my “Optimized” profile, I was able to get very close to “Extreme/Max Performance” scores but with less noise and less heat. My “Quiet” profile took a big hit in FPS but all games were still playable. The benefit of this profile is lower noise and less heat generated. Both of these settings can be found in the “My Improvements” section of the review.
In my opinion, the performance of the GS66 is fairly standard for a laptop of this size and thickness. The 80W 2080 Super MQ is a modest improvement over the non-super 80W 2080MQ variant. When compared to a non-super 90W 2080MQ, it matches and sometimes exceeds performance. If you're interested in how the GS66 performs vs the 2019 GS65, click here.
Next up is battery life.
With the Power Saving profile in Dragon Center, the GS66 was able to get good battery life. At stock settings, I was able to hit over 9 hours of battery life for word processing, over 5 hours of web surfing, and over 3 hours of watching 1080P YouTube videos.
With my tweaks, I was able to extend my battery runtime to last even longer, especially when watching videos. Of course, YMMV depending on how heavily you use the system in any of these activities.
You can further increase battery life by using a power bank able to supply at least 65W up to 100W of power via USB-C.
Now, I’ll go over temps, power, and noise.
This laptop gets REALLY HOT, even with CoolerBoost enabled. Although MSI did improve the heatsink, it’s barely able to cool down both the CPU and GPU adequately, even with a liquid metal repaste.
Once the processors hit 95c, BD PROCHOT was activated which throttles the CPU. As an FYI, BD PROCHOT stands for “Bi-Directional Processor Hot” which sends a signal to the CPU to force it to cool down (by downclocking). This can also activate if the GPU reaches a certain temp and it’ll also force the CPU to cool down. This is very useful for laptops that share a heatsink and heatpipes as it frees up some cooling potential for the component that is overheating.
Power usage at load is also very high due to the 8-core CPU. The default Power Limits (PL) set by MSI in the BIOS are 65W for PL1 and 135W for PL2. PL1 is the long-term power limit that the processor will utilize while PL2 is the maximum wattage the processor will use for a much shorter amount of time. With “Extreme Mode” and “Max Performance” profiles, the laptop put out the best performance numbers but also utilized the most power, generated the most heat, and also created the most noise. With my "Simulated 6-Core" profile, heat was VERY manageable and also utilized less power.
Speaking of noise…
Noise levels were measured with a dB meter at ear level, approximately 2ft away from the keyboard of the laptop. The laptop is sitting on a desk at elbow level. Using CoolerBoost maxed out the fan speed of both the CPU and GPU which helped control their high temperatures but it made the fans pretty dang loud at 58.5dB. The sound of the fans at maximum speed also had a higher-pitched tone which may irritate some people. Using the Auto fan profile made the CPU and GPU throttle pretty hard so using CoolerBoost with these profiles is highly recommended for the best performance possible.
Finally, let's talk about my Optimized and Quiet profiles. With my Optimized profile, I was able to greatly reduce temps and noise while staying very close to (if not matching) the performance of the Extreme and Max profiles. With the Quiet profile, I further reduced temps with a focus on reducing noise below 45dB but I did take a performance hit. You’ll see what I did to achieve the Optimized and Quiet scores in the “My Improvements” portion further below.
If you want to reduce temps a little more, purchase a laptop stand to allow the fans to suck in more air from the bottom. You don't need a cooling pad to improve temps. Also, something to keep in mind is that the power supply got pretty dang hot, especially with Extreme and Max Performance profiles. It’s advised to place it in a spot with good air circulation.
Let’s close-out performance with screen quality, the audio quality of the speakers and headphone jack, and lastly disk speeds.
The screen’s color and brightness levels were good in my opinion. I play games indoors in a fairly lit room and didn’t have any issues with seeing what was on my screen. When gaming, the 300Hz screen is something you have to feel for yourself. The best way I can describe my experience is that it feels like any keyboard or mouse input is immediately reflected on the screen, even if the game isn’t reaching 300FPS. I switched back to my GS65 with a 144Hz panel and it didn’t feel as smooth, even if I got the game to reach 300FPS. The move from 144Hz to 300Hz isn’t as big of a jump as 60Hz to 120Hz+ but the improvement is definitely there. I hope I made sense of the experience.
Moving on to audio, the Dynaudio speakers have been upgraded to fire upward instead of downward. To me, treble gets loud but is lifeless, midrange sounds recessed, and bass is hollow. The sound produced is “acceptable” for laptop gaming standards but it’s nothing mind-blowing like the Asus G14 speakers. Those speakers are something to really be impressed by. MSI hyped up how they improved the sound quality but really, they just fire up now which does improve the sound ever-so-slightly.
For headphone performance, the DAC used is a Realtek ACL298. I used my Sennheiser Game One (50 ohms) and HD660s (150 ohms), and also my HiFiman HE4xx (35 ohms) headphones to test the capability of the sound chip and built-in amplifier. Both Sennheiser headsets performed very well with no issues. The Game One was easily drivable with the built-in amp and DAC. The HD660s did lose some clarity at higher volume levels but it’s something you won’t notice with normal use. The HiFiman headphones did “ok” but were hard to power. They required more volume to output the same sound levels vs the Sennheiser cans. At 100% volume, they weren’t too loud and I could hear the loss of detail in the treble and mid-range. Bass was also pretty dull. I’m not surprised though as Planar Magnetic headphones require an amp to really get the best out of them. Overall, the GS66 has a very capable amp and DAC that can produce clean audio on high-end headphones like the HD660s but will struggle with headphones similar to the HE4xx.
The 1TB NVME drive is plenty fast for daily use, gaming, and even for some content creation. I was able to fit 7 games (almost 1TB worth) into the drive. Luckily, there’s a 2nd M.2 slot to add another NVME drive if you need more space.
To view all of my settings and how to enable them, click HERE.
Within the link, you'll find:
How to enable Undervolting
Other BIOS and Windows Registry Tweaks
Fan Curve Settings
Who should buy this laptop?
This laptop is a very powerful machine and I believe these are the types of users who should consider this as their next purchase.
Someone that has a laptop with an Intel 7th Gen processor (or older) and an Nvidia GTX 10-series (or older) laptop. They’re looking for their next machine now that their current laptop is falling behind in performance with the latest games and software.
Someone looking to buy their first laptop and doesn’t want to skimp on performance but also doesn’t want to commit to a larger machine or desktop. They want a high-end jack-of-all-trades kind of laptop.
The “Everyday Enthusiast” who wants the best possible performance for gaming but also to use the laptop as an everyday device. They want a highly portable gaming machine that can play the latest games at the highest quality settings but can also act as a low-profile business laptop with great battery life. They also don’t mind purchasing a new machine every year to keep up with the latest hardware advancements.
Should you buy this model is you already own a 2019 GS65 or equivalent? Unless you’re a #3, no. The Intel 8750H/9750H and RTX 2000 non-Super series is STILL a very powerful combo that can play the latest games with no issues, especially after it’s been optimized. Comparing my current GS65 (with 2080MQ) to the new GS66, performance is extremely similar so I wouldn’t consider selling my current laptop to upgrade. I have a comparison coming up very soon to show the build and performance difference.
So, do I recommend this laptop?
Yes and no.
I do recommend the GS66 because the overall laptop is very fast and when you optimize it with BIOS and software tweaks, it runs beautifully. The improved keyboard, large battery, buttery smooth and super-fast screen, and the powerful 8-core processor paired with the 2080 Super Max-Q really makes this a machine that can do it all.
I also don’t recommend the GS66, specifically the 10980HK model, because this laptop gets HOT, sips a LOT of power, and requires you to run the fans at MAXIMUM SPEED so the CPU can try to reach its rated boost clocks. Even with an improved heatsink, an aftermarket Liquid Metal repaste, various BIOS and software tweaks, and an undervolt couldn’t help the 10980HK stay rock-solid at its maximum rated boost clocks. This CPU is too much for this machine to handle while at load. I hate the idea of paying for something that isn’t running at 100% of its ability.
Personally, I’d skip the 8-core processor and get the 6-core 10750H. You’ll get virtually the same gaming performance with less heat, less power, and (potentially) less fan noise.
*EDIT* 5/24/2020 - I was made aware that the GS66 now comes with a 10875H in a new SKU. It's $100 more than the 10750H SKU and IMO, that is the model to buy if you can afford it. I said the 8-core process isn't worth it, but for another $100, you can still get 8-cores instead of spending $300 more for the 10980HK. Yes, you may still get thermally throttled but you can disable 2 cores in the BIOS and run it as a 6-core machine. Then, you have the option of having an 8-core machine in the future if 6-cores isn't enough. Also, you can park those 2 additional cores with the min/max core tweaks in the registry and power profiles.
Should I just buy a 2019 model? That one has a 2080MQ and a 9750H/8750H 6-core processor!
If you can find one for really cheap, sure. But you’ll be missing out on:
Far superior chassis
What about the other models from Razer, Asus, and Gigabyte?
As far as I know, there’s no way to unlock undervolting in their BIOS which is a necessity (in my opinion) to getting the best possible performance out of a laptop like this one. This is why I tend to stick with MSI since they provide more control with an Advanced BIOS, even if it’s hidden away.
What about future laptops with Nvidia RTX 3000 GPUs and AMD “Big Navi” GPUs? Should I wait?
While they’re “scheduled” for launch at the end of the year, those will most likely be desktop-only launches with the mobile launch to follow in 2021. Keep in mind that there will always be a new laptop model with faster components coming out every year. If you need one now, get one and don’t look back. If you can manage with your current laptop, then wait and see what pops up next year.
Pros and Cons
Greatly improved build quality – MSI has GREATLY improved the chassis to be more resistant to bending. The GS66 can finally compete with the build quality of the Razer Blade and Gigabyte Aero. You won't have to worry about this laptop bending during travel and normal use.
Very portable – At 4.63lbs, this laptop can be taken with you ANYWHERE. With the 99wH battery, you can last a full workday’s worth of productivity without worrying about a charger. If you have at least a 65W USB-C charger or power bank, you can take that in place of the 230W charger to save on weight.
"Super" powerful – The top model has an 8-Core Intel CPU paired with an RTX 2080 Super Max-Q creating the ultimate mobile performance combo for gamers. There wasn't a single game I tested that couldn't produce playable framerates. For competitive games, the CPU/GPU combo can reach ridiculously high FPS, higher than the refresh rate of the display!
Truly stealthy – Murdered out in black, the GS66 will turn heads in a good way due to its refined professional looks. It’s a performance monster hiding in plain sight!
CPU runs hot – The 10980HK couldn’t sustain its rated 4.4GHz multicore and 5.3GHz single-core turbo frequencies due to thermal throttling. Remember, this is with CoolerBoost enabled, liquid metal installed, BIOS tweaks, and undervolting. The heat also affects the GPU since they share some heatpipes and fans.
MSI Dragon Center is buggy – Overclocking wasn’t working with the latest version of Dragon Center so I had to use MSI Afterburner for my Extreme Mode tests. Also, there were times when some menu items wouldn’t load up until I restarted the computer.
Fans are loud, controls are lousy – With an improved fan design also comes a higher-pitched whine at all RPM ranges. Also, the temperature control points are a joke. It’s as if MSI expects you to run CoolerBoost all the time while you play games. Hopefully, MSI can push out new firmware that can change these temperature points.
Rear exhaust flow depends on lid angle – If you open the lid to a certain angle, the bottom lip will obstruct airflow coming out of the rear exhaust vents. This will cause the lower lip to get hotter, cause the system to retain some heat, and may redirect hot air back into the intake system from the top vents.
No dedicated miniDP – It’s a small con, but if you have a setup that utilizes miniDP, you’ll have to buy an adapter HDMI isn’t a usable option.
MSI has improved upon its successful GS65 in every way possible. The chassis is stronger, the keyboard is smoother, the screen is faster, and the i9 with RTX GPU can handle any task you can throw at it. Heck, even the upward-firing speakers are an improvement! While this laptop has improved, it doesn’t give me that WOW feeling that I had when going from a GS43 to a 2018 GS65 to a 2019 GS65.
Sure, the screen is fast, the components are fast, the whole machine is ridiculously fast! But, it doesn’t entice me to upgrade to this model from what I already own. I’ve upgraded laptops annually for the past 3 years and I’ll be skipping this update. This doesn’t mean it’s a bad system, it’s just not a huge leap in performance over the previous generation. If you’re in the market for a new gaming laptop, I recommend the GS66 ONLY IF you get the 10750H and skip the 10980HK. A 6-core CPU with a 4.3GHz all-core turbo will be MORE THAN ENOUGH for the vast majority of games.
If you're dead-set on getting an 8-core processor, the GS66 is now available with the 10875H for $100 more over the 10750H models (10980HK is $300 more). You may still get thermally throttled but you're not wasting additional $$$ on a processor that can't sustain it's rated boost speeds.
Regardless of which CPU model you get, I also HIGHLY RECOMMEND purchasing from a reseller such as HIDevolution and getting liquid metal installed on the CPU and GPU. This will GREATLY improve performance by transferring heat more efficiently to the heatsink over the stock thermal paste.
-The Everyday Enthusiast
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Disclaimer – I requested a review unit from HIDevolution. I was not compensated in any way and wasn’t persuaded to “speak good things” about this device. All thoughts are my own based on my experience with the GS66 I didn’t even have to reference HIDevolution, but I’ve purchased 2 devices from them in the past 3 years and was met with AMAZING customer service which is why I’m recommending them.