A couple of months ago, we had a powerful gaming laptop from MSI with NVIDIA Ampere discrete mobile graphics – MSI GE66 Raider 10UG. Today we reviewed a more budget model, MSI Katana GF66 11UD.
MSI Katana GF66 11UD is a medium-format laptop with a 15.6 ″ screen, dimensions and weight are typical for a gaming model of this class (359x259x24.9 mm, 2.25 kg). The case is a practical black matte plastic, from the designer’s “decorations” – only the embossed MSI logo on the lid, this model has no LED backlighting.
The lid can be opened without any problems with one hand, there is no need to hold the base – the hinges are tight enough to securely hold the screen in any position. The maximum opening angle is almost 180 degrees, so the screen can be practically placed on the table if desired. The bezels around the screen are average width by current standards – about 7 mm on the sides, about 13 mm on the top and 31 mm on the bottom.
On the right you can find two USB3.2 Gen1 ports – one full-size and one Type-C, Ethernet port, HDMI video output (with support for [email protected]) and a mini-jack for a wired headset. On the left are two more full-size USB ports (one 3.2 Gen1 and one 2.0) and a power connector. Ventilation grilles are located at the back and left so that hot air exhaust will not be felt when playing with an external mouse (unless you are left-handed, of course).
Keyboard and touchpad
The laptop has a full-fledged keyboard with an additional numeric block – it is, however, almost two times narrower than that of a desktop model (4 cm wide), but it is quite enough for its tasks. The main keyboard is half a centimeter shorter than the standard desktop one, it is quite comfortable to work with, it is almost as convenient to type on it blindly as on a regular slim keyboard. The keys have a pleasant-to-touch coating reminiscent of soft touch, the travel is traditionally short for a laptop keyboard, a little less than one and a half millimeters, pressing is light and quiet, with noticeable punching. The keys “sit” tightly, there is practically no backlash in operation. When typing, the body does not bend, it can be minimally pushed in the area of the keyboard, only by specially and strong enough pressing on it.
The backlighting of the keys is only of one color – red, there are three different degrees of illumination and its complete shutdown. Note that even the maximum level turns out to be quite moderate, and in a brightly lit room it can seem too dim. The glow of the Cyrillic symbols is the same as the original Latin alphabet, however, the letters themselves are applied in a smaller font and thinner lines, therefore, purely visually, they seem less noticeable. The layout is almost ANSI standard, with long left Shift and single row Enter. The compactness of the case forced the arrow control unit to be “pressed” into the main keyboard without the slightest gap between them, which will have to get used to – as well as to the fact that the power button is in the upper right corner and is in no way separated from the keys of the digital block, being at a minimum distance from NumLock.
The touchpad is medium in size, fast and responsive, no complaints about its performance. The mouse buttons are quite resilient, pressed with a distinct click.
MSI Katana GF66 11UD Screen
The model we reviewed has a 15.6-inch IPS-display (AU Optronics B156HAN08.4 panel) with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels and a 144 Hz refresh rate. In addition, this model has a variant with a similar display, but with a refresh rate of 60 Hz.
The panel has a rather narrow color gamut, only 65% of the sRGB space – this produces muted, dull colors. The brightness is adjustable in the range of 14-250 cd / m², the static contrast is at the level typical for a laptop IPS-panel – 900: 1. The gamma value is quite close to the standard 2.2 (deviation is only 0.07), the color temperature is slightly overestimated, up to 7700K – the picture turns out a little colder than with the standard 6500K, but this is not particularly striking. The color temperature uniformity over the entire panel area is quite good, the maximum deviation is slightly less than 6%, the white uniformity is also at the level: the difference between the brightest zone (the upper border of the screen) and the least bright (lower right corner) is at the level of 10%. The color accuracy is average, but quite sufficient for a gaming laptop – the average deltaE is just above three.
MSI Katana GF66 line can be used with processors up to 11th Gen Intel Core i7; the model we reviewed had an Intel Core i5-11400H installed. This powerful 6-core 12-thread CPU based on the Willow Cove architecture (Tiger Lake family), introduced in mid-2021, is completely new. The base frequency depends on the thermal package, in this case (45 W) it is 2.7 GHz, in Turbo Boost mode for one core it can reach 4.5 GHz.
The MSI Katana GF66 11UD uses a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 Ti Laptop (target TDP 60W) as discrete graphics. The laptop has two slots for So-DIMM memory modules, which allows you to increase the RAM up to 64 GB; In our model, two SK Hynix HMA81GS6DJR8N-XN modules were installed with a total volume of 16 GB. The M.2 SSD Kingston OM8PCP3512F-AI1 512 GB (467 GB available) is used for data storage. The Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 module, which supports the IEEE 802.11ax protocol and Bluetooth 5.2, is responsible for wireless communication in the laptop.
Performance MSI Katana GF66 11UD
The laptop shows very good overall system performance in complex synthetic tests and high performance in applied tasks. Wireless connection with support for Wi-Fi 6 gives a very high data transfer speed (600 Mbps for download and almost 800 Mbps for uploading), and the complete SSD in the CrystalDiskMark test shows, although not outstanding, but quite decent results: almost 2000 MB / s read and almost 1000 MB / s write.
In the MSI Center application, on the User Scenario tab, there are four profiles for the CPU – Super Battery, Silent, Balanced and Extreme Performance, plus a user profile (in which you can manually select the performance level and the mode of the cooling system – separately for the CPU and GPU). For gaming tasks, the Balanced mode will be the best option – in it, even under maximum load, cooling works relatively quietly, while the performance in games is almost the same as in Extreme Performance mode, when activated, the cooling system spins up “to full”, and its noise level increases significantly … This mode makes sense if you need to get the maximum performance in CPU-dependent tasks, and with a load on all cores – here the gain is maximized; for example, in synthetic benchmarks Cinebench R23 (in the Multi-Core test) and in the CPU test 3DMark (when using all threads) the gain was about 20%.
In the AIDA64 stress test in the Balanced profile, the processor operates at an average frequency of 3 GHz, the temperature rises to ~ 82 degrees, and the thermal package is 45 W. When you switch to Extreme Performance, the TDP rises to 49 W, the processor frequency – up to 3.4 GHz, and the temperature – up to 95 degrees, while the utility begins to record throttling at an average level of about 10%.
By default, in the Balanced mode, in the idle state, the fans work, although quite quietly, but all the time, and in the absence of noise in the room, they are still clearly audible; under load, the noise increases noticeably, but remains within fairly comfortable limits. Fortunately, it is very easy to turn off the fans in the absence of a load – in the MSI Center utility you need to switch to the User scenario, in it, select Advanced for the Fan Speed parameter in the drop-down menu, and in its settings, lower the fan speed to zero when the processor is cold. In Extreme Performance mode in the stress test, the noise level at a distance of 1 m rose to 51 dB – quite loud, but far from the maximum for a gaming laptop.
According to the results of tests in real games, it can be noted that for Full HD resolution this system offers very good performance for graphics settings at the “high quality” level – the maximum settings in modern games already regularly “run into” insufficient video memory – only 4 GB. The average number of frames per second in most tests stayed above 60 fps, results below this value were observed only in the most “heavy” projects like Red Dead Redemption 2 or Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (with non-disabled ray tracing). All results were obtained in Balanced mode, switching to Extreme Performance, depending on the specific game, either does not affect performance in any way, or gives a minimal gain (no more than 5%).
Performance in games, frames / s (resolution 1920×1080, high quality graphics):
The MSI Katana GF66 11UD is equipped with a 53.5Wh battery – not the most outstanding, but a gaming laptop is usually not tasked with long-term operation far from the outlet. The test results in the “battery” subsection of the PCMark 10 benchmark are quite natural: a little over an hour in game mode and almost 3.5 hours in office work simulation.
To compare the impact of various economical laptop operating scenarios, we used the idle mode test: in it, the MSI Katana GF66 11UD “lived” 4 hours 13 minutes in Balanced mode, 7 minutes longer in silent mode, and the transition to “super battery saving” mode (in which, in particular, completely turns off the keyboard backlight) gave a win in another 20 minutes.