MSI offers a wide range of gaming laptops – as many as four models in different price categories were presented on the market this year. Not so long ago, we already had reviews of the older Raider and the more affordable Katana. Today we have a mid-budget model in our editorial office – MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK.
The appearance of the novelty can be described as a cross between the aforementioned MSI Katana GF66 and MSI Raider GE66 – this is the same medium-format laptop with a 15.6 ″ screen with typical dimensions and weight as for a gaming model (359x259x24 mm, 2.1 kg). The body is mostly made of matte black plastic, except for the top of the lid, which is made of Titanium Gray aluminum. The logo on the lid is “cut” in a metal case, this laptop has no LED backlighting, apart from the keyboard.
The lid can be opened without any problems with one hand, there is no need to hold the base – while 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 14 mm on the top and 31 mm on the bottom.
On the left you can find two USB ports (one 3.2 Gen1 and one – 2.0), on the right – two more USB 3.2 Gen1 (one full-size and one Type-C) plus an HDMI video output (with support [email protected] Hz), Ethernet port and mini-jack for wired headset. 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).
The laptop has a full-fledged keyboard with an additional numeric pad – like the MSI Katana GF66, it is shortened by almost half compared to a regular desktop one, up to 4 cm wide. The keys have a pleasant coating, somewhat reminiscent of a soft touch, the stroke is short, the pressing is light and quiet, with a noticeable punching. The keys “sit” tightly, do not play and do not dangle during operation. When typing, the body does not bend, you can push it minimally in the area of the keyboard only by specially and rather strong pressure on it.
The layout is almost ANSI standard, with long left Shift and single row Enter. The arrow control unit is embedded in the main keyboard without the slightest gap between them, which will take some getting used to – as well as the fact that the power button in the upper right corner is in no way separated from the keys of the numeric keypad and is at a minimum distance from NumLock.
Like the older model, the MSI Pulse GL66 has a full-fledged RGB backlight (remember, the Katana had only one color – red), you can control it using the Mystic Light utility included in the MSI Center package: it allows you to change the brightness of the glow , customize the nature of the color change, etc.
The touchpad is medium in size, fast and responsive, no complaints about its performance. The mouse buttons are soft, pressed quite easily and emit a distinct click when triggered (the right button sounds noticeably quieter than the left).
MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK Screen
The model we reviewed has a 15.6-inch IPS-display (B156HAN08.0 panel manufactured by AU Optronics) with a resolution of 1920 × 1080 pixels and a screen refresh rate of 144 Hz. In addition, this model has the option of completing an IPS-display with the same diagonal, but with a resolution of 2560×1440 and a frequency of 165 Hz.
The panel has a standard color gamut (97% sRGB, 75% Adobe RGB, 75% DCI-P3). Brightness is adjustable within 15-330 cd / m², static contrast is good enough for IPS panels used in laptops – 1050: 1. The gamma value is slightly overestimated, up to 2.3 (with the standard 2.2) – this gives the image a little more saturation and depth to the shadows. The color temperature is noticeably overstated (up to ~ 8500K) – for this reason the picture looks noticeably “cool”. The uniformity of color temperature over the entire display area is not the best, the maximum deviation is 9%, the unevenness of the white field luminosity is also quite high: the difference between the lower right corner and the left side of the screen in the center at maximum brightness turns out to be higher than 50 cd / m². Color accuracy is good for a gaming laptop, with an average deltaE of two.
MSI Pulse GL66 line can use processors up to 11th Gen Intel Core i7; the model we reviewed had an Intel Core i7-11800H installed. This is a high-performance 8-core 16-thread CPU based on the Willow Cove architecture (Tiger Lake family), introduced in mid-2021. The base frequency depends on the thermal package, in this case (45 W) it is 2.3 GHz, in Turbo Boost mode for one core it can reach 4.6 GHz.
The MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK uses a 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop (target TDP 85W) 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 motherboard has two slots for M.2 SSD, one of them is occupied by a 1024 GB Kingston OM8PCP31024F-AI1 drive (942 GB available), the second is free for those who want to further increase the amount of internal storage. In addition, this laptop also has an empty SATA drive slot. 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.
The laptop shows excellent overall system performance in complex synthetic tests and very high performance in applied tasks. The complete SSD in the CrystalDiskMark test shows very good results: more than 2100 MB / s for reading and 1700 MB / s for writing.
There are four profiles available in the MSI Center application for system operation: Super Battery, Silent, Balanced and Extreme Performance plus a custom profile – in it 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 is 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: at maximum graphics settings, for the most part there was no difference at all, while the load on the GPU was reduced in a number of games the gain appeared, but did not exceed 5-8%. Extreme Performance will be useful when you need maximum performance in CPU-dependent tasks with a load on all cores: in the synthetic benchmark Cinebench R23 (in the Multi-Core test), the increase was about 35%, and in the CPU test 3DMark (when using all threads ) and was even one and a half times.
In the AIDA64 stress test in the Balanced profile, the processor operates at an average frequency of 2.4 GHz, the processor temperature rises to 75-80 degrees, the thermal packet is 35 W, the throttling is not recorded, the noise level at a distance of 1 m from the laptop is about 48 dB. When switching to Extreme Performance, TDP rises to 57 W, processor frequency – up to 3.1 GHz, and temperature – up to 90 degrees; at the same time, the utility begins to fix trotting at an average level of about 7%, and the noise level rises to ~ 55 dB.
Like the MSI Katana GF66 11UD model we reviewed earlier, the MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK in Balanced mode has fans running constantly even when idle – albeit quite quietly, but in the absence of noise in the room, they are still clearly audible. Again, they can be turned off in the same way in just a couple of mouse clicks – select the User script in the MSI Center utility, select Advanced for the Fan Speed parameter and lower the fan speed to zero in its settings when the processor is cold. With such passive cooling, after two hours of inactivity, the processor temperature was at 40 degrees (at a room temperature of about 23 degrees).
The test results in real games show that the performance of the MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK is quite enough to run almost all games at maximum graphics settings: in most projects the average fps turned out to be above 50 frames / sec, and only in Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition (game with non-switchable ray tracing) I had to lower the graphics quality to “high” to get the same performance.
Performance in games, frames / s (resolution 1920×1080, maximum graphics quality):
The laptop is equipped with a 53.5 Wh battery. Like any other gaming model, the MSI Pulse GL66 11UEK does not show any impressive results in battery life tests: for example, in the battery test of the PCMark 10 benchmark, it worked for almost exactly 1 hour in gaming mode and a little less than three hours in office work simulation. …
In idle mode, the laptop lasted a little over three hours in Balanced mode and a full hour and a half longer in Super Battery mode.