Across the PC-gaming community, RGB lighting in hardware is pervasive to the point of being unavoidable. With per-key backlighting on its keyboard and two customizable LED accents on its lid, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB (starts at $ 1,599; $ 1,999 as tested) is a well-lit gaming laptop, to be sure. But it’s also a powerful one. Sporting a Core i7 CPU and full-strength (not Max-Q Design) Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics, the GE63 Raider RGB performs well enough to compete with some 17-inch gaming laptops in the same price range. You could pay a similar price for MSI’s svelter GS65 Stealth Thin, but the GE63 Raider RGB will net you higher frame rates, at the cost of carry weight.
Red and Black and RGB All Over
Taken against the GS65 Stealth Thin, the GE63 Raider RGB opts for a more conventional gamers’ aesthetic. The finish is mostly black, with a handful of red accents, including one surrounding the 4.3-by-2.4-inch touchpad and another on the rear of the machine bordering the air vents. The MSI dragon emblem on the back is also red, unlike the gold rendition of the logo we saw on the GS65 Stealth Thin. I prefer the black-and-gold color scheme of the GS65 Stealth Thin, though opinions will vary. I appreciate the texture of the shell on the GE63 Raider RGB; it feels fancier than the matte-plastic exterior of the Acer Predator Helios 500 I recently reviewed.
At 1.2 by 15.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD), the MSI GE63 Raider RGB reminds me of the slightly trimmer Asus ROG Strix Hero II. It’s thicker than some Max-Q laptops, but well thinner than the 1.5-inch-thick Acer Predator Helios 500. Likewise, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB weighs 5.5 pounds, making it heavier than the 4.63-pound Razer Blade and the 3.9-pound MSI GS65 Stealth Thin.
While we’re accounting for size, it’s worth noting that the GE63 Raider RGB is accompanied by a 2-pound power brick. If you plan on carrying this laptop around with you, be prepared for 7.5 pounds total added to your luggage. And you’ll need that charger, as this is not a machine that will fare all that well without it. (More on that when we get to performance testing.)
The MSI GE63 Raider RGB’s keyboard is a fairly typical membrane keyboard with 2mm of key travel. It’s host to a welcome amount of personalization. Like you can with the two angular accents (with 12 lighting zones) imprinted on the lid, you can customize the color of each key of the keyboard with one of 16.7 million colors using the accompanying SteelSeries Engine 3 software.
As for the touchpad, the GE63 Raider RGB’s does not disappoint. The pad itself does not click down; underneath it are physical left and right mouse buttons. Alternatively, you can poke the touchpad with one finger to simulate a left-click or with two fingers to right-click.
With a 1,920-by-1,080-pixel native resolution, the GE63 Raider RGB’s matte display is ordinary when idle. Boot up a game that isn’t too demanding, however, and you’ll notice a distinct fluidity resulting from its 120Hz refresh rate. This comes in handy when playing fast-paced games that aren’t too visually complex and can actually run at high refresh rates on this hardware. (MOBAs and real-time strategy games will benefit most from this panel technology.) Moreover, the screen is viewable from all sides with little noticeable glare. Paired with its down-firing speakers, which are loud enough to fill a large room without distortion at maximum volume, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB can be a daily driver for gaming and entertainment even without an external monitor or a decent headset connected.
Speaking of connections, this laptop has plenty to go around. On its left edge are an Ethernet jack, HDMI and Mini DisplayPort video outs, two USB ports (one Type-A 3.1 Gen 1, one Type-C 3.1 Gen 2), and separate headphone-out and mic-in jacks…
On its right side, you’ll find a pair of USB 3.1 Type-A Gen 2 ports and a full-size SD card slot…
You’ll notice that all three of the USB Type-A ports on the MSI GE63 Raider RGB feature red backlighting, which you can turn off in the built-in MSI Dragon Center software (more on that in a minute).
Configured to Your Liking
When it comes to specs and pricing, the GE63 Raider RGB is flexible. MSi’s configurations range from $ 1,599 to $ 1,999, but certain models are exclusive to the retailer Micro Center or are only available online.
The version of the GE63 Raider RGB I reviewed here is the e-tail-only, top-end model. The processor, which is the same across the board, is a six-core, 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H. (It can hop up to 4.1GHz when Turbo Boost kicks in.) Its graphics weapon is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory.
This unit has two 8GB DDR4 RAM modules, with upgrade options to 32GB. And the storage scheme here is dual-drive: a 256GB M.2 solid-state drive (SSD) paired with a 1TB hard drive. (See our guide to the best M.2 SSDs.)
The online-exclusive $ 1,599 base model of the MSI GE63 Raider RGB is a little different. It uses the same processor and RAM, but the graphics card is a GeForce GTX 1060, and it has just 128GB of SSD space in addition to its 1TB of hard drive storage.
MSI offers several other versions, differentiated by their graphics and storage-capacity options. Long story short, MSI offers a whole host of flavors of the GE63 Raider RGB to choose among. The test model I have on hand you can consider a best-case scenario, if you ignore the price.
Mark of the Dragon: Some Special Software
One reason you might want to buy the GE63 Raider RGB, as opposed to a gaming laptop from another brand, is for MSI’s Dragon Center software. This application has been through multiple iterations, though its feature set has generally remained the same.
You can use Dragon Center for a variety of tasks, such as checking CPU, GPU, memory, and disk usage, in addition to adjusting the fan speed and the color space of the display. There’s a single button you can press to free up system memory; another one lets you clear up disk space. One part of the software, dubbed VoiceBoost, lets you change the audio volume of your games relative to VoIP volume. VoiceBoost is compatible with Skype, Discord, and Steam, among other services.
Also included in the Dragon Center software package is a Gaming Mode that MSI claims “can optimize system performance” and automatically tune graphics and sound settings so that your games run well without the need for tweaking menu options. This mode is compatible with only a limited number of games, none of which was in my benchmarking set for this review: PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), Overwatch, Rocket League, and Rainbow Six Siege.
MSI says that its Gaming Mode differs from Windows 10’s Game Mode and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience optimization features because of its interactivity with the keyboard backlighting. (Certain game-specific effects are triggered when Gaming Mode is turned on.) Gaming Mode also works with MSI True Color, another function of Dragon Center, to determine the best color settings for the game it’s being used with. While one game might look best with True Color’s “sRGB” setting enabled, another may be more suited to its video-game-tuned “Gamer” setting. A nifty option for gamers who don’t want to think about color space while gaming, Gaming Mode tweaks these options for you, though it’s too bad it’s compatible with just a handful of titles.
Performance: This MSI’s on the Mark
Touting six cores and 12 threads, the 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8750H processor in the GE63 Raider RGB is standard fare for a high-end, 15-inch gaming laptop. As such, its benchmark results were right in line with those of other gaming laptops in its class. While the Asus ROG Strix Hero II came out way ahead with a 4,414 score in our PCMark 8 test (which measures performance in productivity tasks such as photo editing and word processing), the MSI GE63 Raider RGB garnered a still-healthy 3,776. (Anything above 3,000 is beefy.) The MSI GS65 Stealth Thin and Razer Blade scored 3,907 and 3,949, respectively, both less than 5 percent better.
Likewise, the GE63 Raider RGB scored well in multimedia benchmarks, such as our Handbrake test. It took just 4 seconds longer than the leading Asus ROG Strix Hero II to encode the same test video. In Cinebench R15, the MSI GE63 Raider led the pack, about 6 percent ahead of the Asus machine and 10 percent in front of the 2018 Razer Blade. And in our Photoshop CS6 test, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB tied with the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin. All in all, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB’s processing performance is on par with its rivals in our competitive set, all using the same Intel “Coffee Lake” H-series Core i7 CPU.
Where the numbers get more interesting? In the graphics department…
Because the MSI GE63 Raider RGB uses a full-fledged Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, not a restrained Max-Q component, this laptop performs better than the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin and the Razer Blade. Meanwhile, the Asus ROG Strix Hero II I reviewed for PCMag had a GTX 1060 chip. Of the machines presented here, the Predator Helios 500 is the only one with the same graphics hardware as the GE63 Raider RGB. Still, the GE63 Raider RGB led the pack in UL’s 3DMark Cloud Gate and Fire Strike Extreme tests, along with Unigine’s Valley benchmark at Ultra quality settings. And while the MSI model fell behind in Unigine’s Heaven benchmark at Ultra quality settings, the differences were modest.
Real-World Gaming, Battery Life
As anticipated given the specs, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB proved itself capable in our gaming benchmarks, too. I tested the laptop with two games: Far Cry 5 at Normal and Ultra graphics settings, and Rise of the Tomb Raider at Medium and Very High.
In Far Cry 5, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB managed averages of 78fps and 74fps at Normal and Ultra settings, respectively. Running Rise of the Tomb Raider, the Raider RGB saw an average of 107.1fps and 78.2fps, respectively, at Medium and Very High. These results are on point for a laptop with the GE63 Raider RGB’s guts combined with a 1080p display. The Raider RGB’s in-game graphics performance did not quite hit its screen’s 120Hz maximum refresh rate, with frame rates of 120fps or greater, but these are rather demanding games. It’s also worth noting that the laptop’s fans grew louder and louder when running the gaming benchmarks; anyone wanting to game in silence, without headphones, should take heed.
Last, our battery life test measures how long a laptop can last off the charger while playing a 24-hour loop of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. For the MSI GE63 Raider RGB, that amount of time is 4 hours and 37 minutes. That’s much longer than the Predator Helios 500 lasted, but well short of the MSI GS65 Stealth Thin and the Razer Blade, which both lasted more than seven hours. So, whereas the MSI GE63 Raider RGB packs more performance punch, its battery life takes a hit. Just shy of five hours is by no means unacceptable for a gaming laptop, but if battery life is a priority, you’re better off pointing your nose in another direction.
The GE63 Raider: RGB and Me?
As my review unit is configured, the MSI GE63 Raider RGB is a tad pricey by any measure. Two grand is well into premium territory for a gaming laptop, even if it is well-equipped with the components needed to run AAA games at the highest settings. Still, there’s merit to squeezing a Intel Core i7-8750H, a full-fat Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, a 256GB SSD, a 1TB hard drive, and a 120Hz screen into a relatively compact chassis. The lighting and the high-refresh-rate screen are what boost the price above the norm. You’ll want to be sure you will leverage the screen, and enjoy the lighting, if you’re going to fork over the money.
Some gamers may find it gratuitous, but the per-key RGB keyboard backlighting and 24 zones of lighting on the lid make for a compelling spectacle if RGB is your thing. That goes without mentioning the built-in, utilitarian Dragon Center software, which offers a meaty set of features exclusive to MSI laptops. Aside from the price (and the intermittently loud fans), my only major gripe with this laptop is its slightly ho-hum battery life.
Otherwise, the GE63 Raider RGB is a powerful addition to MSI’s repertoire of gaming laptops. Bling-happy esports hounds may want to knock up our rating by another half a star for the light show and the super-smooth screen, especially if they play competitive titles at high refresh rates.