MSI GE65 9SE Gaming Laptop Review – The MSI GE65 is a gaming laptop that’s offering impressive levels of performance for the specs. In this detailed review, I’ll show you both the good and the bad sides of the GE65 to help you decide if it’s a laptop that you should consider.
MSI GE65 Raider 9SE Design
The lid is a matte black aluminum, and the interior is the same. I’d say the build quality was a little above average. There were no sharp corners or edges everywhere, and I was pleased to see that they’ve reduced the red accenting over previous models. The weight is listed at 2.27kg, and mine was around 60g above this. With the 180-watt power supply also cables for charging, the total weight rises to just over 3kg.
The dimensions in terms of width and depth are similar to many other modern 15” laptops. However, it’s a little thicker at 2.7cm, and we’ll see if this extra space helps improve thermals later. This thinner footprint gives it 8mm small screen bezels on the sides. The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz IPS-Level screen has a matte finish. Viewing angles looked beautiful, and there’s no G-Sync. It’s also available with a 240Hz option as well, so expect different results compared to what I’m about to go through with that.
I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5 and got 96% of sRGB, 66% of NTSC, and 71% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness, I covered the panel at 340 nits in the center with a 700:1 contrast ratio. The contrast was a little lower compared to another laptop. But otherwise, brightness was a little above average with fair color gamut for a gaming laptop.
Backlight bleed was extremely minimal, I had no problems at all when viewing darker content, but this will vary between laptop and panel. Despite the metal lid, there was some screen flex as it’s on the thinner side. However, the screen felt quite sturdy, with the hinges being out towards the far corners. It was possible to open up with one finger. Aside from just being easier to open also helps demonstrate that the weight is more evenly distributed, so no issues using it on my lap.
Despite the thinner bezels, the 720p camera is found above the display in the center, with no Windows Hello support, though. The Steelseries keyboard has per-key RGB backlighting. And in my opinion, it looks better than most other RGB keyboards as the sides are clear to allow light to shine through. There are plenty of effects and changes that can be made through the software, and the product page on the MSI website gives some examples of what it can do. The brightness can be adjusted between 4 levels by holding the function key and pressing the plus or minus keys on the Numpad or turned off entirely if you prefer.
The precision touchpad doesn’t actually click down when pressed as it’s instead got physical left and right-click buttons, which make relatively loud audible presses. I thought the size was fine and didn’t have any problems using it. Fingerprints and dirt show up on the matte black interior. However, as a smooth surface, it’s easy enough to clean. On the left from the back there’s a Kensington lock, air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet port, HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort outputs, both of which are wired directly to the Nvidia graphics, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A port, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, no Thunderbolt here though, and 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks.
On the right, there are 2 USB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports right down the front. Which is seriously going to get in the way of your mouse hand if you’re right-handed and plug anything in with a cable? Full-Size SD card slot, and the power input. All three USB Type-A ports light up red when the laptop is powered on. However, you can either set these to half brightness or turn them off through the dragon center software.
The back just has air exhaust vents on the left and right corners with subtle raider branding in the middle. Meanwhile, there’s nothing at all on the front. The matte black metal lid has two red accents with the MSI logo in the center towards the top. And the emblem gets lit up from the screen’s backlight, so it cannot be turned off. Underneath has a large mesh area towards the back half for air intake. To get inside, you need to remove 12 Phillips head screws.
Once inside, we’ve got the single 2.5” drive bay on the left, WiFi 6 card right next to that, battery right up the back, two memory slots towards the right in the middle, with the two M.2 slots underneath and to the right. Both M.2 slot support NVMe PCIe drives, however only one of them supports SATA. The two 2 watt speakers and two 3 watt subwoofers are found towards the front on the left and right. There was a little bass, and they sounded ok but were a bit muffled sounding when on a desk. They did get very loud with maximum volume, though, and the latency on results was looking good.
The GE65 is powered by a 6 cell 51wh battery. I’ve experimented with it by the screen brightness at 50%, background apps wounded, and keyboard lighting off. While just watching YouTube videos, it only lasted for 3 hours and 6 minutes. And this was with the Intel integrated graphics and Nvidia Optimus.
MSI GE65 Raider 9SE Test
While working the Witcher 3 by mediocre settings and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS, the battery lasted for 59 minutes. However, it ran at a stable 30 FPS the entire time without dipping. The result while gaming was similar to others, so no problem there. But outside of gaming, the battery life was definitely on the lower side.
The 180-watt power brick that’s included with the GE65 didn’t seem to be adequate to deal with heavy loads. As my battery drained down to 85% while I was performing my thermal testing. The RTX 2070 model is available with a larger 280-watt brick, so I’d think that to be plenty for that one. I’ll briefly cover thermal performance, but this is a shortened version. The MSI dragon center lets us swap between four performance modes, ECO, comfort, sport, and turbo. And turbo mode overclocks the graphics. We can also use the cooler boost fan mode to set the fan to maximum speed.
When under combined CPU and GPU stress test with Aida64 and Unigine heaven. Thermal throttling on the CPU at 95 degrees Celsius was being hit. However, simply setting the fans to max speed reduced this. Meanwhile, gaming with Watch Dogs 2 wasn’t quite as hot. A cooling pad helped lower temperatures quite a bit, thanks to the large mesh area on the bottom of the laptop. The most significant improvement to performance was gained by undervolting the CPU. Which basically allowed us to hit the full 4GHz turbo boost speed of the 9750H.
The undervolt helped so much because PL1 is capped to 45 watts, and I wasn’t able to boost this. Meanwhile, the RTX 2060 was running at 90 watts outside of ECO mode. CPU performance outside of combined CPU and GPU workloads was pretty good, with the undervolt applied, we’re getting around 3000 points in Cinebench, which is a good result for the i7. The keyboard area was looking normal at idle, and with stress tests running, it was only a little warm, and this lowered a bit with the fan speed increased.
Let’s see how the MSI GE65 matches with other laptops. In Battlefield 5, I’ve got the MSI GE65 9SE highlighted in red near similarly specced machines. This is only the second time I’ve tested the RTX 2060 with a 9750H CPU. And it’s beating the Clevo machine underneath it by a fair amount, despite that one being undervolted out of the box. The results are actually ahead of most of the 2070 Max-Q machines, too, both in terms of average FPS and 1% low. So great results from the GE65 here.
The proceeds from Far Cry 5 by ultra settings in the built-in benchmark. Again the GE65 was a fair amount ahead of the competition. Even scoring close to higher specced machines like MSI’s own GP75 with RTX 2070 graphics.
The proceeds of Shadow of the Tomb Raider by the built-in benchmark at the highest settings. Again the results are above average and in front of most of the RTX 2070 Max-Q laptops above it. Granted not by much, but it’s still winning with lower specs. Overall we’re seeing excellent results from this level of hardware with the MSI GE65 gaming laptop. It’s consistently outperforming other RTX 2060 laptops I’ve tested and even most of the RTX 2070 Max-Q ones too. Likely in part, thanks to the GPU overclock in turbo mode. Based on what I’m seeing here, I’d expect the 9SF version of the GE65 with RTX 2070 to be a beast.
MSI GE65 Raider 9SE Specs
I’ve got the 9SE version of the MSI GE65 9SE. So there’s an Intel i7-9750H CPU, Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics, 32gb of memory in dual channel, a 15.6” 1080p 144Hz screen, and 256gb NVMe M.2 SSD with 1TB hard drive. For network connectivity, it’s got gigabit ethernet, WiFi 6, and Bluetooth 5. The GE65 is also available with different specs, including i9 CPU, GTX 1660 Ti, RTX 2070, or 240Hz screen. You can find other configurations and updated pricing.
MSI GE65 Raider 9SE Price
For updated pricing, you have to check it every time, as prices will change over time. At the time of writing this, in the US, I’ve had trouble finding the 2060 model; it seems to go for USD 1800. However, this doesn’t get much reason given the 2070 model is on sale for the same price. To be fair, these are with the 240Hz screen, which should increase the price over the 144Hz one I have.
Otherwise, there’s also the 1660 Ti model that goes for USD 1200. It’s a similar weird deal here in Australia. The GE65 with 2060 is AUD 3200, but the 2070 model is on sale for $3000. Putting 2060 in a strange overpriced position. So if that’s the case, it would make sense just to get the more powerful 2070.
With all of that in mind, let’s conclude by looking at the good and bad aspects of the MSI GE65 9SE gaming laptop. As a gaming laptop, the GE65 is doing what it’s designed to do. It’s playing games very well and beating higher specced laptops. The new thin-bezel design is appreciated, over say the older and thicker GE63 model. And the reduction of gamer red was also lovely. Though there is still a little around, it’s somewhat more subtle compared to previous MSI laptops.
The build quality was also quite good; it felt solid and well made. It’s great that the screen is available with 144Hz or 240Hz options. And the color gamut and brightness measured in my unit were excellent for a gaming laptop. However, the contrast was a little below average; the bleed was fine in my unit, though. There’s a decent selection of I/O on offer. However, I found it a little strange that the two USB Type-A ports are right down the front on the right. If you plug in pretty much anything, it’ll be in the way if you’re right-handed and using a mouse. It’s especially strange when the back section appears free.
The Steelseries keyboard is one of the best looking in terms of per-key RGB lighting that I’ve tested, and it also offers a lot of customization. There’s plenty of storage options available, with a 2.5-inch drive bay, space for two M.2 drives, and even SD card slot. I know some people would have preferred to remove the 2.5-inch drive bay for a larger battery. Which sounds fair considering the poor battery life from the smaller 51wh battery.
Personally, I think this compromise is fair. Having a large hard drive will allow you to store plenty of games for less money compared to M.2 SSDs. But yeah, the trade-off does mean lower battery life. I thought the thermals were on the warmer side, considering we’ve got 7 heat pipes inside. It would be exciting to discuss how everything would go with either an 8 core i9 9880H CPU or RTX 2070, as I’d expect those to run hotter.
The only other strange thing was the price. Both in the US and here in Australia for some reason, the RTX 2070 model is either about the same price or cheaper than 2060 one. So if that’s the case, it probably makes sense to just go for 2070 as that would be better value. All things considered, the GE65 is a powerful gaming laptop for the specs that it’s packing. It’s punching above its weight and even beating higher specced 2070 Max-Q machines.