MSI GL65 2020 REVIEW||POWERFUL LAPTOP|
MSI GL65 2020:
The MSI GL65 is the first gaming laptop I’vetested with Nvidia’s new higher wattage 2060 graphics, let’s check it out in thisdetailed review and find out if it’s something you should consider. I’ve got the 10SEK configuration, whichhas some decent specs for a gaming laptop, but there are a few different configurationsavailable, you can find examples and check prices with the links in the description. The lid is a matte black metal, the interioris the same, while the bottom is plastic. Overall build quality felt fair, and therewere no sharp corners or edges anywhere. The weight is listed at 2.3kg, though minewas closer to 2.2kg. With the 230w power brick and cables for chargingthe total rises to almost 3.2kg, or 7lb. The GL65 is on the thicker side for a gaminglaptop with this hardware inside, however the width and depth are reasonable for a 15”machine, and this smaller footprint allows for 7.5mm screen bezels on the sides. The 15.6” 1080p 144Hz screen has a mattefinish and uses Optimus which cannot be disabled, there’s no G-Sync. By default the MSI Dragon Center softwarehas display OverDrive enabled, with this on I measured a 5.3ms grey-to-grey response time,but this did introduce a little overshoot. With OverDrive off the response time onlyincreases to 8ms and the overshoot was gone, it’s good that you’ve got options, mostother laptops don’t give you a choice. I’ve tested the screen with the Spyder 5,and got 95% of sRGB, 66% of NTSC, 71% of AdobeRGB and 71% of DCI-P3. At 100% brightness I measured the panel at396 nits in the center with a 640:1 contrast ratio, so pretty good results for a gamingpanel overall though lower on the contrast.
MSI GL65 2020 REVIEW:
Backlight bleed was pretty good too, justsome small imperfections that were only detected on camera in this worst case, but this willvary between laptop and panel. There was some screen flex when intentionallypushing it despite it being metal, probably as it’s on the thinner side, but the hingesotherwise felt sturdy, though they don’t seem to be redesigned to be stronger likewe saw in the GS66. It wasn’t possible to open up with one finger,as like many other laptops from MSI, the battery is up the back with the heatpipes, but itstill felt fine sitting on my lap. Despite the screen bezels being quite thin,MSI have still managed to fit the 720p camera above the screen in the center, no Windowshello support though. This is what the camera and microphone lookand sound like on the GL65. Here’s what it sounds like to type on thekeyboard, and this is what it sounds like if we set the fan to max speed, so you canstill hear me ok over the fan noise. The steelseries keyboard seems the same asmany others from MSI, it’s got per key RGB backlighting which illuminates all keys andsecondary key functions, but they do also sell a red only option. There’s 4 levels of key brightness, or youcan turn it off. I liked typing with the keyboard, no problemsto report, here’s how it sounds to use to give you an idea of what to expect. The power button is above the keyboard onthe right, as well as shortcuts to boost fan speed or change the keyboard lighting effect,but these can be done through software too. There was some keyboard flex when intentionallypushing down hard, but I never noticed any stability issues during normal use. The precision touchpad does not click down,however it’s got physically separate left and right click buttons. It uses the available space well and againworked fine with no issues to note. Fingerprints show up easily on the matte blackinterior and lid, but as a smooth surface they’re fairly easy to clean with a microfibercloth.
On the left from the back there’s a kensingtonlock slot, air exhaust vent, gigabit ethernet, HDMI 2.0 and mini DisplayPort outputs, USB3.2 Gen1 Type-A port, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, no thunderbolt and 3.5mm headphone andmic jacks. On the right from the front there are twoUSB 3.2 Gen1 Type-A ports, full size SD card slot, power input and no exhaust vent on thisside. The position of the front Type-A ports isstrange, almost anything you plug in is going to get in the way of your mouse hand. I confirmed that both the HDMI and mini DisplayPortoutputs were connected directly to the Nvidia graphics, the Type-C port does not have displayoutput. MSI lists the HDMI port as supporting 4K 30Hz,but mine ran fine at 60Hz. The back just has a couple of air exhaustvents towards the corners with Leopard text in the center, while the front has some statusLEDs in the middle. On the lid there’s an MSI logo in the centerwhich gets lit up from the screen’s backlight, so it cannot be controlled. Underneath there are plenty of air ventilationholes towards the back half of the machine, a stark contrast when compared to the TUFA15. Getting inside involves taking out 12 phillipshead screws of the same size, it wasn’t too hard to open, but I did have to pry aroundthe entire perimeter. Inside we’ve got the battery right up theback with the heatpipes, which is why it’s more back heavy. There are two memory slots and a single M.2slot despite there being space for a second there’s no connector. There’s a spot for a 2.5” drive bay butmine didn’t come with a cable or mounting hardware to install one. It’s also worth noting MSI are using slowerDDR4-2666 memory here, while Intel 10th gen supports 2933, so you could potentially geta little speed boost by upgrading or tweaking speeds in BIOS. The speakers are found down the front to theleft and right. They didn’t sound very good, they were tinnywith no bass, a bit high pitch sounding and muffled. They get loud enough at maximum volume, andthe latencymon results looked good. This laptop is powered by a 6-cell 51Wh battery. I’ve tested with the screen brightness at50%, background apps disabled and keyboard lighting off. The results while gaming were just over anhour and similar to others, while the YouTube playback test was 4 and a half hours and belowsome alternatives with similar battery sizes. Next let’s get into the thermal testing. The Dragon Center software lets you selectbetween different performance modes, which from lowest to highest are silent, balancedand extreme performance. You’ve got the option of overclocking theGPU in extreme performance mode, however no overclock is applied by default. You can also toggle coolerboost here, whichsets the fan to max speed, however there is some manual customization that can be doneto CPU or GPU fan.
There’s also no undervolting done out ofthe box, and by default it’s disabled, however if you boot into the BIOS and then press thisepic cheat code you’ll be able to enable undervolting, as well as a ton of other options,so be careful and only change what you understand. Thermals were tested with a 21 degree Celsiusambient room temperature. Idle results down the bottom were good. Worst case stress tests were done with theAida64 CPU stress test with CPU only checked and the Heaven benchmark at max settings atthe same time, and gaming was tested with Watch Dogs 2 as I find it to use a good combinationof processor and graphics. The CPU would thermal throttle at 95 degreescelsius, which was happening in all stress tests with the exception of the cooling pad,and was also happening while gaming in silent mode. The GPU was also thermal throttling at 86degrees Celsius in silent mode, but that’s fine given it’s meant to be a quieter mode,so kind of expected. The cooling pad was making the biggest improvementto thermals, likely due to that huge air vent underneath the machine. These are the clock speeds in the same tests. The GPU doesn’t really change outside ofsilent mode as it’s no longer thermal throttling. Otherwise balanced and extreme modes performsimilarly until we apply the undervolt which gave us the next biggest boost to performance. This is because of the power limits, whileunder combined CPU and GPU loads like these, PL1 never seemed to rise above 45 watts, andthis was despite software reporting PL1 as 200, so I wasn’t able to boost this. Interestingly the GPU wasn’t constantlyrunning at its full 115 watt limit, though it would spike to it and on average it wasn’tfar behind. Here’s how an actual game performs withthese different modes in use, so even the lowest silent mode still does quite well herecomparatively, while overclocking the GPU, undervolting the CPU and using a cooling padgot us a 7% boost. When we look at CPU only performance, silentand balanced modes still have a 45 watt cap, however with the GPU idle extreme mode isable to go up to 62 watts now. The undervolt was required in order to reachthe full 4.3GHz all core turbo boost speed of the 10750H processor, and while the undervoltdidn’t help improve temperatures here as the power in use didn’t change, the coolingpad did help a bit Here’s how the different modes perform inCinebench, I suppose this test isn’t as demanding as the stress test previously, aswe’re now getting similar scores in extreme mode as to using the undervolt or coolingpad. This is how the score stacks up against otheroptions, so getting beaten by cheaper Ryzen 5 4600H laptops, if processing power is yourpreference you might want to look there. As for the external temperatures where you’llactually be putting your hands, at idle it was hardly getting to 30 degrees at the warmestpoints, an average result. With the stress tests running in silent modeit’s getting up to 50 in the center, but if you recall the fans are quiet now and theinternals are at the hottest point, it felt warm but not hot to the touch.
In balanced mode the fan speed increases thoughwe’re seeing similar temperatures. In extreme mode with coolerboost it’s stillsimilar, again just warm in the middle but not hot. Let’s have a listen to the fan noise. It was silent at idle, with the stress testsgoing in silent mode it was on the quieter side, which explains the GPU thermal throttlingnoted earlier, but does at least mean you have the option of gaming well enough witha quieter machine. Balanced mode was notably louder, then you’llprobably want headphones for extreme performance mode with coolerboost. Let’s also take a look at how this new 115watt RTX 2060 compares with other laptops in games, use these results as a rough guideonly as they were tested at different times with different drivers. In Battlefield 5 I’ve got the GL65 highlightedin red. The average frame rate is right on par withthe ASUS Scar III which has the higher tier RTX 2070 graphics, though MSI’s own GE65with 90 watt 2060 is doing better just above it, particularly in terms of 1% low performance,though that model does apply a GPU overclock out of the box, so we could probably boostperformance by doing that. These are the results from Far Cry 5 withultra settings in the built in benchmark. The GL65 was once more quite close to the2070 in the Scar III, though many other 2070 laptops of same power limit were able to dobetter – either way though the 115 watt 2060 isn’t that far behind them. These are the results from Shadow of the Tombraider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. Many of the other lower wattage 2060s likethe Triton 500 or Scar II are around 10 FPS lower, so this more powerful 2060 does havean edge over most of those older ones. The exception seems to be MSI’s GE65 again,which was just 1 FPS lower with the 90 watt variant, but again as mentioned that laptopis overclocked by default. If you’re after more gaming benchmarks checkthe card in the top right corner or link in the description where I’ve tested 20 gamesin total on this machine.
Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve testedHeaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy and Port Royalfrom 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results. I’ve used Adobe Premiere to export one ofmy laptop review videos at 4K, and the GL65 was doing ok compared to others, though thelower specced Y540 was completing it faster. I’ve also tested Premiere but with the Pugetsystems benchmark which also accounts for things like live playback rather than justexport times, this time the GL65 was ahead of the Y540. The results were on the lower side in Photoshop,at least when you consider the hardware compared to other options. Davinci Resolve was doing better than thelast couple, presumably as this is a more GPU bound test, though that said lower wattageGPUs like the 1660 Ti in the TUF A15 were ahead. I’ve also tested SPECviewperf which testsout various professional 3D workloads. I’ve used the OpenVR benchmark to test theHTC Vive Cosmos Elite, and the GL65 was doing fairly well here, really only the bottom twomachines struggled to play Half Life Alyx, so I’d expect these specs to do well enoughin most VR games. I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test thestorage. The 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD was doing alright,but this may vary by region based on what storage is being used. The SD card slot was on the slower side, butbetter than not having one at all, the SD card does click in most of the way into thelaptop at least. For updated prices, check the links in thedescription, as prices will change over time. At the time of recording, in the US the GL65with similar specs is going for around $1300 USD, though there are cheaper options too. Here in Australia we’re looking at about$2700 AUD for the same configuration I’ve tested here. With all of that in mind let’s concludeby summarising the good and bad aspects of the MSI GL65 gaming laptop to help you decideif it’s worthwhile. Overall the GL65 is a decent gaming laptop,the metal build sets it aside from many of MSI’s other plastic models, and althoughthere was still some chassis flex present, I had to go out of my way to notice it.
The performance from the 115 watt 2060 wasfair, typically beating many 90 watt options, but for the price compared to those lowerspecced options, it’s hard to say whether it’s worth paying more for as prices vary. For instance at $1300 USD, I’d be fine saving$100 or more on another model that had a 90 watt 2060, but that’s me, the differencein practice isn’t too big. The GL65 could run on the warmer side dependingon the workload, but as we’ve seen there are different performance modes and fan speedcontrols to adjust this, plus it’s good MSI is allowing us the option to undervoltin the BIOS, as many 10th gen laptops have locked this. Big improvements were also possible from astand or cooling pad thanks to the large mesh bottom. We’re able to surpass 4.1GHz all core turboboost speed on the i7 under heavy workloads which I think is fair with some easy tweaks,while also running below 90 degrees. It would have been good to have the secondconnector for the M.2 slot, there’s space physically available, it seems like MSI arereusing the same motherboard and segmenting their products based on price and features,and if a bunch of space is going to be set aside for a 2.5” drive it would be goodto have the necessary parts to install included. Battery life wasn’t amazing, but the batterywas on the smaller size. The speakers weren’t great, port selectionwas reasonable, but having the two USB ports right at the front on the right hand sidewasn’t optimal even if I can see why they had to do it. The keyboard and touchpad were decent, noproblems there, and the screen was above average for a gaming laptop, good 5ms response timewith the default overdrive enabled, above average brightness, good colour gamut, nonoticeable bleed, the only downside was the lowest contrast. When it comes down to it, the features thatare actually important for playing games and having a good experience are quite good withthis laptop, it just comes down to pricing and how others compare.