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(Pocket-lint) - Gaming laptops are constantly shrinking in size and weight, while trying to pack plenty of punch to keep things interesting. MSI is following this trend with the GE65 Raider, a machine that seemingly offers it all at a reasonable price point. 

This laptop comes with a couple of spec options, both of which are fairly powerful, as well as a frame that's subtle enough to use for work - not just gaming. We've been testing it out for a couple of weeks to see how it fares.

Our quick take

A lightweight, portable and capable gaming machine that's seemingly got it all. Sure there are a few minor niggles - such as the keyboard layout and typically limited battery life - but it's pleasing in plenty of areas.

Plenty of ports, oodles of power, snazzy looks and more make it well worth considering. As you might have gathered, as a gaming laptop the MSI GE65 Raider sure is a great all-rounder.

MSI GE65 Raider review: Portable power, understated glory

MSI GE65 Raider

4.0 stars
  • Striking screen visuals
  • Capable noise-cancelling microphone
  • Decent gaming performance
  • Multiple connection options
  • Pleasant screen colour options
  • Frustrating keyboard layout
  • Loud under heavy load
  • Mediocre battery life

Simplistic, user-friendly design

  • Coffee Lake Intel Core i9-9880H+HM370/ i7-9750H+HM370 CPU options
  • Nvidia Geforce RTX 2070 GDDR6 8GB GPU
  • 16GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM
  • 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD + 1TB (SATA) 7200rpm / 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Killer 1650 (WLAN+BT combo card) Wi-Fi 6 networking
  • 3x USB Type A, 1x USB Type C
    • 2x USB-A 3.2 gen 1, 1x USB 3.2 gen 2
    • 1x USB-C 3.2 gen 2
  • 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x Mini-DisplayPort 1.2, 1x RJ45
  • Dynaudio speaker system 

At first glance, at least when it's turned off, the GE65 Raider isn't likely to stand out from the crowd. A subtle black frame, some light red accents, venting fins, and the MSI logo on the lid are all that catch the eye. 

Things change when you turn it on though. Suddenly the USB ports give off a satisfying red hue, while the SteelSeries keyboard begins a cascading RGB light show.

The specifications of this machine include an NVMe PCIe drive for the operating system, meaning it also boots up quickly and gets you right to the action. That's a 512GB drive too, so more than enough room for a few games. 

Once in Windows, you can make use of MSI's Dragon Centre software to tweak settings, adjust performance, switch screen visuals, adjust battery settings and more. 

The setup of the GE65 Raider also includes multiple connection and output options. Plenty of ports for plugging in a VR headset, mouse, keyboard, external microphone and more. It also boasts an SD card reader and an Ethernet port, which is nice to see. With both HDMI and Mini DisplayPort connections, you can also use this laptop to power external screens.

Capable gaming visuals

  • 15.6-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) thin bezel display
  • 240Hz refresh rate, 3ms response, Anti-glare
  • IPS-level gaming display
  • Adjustable screen colour options including blue light filter

The GE65 Raider manages to pack a 15.6-inch display into its relatively small and thin bezel frame. That screen might only be Full HD/1080p, but it boasts a 240Hz refresh rate - making it speedy and responsive for fast-paced gaming. It's an IPS display too, which we found easy on the eye, vivid and thoroughly pleasing during a multitude of gaming sessions. 

Another highlight to this screen is the True Colour settings within the MSI Dragon Centre, which lets you switch between various screen scenes. These include simple things like an anti-blue light filter, a gaming mode, movie mode, and more. This means you can make things easy on the eye for working, but switch to a brighter and more colourful view for a gaming session. 

Of course, the inclusion of the HDMI port and Mini DisplayPort means you can also make use of the power of this laptop to output to two other screens - but only at 60Hz. MSI says you can drive a 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution monitor from it. We put that to the test, running Red Dead Redemption 2, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and more on an Acer Predator CG7 43-inch 4K display. The results were, as you'd expect, fairly decent, but usually well under 60fps.

Gaming on the laptop's screen is where you get the best experience, though it can feel a tad small at times.

Pocket-lintMSI GE65 Raider review gaming in action image 1

The latest games run well on higher settings and even with the fans running at quieter and lower speeds. If you need a performance boost, there's a handy, easy-access turbo button near the power button that kicks cooling up and notch and gives you a notable increase in frames-per-second power. 

Alas, as with all compact and thin gaming laptops, things do get a tad noisy when this machine is under heavy gaming load and the white noise from the fans can get a bit taxing. However, we did find that the cooling was effective and better than some other laptops we've tested. The GE65 Raider doesn't get too hot to touch or become unbearable to use. It has cooling vents underneath and exhausts at the rear and left side, which work well to keep things cool without much fuss. 

Battery life is much as you'd expect based on specs and size - a bit mediocre. We managed a tad over two hours with the lighting off, brightness down and when just standard browsing. Underwhelming, but fairly standard for a gaming laptop - and the price you pay for the power under the hood. Though there are various power-saving options in the software you can use to eke out some more juice when you need it. 

Keyboard by SteelSeries

Another highlight to the GE65 Raider is the inclusion of the SteelSeries keyboard as standard. This partnership not only sees the SteelSeries logo emblazoned on the laptop's body, but also gives you access to per-key illumination and customisation via SteelSeries Engine 3. 

SteelSeries manages to deliver some of the best RGB lighting we've seen in various gaming keyboards we've tested. It's fairly unusual to see that in a gaming laptop, but it's certainly present here. 

There's a convenient SteelSeries button near the power button which switches between various key colour schemes and presets, including:

  • Gold Splash
  • FPS
  • MMO
  • MOBA
  • Free way
  • Chakra
  • Disco Mode
  • Roulette

The keyboard itself is a bit of a mixed bag though. We found the layout to be a bit awkward. The Windows key is on the wrong side, the directional keys are smushed uncomfortably between the main keys and the Numpad, and there are a few other niggles too. 

That said, it's comfortable to use and accurate, so long as you can get over the compromises to the layout that naturally come with a compact frame.

Convenient app controls

The GE65 Raider has the bonus benefits of having multiple easy-access buttons for general controls. A quick-press of the function key combined with other keys and you can adjust volume, screen and keyboard brightness, switch to battery saving eco mode, and more. 

The Dragon Centre software gives you access to more controls too. It also has an accompanying app in the form of the Dragon Dashboard that's available for your Android or Apple smartphone.

This app allows you to easily monitor things like GPU and CPU load at a glance and switch between various profiles. This means you can easily adjust fan speed, sound and screen visuals from your phone without alt-tabbing out of your game. This system works really well and is instant too. All you need to do is open the app, scan a QR code and off you go. 

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To recap

A lightweight, portable and capable gaming machine that's seemingly got it all. Sure there are a few minor niggles - such as the keyboard layout and typically limited battery life - but the GE65 Raider is pleasing in plenty of areas.

Writing by Adrian Willings. Editing by Stuart Miles.