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MSI Raider GE76-12UHS Review: Beastly Power at a Price

Laptops featuring high-end 12th Gen Intel Core CPUs have started showing up in stores in India, and gamers can get the first taste of this new hardware right now. With consistent competition from AMD over the past few years, plus Apple’s shift to its own in-house M1 Pro and M1 Max processors, Intel has a lot to prove in the premium laptop space. The biggest change with the 12th Gen lineup is a move to a heterogenous architecture with multiple CPU core types. We’ve already seen how this changes things for high-end desktops, and now it’s time to talk about our first experience with a laptop powered by one of these CPUs.

MSI is one of the first companies to refresh its portfolio of gaming laptops in India with 12th Gen Core CPUs. The new models cover a wide range of price points with different screen sizes and multiple CPU and GPU options. While the industry overall is moving towards slimmer and lighter models, even in the gaming market, what we have with us today is the top-of-the-line MSI Raider GE76-12UHS, a beefy gaming laptop with specs that max out almost every imaginable parameter, and a price that might be hard for most people to stomach.

If you need a gaming laptop and don’t want to compromise even a little bit on performance, this review will give you a taste of what an unlimited budget can get you in 2022.

High-end hardware requires considerable cooling, making the Raider GE76 relatively bulky

 

MSI Raider GE76-12UHS price in India

MSI has announced multiple variants of the Raider series with a range of specifications. The Raider GE66 model number indicates a 15.6-inch screen while GE76 means you get a 17.3-inch screen. In India, the MSI Raider GE76 starts with a 12th Gen Core i7 CPU and GeForce RTX 3070 Ti GPU for Rs. 2,85,990 while a Core i9 CPU and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU will push the price up to a blistering Rs. 4,81,990.

The Raider GE66 is priced at Rs. 2,79,990 and Rs. 4,47,990 for the same two variants. These are all official prices and retail listings come in a bit lower. Clearly, these laptops are not for the faint of heart. However, not all permutations and combinations of hardware appear to be available in India – more on that in a moment.

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The Titanium Blue exterior of the MSI Raider GE76 doesn’t fit the typical gamer aesthetic but looks good

 

MSI Raider GE76-12UHS design

First of all, the Raider GE76 is is one of the largest laptops I’ve seen in a long time. Even as most manufacturers are pushing thin-and-light options in the gaming market, MSI has gone with a completely unapologetic approach that prioritises top-end components plus the cooling they’ll require.

Still, it’s not as bulky and heavy as top-tier gaming laptops used to be just a few years ago, and MSI has used the space well – for example, the 17.3-inch screen spans nearly the entire width of the lid; there isn’t much plastic around it making the Raider GE76’s body any wider than it needs to be. Despite its appearance, the Raider GE76 weighs only 2.9kg (not including the large power brick) which is less than what most everyday 15-inch laptops weighed not too long ago. You could actually carry it around every day without too much trouble if you want to.

The lid is metal with an icy silver-blue finish that MSI calls Titanium Blue. This is somewhat unusual for a gaming laptop, but it looks quite good – the only downside is that smudges are highly visible. MSI has avoided the obvious “gamer” aesthetic though the hinges and corners are slightly pronounced, and there are large vents on the rear. The MSI dragon badge is a little garish but that’s the only branding you’ll see anywhere.

When you turn this laptop on, however, all subtlety goes out the window. MSI has chosen to implement a gigantic RGB LED bar across the entire front lip of the GE76 Raider. By default it cycles through jewel-toned red, green, and blue. This can be customised through MSI’s software but it strangely isn’t integrated with the keyboard’s lighting effects and there’s no way to turn it off quickly when watching a movie, for example.

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MSI has gone all in on lighting effects with per-key RGB illumination and a huge bar on the front

 

The keyboard has per-key RGB LED backlighting, and MSI has gone for a slightly muted, frosted tone rather than the bright colours you might expect. The effect is eye-catching, and you can switch patterns or turn it off quickly using Fn key shortcuts.

As for keyboard layout, none of the keyboard keys are too small or cramped. There’s a full-sized number pad but no paging block. The Fn shortcut key is to the right of the spacebar, which might take some getting used to. Shortcuts for volume and screen brightness adjustment are on the arrow cluster rather than the Fn row. The power button in the top-right corner is a bit stiffer than the others to make it harder to press accidentally.

Because this keyboard was designed by SteelSeries, you get the company’s GG app which lets you synchronise RGB settings and shortcuts across different accessories. Several games and apps support custom RGB effects. You can track stats such as health, mana, teammates, spawn time, and buff timers in League of Legends, or compass directions and tool durability in Minecraft, for example. Unfortunately the app pushes you to sign up for an account in order to capture and share gameplay clips, and there’s also lots of unwanted promotion for other Steelseries products.

The trackpad seems tiny on such a huge body but is actually a decent size. It’s aligned to the keyboard’s home keys, not the chassis, which is good. I felt a little too much friction when swiping around. It’s a bit of a surprise that there are no physical buttons, but the mechanism is okay for casual use. You’ll have a mouse for serious gaming anyway.

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The MSI Raider GE76’s keyboard is spacious but has a few layout quirks

 

MSI Raider GE76-12UHS specifications

MSI lists two options for Indian buyers, one with a 12th Gen Intel Core i7 CPU paired with Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 3070 Ti, and the other with a Core i9 CPU and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU. The unit I have for review was provided by Intel and MSI, and there are some slight variations compared to what’s on sale here, though this shouldn’t affect performance. The Core i9-12900HK CPU, which is this generation’s top-end mobile part, has six P-cores with Hyper-Threading running at up to 5GHz and eight single-threaded E-cores running at up to 3.8GHz. The nominal TDP is 45W but this can be pushed way up to 115W if a laptop’s power and cooling design allow it. It does have integrated graphics capabilities based on Intel’s Iris Xe architecture for low-demand usage.

There are multiple display options – full-HD at 360Hz, QHD at 240Hz, and 4K at 120Hz. Each option represents a tradeoff, and there are of course different games and tasks that could benefit from either combination. Considering the 17.3-inch panel size, I’d lean towards the higher resolutions to balance productivity and gaming, but I can see how some twitch-style gamers want the fastest refresh rate possible and aren’t going to push beyond full-HD in games anyway. The review unit has the 1080p 360Hz panel. All of these are described as “IPS-level” displays.

RAM support goes up to 64GB of DDR5-4800 and there are two user-accessible slots. There are also two M.2 slots fed by PCIe 4.0 lanes so upgrading shouldn’t be much of a problem. The review unit had 32GB of DDR5 RAM and two 1TB Samsung OEM SSDs. Retail units have only one 1TB SSD. There’s Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth 5.2. The 99.9Wh battery was chosen to max out the capacity that’s allowed on commercial flights, and you get a hefty 330W charger in the box.

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Most of the ports you’d need frequently are on the sides of the MSI GE76 Raider

 

Ports are placed on the sides and back of the Raider GE76. Starting with the left, there are USB 3.2 Gen2 (10Gbps) Type-A and Type-C ports (the latter of which supports DisplayPort 1.4 video output), plus a 3.5mm audio socket. On the right are two USB 3.2 Gen1 (5Gbps) Type-A ports and an SD Express card slot. The rear has the DC power inlet, HDMI 2.1 and Mini-DisplayPort 1.4 video outputs, a single Thunderbolt 4 Type-C port, and a 2.5 Gigabit Ethernet jack. 

There’s a 1080p webcam but no face recognition or even a fingerprint sensor. The Raider GE76 has stereo 2W speakers plus twin 1W woofers designed by Dynaudio. The keyboard has Steelseries branding. MSI has used six heatpipes two fans, one for the CPU and one for the GPU, which it says are larger than before.

You’ll get Windows 11, which is needed to take full advantage of Intel’s Thread Director feature which assigns tasks to the appropriate type of core. There’s some preloaded software too – MSI Center lets you manage on-device noise cancellation, backups, fan profiles, lighting effects, and more. App Player uses Bluestacks’ technology to allow you to play Android games. There’s also a short-term Norton Security subscription.

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Large vents exhaust hot air out the rear, and more ports are placed here too

 

MSI Raider GE76-12UHS performance

Let’s first talk about everyday usage. The display on my review unit was non-reflective and generally pleasant to work with. Content on screen wasn’t especially sharp, considering the 1920×1080 resolution at 17.3 inches, and I have seen better. Colours are fairly punchy and watching videos was enjoyable enough. HDR isn’t on the spec sheet but this panel can get quite bright. The speakers fire upwards and sideways, creating a wide soundstage. They can get loud enough to fill a small room, and you could easily watch videos with a friend or two at a considerable distance from the screen. Sound is clear, especially voices, but can be a bit shrill at high volume.

The keyboard is a bit spongy but the keys do have good travel. The layout takes some getting used to, especially having the Fn key to the right of the spacebar. One neat touch is that when you hold the Fn key down, your backlight effect is paused and all available combo keys light up in red. The trackpad is thankfully centred to the keyboard. It works well enough and its click mechanism feels crisp.

Now it’s finally time to test Intel’s latest and greatest, in the form of the MSI Raider GE76 gaming laptop. Of course, we start with PCMark 10, which measures performance across multiple real-world use cases. The standard run produced a score of 7,172 while the Extended run managed 9,948. The new UL Procyon test is more specialised – its Office Productivity suite showed a result of 7,278 while the Photo Editing benchmark score was 8,198. Compared to the recently tested Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 OLED, which is based on an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX CPU, the 12th Gen Intel Core i9 showed significant gains.

The browser-based WebXprt 3 and Basemark tests produced 344 and 1,247.37 points respectively. Cinebench R20’s single-core and multi-core scores were 634 and 5,614. POVRay’s default benchmark scene was rendered in 49s while V-Ray showed CPU and GPU render scores of 16,226 and 554 respectively. The Blender 3D benchmark took 2 minutes, 56 seconds to complete the familiar BMW render, 7 minutes 54 seconds for the Classroom test, and 7 minutes, 58 seconds for the Barcelona Pavilion scene.

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Available shortcuts are highlighted when you hold the Fn key down

 

In real-world tests, the MSI Raider GE76 was able to compress a 3.24GB of assorted files using 7zip in 1 minute, 12 seconds, while Handbrake took 36 seconds to transcode a 1.3GB AVI file to H.265. In this latter test, the Ryzen-based laptop had a huge advantage thanks to its higher number of powerful cores working in parallel. CrystalDiskMark measured sequential reads and writes for the primary SSD at 7,031MBps and 5,116.7MBps respectively, while random reads and writes came in at 2,827.6MBps and 1,381.3MBps.

Coming to graphics and gaming performance, which is what everyone wants to know about, we again start with synthetic tests. 3DMark’s DX12 Time Spy Extreme test score was 5,881, while the Port Royal test with ray tracing managed 7,940 points. The Nvidia DLSS feature test showed scores of 36.86fps with DLSS off and 85.63fps with it enabled. Unigine’s Superposition benchmark was limited to 1920×1080, but with pushing quality up to the Extreme preset, the average performance was 46.32fps.

We start our in-game tests with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which averaged 134fps at 1920×1080 at the Highest quality preset. Surprisingly, with shadow ray tracing enabled and DLSS set to Balanced mode, the frame rate stayed pretty much the same. Metro: Exodus also supports both features. At its Ultra preset, the game’s benchmark tool reported a 90.72fps average. With ray tracing set to High, that dropped to 76.72fps, but with DLSS enabled, the average bouced back to 83.98fps.

Far Cry 5 averaged 125fps and there was no need to test at anything below its Ultra preset. Assasin’s Creed: Odyssey put up a score of 80fps at its Ultra High settings. Middle Earth: Shadow of War had no trouble hitting 150fps at Ultra quality, and Gears Tactics averaged 143.2fps at its own Ultra setting.

I observed extremely fluid performance when manually running through some games. Doom Eternal, which has little trouble even with mid-range hardware, comfortably hit 250fps even at its Ultra Nightmare quality setting, but that dropped quite a bit in heavy fight scenes. With ray tracing turned on and DLSS set to balanced, I saw the frame rate vary between 170fps and 220fps using the in-game overlay. I then fired up Control with its quality set to High. Without any effects, I saw performance up to 120fps using Nvidia’s performance overlay. That dropped to around 75fps with ray tracing on, and about 100fps with DLSS set to Balanced mode to compensate.

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The power brick you get with the MSI Raider GE76 is big and heavy

 

These are all very high frame rates, but I would have preferred to have been able to test all these games at higher resolutions. It isn’t likely that anyone would spend so much on a huge laptop with a 17.3-inch 360Hz panel and then use an external monitor instead, so that was not a test scenario for this review. Of course a resolution of 1920×1080 will allow games to run very well.

That said, the 360Hz refresh rate plus the performance of the CPU and GPU in this laptop made games look incredible. Microstuttering was pretty much a non-issue. I saw no tearing whatsoever, even in benchmark scenes that typically run poorly. It’s hard to quantify whether 360Hz is that much better than, say 240Hz or even 144Hz for most people. Sure, there are some types of games that will benefit from this combination of resolution and refresh rate, but others will find 1080p a bit too restrictive. I would have preferred either of MSI’s other options; QHD at 240Hz and 4K at 120Hz.

When running games and tests, the fans of the MSI Raider GE76 spin up within a few seconds and can get quite loud – not distracting, but definitely noticeable. Hot air is pushed out the back and sides, and I had to pull my mouse forward to avoid discomfort. The keyboard gets warm but this is tolerable around the WASD area. However, the metal area above and near the upper sides of the keyboard tray can become too hot to touch for more than a second or two.

When it comes to a 17.3-inch gaming laptop with flagship specifications, battery life probably isn’t high on buyers’ lists of priorities. Intel does claim power efficiency improvements for the Alder Lake architecture, partly thanks to the E-cores and partly to its ‘Intel 7′ manufacturing process. Even so, MSI has gone with the highest capacity that will be allowed through airport security – 99.9Wh.

Don’t expect to play high-end games while running on battery power. I ran a few tests to see whether we’re at a point where this is possible, but it isn’t. 3DMark’s Port Royal and Time Spy Extreme scores crashed to 1,650 and 1,355 respectively, and Middle Earth: Shadow of War managed only 38fps at the same settings as before.

I noticed that the Raider GE76’s fans would often become audible even when performing mundane tasks, indicating spikes in power consumption. With average everyday use, involving some video streaming and a lot of browser-based work, I didn’t get more than six hours on a single charge (the LED effects and refresh rate were at their default settings). The intensive Battery Eater Pro test ran for 1 hour, 43 minutes with LEDs disabled and our regular test conditions enforced. It charged to about 78 percent in two hours, which is alright.

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The MSI Raider GE76 could be called a “desktop replacement” but it isn’t too heavy to carry around every day

 

Verdict

Intel’s top-end 12th Gen ‘Alder Lake’ mobile CPU, the Core i9-12900HK, is a beast. It reached new heights in several benchmarks and sets a high bar for AMD to match with its upcoming Ryzen 6000 series. The combination of this CPU, the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU, the 360Hz screen, and all the other top-end hardware in the Raider GE76 made for a phenomenal gaming experience. Once you get used to playing at well over 100fps in multiple high-end titles at their highest possible settings, it’s hard to go back. I’m still not convinced that the 360Hz refresh rate is worth dropping to 1080p for, but that’s why multiple options are available.

Of course this kind of laptop isn’t for everyone. Not only is the MSI Raider GE76 bulky by today’s standards, but it also runs hot and is ludicrously expensive. This kind of money could buy you a fairly capable small car, brand new, and it’s quite certain that something significantly better will come along in a year or less. A laptop of this calibre is a luxurious indulgence, and while it should work great for many years, it won’t be top-of-the-line for long.

Let’s also talk about the creator laptop market. Many people who need serious performance for content creation work such as 3D modelling, high-res video production, animation, or even data-heavy workloads often buy gaming laptops for their hardware. Performance in our benchmarks shows that if time is money, an investment of this magnitude might make sense for a lot of professionals. There are sure to be several laptops in the market soon more tailored to this market, but it’s nice to have options that serve for work as well as play.

For details of the latest Nokia, Samsung, Lenovo, and other product launches from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, visit our MWC 2022 hub.

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