MSI GF63 Review - Lots of Gaming Power in a Very Portable Package
Gaming on the go has always been and continues to be a challenging compromise between performance and portability. While many laptops bill themselves as gaming machines and still offer many hours of battery life, those claims are rarely a reality. Fact is that with great power and performance comes a great need to chew through battery life. Significant power and performance also usually means that devices are less than portable, as form factors are larger, heavier, and noisier to deal with heat management.
MSI has tried to aim for a middle-of-the-road compromise between performance and portability with the GF63 laptop. MSI packs this medium-sized laptop with a decent amount of power while maintaining a sleek look that can easily pass as a more business-like mobile device.
From the outside, the GF63 is exceptionally sleek and understated. While much of the gaming market is saturated with flashy designs and RGB lighting on anything that could be visible to another human being, MSI made a conscious decision to keep the design of the GF63 professional looking and slick. It weighs in at 1.86kg and is 21.7mm thick. That’s very good for a gaming laptop.
The top of the case, as well as the top of the keyboard cover, are coated in an air-brushed aluminum that gives the GF63 a sense of luxury and also does an excellent job of preventing smudges and fingerprints from marring the device. The lid features a solitary MSI logo in its trademark red color and in general, the GF63 won’t look out of place sitting next to more business-minded devices such as MacBooks or other productivity laptops. No one’s going to accuse you of bringing your souped-up hotrod of a computer to an office meeting if you take this device with you.
The display itself is a full-HD IPS display that is bright and does a good job of outputting brilliant colors. You won’t find anything too flashy here, as the resolution remains at standard 1920×1080 and isn’t touch-capable, but I’ve never understood the appeal of 4K touch displays in gaming laptops that are too underpowered to take advantage of them. This display fits the performance and price model that MSI is aiming for perfectly. MSI also places a lot on the thin-bezel design of the GF63, and while the bezel on the side is undoubtedly fairly thin, the top and bottom are no less ordinary than most laptops, gaming or otherwise.
The keyboard is well sized and responsive, and I enjoy typing on it a lot. The simple red backlighting provides enough illumination without being flashy, and the keys feel responsive. I’m writing this review on the MSI GF63 right now, and I wish some of my other day-to-day devices had a keyboard this nice.
Where the keyboard impresses, the touchpad, unfortunately, falls short. On first glance, it’s well designed and fits the overall style of the GF63. It’s also large enough to provide plenty of room to mouse around. However, at times it felt flimsy and wouldn’t recognize any single touch or tap. For some reason, touchpads often seem to be problem spots on laptops, with very few having success in this area. But after getting used to such an excellent keyboard, I was disappointed that the touchpad didn’t measure up.
On the sides, the MSI GF63 features the standard suite of connectivity options, including a full-size HDMI port for easy connections to TVs or larger monitors while you’re on the go. Three USB 3 and one USB-C ports provide plenty of options for you to connect your favorite devices. You even get separate headphone and microphone ports to allow you to make use of pretty much any gaming headset on the market.
Under the Hood
On the inside, MSI packs a fair bit of raw power into the GF63. The model I was sent for review comes with an eight-generation Intel i7-8750H @ 2.20GHz and 16GB of system memory. The OS resides on a 256GB M.2 SSD which makes Windows and desktop application purr along at incredible speeds. Seriously, the performance of day-to-day browsing, editing, writing, and other activities is excellent.
To hold all your games, MSI adds a second 1TB spinning disk drive, and your visuals are powered by Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti with Max-Q design. This 4GB special edition of the 1050 series is designed for mobile gaming and optimized to stay cooler and quieter.
Real Life Gaming Performance
Mobile gaming always struck me as a challenge that demands a compromise of some sort. It’s unreasonable to think that a device that weighs a mere few pounds would be able to produce as much performance as a massive, loud, and well-cooled gaming rig sitting on a desk. Two things I immediately learned when playing games on the MSI GF63 are always to bring an AC adapter and not to keep the laptop on your lap while playing demanding games.
While MSI claims that the GF63 has up to seven hours of battery life, you will only see that kind of result while doing very light work. While I do not doubt that the GF63 can stay alive on its battery while you write a few tweets and maybe browser reddit for a few hours, you won’t be playing games on battery support for very long. Not only will the Intel CPU throttle down significantly without the help of the AC adapter, but you’ll find yourself soon reaching for it to keep going. In my tests, I managed to play Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey for just over an hour before I had effectively run the battery dry. This isn’t a surprise, considering how much work the Nvidia GeForce 1050 Ti had to do in both those titles.
It’s also worth noting that the GF63 stays surprising quiet under heavy load, but it doesn’t stay as cool as MSI would like you to believe. It’s perfectly fine to keep on a desk, and I never worried about it getting too hot, but it’s certainly not comfortable on your lap for extended periods of time. However, I will give MSI credit for its effective cooling system that keeps the keyboard cool enough to use, even when the rest of the device heats up. That is what you want from a gaming laptop. Heat will be generated no matter what, and MSI has done an excellent job of moving that heat away from the essential bits of the device, allowing you to keep using the keyboard and touchpad comfortably.
The main two titles that I tested on the MSI GF63 were Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. The latter in particular can be quite demanding, but at appropriate settings, the GF63 performed admirably. I would say that graphics settings had to be dialed down to settings comparable to a console, or somewhat below that, but the games ran reasonably well. If you are looking to play current titles at the highest fidelity, however, the GF63 won’t be able to cut it. There’s not enough power here to drive the demands of a modern triple-A title.
Fortunately, there are many top-rated games out there that the GF63 will be more than enough for, but keep in mind that this laptop is a middle-of-the-road device with benefits other than pure horsepower.
I quite enjoyed the MSI GF63. It’s able to hit a nice middle ground between productivity and gaming capability, and the price also reflects that. If you are someone that needs to be mobile and wants to play games occasionally, then this is the device for you. The hardware included is more than capable of letting you do anything you want from a regular desktop use perspective, and the video card provides enough power to play most games at reasonable to good settings. You won’t be using the GF63 to play the latest games at maxed out settings, but that’s also not what it’s meant to do.
The GF63 from MSI is a powerful, sleek, and well-designed multi-purpose laptop that is more than capable of letting you scratch your gaming itch while on the go. If you respect the limitations of mobile gaming around the $1,200 price point, then you’ll be more than happy.