• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

MSI Vector GP66 review: The muscle car of gaming laptops – Expert Reviews

ByWikafever

Aug 11, 2022

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The MSI Vector is a compelling combination of very high performance and relatively low cost
I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a banner on the wall of the office in Taiwan used by the team who designed the MSI Vector GP66 that reads “It’s all about the frame rate, stupid”, albeit in Mandarin Chinese. That’s what the Vector is all about: delivering the maximum raw gaming performance for the minimum price.
To that end, MSI has designed a gaming laptop that’s light on subtleties but heavy on brute power. Think of it as the gaming laptop equivalent of an American muscle car like the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, with a huge V8 offering massive speed at a much lower price than a comparably fast, but more refined, Porsche 911.
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Analogies aside, the MSI Vector GP66’s proposition is a fairly simple one. It’s a 15.6in gaming laptop that’s stacked with the very latest in performance components and, in the case of this review, that’s the 150W Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU and Intel Core i7-12700H CPU.
Few combinations deliver more gaming performance in a laptop form factor and it’s surprising, to say the least, to find them in a machine costing only £2,100.

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And while that might seem like an odd thing to say about a laptop costing this much money, remember, you can easily spend twice that on a high-end gaming laptop.
As we’ll see, some corners have been cut but not any really critical ones. The display and cooling management are all up to scratch, which reinforces the impression that every penny has been spent on pushing out the highest possible frame rates. That’s a product design philosophy I can really subscribe to.
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Model tested: MSI Vector GP66 12UH – Intel Core i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, 15.6in 165Hz 2,560 x 1,440 display, 1TB SSD, £2,199 | Buy now from Scan
Aside from the model sent to me (see above), there are three further variants flavours. You can have it with an Intel Core i9 CPU and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, or a Core i7 CPU with an RTX 3070 Ti or an RTX 3060. The RTX 3060 model comes with a Full HD 240Hz display while the other versions get a 165Hz 2,560 x 1,440 panel. There is a model that comes with a 320Hz Full HD screen but that seems to be reserved for our American cousins.
The most obvious competition for the GP66 comes from the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15. With a lovely optical-mechanical keyboard, multiplexer switch and numerous funky design touches like the magnetic Keystone, the Strix Scar 15 is an object lesson in attention to detail. It isn’t quite as powerful as the MSI, though, and at £2,399 costs more.
We’ve only tested the recent Alienware laptops in their 14in x14 and 17.3in x17 R2 variants but the 15.6in x15 R2 model is just as nice. Again, though, you’re paying for the slim, sleek design and even a less powerful specification than the Vector costs £200 more.
Razer’s Blade 15 models are always worth a look and the latest Intel 12th Gen machines are no exception. Stylish and built to a very high standard, the Blade series appeals to professional creative types as well as gamers but that undoubted quality comes at a price. The entry-level RTX 3060 model will set you back £2,599. If you want one with an RTX 3080 Ti GPU then be prepared to part with nearly £4,000.
The most powerful laptop we tested in 2021 – Acer’s imperious Predator Helios 500 – is still worth considering, not least because of its potential for overclocking and its superb mini LED display.
I wouldn’t describe the Vector as unusually compact or light but, at 358 x 267 x 23mm (WDH), its footprint is smaller than that of the Asus Strix Scar 15.
MSI describes the design as a “stereoscopic structure… extending to the unknown existence” which is just word salad. I’d describe it as chunky and angular with the most distinct features being the large exhaust vents that protrude from its rear haunches.
Build quality is decent. The lid and keyboard deck are made of magnesium alloy and the rest of the body is made from plastic. There is some flex to the lid, but this isn’t excessive and, while it doesn’t feel as well made as the rivals from Razer and Alienware, it’s every bit as solid as the Asus ROG Strix Scar 15.
There’s no external light show beyond the RGB per-key backlight, which may leave some hardcore gamers feeling a little short changed but then machines that can imitate the closing scenes of Close Encounters, like the Strix Scar 15, are rather more expensive.

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The port selection is fairly generous. There are Mini DisplayPort 1.4 and HDMI 2.1 video outputs along with a 2.5Gbps RJ-45 LAN port at the rear next to the DC power input. A pair of USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5Gbit/sec) ports are situated on the right edge and there’s another USB-A on the left, alongside with a 10Gbits/sec USB-C port and a 3.5mm audio jack.
Removing the bottom panel is a cinch and, once inside, you can access the system’s two SSD bays, each with space for an M.2 2280 NVMe drive (you can configure these in either RAID1 or RAID0 if you wish). Both SODIMM RAM slots are also accessible as is Intel AX211 wireless card. That Intel card supports Bluetooth 5.2 and Wi-Fi 6E, meaning it covers the 2.4GHz, 5GHz and 6GHz frequencies.
The SSD in my review model was a 1TB Micron affair which returned middle-of-the-road sequential read and write speeds of 3,201MB/sec and 3,242MB/sec.

The Vector’s keyboard has been designed in partnership with Danish gaming specialist, SteelSeries, which also had a hand in the design of the audio system via its Nahimic subsidiary. That doesn’t make it as special as I expected it to be.
I’d prefer a little more travel from the keys, although the feel is firm and positive. It isn’t the most spacious keyboard, either, and it lacks the niceties that other gaming laptops enjoy, such as separate media and hot keys. In addition, there’s no numeric keypad and the rather narrow Fn key sits awkwardly to the right of the space bar.

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You do get per-key RGB lighting, which is managed by the standard SteelSeries app, however the backlight itself is a little on the dim side.
The plastic-topped trackpad continues the GP66’s collection of lacklustre ergonomic components. It’s rather small at a mere 105 x 65mm and the corner click action is a little cheap feeling for my liking, more befitting a £500 laptop then one costing four times that amount.
The webcam is, likewise, humdrum. It captures grainy 720p imagery, even in good light, and doesn’t support Windows Hello facial recognition. In fact, this laptop has no biometric login facility at all.
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The Vector can be had with two 15.6in panels: a QHD (2,560 x 1,440) 165Hz affair or a Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) unit refreshing at 240Hz. The former would be my personal choice and, luckily, that’s what MSI sent me to review.

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There’s little to criticise the panel for with the maximum brightness reaching a respectable 334cd/m2 and the contrast ratio an equally solid 1,170:1. It’s colourful, too, and is capable of generating up to 95.9% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut.
The Delta E colour accuracy was a little off at 2.57 vs sRGB but I’ve seen gaming laptops score much worse. Recalibrating the screen to get the number closer to 1 should be easy enough given the generous colour space coverage.
In keeping with MSI’s policy of keeping costs down, the Vector does without such proprietary technologies as Nvidia’s Advanced Optimus GPU switching, G-Sync VRR and Thunderbolt connectivity. The absence of a multiplexer switch, however, is I think one saving too far.
The downward-firing speakers generate a solid foundation of bass and there’s plenty of directional definition. They are not the most musical laptop speakers but they do a good job of relaying the visceral staccato sound effects of fast action shooters like Wolfenstein: Youngblood or Halo Infinite. Measuring their loudness from a distance of 1m returned an 85dB average from a pink noise source and peaks of 87dB from a music source. That’s every bit as good as the more expensive competition from the likes of Asus and Alienware.
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Expert Reviews’ in-house 4K multi-media benchmark returned a score of 420 points, exactly the same as the rather more expensive Asus ROG Strix Scar 15 with its Core i9 processor and RTX 3070 Ti GPU. Just three months ago that score would have been stunning but we’re already getting a bit blasé about the performance boost that Intel’s new Alder Lake chips have delivered.

The GeekBench 5 CPU test scores were also very similar to the ROG Strix Scar 15 but, when it comes to the GPU intensive tests, it’s another story. In the CUDA test the Vector beat the Strix Scar 15 and came close to matching the Alienware x17 R2 (148,344 vs 151,606 vs 153,145).

The Vector’s performance in the SPECviewperf 3dsmax 3D rendering test was similarly impressive at 110fps. Only the Alienware x17 and Acer Helios 500 have done better in our tests.
Things get even more impressive when you turn to gaming performance because the Vector is seriously rapid. Indeed, running Full HD tests on the Vector is verging on pointless so good are the results at QHD.
Case in point, the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark scored 105fps at 1440p and 130fps at 1080p at the highest setting with Ray Tracing on and DLSS off. In similar circumstances, Wolfenstein: Youngblood scored 153fps at 1440p while, at 1080p, all the results topped out at or very near the maximum refresh rate. The demanding Hitman 2 test scored 49.1fps at 1440p and 78.6fps at 1080p.

Finally, I ran the three preset Metro Exodus Enhanced Edition tests at 1440p and got results of 38.7fps in Extreme, 59.3fps in Ultra and 75fps in High. Those tests all ran without the aid of Nvidia’s trick DLSS upscaling tech. Knocking the resolution down to 1080p added around 25fps to each of those scores. The Vector is clearly a very capable QHD gamer.
All those tests were run in Performance mode with the cooling fans manually set to their highest boost speed. It’s not the quietest option but, judging by the gusts of hot air emanating from the rear corner vents, it’s effective.
With only a 65Wh battery the Vector should never be taken far from a mains outlet. Our usual video rundown test drained the battery in just 2hrs 47mins, exactly the same as the Acer Predator Helios 500. Try gaming on battery power and even the reduced performance will put the lights out in well under an hour.
When it comes to frame rates per pound spent there’s little that can touch the Vector. Granted, that’s been achieved by ditching some of the subtleties other laptops offer, such as the MUX switch and adaptive display synchronisation but many gamers will be irresistibly drawn to the offer of the high QHD frame rates at a low price.
Add to that the good, if slightly cramped, keyboard, fine display and excellent thermal management and you have a laptop that successfully delivers on its promise of producing the best gaming speeds rates for the lowest cash outlay.
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