MSI GS77 2022 Review
Electronics

MSI GS77 2022 Review – A Budget Razer Blade?

MSI’s MSI GS77 is a thinner stealthy all-black gaming laptop, kind of like a cheaper version of Razer Blade, so should you save some money and buy it, or is it worth spending more for a Razer Blade?

MSI GS77 full specification

My MSI GS77 has Intel’s Core i9-12900H CPU, Nvidia RTX 3080 Ti graphics, 64 gigs of DDR5 memory and a 17.3” 4K 120Hz screen, but there are also lower specific configurations for less money too.

MSI GS77 Review

MSI GS77 Build quality and design

The MSI GS77 is available in MSI’s sand-blasted core black finish. The lid, interior and bottom panels are all CNC aluminum, and there aren’t any sharp corners or edges. Build quality feels nice enough, but it can’t compete with Razer’s Blade lineup. I just finished testing. Granted, those cost more too. The black finish is a massive fingerprint magnet anywhere you lightly touch it, but I found it reasonably easy to clean with a microfiber cloth.

The front has an indent in the middle, making it easy to open the lid. However, unlike the smaller GS66, which goes back the full 180 degrees, the 77’s goes back about 130 degrees. It still has the shortcut to flip the screen for sharing, which feels out of place given this year’s GS66 doesn’t have it, seems like MSI has them backwards. There’s some flex to the metal lid, but it’s not too bad considering the new hinge design, which has the hinges closer to the middle.

Only time will tell how well these hold up, they felt fairly sturdy when moving the lid, but we can see during the opening action the bottom part appears to flex up a little. MSI’s product page says they’re reinforced. Keyboard flex was fairly minor even when pushing down hard, a welcome improvement compared to last year’s GS76, which wasn’t as solid.

MSI GS77 Weight and size

The laptop alone weighs 2.9kg or 6.5lb, and that’s before we include the 240-watt power brick and cables for charging. Sure it’s not super thick, but it’s still going to take up some space at almost an inch deeper compared to others like, say Razer’s Blade 17.

Does it have a mux switch?

The MSI GS77 does not have a MUX switch which means no G-Sync, but like all Intel 12th gen gaming laptops with Optimus, it has adaptive sync with a range of 48 to 120Hz.

MSI GS77 Screen and display

The 17.3” screen has 1080p, 1440p and 4K options, and MSI has sent over the 4K 120Hz configuration. Honestly, for most people at this larger 17-inch size but with lower GPU power limits due to the thinner laptop chassis, a 1440p high refresh screen option would be a better sweet spot. My 8-bit screen has a decent color gamut, but lower contrast than expected. I generally find 4K panels to have a better colour gamut, so it could be a good option for someone that does a mixture of gaming and content creation.

It gets fairly bright, too, up to 453 nits at full brightness. Not bad at all, considering the 60% brightness point is higher than this year’s ASUS TUF A15 at maximum. We’re looking at an 8.1ms average grey-to-grey response time, which is below the 8.33ms needed for transitions to occur within the refresh window, though, as we can see, some were higher than this. There aren’t any panel overdrive modes available with the 4K 120Hz screen, so there is no overshoot or undershoot.

There are definitely faster panels out there, like the 4k 144Hz screen in the Razer Blade. The exact same panel in the MSI GS77 was used in last year’s ASUS Zephyrus S17, but that one has an overdrive mode which dropped it down to 5.3ms. MSI laptops usually offer an overdrive mode, so I’m not sure why they didn’t include it with the GS77 as that could speed it up.

A lower screen response time contributes to lower system latency. This is the total amount of time between a mouse click and when a gunshot fires on the screen in CS: GO, and the MSI GS77 was again lower compared to those other 4K high refresh options, which may in part be due to the lack of MUX switch, as going via the integrated graphics typically slows this. The backlight bleed was extremely minor, I never noticed any problems during normal use, but this will vary between laptops.

Camera and microphone

There’s a 1080p camera above the screen in the middle, and it has IR for Windows Hello face unlock. This is what the camera and microphone look and sound like, and this is what it sounds like while I’m typing on the keyboard. So most of the time, it is fine, but if I get a bit more aggressive with it, the screen does wobble a little bit, but it’s fairly sturdy for the most part.

MSI GS77 Keyboard

MSI GS77 has a per-key RGB backlit keyboard, and all keys and secondary functions get lit up, though I didn’t think it got particularly bright. You can press the F8 key, the one with the keyboard icon, to cycle between 4 brightness levels from high to low.

You can also hold function and press either plus or minus to change the lighting up or down, but strangely the plus lowers brightness while the minus increases it, which is the opposite of what I’d expect. Typing was alright, though the key presses felt a little shallow to me, and the small right shift might annoy some.

Although the power button is part of the keyboard, an accidental press doesn’t do anything. You need to hold it for a long time before Windows prompts you to shut down. Despite space on the keyboard’s left and right, the Numpad feels squashed in. I mean, it’s a 17” laptop. We can see there’s space. It just doesn’t feel well utilized.

MSI GS77 Touchpad and fingerprint scanner

The large touchpad is smooth to the touch and works well. However, MSI have chosen to centre it on the laptop chassis, presumably for aesthetics. Usually, the touchpad is centred with regards to the letter keys, so the way they have it here, my right-hand rests on the touchpad when I type.

The palm rejection was suitable, so this was never an issue for me while typing, it didn’t trigger any key presses, but it’s hard to say if this will be everyone’s experience. It just feels a little weird and took some getting used to. There’s also a fingerprint scanner to the right of the touchpad, which I found to work accurately.

MSI GS77 Keyboard Temperature

The keyboard was sitting in the low 30 degrees Celsius range in the middle when just sitting there idle, normal stuff. It gets warmer with the stress tests going, and it’s starting to get hot towards the middle. Not too surprising considering the quieter fans, though.

Stepping up to balanced mode and it’s much the same. The fans are a bit louder to compensate for the higher power limits. Extreme mode with the fans on auto was fairly similar. The palm rest always felt warm as the metal chassis conducts heat. With the fan maxed out, it gets notably cooler, but of course, this comes at the expense of louder fans.

Speakers and Latencymon

Take the front-facing speakers. For instance, they’re right down the front on the left and right corners. Now during regular use, your hands don’t cover them, but it can happen. Having the speakers on the sides of the keyboard like Razer’s Blade series would have solved this.

Although the speakers are close to where your hands rest, palm rest vibration was surprisingly minimal. Even at high volume levels, the speakers sound above average for a gaming laptop but aren’t excellent. There’s some bass, and they’re pretty clear still at higher volume.

Not only do I think the speakers on the Blade 17 sound better, but the cut-out holes on the MSI GS77 are larger too, which means it’s easier for dirt to find its way inside. The latency mon results weren’t looking perfect at all.

MSI GS77 Ports USB/HDMI and more

The left side has an air exhaust vent, two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, a 3.5mm audio combo jack, and a switch to disconnect the camera. The right has a full-sized SD Express card slot, and two USB Type-C ports, only the rear one supports Thunderbolt 4, and there’s an air exhaust on this side too. The rest is on the back.

In between a couple more air exhaust vents near the corners from left to right, we’ve got the power input, HDMI output and a 2.5-gigabit ethernet port facing the preferred way, so you don’t have to lift the machine to unplug.

The HDMI version isn’t listed on the spec sheet for some reason, but we did confirm that it does support an external screen at up to 4K 120Hz 8-bit with G-Sync, so variable refresh rate support. Now by default, that HDMI port on the back and the Type-C port on the right closest to the front connect directly to the Nvidia graphics, bypassing Optimus. So this means connecting an external monitor to either of those ports should offer a speed boost in games.

The other Type-C port, closer to the back, is the Thunderbolt 4 port, which connects via the Intel integrated graphics. MSI’s spec sheet does note that this laptop should support charging over USB Type-C. However, I couldn’t get it charging at all while it was running with either of the two Type-C ports when connecting the Razer Core X Chroma eGPU enclosure.

It seems like a missed opportunity not to have rear port icons. There’s space on this section that sticks out behind the screen, and this would have made it easier to see where you’re plugging in without turning the machine around, like the Legion 7.

Getting inside and problems

There are 13 Phillips head screws to get inside. The four at the back are shorter than the rest, so keep track of them, while the 3 in the middle don’t come out of the panel. I could open it easily enough using the pry tools linked below the video, starting at the back of the laptop and working my way around.

Once I opened it, the camera disconnect switch fell right off. I’ve had this happen with another MSI laptop in the past. It doesn’t seem to be designed very well compared to others like Lenovo’s Legion series. If I hadn’t noticed it come off, I could have easily lost it when I put it back together.

MSI GS77 Internals

Inside we’ve got the large battery down the front, two M.2 storage slots above it towards the right, two memory slots in the centre, and the Wi-Fi 6E card on the far left. I also want to note the memory that came in my MSI GS77, because it’s good stuff.

This is the first time I’ve had dual rank DDR5 memory, and as you’ll see later, it seems to be offering a performance boost in some tasks. I’m not sure if you only get dual rank with the 64 gig configuration, though.

MSI GS77 inside

Wi-Fi Performance

Wi-Fi performance was decent. Killer or Intel options generally seem to do better compared to Realtek or Mediatek options in my testing, though interestingly, last year’s older GS76 did a little better.

Upgradability

The upgradeability score would have been a six like the smaller GS66, but I took off half a point from the ease of access due to the camera disconnect switch popping out. It seems to be loose by design, but I can’t see why, and it’s difficult to get back in the right spot. Apart from that, it’s fairly easy to open, the motherboard isn’t flipped like previous MSI Stealth models and we’ve got good upgrade options.

Battery power saving features

A 4-Cell 99.9Wh battery powers the MSI GS77, the biggest size legally allowed on a plane. By default, the MSI Center software has Display Power Saver enabled. This will automatically lower the screen’s refresh rate to 60Hz when you unplug the charger, which helps extend the battery life. This is why the screen flashes black when you disconnect it from the power, and then it automatically changes back to the higher refresh rate when you reconnect it.

I might be nitpicking a bit here, but ASUS gaming laptops have that same feature, and when you unplug, a little thing comes up on the screen to let you know which refresh rate it’s running at, so it’s obvious what just happened.

Suppose you aren’t aware of this feature and you just unplug the charger and the screen goes black. In that case, you might be wondering what’s going on, so I think it would be good if MSI had something similar, but at the same time, at least they are giving us the option to do this automatically when we unplug.

Because other laptops Razer and Lenovo, for instance, make you press the function + R shortcut, it’s manual rather than automatic. This is a shame because running at a lower refresh rate increases battery, and I think most people probably don’t need a high refresh rate display when running on battery power. If you’re gaming, you will probably not be hitting high FPS anyway.

MSI GS77 Battery Life

Anyway, the battery life wasn’t too bad for an Intel-based laptop. The top of the graph is dominated by AMD machines, and there are other Intel 12th gen machines with similar-sized batteries that were ahead of it, but there are also some behind too. This year’s MSI GS77 lasted 13% longer compared to last year’s GS76 with the same sized battery.

Thermals and software modes

There are a couple of heat pipes shared between the CPU and GPU. Cool air comes in underneath, and there are plenty of holes for airflow directly above the intake fans. The hot air gets exhausted from both sides and the back vents. The MSI Center software lets us change between different performance modes, which from lowest to highest, are silent, balanced and extreme performance.

Extreme performance mode optionally lets you overclock the GPU. The first time you go in here, there’s no GPU overclock applied, but if you click to default, it boosts the GPU core by 100MHz, so not a good default if you have to manually go and click the Default button first. The extreme mode lets you enable cooler boost, which sets the fans to maximum, but you can also go to advanced mode to customize either fan individually.

MSI GS77 Temperature / clock speed / TDP

The temperatures were fine at idle, but the fan noise was annoying. More on that in a bit. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU stress tests which aim to represent a worst-case full load scenario. Most applications don’t fully load both the CPU and GPU at the same time like this.

The differences between silent, balanced and extreme modes were fairly small in terms of temperatures. If we boost the fans in extreme mode, though, interestingly, the GPU temperature lowers, but the CPU temperature actually increases. The cooling pad I test with, linked below the video, increases this gap even further.

These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. Although the temperatures in silent, balanced and extreme modes were similar, we see increased performance as we step up through the higher modes, just at the expense of louder fans. Remember, in extreme mode, with the fans maxed out and with the cooling pad, the CPU got warmer, but the GPU got cooler. Well, this resulted in higher performance in both cases. We can see why when looking at the power levels being reached.

Although the CPU was averaging 84 degrees Celsius in extreme mode with the fans maxed out, it was actually bouncing between 50 and 90 watts. It just averaged the 60 I’m reporting here long-term. It seemed to keep boosting up until it hit thermal throttling and would then dip back and repeat every few minutes. When we add the cooling pad, the CPU power can sustain a higher limit without bouncing up and down, which is why it increases to a higher 77-watt average.

This is very high for a combined CPU plus GPU workload, and it seems that it’s only possible by sacrificing GPU power. Although the RTX 3080 Ti can run up to 105 watts with Nvidia’s dynamic boost, with the CPU also loaded up, we can see that it can lower to 75 watts as the CPU gets prioritized. With extreme mode and the fans on auto, the GPU was closer to 80 watts.

Considering that my MSI GS77 has the 4K screen, I would want it to prioritize the GPU in games over the CPU. Maybe for the lower 1080p 360Hz option, it makes more sense to prioritize CPU power, but at higher resolutions, generally speaking, having the power get directed to the GPU would probably be more beneficial. But that said, it is entirely dependent on the game and how CPU-heavy it is.

MSI GS77 CPU Temperature

In a CPU-only workload like Cinebench, the processor ran to the point of thermal throttling, which is why I’ve just listed approximate power levels. PL1 was 100 watts and would start out like this initially until it got too hot, so performance could improve with better cooling.

It’s not as simple as just saying thermal throttle bad, because MSI could have chosen to cap the power limit lower at the expense of lower performance. It’s a tradeoff. A number of laptops can outperform the GS77 with similar core and thread counts, including the smaller GS66 with the same CPU, which was around 800 points higher.

Sure the MSI GS77 was thermal throttling here due to high power limits, but you’d think the GS77, being larger, would have superior cooling. The performance drops back when we unplug the charger and instead run purely off of battery power. However, the GS77 is now the second-best result we’ve got in terms of multi-core performance but the highest when it comes to single core on battery power.

This looks great at first glance, but an eight-core 16, thread AMD laptop from last year is still able to do better on battery in the multi core even though the MSI GS77 has that 14 core 20 thread CPU.

SSD and SD card speed

Intel 12th gen supports faster PCIe gen four storage, and the read and writes speeds here are excellent. The speeds from the SD card slot were decent but not amazing. The card sticks out quite a bit when inserted into the machine, so be careful not to bump it.

MSI GS77 BIOS

Just like pretty much every other MSI gaming laptop, you’ve got the option of pressing this epic cheat code to unlock the advanced BIOS. This is a tweaker’s dream. You can change pretty much anything here from power to thermal limits and way more, so make sure you know what you’re doing, or you risk bricking the machine.

Is Linux support?

Linux support was tested with Ubuntu 22.04. By default, the keyboard, touchpad, speakers, ethernet and camera all worked out of the box. The keyboard shortcuts for screen brightness, volume adjustment and keyboard brightness adjustment also worked. As is usually the case with Ubuntu, Wi-Fi didn’t work out of the box despite this latest version coming with Kernel version 5.15.

Price and availability

Let’s discuss pricing and availability next. This will, of course, change over time, so refer to those links below the video for updates. At the time of recording, the only MSI GS77 with RTX 3080 Ti I could find goes for $3600 USD, but that’s with half the RAM, half the storage, an i7 processor and 1440p screen, so expect the exact version I’ve tested in this video to be even more. The lowest price I’ve found is $2600 USD for the 3070 Ti configuration. The only difference seems to be the GPU, and I can tell you for sure I wouldn’t be spending $1000 to jump up to the 3080 Ti.

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