The latest addition to their value-oriented Pulse line of gaming laptops, the MSI Pulse GL66 aims to offer exceptional bang for the buck by cramming in the latest 12th Gen Intel Core H-series CPUs and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics for under RM7,600, but is it worth the money? Here’s our MSI Pulse GL66 review where we put it to the test!
MSI Pulse GL66 Review – Build and Design
According to official literature, the aesthetics of the MSI Pulse GL66 gaming laptop were crafted by digital concept sculptor Maarten Verhoeven who has worked on several Hollywood blockbusters like the Avengers movies, The Hobbit and the Walking Dead series. In that regard, the MSI Pulse GL66 adopts a more science fiction aesthetic in its design, specifically paying homage to the suits of powered armour in popular franchises like the Master Chief’s Mjolnir armour from Halo or any of Iron Man’s armour suits. You can read up more about Maarten in our feature on the MSI Pulse GL66 here.
The top lid is primarily done up aluminium coated in a shade of Titanium Gray with a matte finish featuring laser-etched lines along with some contouring to mimic the chest plate of a suit of powered armour. Emplaced in the upper quadrant of the top lid is MSIs distinctive Dragon Army logo that’s done up in a plain monotone design that makes it recognisable from a distance. There’s a very slight bit of give in the centre but it’s otherwise relatively sturdy.
The underside is done up in matte black polycarbonate with an intricate honeycomb pattern that maximises ventilation and optimises air flow from the internal dual Cooler Boost 5 cooling fans. Belying its design, it’s surprisingly thick and sturdy.
Connectivity with our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample was comprehensive and covers all the bases with all of the I/O concentrated on both flanks of the laptop. The right side hosts an audio combo jack, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port, a USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, a HDMI port and a wired ethernet port.
The left side features a jack for the accompanying power brick as well as a pair of USB-A ports with one being a more conventional USB 2.0 port for peripherals and the like and a similar Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 USB-A port as the one on the right side of the laptop. The laptop also features fast WiFi 6 802.11ax as well as Bluetooth 5.2.
The hinge mechanism is exceptionally robust and smooth, allowing for easy one-handed opening to reveal a 15.6-inch IPS LCD with a 240Hz refresh rate, Full HD resolution and a quoted 100% sRGB colour gamut framed by slim side bezels though the top and bottom are a bit on the chunky side to offer a conventional 16:9 aspect ratio and an 85% screen-to-body ratio.
Unfortunately, the panel frame looks a bit plasticky but it’s not a deal breaker. Up top of the display is a 720P webcam for video calls while the bottom bezel is almost an inch thick though this is more of a pragmatic design choice to ensure structural integrity for the panel.
Our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample implements a full sized single-zone RGB backlit keyboard with a numeric keypad and a design that attempts to mimic the heads up display (HUD) of a plane with aesthetic gribblies across the touchpad and keyboard frame. While the keyboard frame does look plasticky, it doesn’t creak, repels fingerprints nicely and is exceptionally sturdy.
Bar the flashy looking metal hewn top lid, the majority of the MSI Pulse GL66 is done up in polycarbonate and while parts of it look plasticky, it’s nonetheless sturdy without any creaking or give even with sustained prodding.
Unfortunately, the laptop is a bit on the heavy side at 2.3kg which puts it on the heavier side as gaming laptops go. That’s not even factoring in the 240W power brick which also weighs quite a bit. On the bright side, MSI is throwing in a free MSI Essential Backpack on the house to carry it around in.
MSI Pulse GL66 Review – Specifications and Benchmarks
In terms of hardware, MSI have not skimped on the good stuff and have kitted the MSI Pulse GL66 for bear with some of the best hardware currently available in the market. Our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample came with the following specifications.
|Display||15.6-inch FHD IPS LCD, 1,920 x 1080 pixels, 240Hz refresh rate, 100% sRGB|
|Processor||Intel Core i9-12900H|
|OS||Windows 11 Home|
|Memory||16GB DDR4 3,200MHz RAM (2 slots, Max 64GB supported) / 1TB NVMe PCIe Gen 4 SSD (2 x M.2 SSD slots)|
|Graphics||NVIDIA RTX 3060 w/ 6GB GDDR6 VRAM|
Under the hood, you get the latest 12th Gen Intel Alder Lake Core i9-12900H processor paired with 16GB DDR4 3,200MHz RAM and a 1TB SSD along with a beefy NVIDIA RTX 3060 laptop GPU with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM. Of particular note here is that there’s plenty of room for RAM and storage upgrades as the laptop has two RAM slots, allowing you to cram in up to 64GB RAM later on and the provided 1TB SSD can be augmented with an additional SSD later on in the spare slot.
Our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample ran on Windows 11 Home and also features MSI’s own MSI Center management app that offers hardware diagnostics including usage, temperature, fan speed and other data at a glance along with the option to select performance modes with your choice of Extreme Performance, Balanced, Silenced and Super Battery for extended endurance. You’re also able to free up RAM and also perform housekeeping on the onboard storage.
The MSI Center app also adds in a dedicated Gaming mode that dynamically tunes the game with the best audio and visual settings by tweaking the Nahimic stereo speakers to game mode to emphasise bass and setting the saturation and brightness settings to Game mode though you need to add specific games to this mode for it to kick in.
What makes the MSI Center a pleasant affair is that the app mostly handles itself in the background and requires little direct intervention by setting it to an intelligent Smart Auto mode that adjusts settings based on what tasks you’re performing.
When put to the test, our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample was set to Extreme Performance mode in the MSI Center app and ran it through the following synthetic benchmarks to experience it at its fullest potential:
|3DMark Time Spy||7,921|
|3DMark Time Spy Extreme||3,803|
|3DMark Port Royal||4,725|
|3DMark Fire Strike||19,050|
|3DMark Fire Strike Extreme||9,622|
|3DMark Fire Strike Ultra||5,062|
|Geekbench 5 Single core||1,653|
|Geekbench 5 Multi core||10,361|
|Geekbench 5 CUDA||105,421|
|Geekbench 5 OpenCL||99,025|
|Geekbench 5 Vulkan||16,936|
|Horizon Zero Dawn (1080p Ultra settings)||59ps average|
|Far Cry 5 (1080p Ultra settings)||112fps average|
Performance in Extreme Performance mode was excellent and even under head loads, heat was decently managed with peak temperatures of 84°C for the CPU and 54°C for the GPU while undergoing extended gaming though the built-in dual cooling fans do tend to get a bit loud when doing so.
The hardware is perfectly sufficient for content creation from 1080p to modest 4K video editing though adding in additional RAM would be a prudent option. The pairing of a 12th Gen i9 Alder Lake CPU and an RTX 3060 allow our MSI Pulse GL66 review sample to tackle heavy duty gaming like Cyberpunk 2077 on high settings without keeling over and older games like Horizon Zero Dawn on Ultra settings with a good 59fps average and Far Cry 5 on Ultra settings for a smooth 112fps on average.
On paper, the MSI Pulse GL66’s 15.6-inch display is rated to offer a 240Hz refresh rate and 100% sRGB colour gamut. When handling intensive games, there was no apparent ghosting and animations appeared wonderfully smooth. While 100% sRGB is excellent for gaming and most casual content creation, the display is not rated for 100% DCI-P3 colour gamut. Nevertheless, blacks are deep and it offers great colour rendition.
The provided stereo speakers are tuned by Nahimic and kick out decent volume and a fair amount of detail and sound staging though it’s admittedly not the best we’ve had on test.
Battery life on our MSI Pulse GL66 review unit was fair but unremarkable which is par for the course for gaming laptops as they’re particularly power hungry on account of their huge displays and GPUs.
With a heavy workload involving web browsing, a video call lasting over an hour, writing and a bit of light video editing, it managed to last short of 3 hours away from the mains. This was borne out by the PCMark 8 battery test in the demanding Creative setting where it lasted about 2 hours and 5 minutes.
Should you buy the MSI Pulse GL66?
The MSI Pulse GL66 has it where it counts and prioritises performance and upgradability while eschewing frippery to keep costs at a modest pace. For what you pay for, you’re getting the latest 12th Gen Intel Core i9 H-series CPU and a fairly beefy RTX 3060 for RM7,599. If you’re looking for a solid laptop for gaming and schoolwork that can handle content creation tasks, this won’t let you down.
If you’re keen, MSI Malaysia is holding a limited-time Back to School promotion that is from 1st July until 14th August 2022 for the Pulse GL66 which will see the MSI Pulse GL66 configuration that we reviewed going for just RM7,299 which is an RM300 discount off the original price. You can also acquire it with similar specifications save for having just 8GB DDR4 RAM and a 512GB SSD for RM6,299 (original price RM6,599).
You can also get in on the ground floor with a variant that has an 11th Gen i7-11800H, an NVIDIA RTX 3050 with 4GB GDDR6 VRAM, a more modest 144Hz 1080p display, 8GB DDR4 RAM and a 512GB SSD for just RM4,699 (original price RM5,399). For more details, you can check the MSI Back to School Promotion page at https://my.msi.com/Promotion/2022-BTS-Sale/nb
MSI Pulse GL66 review sample courtesy of MSI Malaysia. To purchase and for more details please visit the official MSI page at https://mystore.msi.com/product/msi-pulse-gl66-12uek-031-rtx3060-gddr6-6gb/
MSI Pulse GL66
MSI Pulse GL66
The MSI Pulse GL66 focuses on the essentials with a crisp display, solid performance for gaming or content creation and plenty of room for future RAM and storage upgrades. Granted, it’s a bit on the heavy side as gaming laptops go but there’s no denying that the MSI Pulse GL66 represents great bang for the buck, making it a great choice for bargain hunters like students and casual gamers
Plenty of room for RAM and storage upgrades
Sturdy build quality
Smooth and crisp display
Plasticky keyboard tray
Middling battery life
Looks a bit chunky
A bit on the heavy side
Screen not fully colour calibrated for content creators