The MSI Katana GF66 is a well-priced, well-rounded budget gaming laptop that shrinks the size of comparable models.
- Aggressive value for the part combine
- Strong 1080p gaming efficiency
- 144Hz show
- Roomy 1TB SSD
- The display is not overly vivid or colorful
- Middling CPU efficiency
- Transient battery life
MSI KATANA GF66 SPECS
|Laptop computer Class||Gaming|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-11800H|
|Processor Velocity||2. Three GHz|
|RAM (as Examined)||16 GB|
|Boot Drive Sort||SSD|
|Boot Drive Capability (as Examined)||1 TB|
|Display screen Dimension||15.6 inches|
|Native Show Decision||1,920 by 1,080|
|Contact Display screen||No|
|Variable Refresh Help||None|
|Display screen Refresh Price||144 Hz|
|Graphics Processor||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop computer GPU|
|Graphics Reminiscence||6 GB|
|Wi-fi Networking||802.11ax, Bluetooth|
|Dimensions (HWD)||0.98 by 14.13 by 10.2 inches|
|Working System||Home windows 10 Dwelling|
|Examined Battery Life (Hours: Minutes)||4:15|
Rely on a gaming laptop computer named after a legendary blade to outline the innovation in funds gear. The MSI Katana GF66 (begins at $799; $1,199 for the in-store Micro Heart mannequin examined right here) is a formidable worth amongst 15.6-inch budget gaming laptops, providing an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU at a value you’d usually anticipate finding an RTX 3050 Ti, plus an eight-core Intel Core i7 CPU and a roomy 1TB solid-state drive. Although its battery life is shorter and its display screen much less vivid than we might like, the Katana covers the gaming necessities without main weaknesses, particularly in lately of rising core-component costs and a redefinition of what makes for a “funds” gaming laptop computer. It replaces MSI’s Bravo 15 as our Editors’ Selection winner amongst inexpensive 15-inch gaming rigs.
Staying on the Finances Rails
The Katana GF66 is one of the most cost-effective gaming laptops available. With a six-core Core i5-11400H processor, a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, a 144Hz screen refresh rate, 8GB of RAM, and 512GB of solid-state storage, the $799 base model is good for basic 1080p gaming and esports. Nvidia’s 4GB RTX 3050 Ti is available in step-up variants for improved performance. Windows 10 Home is included as standard, as is a one-year guarantee.
The top-tier $1,199 model we tested includes an eight-core Core i7-11800H processor running at 2.3GHz (4.6GHz turbo), GeForce RTX 3060 graphics with 6GB of display memory, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The price is only valid in-store at Micro Center, but it’s still a good deal if you purchase up to $200 more online: On Amazon, an Asus TUF Gaming F15 with similar specs sells for $1,399 with free shipping. The Gigabyte G5 KC has an RTX 3060 for less ($1,049 after rebate), but it has a previous-generation Core i5-10500H processor and half the storage (512GB).
The Katana GF66’s gaming credentials are obvious from the start. The black-and-red color combination isn’t unusual among gaming laptops (take a look at the Acer Nitro 5 for an apparent sister), but it nevertheless gives the laptop its own personality. The style is completed with an angled lid and big cooling vents.
The Katana’s inward-sloped edges make it appear slimmer than its true dimensions of 0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD). It weighs 4.96 pounds, which is within budget gaming expectations. The same can be said for its all-plastic construction, which feels robust but not elegant.
The 1,920-by-1,080-pixel display of the Katana GF66 should be better. The GeForce RTX 3060 GPU’s strongest feature is its 144Hz refresh rate, which allows for a silky-smooth gaming experience; as our benchmark tests will show, the GeForce RTX 3060 GPU has no issue pushing it to the limit in many titles. For discriminating eyes, however, the picture quality is mediocre; our Datacolor SpyderX Elite only covered 62 percent of the sRGB color gamut and had a peak brightness of 267 nits.
Visually, the Katana GF66 makes its gaming credentials plain. The black-and-red shade scheme is distinctive amongst gaming laptops (check out the Acer Nitro 5 for a seeming sibling); nevertheless, it nonetheless gives a way of id. An angled lid and massive cooling vents complement the look.
Inward-sloped edges assist the Katana to look sleeker than its precise measurements of 0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD). Its weight is inside funds gaming expectations at 4.96 kilos. Ditto for its all-plastic construct, which feels strong if not luxurious.
The Katana GF66’s 1,920-by-1,080-pixel show might be higher. Its 144Hz refresh rate is its most significant function, enabling silky-smooth gaming expertise; the GeForce RTX 3060 GPU has no hassle pushing it to the restrict in lots of video games, as our benchmark checks will present under. However, its high-quality image is ho-hum for discriminating eyes; our Datacolor SpyderX Elite measured a meager 62% protection of the sRGB shade gamut and a peak brightness of a modest 267 nits.
Common Inputs and Outputs
The MSI Katana GF66’s sole true tribute to gamer bling is the red keyboard backlighting. The tops and edges of the keys are both lit, and the keycaps have a futuristic font that I enjoy.
Unfortunately, keypresses lack tactile engagement; additional up-and-down travel is needed. With undersized keys and a nonstandard three-column arrangement, the number pad also appears to be a crammed-in afterthought. The touchpad, which is offset from the keyboard, has a similar mix of advantages and disadvantages: It’s the correct size and has a smooth, stutter-free surface, but its strong physical click-down motion forces you to work. It’s simple to get around this by using delicate, simulated tap-to-click.
Three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (two Type-A and one Type-C), a legacy USB 2.0 port (ideal for putting in a mouse), headset and Ethernet connections, and an HDMI 2.0b video output are all found on the Katana’s sides.
The Thunderbolt 4 is still on my want list. There are no biometric features built in, and the 720p webcam atop the display does not have a privacy shutter. Underneath the palm rest, twin speakers create a strained but loud-enough sound.
The memory and storage can be upgraded by the user, albeit removing the bottom panel can be difficult. After removing multiple screws, gently pry around the edges with a trim-removal tool until it comes free. There are two M.2 2280 PCI Express 3.0 SSD slots and two DDR4-3200 memory sockets on the inside. The maximum amount of RAM available is 64GB (via two 32GB modules). The Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 card and the 53.5-watt-hour battery are also accessible. (For more information, see our article on how to upgrade your laptop.)
Testing the Katana GF66: Strong Efficiency for the Cash
To refresh your memory, our Katana GF66 test machine features an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, a 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive. As our benchmarks reveal, that recipe is well-suited for 1080p gaming. The RTX 3060 GPU is rated for 85 watts in this configuration.
The Katana isn’t a silent runner by any means, but its fans aren’t bothersome, and the chassis doesn’t have any hotspots where your fingers would normally be.
The Katana GF66 faces an uphill battle in opposition to many of the gaming laptops I used for the comparison hour listed under. They embrace the Alienware x15, MSI’s personal Delta 15, and the XPG Xenia 15 KC. The smaller Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 additionally sports activities an RTX 3060 GPU. As examined, nonetheless, all of those fashions price at the least several hundred dollars greater than the Katana.
Test System Configurations
|MSI Katana GF66||Intel Core i7-11800H (2.3GHz)||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (6GB)||16GB RAM||1TB SSD|
|Alienware x15||Intel Core i7-11800H (2.3GHz)||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 (8GB)||16GB RAM||512GB SSD|
|Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2021)||AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS (3.3GHz)||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (6GB)||32GB RAM||1TB SSD|
|MSI Delta 15||AMD Ryzen 7 5800H (3.2GHz)||AMD Radeon RX 6700M (10GB)||16GB RAM||1TB SSD|
|XPG Xenia 15 KC||Intel Core i7-11800H (2.3GHz)||Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 (8GB)||32GB RAM||1TB SSD|
Productiveness and Content material Creation Checks
Our first test is UL’s PCMark 10, which includes a storage subtest for the primary drive and replicates a number of real-world productivity and office processes to gauge overall system performance. The Katana GF66 performed admirably, scoring far above 4,000 points, which we consider to be an indication of high productivity. Though it didn’t perform well in the storage test, the SSD has plenty of juice for everyday use.
The CPU is the focus of our other three benchmarks, which use all available cores and threads to assess a PC’s readiness for processor-intensive workloads. Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro mimics popular apps ranging from PDF rendering to speech recognition to machine learning, while Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses the company’s Cinema 4D engine to produce a complicated scenario. Finally, we convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p quality using the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4. (lower times are better).
Puget Systems‘ PugetBench for Photoshop, which employs Adobe’s famed image editor’s Creative Cloud version 22 to score a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications, is our last productivity test. It’s a Photoshop addon that does a variety of general and GPU-accelerated functions, such as opening, rotating, resizing, and saving images, as well as adding masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The Katana GF66’s mediocre CPU performance is disappointing; utilizing the identical Core i7-11800H, the XPG and notably the Alienware outperformed it. This kind of performance lag indicates that the CPU has reached its power or temperature limits. The MSI is still a strong performer, but it isn’t as strong as it should be.
Graphics and Gaming Checks
We do both simulated and real-world gaming testing on Windows PCs. Night Raid (more modest, ideal for PCs with integrated graphics) and Time Spy are two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark test suite (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). The cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which we use to measure OpenGL performance, is also included in that category.
The in-game benchmarks of F1 2021, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege, which represent simulation, open-world action-adventure, and competitive/esports shooting games, respectively, provide our real-world gaming testing. Valhalla and Siege are run twice on laptops (Valhalla at Medium and Ultra quality, Siege at Low and Ultra quality), while F1 2021 is performed once at Ultra quality settings and a second time with Nvidia’s performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing turned on for GeForce RTX laptops.
Fortunately, the Katana GF66’s CPU issues didn’t appear to affect its performance in GPU-focused tests, where it outscored the Asus, which was also equipped with the RTX 3060. It achieved well over 144fps in Rainbow Six Siege, utilizing its 144Hz screen to its best potential. Our new benchmark program has yet to run on a recent RTX 3050 laptop, but the RTX 3060 is a considerably superior performer with additional video memory (6GB versus 4GB). It’s worthwhile to make the leap if you can afford it.
Battery and Show Checks
laptop batteries to the test by playing a locally saved 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) at 50% brightness and 100% loudness until the device shuts down. During the test, Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting are disabled.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and software to assess a laptop screen’s color saturation—how much of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes it can show—and brightness in nits (candelas per square meter) at the screen’s 50% and peak settings.
The Katana GF66’s battery life and display quality are both flaws. A 15-inch gaming laptop should last at least six hours, and the display should have 100 percent sRGB and at least 300 nits of brightness. The 144Hz refresh rate, as previously said, is what saves the Katana’s screen for gaming.
The Importance of Laptop Gaming on a Budget
Though we wish the MSI Katana GF66 had a brighter screen, more processing power, and a longer battery life, none of these drawbacks prevent it from becoming a solid budget gaming laptop. It has GeForce RTX 3060 graphics for the price of an RTX 3050 Ti (or even a standard RTX 3050), which enables it take use of its 144Hz display. That’s a rare accomplishment for a laptop in this price range, and its big 1TB solid-state drive is also unusual for the money, perfectly suited to the bloated sizes of today’s game installs. Overall, the Katana GF66 is an excellent value, earning an Editors’ Choice award for budget-conscious gamers.