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Hands-on: The MSI GF63 Gaming Laptop shows off the power of Optane memory

MSI has long been one of the more prominent names in the gaming laptop market, producing a wide variety of models from the intimidating Titan line to the slim and sleek GS65 Stealth Thin.

The GF63 is the newest entry on MSI’s gaming laptop roster. Though not as powerful as other gaming laptops in their lineup, the GF63’s real strength is its price-to power ratio. We’ll dive a little deeper below, but essentially, the GF63 has the horsepower to play almost anything out on the market right now, and can easily drive any of the popular, well-optimized e-sports titles out there. All in a package you can get one for under a grand on Newegg right now.

Aesthetics

Style-wise, the GF63 fits right in with the rest of MSI’s gaming laptop family. The top lid, and top panel under the lid, are both brushed aluminium with a black finish. Much of the underbody is tough plastic, some of which replicates the brushed texture of the metal. Also, this laptop might be one of the most geometrically intricate I’ve ever seen, with tons of angular protrusions, lines, and divots breaking up what would otherwise be a flat surface.

Red is MSI’s go-to accent color, and the same holds true on the GF63. Most notably, MSI’s red dragon shield heraldry is emblazoned on the top lid. The 10-keyless keyboard has black keycaps with red lettering, which can be illuminated when the laptop is powered on. Overall, the red accent is used just enough to break up all the blackness, without being overwhelming.

The GF63 has a lot going for it in terms of size, weight, and some other dimensions. The left and right side bezels are only a few millimeters thick, which maximizes screen space for a total of 15.6” of real-estate. (And a 1920x1080 FHD resolution.)

This all weighs in at 1.86kg, with a total thickness of 21.7mm. That’s not the thinnest laptop out there, but is plenty sleek for a gaming notebook. Also, less than 2kg feels like a feather, especially for a laptop this size. I’ve handled ultra-premium travel notebooks that weigh about the same, and I think I’d rather bring along the GF63’s firepower.

Connections

The GF63 has a fair amount of I/O connections for its class. On the left side, there’s only a single USB 3.0 port and barrel plug for power. Most of the left side is dominated by cooling vents. On the right side we have two more USB 3.0 ports and a single USB Type-C, an ethernet jack, a Kensington lock, and two more jacks for 3.5mm headsets and microphones.Finally, there’s a single HDMI port on the back of the laptop, which is the GF63’s only video out connection.

Specs

Under the hood, the MSI GF63 offers a lot, especially when you consider it sub-1000USD price point. Let’s rattle off the most important hardware specs:

  • Intel Core i7-8750H @2.20GHz
  • 8GB DDR4-2666 RAM
  • Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti with Max-Q Design
  • Windows 10 Home 64-Bit
  • Intel Wireless-AC 9462
  • 15.6” FHD IPS Thin Bezel Display

There’s a lot going on here. Firstly, we have an 8th generation Intel Core i7 with six cores, supported by one 8GB  DDR4 SODIMM module. There’s also an Nvidia GTX1050 Ti packed in, which is more than enough graphics power to play games on the go.

You’ve probably noticed by now that I haven’t talked about the laptop’s storage, and that’s because the GF63’s storage situation is a little unusual. Most importantly, this laptop includes a 16GB Intel Optane module alongside a traditional laptop-sized (2.5”) 1TB HDD, from Seagate’s Barracuda lineup. Essentially, what this means is that the GF63 has moved beyond the traditional paradigm of a primary solid-state drive for the operating system, paired with a hard disk for data. Instead, MSI has chosen to embrace Optane’s ability to enhance the speed of a HDD. This cutting edge data solution allows increases the service speed of an entire high-capacity HDD, instead of segmenting a computer’s overall capacity into “slow” storage and “fast” storage.

More to Know

There are plenty of other features included in the GF63, many of which are shared across MSI’s gaming laptop family. Sound preferences can be fine-tuned with Nahimic3 audio for richer gaming and movie experiences. The Dragon Center application returns, and as ever, is full of settings to monitor and optimize the GF63. Finally, MSI promises a 7 hour battery life under ideal conditions.

With so many quality gaming laptops on the market, it can sometimes be a little overwhelming to pick the right one, especially on a budget. Luckily, the MSI GF63 8RD is a feature rich computer with enough firepower to excel at esports games, and at least run anything else. Best of all, this much computing power is available for less than $1000 at Newegg.com.