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MSI Katana GF76: Gaming Laptop Review

For several months, Intel seemed to cash in on the arrival of AMD Ryzen processors without regaining the ascendancy in terms of performance. But the trend seems to be reversing with the latest generation of Tiger Lake processors, as we had already seen with the low consumption models.

Today, we will focus on the “high performance” range through the test of the Core i7-11800H, the most popular Octo core processor in this 11th generation of Tiger Lake processors. Is it faster than the Ryzen 9 5900H (X). The MSI Katana GF76, a laptop PC from the MSI gamer range but capable of appealing to a wider audience thanks to its discreet look.

General Info

MSI Katana GF76
Released23rd July 2021
BrandMSI
ModelMSI KATANA GF76
ProcessorIntel Core i7-11800H Tiger Lake (2.3 GHz, 8 cores)
GraphicsNVIDIA Ampere GeForce RTX 3050 4 GB GDDR6 dedicated (TDP 60W),
Intel Iris Xe and NVIDIA Optimus
OSWindows 10 Home 64-bit
Weight2.7 Kg
Display17.3″ FHD
ColorsBlack
Dimensions398 x 273 x 25.2 mm
TypeLaptop

At first glance, it’s hard to imagine that this Katana belongs to MSI’s gamer range. Black color, tone-on-tone logo, it could easily be mistaken for a professional laptop. An undeniable asset for people looking for discretion but who do not want to be satisfied with the more modest performance of certain ultrabooks. Without achieving the finesse and lightness of the latter, the GF76 is doing quite well with its 25 mm thickness and its weight of 2.7 kg.

Despite a plastic chassis (to keep the price affordable), the MSI Katana makes a good impression regarding handling. The finish is neat, and the whole case offers good rigidity—ditto for the hinges, fluid but firm enough to ensure good support. Good point; they also allow a flat opening. This is convenient for positioning the computer under an external display without having to close it.

The underside of the chassis gives a glimpse of the cooling system through its carefully designed ventilation grilles. Access to the component does not pose much difficulty. Please note, a screw is hidden under the “factory seal” sticker. Like laptops of this type, it is possible to upgrade the RAM and of course, the SSD with as a bonus, a second 2.5-inch slot available.

Display

Display TypeIPS
Display Size17.3″ FHD
Display Resolution1920×1080 pixel
Display FeatureFull HD LED IPS 144Hz with thin edges, anti-glare
Dimension 398 x 273 x 25.2 mm

With its frequency of 144 Hz, the screen reminds us why this Katana takes place within the range of MSI gaming laptops. Today’s characteristic is essential for players even if any user can actually benefit from it (mainly for fast scrolls).

This is, of course, a matte Full HD IPS panel (AU Optronics B173HAN04.9). Colorimetry is not its strong point, with only 61% of the sRGB space covered and a maximum brightness of 265 nits for a contrast ratio of 1040: 1.

Webcams integrated into laptops are rarely of good quality, but this Katana GF76 looks straight out of the 2000s. Even in broad daylight, the images show no detail (not to say blurry)! We initially believed in a bad adjustment, but no. At the time of teleworking with its frequent zoom or team meetings, one wonders how MSI can dare to integrate such a webcam in 2021. It would have been wiser to do without it at this level, especially since the webcam is not compatible with Windows Hello biometric identification (and no fingerprint reader is present).

Performance

ProcessorIntel Core i7-11800H Tiger Lake (2.3 GHz, 8 cores)
GraphicsNVIDIA Ampere GeForce RTX 3050
RAM16 GB (2 x 8 GB) DDR4 3200 MHz, 2 slots
Storage512 GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD

The MSI Katana makes up for it on the performance side. Equipped with the latest Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, it benefits from an Octo core processor now able to compete with the AMD configurations, which have been in the lead for several months.

In practice, the MSI GF76 thus takes the lead under Geekbench for the CPU part, whether in single-core or multi-core. Conversely, under Cinebench, the other benchmark underused, the Ryzen 9 5900HX, regains the advantage.

But as we have already had the opportunity to mention in the past, this type of synthetic comparison is certainly practical to use. Still, we must always remain cautious about the results obtained. A theoretical deviation of 15%, for example, will not always be verified in real conditions, other parameters being able to come into play (for example, the various software optimizations or the efficiency of the cooling system over time).

On the GPU side, The MSI Katana is equipped with a GeForce RTX 3050 (60W). A latest-generation mid-range graphics card with performance close to an RTX 2060. Casual gamers may be content with it, but if gaming is the main motivation for buying a new laptop, it is better to opt for an RTX 3060 (sometimes offered on some GF76s).

Multimedia

Webcam Yes
Webcam resolution[email protected]
Audio2 speakers of 2W each
NetworkWi-Fi ax, Gigabit Ethernet (RJ45)
BluetoothBluetooth 5.1
Ports1 USB 2.0 + 2 USB 3.2 + 1 USB 3.2 Type-C (Gen1), HDMI 1.4
Keyboard NumpadYes
Keyboard TypeBacklit Chiclet Keyboard

On the left side, there is the socket for the mains power supply and two USB ports, a 3.2 Gen1 and a 2.0. On the right, a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI 2.0 output, a USB-C 3.2 gen1 port (only data compatible), a second USB-A 3.2 Gen1 port, and finally, the 3.5 mm combo jack.

At first glance, fairly complete, the connection ultimately leaves a mixed feeling. Besides the absence of Thunderbolt, even though Tiger Lake processors can now handle this standard natively, the inability to use the USB-C port to connect a screen to it is unfortunate, as is the ‘incompatibility with USB-C charging. Admittedly, the latter does not offer sufficient power for this type of configuration. However, other gaming laptops still support it in troubleshooting to avoid carrying around the dedicated charger.

The two speakers on the side of the chassis (at the palm rests) deliver typical laptop sound. Quite powerful but with absent bass. Even if the Nahimic utility saves the furniture, it results in a heatless and rather metallic rendering.

Keyboard

Despite its 17-inch chassis and the space available on each side, MSI has chosen to integrate a numeric keypad with tiny keys (12×13 mm). This is certainly a plus, but even after several hours of use, it is difficult not to press two buttons simultaneously.

Fortunately, the “main” keyboard is better off. The keys benefit from dimensions in the medium-high (15.8×16 mm) and are well spaced (3.6 mm). The generous stroke (1.6 mm) combined with a soft touch and a muffled sound make typing pleasant. Gamers will undoubtedly remain hungry in terms of feeling first and above all in the face of the impossibility of opting for another backlight other than red.

More generally, MSI’s choice to impose red lettering on a laptop PC whose vocation seems more versatility than gaming may turn off some potential buyers.

As for the touchpad, it seems more there to figure with its dimensions reduced to a minimum (106×66 mm) and the not very flattering sound returned at each “tap.” Beyond these details, it is nevertheless precise, and its smooth surface offers a pleasant glide.

Battery

Battery TypeLi-Polymer 3 cells
Battery capacity53.5Whr
Battery lifeUp to 6 hours
AC Adapter180W adapter

With an average battery life of 4:15, the 17-inch Katana is not the best choice for nomads. The 150W power supply is not too big (140x70x25mm – 445g). As a reminder, the USB-C port does not allow charging on this model.

Conclusion!

Let’s start with the positives. Some will appreciate the sober design for a gaming laptop PC (although here, the RTX 3050 limits its claims on this point). While the red lettering on the keyboard is typical of the gaming world, apart from this point, the MSI Katana can blend into any environment without denoting. Moreover, and despite its plastic frame, the finish and rigidity hardly call for criticism.

On the performance side, the potential of the Core i7-11800H is well exploited when the Extreme Performance mode is active via the MSI Center utility. However, we regret that MSI always confines itself to maintaining a minimum fan speed, even when the silent mode is selected and the computer at rest without any open program! (the solution exists, it is “enough” to create a personalized ventilation curve).

Still, despite criticism, and undoubtedly more impacting daily, apart from its refresh rate of 144Hz, the screen does not shine by its qualities. We also regret the absence of a Thunderbolt port or the impossibility of recharging it punctually via the USB-C port. Finally, even if this is not the primary vocation of a 17-inch, autonomy remains anecdotal.

Should we put aside this MSI Katana? No, because, as always, choosing the right laptop is, above all, a question of priorities within a given budget. And for those looking for good performance at a contained price, the GF76 can have its card to play on the occasion of promotion which positions it among the most affordable 17 inches of the moment.

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