MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) Review
The MSI Pulse GL66 is a super-powerful gaming laptop thanks to the cutting-edge performance of Intel’s 12th Gen chip, while the Quad HD screen ensures that games look great too. But with a bland, cumbersome, plastic design it’s worth looking elsewhere if you’re happy to sacrifice a little bit of power.
- Cutting-edge gaming performance
- Colourful Quad HD display
- Great value
- Good battery life for gaming laptop
- Bland and cumbersome design
- Fan noise can get irritating
- Single RGB backlight for keyboard
- UKRRP: £1799
- Intel Core 12th Generation CPU:Cutting-edge CPU performance thanks to Intel’s latest H-Series processor.
- Quad HD display:Available with a Quad HD resolution, which is sharper than standard Full HD screens.
- 165Hz refresh rate: High refresh rate for the everyday gamer, making fast motion appear smoother.
The MSI Pulse GL66 may look like a generic gaming laptop, but it’s actually packing Intel’s 12th Generation processor, making it one of the most powerful portables I’ve tested yet.
MSI is also providing a 15.6-inch screen with a Quad HD resolution and 165Hz refresh rate, ensuring games not only run well, but look great too.
Factor in high-end Nvidia GPU options, an RGB keyboard and an M.2 SSD, and you’ve got all of the hallmarks of a great gaming laptop.
But with a heavy and bland design, is the MSI Pulse GL66 impressive enough to feature on our Best Gaming Laptop roundup? Keep reading to find out.
Design and keyboard
- Plastic design feels cheap
- Heavy design at 2.25kg
- Single-colour backlight
The MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) has a star-studded spec list, but its outer shell isn’t quite as impressive. The laptop’s deck is made out of plastic, which is a big disappointment following my experience with all-metal builds such as the Razer Blade 15 and Asus ROG Zephyrus G15.
MSI has only opted for metal on the lid that features a ‘Titanium Gray’ colour scheme, as well as the company’s iconic dragon logo. The GL66 is not shy to show the world it’s a gaming laptop, but I can’t help think it also looks boring and bland.
This is a very large laptop too, with a stonking 23.9mm height and a cumbersome weight of 2.25kg that will rule this portable out of frequent office commutes. Given the performance this laptop is capable of, it’s hard to be too critical of its large frame – but there are plenty of more portable 15-inch alternatives such as the ROG Zephyrus G15.
The plastic bezel surrounding the screen looks a little too chunky for my liking, especially at the top where the webcam is nestled. Video and photo capture look decent at 720p – there is a noticeable grainy pixelation, but it’s still perfectly adequate for work Zoom calls.
The GL66 features a generous selection of ports, including USB-C, 3x USB-A, HDMI and LAN. The two speakers sound surprisingly good, with enough volume to drown out the loud fan, even if the audio starts to feel echoey when you crank up the decibel.
I’ve got mixed feelings on the keyboard. It feels pleasant to type on or zoom around the map in Total War: Warhammer 3, but I’d prefer a little more travel in the keys. It’s also lacking that crunchy feel of a mechanical keyboard – such designs are becoming more commonplace in gaming laptops elsewhere, although they do admittedly drive up the price.
The keyboard supports RGB lighting, but not to the degree that you can change the lighting for each key – you get one single backlight and can only set one colour at a time. In fact, the MSI Center (which lets you check out performance metrics and change keyboard colour) feels pretty bare, especially when compared to rivals such as the Razer Synapse.
- Quad HD resolution ensures sharp display
- Speedy mainstream 165Hz refresh rate
- Dimmer-than-average display
The MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) features a 15.6-inch display with a Quad HD (2560×1440) resolution. Such a pixel count is becoming common for gaming laptops, hitting the sweet spot between Full HD and 4K.
MSI has gone for a 165Hz refresh rate, which should be speedy enough for mainstream gamers. Although I can’t help but think more competitive multiplayer gamers will want a higher refresh rate considering other laptops have hit the 300Hz mark in recent years.
I was quietly impressed with the quality of the GL66 when playing games and watching videos on YouTube. Colours look natural with no signs of distortion, although the panel was a bit dim for my liking.
My thoughts were backed up by the benchmark scores, which I recorded with a colorimeter. It saw a peak brightness of just 284-nits, falling short of the 300-nit target laptops aim for. In comparison, the ROG Zephyrus G15’s screen looks far more vibrant.
However, the MSI’s impressive black level (which shows the laptop’s capability of displaying dark colours) ensures the laptop still had a respectable contrast of 1148:1. When watching the trailer for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, I was impressed by how good this laptop’s screen is at producing bold, vivid colours in dark environments, with Strange’s red cape standing out from the gloomy background.
The MSI Pulse GL66 also posted impressive scores for colour coverage, hitting 99.8% for sRGB and 94.7% for DCI-P3. This means the laptop’s display is capable of producing a wide range of colours to ensure the likes of video and photos look natural, and so makes the GL66 a worthwhile option for professional creators.
- 12th Gen Intel chip is blazing fast
- Superb Quad HD gaming performance
- Fans can become very loud
The MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) may be an unremarkable laptop on the outside, but that’s simply not the case when you dig inside. It’s among the first gaming laptops to pack the 12th Generation Intel Core processor.
Powered by the Intel Core i7-12700H chip, it achieved the best CPU benchmark scores we’ve even seen in a gaming laptop, both in terms of single– and multithreaded workloads. In fact, the only portable that bested it for processing speeds was the MacBook Pro 2021. The GL66 is also available with an i9 processor, so you can drive up the performance even further if you fancy.
|MSI Pulse GL66||Asus ROG Zephyrus G15||Razer Blade 15|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-12700H||Ryzen 9 5900HS||Razer Blade 15 (2021)|
|PC Mark 10||6989||6344||5405|
|Geekbench 5 single-core||1689||1485||1147|
|Geekbench 5 multi-core||10,677||7282||5232|
For the graphics performance, MSI offers up the option of an Nvidia RTX 3060 or RTX 3070, both with 105W maximum graphics power. MSI sent in the latter configuration, so we ran it through the 3DMark Time Spy benchmark. It achieved a surprisingly high score, even leapfrogging rival laptops that feature the RTX 3080 (albeit with an 80W graphics power).
The GL66 continued this strong form into the in-game benchmarks, seeing superior frame rates than the ROG Zephyrus G15 for Dirt Rally and Horizon Zero Dawn in both Quad HD and Full HD resolutions. With games set to a 1440p resolution and max graphics settings, the MSI laptop hit 69fps for Horizon Zero Dawn, 138fps for Dirt Rally and 52fps for Borderlands 3 – all impressive results for a gaming laptop at this price.
|MSI Pulse GL66 (2022)||Asus ROG Zephyrus G15 (2021)||Razer Blade 15 (2021)|
|GPU||Nvidia RTX 3070||Nvidia RTX 3080||Nvidia RTX 3070|
|3DMark Time Spy||9233||9081||7687|
There is a caveat here though, as the GL66 is an incredibly loud laptop when put under pressure. I’ve had colleagues comment on the fan’s volume, and it can prove distracting if you haven’t got a pair of headphones wrapped around your noggin’. Fortunately, those fans are efficient, as I rarely noticed the laptop’s deck becoming uncomfortably hot to the touch.
The GL66 also achieved impressive benchmark results for its SSD, achieving a 3628MB/s read score and a 3471MB/s. Such results mean the MSI is one of the fastest gaming laptops available when it comes to loading or saving games, which will be a big boon for those who fancy playing Elden Ring and expect to spend a lot of time respawning.
MSI bundles in 1TB of storage, which is really generous considering most gaming laptops aim for 512GB as the base configuration. This should offer ample storage for most gamers, even if you’ve gone on a shopping spree during the Steam sales.
- Lasts up to 6 hours on a single charge
- Will last around an hour when gaming
Gaming laptops are notoriously bad when it comes to battery life, with power-hungry components sapping the battery at an alarming rate.
But the MSI Pulse GL66 fared better than expected, lasting an impressive 6 hours in the PCMark 10 battery test, which simulates a number of productivity-based tasks. With better stamina than most gaming laptops I’ve tested, this suggests that the 12th Gen Intel Core chip is more efficient than previous iterations.
Of course, it’s important to remember that the MSI laptop won’t be able to last that long when dealing with heavy-duty tasks such as gaming. I managed around an hour of play with Total War: Warhammer 3 before needing to rush to plug in the charger.
Should you buy it?
You want a fantastic gaming performance:
Thanks to the combined power of the 12th Gen Intel chip and Nvidia’s RTX 3070 GPU, the GL66 offers one of the best performances we’ve ever seen in a gaming laptop.
You want a portable gaming laptop: This laptop is so large and heavy that it’s not recommended for on-the-go gaming or frequent commutes. If you want a 15-inch gaming laptop that’s a little more portable, check out the ROG Zephyrus G15 instead.
The MSI Pulse GL66 (2022) is one of the most powerful gaming laptops I’ve ever tested. That cutting-edge 12th Gen Intel chip is remarkable, offering both a stellar performance and an improved battery life, while the Nvidia RTX GPU options enable you to make the most out of that Quad HD screen.
But this gaming laptop is held back by its bland, plastic design, which is so heavy and large that you won’t want to take it out of your front door for on-the-go gaming. The fans can also be irritatingly loud, and the RGB lighting is limited to a single backlight, which is disappointing.
If you’re happy to sacrifice a bit of performance power, you’ll find better all-round quality from the likes of the ROG Zephyrus G15 and Razer Blade 15. But if you crave the best possible performance, the GL66 is still worth considering.
How we test
Every gaming laptop we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including build quality, performance, screen quality and battery life.
These include formal synthetic benchmarks and scripted tests, plus a series of real world checks, such as how well it runs when running a AAA game.
We used as our main laptop for at least a week.
Tested the performance via both benchmark tests and real-world use.
We tested the screen with a colorimeter and real-world use.
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MSI is based in Taiwan.
Yes, MSI is one of the biggest laptop manufacturers around, and is particularly well known for its gaming laptops.