Today’s review sees MSI send over their Katana GF66 laptop for review. Packed with an Intel Core i7-11800H 8-core 16-thread CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX3060 mobile GPU.

MSI Katana GF66: Specifications

MSI Katana GF66 11UE-081UK

  • Display: 15.6-inch FHD 144Hz 45% NTSC (1920 x 1080)
  • Processor: 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H 8-core 16-thread (24M cache, 4.6GHz Max Turbo)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU with 6GB GDDR6
  • Memory: 16GB (8GB*2) DDR4 3200MHz
  • OS: Windows 10 Home (pre-installed)
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD
  • Webcam: 720p 30fps
  • Ports:
    1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C
    2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
    1 x USB 2.0 Type-A
    1 x HDMI (4K @ 60Hz)
    1 x audio combo-jack
    1 x Gigabit Ethernet
  • Connectivity: Intel WiFi 6 AX201 with Bluetooth 5.1
  • Battery: 3-cell Li-Polymer 53.5Whr
  • Dimensions: 359 x 259 x 24.9-mm (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 2.25-kilograms
  • Warranty: 1-year warranty term for gaming & content creation

Product page: HERE

MSI Katana GF66: Video Preview

MSI Katana GF66: Closer Look

The MSI Katana GF66 arrived in a large laptop-sized brown box. Opening this up and we have a second brown box with some MSI branding and a features list making sure the laptop arrives safe and sound through the postal system.

Inside that: a UK power cable, a delta electronics power brick rated for 180w and the Katana GF66 laptop itself.

 

 

 

 

We might as well start with the lid and like the rest of the chassis, it is made of black plastic, giving us the first clue at the price of the Katana GF66. The MSI logo is stamped into the plastic and is clearly noticeable in the middle of the lid.

 

 

 

 

Flipping it over reveals the bottom cover, you’ll immediately notice the meshed ventilation areas in a variety of positions throughout. Offering plenty of airflow under the laptop, vital for cooling in this case. Notice the rubber feet on the top and bottom to provide clearance for airflow under the laptop.

Moving to the rear, the edges are ventilated allowing for exhaust. The centre is sealed, due to the cooling solution covering the whole rear section internally.

Around to the front and there’s not much worth noting here, bar a small indentation in the middle to open the lid.

Moving on to IO, the left side has a ventilation cutout, a DC-in plug, a USB3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port and a USB 2.0 Type-A port.

The right side has a Gigabit Ethernet port, HDMI capable of 4K @ 60Hz, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C port, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A port, a 3.5mm combo audio jack and, finally, a battery LED indicator.

Opening the lid, and we can see the 15.6” 1920×1080 FHD “IPS-level” display, this bad boy runs at 144Hz showing its gaming orientated features.

Much like the Stealth 15M, reviewed here recently, the panel itself has a 45% NTSC colour gamut, so colour pro work isn’t recommended, and at only 248 nits the panel isn’t particularly bright and doesn’t feel particularly vibrant. Gaming on it is fine, but again we wouldn’t recommend it for colour work.

The bottom of the panel has the only other branding on the laptop in the form of the MSI logo.

The 720p 30fps webcam and Intel stereo microphones are housed in the ideal location at the top of the monitor surround.

Below this is the backlit red LED keyboard. Overall, the layout is clear and concise with sensibly sized keys such as shift, caps, alt, control, and enter keys. There’s even just enough room for a small Numpad.
The keyboard itself is very comfortable to use, even when using it for gaming. I didn’t find myself pressing any unwanted keys by accident whilst testing out the games for this review. It’s pleasing to report that there is almost no deck flex at all too.

The choice of colour is unavailable here and we are stuck with the red LED background. That being said, this matches the colour of the MSI gaming logo (and theme) used on the boot screen. Highlighting the gaming nature and theme the Katana GF66 is intended for.

Finally, the trackpad is in the ideal location for typing and gaming. Not once did I accidentally move the cursor or misclick the pad using the laptop. Though, the shortcut keys allow you to disable the trackpad when gaming anyway.
It’s by no means a large trackpad, compared to the likes of ultrabooks, but nor should it be. It’s big enough, at 5” or 130mm’s, for use whilst not gaming and is super smooth and intuitive to use. Left-click and 2 finger scrolling is available on the whole trackpad whilst right-click is limited to the bottom right corner.

Things under the hood are just as promising too. The Katana GF66 features the Intel Core i7 11800H 8-core 16-thread CPU capable of 4.6GHz boost clock, 2x8GB sticks of DDR4 running at 3200MHz, Intel UHD Iris Xe discreet graphics for low power graphics tasks, paired with an NVIDIA GeForce RTX3060 Laptop GPU with RTX features such as Ray Tracing, DLSS, and Dynamic Boost 2.0. Intel AX201 WiFi 6 with Bluetooth 5.1 and a 512GB NVMe M.2 SSD.

Sound is provided by a pair of 2w Nahimic Hi-Res downward-firing speakers on the front edges of the laptop. The implementation here is pretty average and fine for content consumption like movies or YouTube videos, with generally okay highs and mids whilst lows, unsurprisingly, are pretty weak.

The Nahimic software works alongside the speakers to provide sound effects and does add a slight improvement in certain situations.

Gaming, where surround is needed, isn’t great either but that’s to be expected.

A 3-cell 53.5Wh battery is included which boasts average battery life. Performance is drastically reduced when the Katana GF66 is configured for gaming on the battery and lasted between 90 and 120 minutes before running flat.

MSI boasts about their cooling for the Katana GF66 too, calling it Cooler Boost 5, with 6 heat pipes and 2 fans boasting impressive 0.1mm thin blades.

The Katana GF66 comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home but MSI has you covered here should you wish to upgrade to Windows 11 as it’s “Windows 11 ready” out of the box.

The first software package that gets a mention is the MSI Centre software.

The “Hardware Monitoring” tab shows current loads on the system and includes neat shortcuts to Disk Cleanup and free-up memory, but removing unwanted software and closing programs that are running in the background.

The “Features” tab includes a whole host of options used to configure the Katana GF66. Including:
“Gaming Mode” gives one-click optimisation for all your games. No more tweaking back-and-forth with settings for each game.
“User Scenario” mode that sets fan profiles to the type of work (or play) you are doing on it at the time.
The profiles range from:
Extreme Performance, which is the most aggressive fan profile and also allows small overclocks to the GPU in the software.
Balanced, which give the user a balanced fan profile.
Silent, which greatly reduces the fan profile.
Super Battery, which has the same profile as the silent option, but reduced things like the screen brightness and turns off the keyboard LEDs.

The “Support” tab allows searching for software and core driver updates.
System info, Troubleshooting and running the MSI Recovery suite, which is a quick and easy system restore feature set.

More info: HERE

Other than that Norton 360 is also pre-installed with a 60-day trial.

MSI Katana GF66: Testing

Software:

PC MARK 10 scored a respectable 6307.

3D MARK testing needed to be done then and with:
Timespy being the DirectX 12 benchmark it scored a decent enough 7338.
Firestrike is the DirectX 11 benchmark and it scored 17171.
Firestrike Extreme is the DirectX 11 benchmark and it scored 8563.
Port Royal is the Ray tracing benchmark and it scored 4211.

Click the score numbers above to load the results pages.

Games:

RED DEAD REDEMPTION 2 faired well in this round of testing. Using the Ultra preset and recorded an average of 74fps, highs were 114fps while lows were just 46fps, though there wasn’t a single moment where the Katana GF66 felt like it was displaying such low fps.

CYBERPUNK 2077 using the Ray Tracing Medium preset, I recorded an average of 59fps, highs of 88fps and lows of 35fps. Many would argue that anything below 60FPS is unplayable, but it felt smooth with consistent average frames and was certainly playable here. It’s fair to say that the Ray Tracing Ultra preset would have been unplayable here.

CS:GO using the “Auto” graphics preset unsurprisingly got the best FPS from all the testing with an average of 256fps, highs of 298fps and lows of 177fps. Making it good enough for even competitive/professional gamers to use this as a daily driver. Note too that the Auto preset set all settings to maximum, so turning it down could even give you more fps should you wish.

CALL OF DUTY: MODERN WARFARE is, in my opinion, one of those games where you do need a good balance of FPS and visuals for an enjoyable experience. So the game was run using the in-game pre-configured settings by clicking the “reset tab” button. Getting an average of 106fps, highs of 133fps and lows of 69fps which, again, provided a decent gaming experience.

BATTLEFIELD V is the last, but by no means least, game on test in today’s review. Using the Auto: Max Fidelity setting whilst enabling the full array of DirectX 12, DXR (Ray Tracing) and DLSS. This allows the game to select settings that, again, it thinks is best for FPS and visuals and with an average of 88fps, highs of 122fps and lows of 59fps it was a smooth and enjoyable experience.

MSI Katana GF66: Temperatures and Acoustics

So, with all this performance on the table how good are the thermals and acoustics I hear you ask? Well, overall it’s pretty warm but nothing to be particularly worried about.

Stress testing the Katana GF66 with AIDA64’s system stability test for 30 minutes is a good way to test thermals and acoustics as it’s the worst-case scenario for a CPU and GPU as both are being hit at as high as 100% the entire time.

The “Extreme performance” profile, which is the default, recorded temperatures of 89°C on the CPU and 72°C on the GPU.

To make matters worse, the acoustic levels while gaming are fairly loud but MSI seem to have worked some magic with the fans as they aren’t so whiny this time around with more of a pleasant whooshing sound, though it’s still certainly audible.

Densely packing decent gaming components like the Intel Core i7-11800H and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX3060 into a chassis 24mm thick is going to need some decent cooling and the Cooler Boost 5 implementation does a decent job.

To be clear, gaming with the speakers isn’t off the table here but it will take some getting used to especially during high system load situations when the fans are at their loudest. You can forget, as expected, to have any real surround sound experience though.

MSI Katana GF66: Roundup

So with the testing, temperature and acoustic testing done and dusted it’s clear the MSI Katana GF66 is a capable and fairly portable offering.

It plays most games with relative ease and is powerful enough for AAA gaming at acceptably decent refresh rates.

Importantly, performance isn’t lost when it’s working hard to cool the CPU and GPU in demanding gaming sessions and wearing a headset, which is typically done when gaming, would alleviate the issues with acoustics should the fans really annoy you.

Aesthetically, externally, it’s rather plain looking with the matt black plastic housing but with nice touches like the logo which is subtly included stamped on the lid and isn’t lit up when the laptop is turned on. Overall, it is a nice touch and it does highlight the design influences provided in collaboration with Nagano Tsuyoshi for the Katana & Sword series.

Once you open the lid and turn it on, the red keyboard you are presented with highlights the red theme MSI presents with its gaming branding. This red colour can’t be changed but should you dislike it, it can be turned off. The colour grew on me over time, though in 2022 I can’t help but feel all gaming laptop keyboards should include RGB LEDs at this point. Both typing and gaming on it are comfortable though as is the quality and feel of the trackpad, in its ideal location and size.

I/O on the Katana GF66 is pretty good, with 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, and the USB 2.0 Type-A port for a gaming mouse or headset. A full-size HDMI 2.0 port is included with up to 4K @ 60Hz output. Finally, audio is covered with the 3.5mm combo jack.

The 720p 30fps webcam quality could always be better. It’s about as basic as they come but functional nonetheless. I do also like the function option on the keyboard to disable it too.

The 144Hz panel is fine, again colour professional work isn’t recommended. Respectfully though, the choice to go with the 144Hz panel as it’s a great match with the included NVIDIA Geforce RTX3060 Laptop GPU and is plenty good for gaming.

Internally, the Intel Core i7-11800H, NVIDIA GeForce RTX3060, 16GB RAM and Intel AX201 WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 all add up to create a decent package.

A disappointing show, however, with the 512GB M.2 SSD. With the Katana GF66 clearly being a gaming laptop, it’s a strange choice to pair with such a small-sized drive considering, typically, the install size of most AAA games nowadays. The test suite above was not able to be installed on the Katana GF66 at the same time and in our opinion that is a massive oversight.
We believe that 1TB is the minimum that should be provided on all gaming laptops. Buying in bulk, the price difference can’t actually be that much more?
That being said, there is also the argument to be made that internally there is a second M.2 slot should you wish to populate that with another drive for additional storage. Though, not everyone has the ability or willingness to do so.

The gaming performance is decent too thanks to MSI’s pairing of the Intel Core i7-11800H 8-core-16-thread CPU and the NVIDIA GeForce RTX3060 Laptop GPU. Especially when we compare results to the Stealth 15M we reviewed recently.
Though in fairness, the chassis of the Katana GF66 is 8mm’s thicker providing more cooling potential and the core and thread count of the CPU’s on offer is doubled in the Katana GF66’s favour, with 8-cores 16-threads vs 4-cores 8-threads.

What’s Hot:

  • i7-11800H and RTX3060 are a great pairing in this laptop
  • The keyboard feels solid, even with the plastic construction
  • Decent performance

What’s Not:

  • Screen brightness is poor
  • Speaker implementation isn’t as good as expected
  • Runs loud under full load
  • The 512GB M.2 NVMe SSD is too small for a gaming laptop

Now the price: several UK retailers have it in stock for around £999, at the time of writing, which makes the Katana GF66 an affordable gaming laptop, especially for its good performance and portability!
Let’s not forget at the end of the day it’s an 8-core, 16-thread high refresh rate 1080p ray-tracing capable gaming laptop and should certainly be worthy of your consideration.

 

The MSI Katana GF66 gets Play3r’s Silver Award for its decent gaming performance, pleasant aesthetic and fit for purpose I/O.
The speakers, screen and webcam are fine, but nothing exceptional, considering the price.

Big thanks to MSI for sending over the Katana GF66 for today’s review.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Performance
Build Quality
Design
Features
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