PC & Hardware

MSI Pulse GL66 Review

The MSI Pulse GL66 is an affordable mid-range gaming laptop that works great for 1080p gaming. Read our review!

The MSI Pulse GL66 is the company’s latest midrange gaming laptop featuring Intel Tiger Lake-H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series graphics. Our review variant comes with a 1920×1080 144Hz IPS panel with an Intel Core i7-10800H Processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM with a TGP of 60 watts, 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM and a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD.

For the visual design concept of Pulse GL76 / GL66, MSI collaborated with Belgian 3D artist Maarten Verhoeven to conceptualize his vision of future fighters with a product design that exhibits distinctive style.

He specializes in digital creations for movies, advertisements and toys. He has contributed to many major productions, such as The Avengers, The Hobbit, and The Walking Dead. Maarten is exceptionally talented at transforming surreal concepts into lifelike works and is noted for his unique dark and apocalyptic genre.

Specifications

CPUIntel Core i7-11800H Processor
RAM16GB DDR4-3200 RAM
2 Slots Number of SO-DIMM Slot
Max 64GB Max Capacity
GPUNvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Laptop GPU 6GB GDDR6
Up to 1500MHz Boost Clock, 60W Maximum Graphics Power.
Storage1x M.2 SSD slot (NVMe PCIe Gen3)
Display15.6″ FHD (1920×1080), 144Hz, IPS-Level
Ports1x Type-C USB3.2 Gen1
2x Type-A USB3.2 Gen1
1x Type-A USB2.0
1x RJ45
1x (4K @ 60Hz) HDMI
1x Mic-in/Headphone-out Combo Jack
ConnectivityGb LAN
802.11 ax Wi-Fi 6 + Bluetooth v5.2
CameraHD type ([email protected])
AudioStereo Speakers by Nahimic Audio
Battery4-Cell Li-Polymer 53.55Wh
180W adapter
Dimensions359 x 259 x 23.95 mm
Weight: 2.25 kg

Packaging

The MSI Pulse GL66 comes in a standard brown cardboard box. Inside is another MSI branded box in which the laptop and the accessories are protected. The box includes:

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review
  • The MSI Pulse GL66 laptop
  • 180W power brick
  • Power cable
  • User guide and warranty

Design & Build Quality

The MSI Pulse GL66 comes in a titanium gray color with a laser-etched MSI logo on the lid. The logo is all-black, staying away from MSI’s traditional red. The lid is made of aluminum and the rest of the chassis is made of plastic. The hinges hold the lid firmly and the lid can be opened with a single hand without any issues. The 15” matte display has thin bezels and houses a HD webcam and microphones.

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

The MSI Pulse GL66 is equipped with a good set of ports on either side, although there is no support for Thunderbolt 4. The rear body features two large openings for cooling and a central area with several ports. The speakers are on the left and right side of the laptop and at the base are wide ventilation grills. The chassis is quite rigid and feels solid.

With dimensions of 359x259x23.95 mm and a weight of 2.25kg, the Pulse GL66 is quite portable and can be easily carried around in laptop bags and backpacks.

Ports

On the left we find the power input, a Type-A USB3.2 Gen1 port and a Type-A USB2.0 port.

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

On the right are Ethernet port, 1x (4K @ 60Hz) HDMI port, 1x Type-C USB3.2 Gen1 port, 1x Type-A USB3.2 Gen1port, and the Mic-in/Headphone-out Combo Jack

MSI Pulse GL66 Review

At the back are two airflow vents. There is no support for the Thunderbolt 3 interface.

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

Wireless connectivity is powered by an 802.11AX module (Wi-Fi 6) and there is Bluetooth 5.2 on board.

Display

The FullHD (1920 x 1080) 15″ screen uses an IPS panel with a refresh rate of 144 Hz and color coverage of about 95% sRGB. On the top bezel is a full HD webcam capable of recording at 30 FPS and dual microphones. Although there is noise in poorly lit environments, the camera quality is generally good.

The screen displays good colors and the maximum brightness is good enough for well-lit rooms but rather difficult in bright outdoor environments. The viewing angles are glare-free and comfortable.

Keyboard & Trackpad

The MSI Pulse GL66 has a single-zone RGB LED backlit keyboard. The RGB can be customizable via MSI Dragon Centre and the intensity can be adjusted.

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

The keyboard layout is standard and comes with a dedicated numpad. The typing experience is good and the keys are soft. Even though there are no dedicated buttons for quick shortcuts, the function keys can be used for this with combinations of the Fn keys.

Below the keyboard and slightly to the left is the touchpad and has separate physical left and right clickers. The trackpad is smaller than standard but comfortable and precise. However, physical clicks require some effort to register.

Performance & Benchmarks

In terms of performance, our test model is equipped with a 11th Gen Intel Core i7 10800H processor with 8 cores and 16 threads and a maximum clock frequency of 4.6GHz, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics with 6GB GDDR6 VRAM and 16GB DDR4 3200MHz RAM which can be further upgraded to 64GB. For storage, there is 1TB of M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD onboard with an additional M.2 expansion slot.

CPU

MSI has stayed true to Intel and the Core i7-11800H comes with 8 cores, 16 threads and 16 MB of cache. It has base clock of 2.6Ghz at 45W and it can achieve a maximum boost of up to 4.6Ghz.

GPU

Graphics is powered by a dedicated NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU for laptops so far with improved raytracing and tensor cores. Built on the 8 nm process, the RTX 3060 offers 6 GB GDDR6 graphics memory with a 192 Bit memory bus and based on the GA106 core with 3840 shaders at a frequency ranging from 900 MHz to 1500 MHz

GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

With the new Ampere cards, there is no more Max-Q variant (the energy-efficient version specially designed for thin and portable laptops for longer battery time) but every OEM can choose to implement Max-Q technologies such as Dynamic Boost, Whisper mode etc. The same 3060 GPU can differ in performance on different laptops based on the thermal design offered.

RAM

The MSI Pulse GL66 is equipped with 16 GB of 3200MHz DDR4 RAM in dual channel in the SO-DIMM slots. It can be further upgraded to 64GB maximum.

STORAGE

Our review unit came with a 1TB M.2 NVMe SSD. However, depending on the region, there may be different SSDs. The SSD offers goodperformance at read speeds of up to 7,083MB per second and write of up to 5,949MB/s.

GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

BENCHMARKS

In Cinebench R20 tests, the Intel Core i7-11800H scored 531 in single core benchmark and 3,081 in multi-core benchmark. In PCMark 10 Benchmark, the Pulse GL66 scored 5,947.

Cinebench R20 single core531
Cinebench R20 multi core3,081
PCMark 10 Benchmark5,947
3DMark Time Spy6,909
3DMark Fire Strike16,277
3DMark Night Raid37,171

GAMING

Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 in combination with Intel Core i7-11800H provides an excellent gaming experience on FHD resolution at maximum quality settings in most games. It can run most modern games easily above 60fps on very high settings with zero stuttering or lagging.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider102
Far Cry 5110
Red Dead Redemption II70

Temperature & Noise

In terms of cooling, MSI Pulse GL66 uses the most extensive version of the Cooler Boost 5 technology. There a total of 6 copper heatpipes that distribute the heat through the two fans. Two of them focus on the CPU while four others on the GPU.

However, temperatures can get high on load and the laptop can get really warm when gaming. Fan noise is quiet on idle but audible even on slight load.

Upgradeability

In terms of upgradeability, the MSI Pulse GL66 can be equipped with an additional M.2 SSDs and upto 64GB of RAM. There are two SO-DIMM slots for DDR4 RAM and two M.2 slots for SSD drives – one is occupied by default, but the other is available to expand.

Battery & Audio

The Pulse GL66 has a surprisingly small 53.5Whr battery for a gaming laptop. On a full charge, based on the usage and screen brightness, the laptop lasts about two to four hours. When browsing the internet, you can expect around three and a half hours of battery time.

In terms of audio, there are 2x 2.5W speakers powered by Nahimic and is High-Res certified. The sound is of decent quality but as with most gaming laptops, we recommend using a headset.

Software

Most of the performance and display settings can be controlled via the MSI Dragon Center. The app lets you monitor and optimize your system performance, change user profiles, switch between display color modes, adjust charging preferences and more.

There is also Nahimic software for audio settings, the Killer Control Center for Wi-Fi management and the third-party app Overwolf for in-game overlays.

Conclusion

The MSI Pulse GL66 is an affordable mid-range gaming laptop and comes packed with good features: A 144Hz screen, powerful GPU and CPU options, good number of ports and upgradeability. The Intel Core i7-11800H and the RTX 3060 combo works very well to deliver solid performance numbers when it comes to 1080p gaming.

MSI Pulse GL66 Review
MSI Pulse GL66 Review

Some of the drawbacks are the lack of SD and Thunderbolt ports and the average battery life.

7.8

MSI Pulse GL66 Review

The MSI Pulse GL66 is an affordable mid-range gaming laptop and comes packed with good features: A 144Hz screen, powerful GPU and CPU options, good number of ports and upgradeability. The Intel Core i7-11800H and the RTX 3060 combo works very well to deliver solid performance numbers when it comes to 1080p gaming.

THE GOOD
  • Great for 1080p gaming
  • Good design
  • Good performance
  • Good display
  • Upgradeable RAM & SSD
THE BAD
  • No Thunderbolt 4 or SD reader
  • Average battery life
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