At a Glance: MSI GE65 Raider Review


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MSI is one of the most active companies in the gaming laptop market. With a half-dozen ongoing product lines and multiple products in each, MSI’s approach is to flood the market with tons of choices for gamers to choose from. In general, this is great, as it often helps to have plenty of options. But it can also create some confusion as to which system is best, and some laptops such as MSI’s GE65 Raider get left without a clear position in the market.

Design

In terms of its size and design, the GE65 Raider sits directly between MSI’s more compact GS65 Stealth and more powerful GT63 Titan notebooks. Aesthetically the Raider looks like the Titan’s little brother, with the two systems looking quite similar overall. The Raider at 26.9mm thin is significantly smaller than the Titan (39.8mm), giving it a clear advantage in portability. The Raider, in turn, is considerably thicker than the 17.9mm-thin Stealth.

So far then the Raider looks to be targeted as a solution between these other two systems, but this doesn’t hold true when we and components into the mix. All three systems support processors up to Intel Core i9 9th Gen, but the best GPU you can get in the Raider is an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070. Both the Titan and the Stealth support RTX 2080 graphics cards though, which gives them an advantage in their top-tier configurations.

The Raider does have one advantage over the Stealth, however: It features better cooling hardware, thanks in part to its larger form factor.

Test Model & Benchmarks

Our sister site PCMag got hold of one of MSI’s GE65 Raider notebooks and tested it against several other systems including the aforementioned Stealth. The system tested came equipped with an Intel Core i9-9880H processor with eight CPU cores and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 graphics card as well as 1080p 240Hz display. As configured, this system sells for $2,699. The rest of the system specs, as well as the specs of the other tested notebooks, can be found in the chart below.

As the only octa-core processor in the group, the MSI GE65 Raider blows everything else out of the water when tested with Cinebench R15.

We see the same results when testing with Photoshop CC. It’s clear that these six-core processors simply can’t stand up against the bigger eight-core CPUs in a head to head competition.

This trend continues when we turn our attention to synthetic gaming benchmarks. Although the GPU in the MSI GE65 Raider is outclassed by the GPUs inside of the Acer Predator Triton 500 and the Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9, the Raider still pulls ahead in these tests thanks to its more powerful processor. It’s possible that the Raider’s thermal solution is also helping to improve the notebook’s performance relative to the other systems, but we don’t have sufficient evidence to know this for sure.

What’s even more surprising is that the RTX 2070 inside of the Raider continues to run laps around the RTX 2080s inside of the Acer Predator Triton and Gigabyte Aero 15-Y9. This is especially noticeable on Rise of the Tomb Raider, which shows the Raider with between a 13 and 31fps lead over the Acer Predator Triton 500.

Conclusion

According to PCMag, while performing these tests the CPU and GPU maintained average temperatures of 83C and 80C, respectively. At the same time, the GPU reportedly maintained an average core clock of 1,630MHz, which is significantly higher than the RTX 2070’s stock clock speed of 1,440MHz. This indicates it has been factory overclocked by MSI to improve performance. Clearly the thermal solution also performed exceptionally well during these tests, as thermal throttling was not a noticeable issue.

Thanks to its exceptional performance against the competition as well as its high-end specs, I’d recommend the MSI GE65 Raider as an excellent solution for those in need of a powerful gaming laptop. You can get it now from Amazon for $2,699.00.

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Razer’s Upcoming Intel-Powered Switch 13 Will Offer 25W Switchable TDP


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When Intel took the lid off of Ice Lake, we noted that the performance data for the CPU was complex. On the GPU side of things, Ice Lake is a huge leap forward, with substantially higher performance than anything we’ve seen from Intel integrated graphics before. The CPU, however, was a rather mixed bag. When restrained to a 15W TDP, Ice Lake CPUs weren’t necessarily faster than the Coffee Lake chips they are intended to replace and were often somewhat slower. If you give the CPU additional headroom, this problem resolves — but of course, giving the chip more power to play with has a negative impact on heat and battery life.

When Intel invited reviewers to test Ice Lake, the test systems it offered had a toggle switch to flip from 15W to 25W envelopes. That’s how PCMag and other publications were able to test the laptop in both modes, as shown below:

Users don’t usually have this kind of option. TDP ranges are typically pre-defined by the OEM and are not something that the end user can modify, for obvious reasons — cranking up laptop TDP is a good way to overheat the system if you don’t know what you’re doing and if the laptop isn’t specifically designed to run at the higher power level. To the best of our knowledge (until today), no consumer laptop could actually change its TDP values on the fly. At the Ice Lake testing event, Intel told reviewers that the Ice Lake laptops sold at retail wouldn’t have this option, either.

There appears to be at least one exception to this rule, however. The Razer Blade 13 will have an adjustable TDP that can be configured through Razer’s Synapse software. Supposedly this capability has always existed, going back to the original Razer Blade. If this is true, it’s not something the company previously seems to have highlighted — Google doesn’t bring up any results referring to an adjustable TDP on previous versions of the Razer Blade,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce unless you count the fact that the laptop would down-clock under load in some circumstances. To be clear, the ability to run the CPU in a lower power envelope under load isn’t the same thing as being able to voluntarily put it in a higher TDP mode and operate it with additional power headroom.

Given that Intel had already told reviewers not to expect adjustable TDP ranges as a major laptop feature, this raises the question: Is this specific to Razer, or will we see more laptop manufacturers taking advantage of these new capabilities? Will Intel make adjustable TDPs a feature that high-end customers can shell out for if they want the option?

Razer’s website for the new Blade states that the system will use a 25W Ice Lake CPU, but does not mention anything about the system being adjustable within a 15W versus a 25W power envelope.

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Acer’s New Predator Triton 300 Is a Budget-Conscious Gaming Laptop


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Most consumers buy laptops these days, but many gaming laptops might as well be desktops for how impractical they are to haul around. It’s understandable when gaming laptops have to cram in so many high-end components. However, Acer’s new Predator Triton 300 takes a different approach. This gaming laptop weighs just 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) and has enough power to satisfy the average gamer. 

While this could be aptly described as an “entry-level” gaming laptop,SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce it’s significantly more powerful than your average mainstream notebook. The Triton 300 packs a 15.6-inch 1080p LCD with a 144Hz refresh rate. Whether or not you see all those extra frames in games will depend on what you play. The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 video card isn’t going to set the world on fire, but it’s an able gaming GPU for a laptop. 

The Acer Predator Triton 300 also has Intel’s latest-generation Core i7 processors and 16GB of RAM in the base model. On the storage side, the laptop comes with two 1TB SSDs as standard. The drives are in RAID 0, so the two drives act as one large drive. This makes them faster, but there’s no fault tolerance or redundancy. You can upgrade that to 2TB as well. 

The Predator Triton 300 is thinner and lighter than most gaming laptops, and the price tag isn’t obscene. The trade-off: mid-range specs for a gaming setup.

The entire chassis is under 20mm thick, an impressive feat for a laptop with a high-end processor and dedicated video. It’s thick enough to house a full Ethernet port, but there’s also Wi-Fi 6 support. Since this is a gaming laptop, Acer took some measures to make it look the part. There’s a full keyboard (with number pad) with RGB backlighting. The WASD keys are also concave to help position your hand for gaming. For typing, it sounds like it would be rather unpleasant. The rest of the design isn’t too extreme. The lid has a beveled edge and some unnecessarily angled corners. There are also some superfluous hoods on the rear vents. 

The Predator Triton 300 will launch in Europe this fall for €1,300 (about $1,434). Acer hasn’t committed to launching it in the US yet. However, the states will get the upgraded Triton 500, which now sports a 300Hz display. That laptop starts at €2,699 (almost $3,000).

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At a Glance: Acer Predator Helios 300 (2019) Review


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Acer’s Predator Helios gaming laptops have been highly competitive in recent years, offering a strong balance between performance and affordability. The new 2019 Predator Helios 300 systems come equipped with the latest processing technology from Intel and Nvidia, giving these new systems a clear edge over last year models.

Design and Hardware

Along with the upgraded hardware comes an updated appearance that helps the new 2019 systems stand apart from their 2018 predecessors. Instead of the overplayed red-and-black color scheme, these new systems are predominantly black with teal highlights. The notebook’s chassis is primarily constructed out of plastic, but the system does feature a metal plate behind the screen that helps to reinforce the body and give the system a more expensive and premium look.

Our sister site PCMag received one of these units from Acer for testing purposes and ran it through a series of benchmarks to gauge its performance. This system came equipped with an Intel Core i7-9750H processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1660 Ti graphics processor as well as 16GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The Predator Helios 300 also features a 1080p 144Hz display, and it sells for $1,199.99 as configured.

The test results were compared against four other systems. The full specs for these other systems are listed in the chart above.

Benchmarks

Kicking things off with Cinebench R15, we see the three i7-9750H notebooks dominating the less well equipped Dell G5 15 SE and the Lenovo Legion Y530 — no real surprise there. The Predator Helios 300 manages to best the MSI GS65 Stealth in this test, but it’s not quite fast enough to surpass the Dell G7 15.

Testing with Photoshop CC shows the Acer Predator Helios 300 pull into first place with the Dell G7 15 falling down into third.

The gaming tests run by PCMag show the Acer Predator Helios 300 performing relatively well against the competition, especially against the Dell G7 15 that comes with a more powerful RTX 2060 graphics processor. Generally we would have expected to see the Dell G7 15 maintain a sizable lead over the competition in these tests, but instead, it struggles to surpass the GTX 1660 Ti inside of the Acer Predator Helios 300. Testing with 3DMark shows the Acer notebook just slightly behind the Dell G7, and when tested with Unigine Superposition 1.0 the Dell G7 falls far behind the Acer Predator Helios 300 and MSI GS65 Stealth at 720p resolutions.

Technically the Dell G7 returned the highest average frames per second when tested with both Far Cry 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, but the Acer Predator Helios 300 is just one frame per second behind in both titles.

This should come as a real slap in the face for Dell, as it sells the tested G7 15 laptop for roughly $600 more than Acer Predator Helios 300, in large part due to the faster GPU. Unless there is a major sale going on or you are just a big fan of Dell, this removes any real incentive to buy the Dell system when you can have essentially the same performance from the Acer Predator Helios 300 for significantly less.

Conclusion

It’s always enjoyable to see a product get the upper-hand on a significantly more expensive competitor, but does that make the Predator Helios 300 worthwhile? In short, yes. Currently, you can pick up the Acer Predator Helios 300 on sale from Amazon for $1,099. Of the systems included in these tests, the two that came closest to matching the Predator Helios 300 were the Dell G7 15 and the MSI GS65 Stealth. The first of these retails for around $1,803.99 whereas the latter notebook costs $1,699. These higher price tags may come with some extra features and benefits, like the MSI GS65 Stealth’s full metal exterior and more compact form factor, but in terms of raw performance, neither of these more expensive systems best the Acer Predator Helios 300.

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Nvidia Woos Creatives With New RTX Studio Laptops


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When Nvidia rolled out its RTX family of GPUs last year it was all about gaming. The new Ray Tracing (RT) cores aimed to create more realistic game experiences, assisted by inferencing (AI) cores that enabled the acceleration of low-noise ray tracing. This year at SIGGRAPH, Nvidia is touting how RTX is making progress with creative professionals. Specifically, Dell, HP, Lenovo, and Boxx are rolling out 10 new RTX Studio laptops, adding to the 17 previously announced. The new crop makes Turing GPU performance much more accessible to a wide range of users.

Dell Precision 7540 delivers an RTX laptop, for a priceThe new laptopsSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce span both Nvidia’s family of consumer and professional RTX GPUs, with some sporting GeForce RTX models (2060, 2070, and 2080) and others Quadro RTX (3000, 4000, 5000) versions. Models with the Quadro RTX 5000 also offer up to 16GB of graphics memory — a real boon for those training large AI models, among others. Nvidia touts up to 7x performance compared with the MacBook Pro, but I suspect Apple will be coming out with some speedier GPU options in its MacBook line soon. Here’s a round-up of the ten new Nvidia Studio laptop models:

  • Lenovo Legion Y740 Laptop Studio Edition, which features up to GeForce RTX 2080 GPUs within 17- and 15-inch laptops, available later this fall.
  • Lenovo ThinkPad P53 and P73 mobile workstations support up to Quadro RTX 5000 GPUs within 17- and 15-inch systems. The ThinkPad P53 is available now; the ThinkPad P73 will be available starting August.
  • Dell Precision 7540 and Dell Precision 7740 mobile workstations, available today, are configurable with up to Quadro RTX 5000 GPUs.
  • HP ZBook 15 and 17 mobile workstations feature Quadro RTX GPUs, with the 17-inch model configurable with up to a Quadro RTX 5000.
  • BOXX GoBOXX SLM mobile workstations are available with a Quadro RTX 3000 GPU in the 15-inch system and either Quadro RTX 4000 or 3000 in the 17-inch system.

Creative Apps Move to Support RTX

Nvidia also announced that more than 40 creative and design applications have in some way embraced RTX — using the dedicated RT and AI cores for new features and performance enhancement. To make optimal use of those applications, Nvidia has also updated its GeForce Experience driver manager to offer the option of Studio Drivers, in addition to Game Drivers.

As someone who games on my main video editing machine, the new driver options can be a bit confusing. I installed the Studio edition of drivers for my 1080, but then when I launched a game it warned me that I didn’t have the most recent drivers (the Game drivers are a newer version). It isn’t clear to me if it is possible to have a driver set that is optimized for both gaming and creative apps, and if not, what the tradeoffs are between them.

RTX Doesn’t Come Cheap

From a quick check of current pricing on one of the new models — the Dell Precision 7740, a solid configuration that includes an RTX 3000 (the only RTX model available on the web site) prices out at over $3,000 after discount. The 6GB RTX 3000 is priced at a $300 premium over the non-RTX Turing-based T2000. So, just as with skepticism over the initial game support of RTX last year, I expect some wait-and-see until there are more specifics on exactly how extensively RTXSEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce has been integrated into common creative applications before there’s a huge wave of adoption.

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Apple May Ditch Its Hated Butterfly Keyboards Later This Year


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Apple debuted its custom butterfly keyboard mechanism in the 2015 MacBook before expanding it to the MacBook Pro in 2016. At the time, the company claimed the butterfly switches were a revolution because they made keyboards so much thinner. However, MacBook users have had no end of problems with these computers, and analysts now predict Apple will begin phasing out the butterfly switch at the end of this year. 

The butterfly mechanism is indeed much thinner than traditional scissor switches, but they’re also more prone to failure in the real world. No one uses their laptop exclusively in a sealed clean room, so dust and debris are sure to fall on the keyboard from time to time. With most keyboards, you can remove dust with compressed air, but Apple’s butterfly switches are so flat, there’s no way to get the junk out from under some of those keys. Just a little debris can cause the key to stop working, resulting in a costly and time-consuming repair. 

Apple has tried several times to fix the butterfly switch with tweaks like the rubber membranes in the 2018 MacBook Pro.SEEAMAZON_ET_135 See Amazon ET commerce Yet, laptops were still being trashed by specs of dust. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says that a revised keyboard switch he didn’t expect to see until 2020 is now on target for a late 2019 release. According to Kuo, we’ll see the new switches for the first time on the 16-inch MacBook Pro, which is a new form factor for Apple. The company’s revised switches are much less custom than the butterfly mechanism. Apple will use a more traditional scissor-switch design, making its keyboards much more durable. The scissor mechanism will also feature greater travel, which should make typing more pleasant. One notable drawback is that the new keyboards are going to be a little thicker than current ones. Although, Kuo says the difference will be minor enough that most users won’t notice. 

The revamped keyboard with rubber membranes. Credit: iFixit

Apple isn’t just doing this in pursuit of a better typing experience. The financial and PR cost of butterfly switches has continued to build with each new design revision. Apple currently faces several lawsuits over the faulty hardware, and it has already agreed to repair all butterfly keyboard at no cost for up to four years. So, moving to a new design makes sense from a business perspective. 

Kuo says the 16-inch laptop will be the only one to get the scissor-switch makeover in 2019, but 2020 versions of the 13.3-inch Pro, 15.6-inch Pro, and 13.3-inch Air will also get them. In the meantime, you might want to hold off on a new MacBook purchase.

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