MSI GL63 8RD-221 Review
The GL63 8RD offers some good traits — including a sturdy design, a quiet cooling system, a fast storage option and strong overall performance. However, it doesn’t include any true highlights that will set it apart from the crowd.
- Bright screen
- Above-average speakers
- Well-behaved cooling system
- Finicky keyboard
- So-so battery life
The MSI GL63 8RD-221 is a gaming laptop that will get you playing modern games, but it isn’t much of a financial stretch. That’s what most of us are looking in budget gaming laptops. The GL63 is part of MSI’s economy gaming model with modest specifications. It features an 8th Gen quad-core processor with an entry-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip. That’s not inherently a bad combo, but competitors like Asus and Acer are offering newer GPUs for around the same price.
So how does the MSI GL63 8RD stack up against the competition?
An all-too-familiar design is what you find on the GL63. Tested and tried. The laptop’s black-and-red color scheme pegs it as a gamer’s machine. Or perhaps, it carries forward the common MSI budget gaming line design. Dell and Lenovo have added some color to their budget gaming laptop, some have become ubiquitous, but the MSI line remains good looking.
However, you’ll notice a few extras on this notebook, like an illuminated MSI shield logo on the lid backing. Still, it gets an all-plastic construction which is a norm among budget gaming laptops. The MSI GL63 8RD is average sized for a 15.6-inch notebook, measuring 1.2 by 15.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD). The Asus TUF FX505DT-EB73 measures 14.1, thanks to its nearly bezel-less display.
Coming in at 4.8 pounds, the MSI GL63 is the same weight as the ASUS TUF (2019), but is 0.2 pound lighter than the Acer Predator Helios 300. On strength, the GL63’s chassis has some flex, but is sturdy enough for a non-business-class machine. The laptop’s hinges are stiff, you’ll need two hands to open the lid.
The GL63 8RD has plenty of connectivity to get you going. Along the left edge, there is a Kensington lockdown notch, a Qualcomm Ethernet jack, HDMI and mini-DisplayPort video-out port, a USB Type-A and Type-C ports, headphone-out and microphone-in jacks. The HDMI port is version 1.4, which supports 4K output at 30Hz. Still, gaming at 4K isn’t practical on this notebook, but you might need to connect a 4K TV or display down the road, so it’ll be a good experience.
On the right side, there is a full-size SD-card reader, a pair of USB Type-A 3.1 ports, and a power jack. Wireless connectivity comes via 802.11 ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth v5. The 720p webcam placed above the display has decent quality. The laptop doesn’t include a built-in biometric feature, like you would find in a business laptop, things like IR camera and fingerprint reader.
All MSI GL63 configurations include the same full HD (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) screen. It gets wide viewing angles and the anti-glare display earns good scores, but it doesn’t meet the ‘A’ grade because, well, it isn’t the most colorful display around. If you look at the spec-sheet, you’ll know why: The panel is advertised by MSI to cover just 45 percent of the NTSC color gamut.
Still, the display’s good brightness and contrast rescue the picture quality when gaming, by providing a vivid experience. There isn’t support for Nvidia G-Sync, not surprising though, you never get this feature on budget gaming PCs. Again, the native 1080p native resolution is ideal for a 15.6-inch screen, that works well with the GTX 1050 Ti graphics card.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The red-backlit keyboard is easy on the eyes, even when viewed in darkness. The red backlighting color can’t be changed. Its shallow key travel and rubbery keystrokes don’t make for the best gaming experience, and some of the key layout choice compromise productivity. For instance, it lacks dedicated Home and End keys, and the two-thirds-size number pad is yet another quibble.
Also, MSI forced the arrow keys into the main keyboard areas, thereby, truncating the right Shift key and the number pad’s ‘0’ key. The laptop doesn’t get dedicated macro keys on the GL63, but competitors at this price range don’t have them, either. The touchpad is responsive, and it has been moved further left instead of the usual center position. It’s an extra-wide touchpad, meaning, accidental clicks can’t be missed.
The MSI GL63 8RD Series is customizable, though not part-by-art, you get a litany of from-the-factory configurations. Our review unit, the GL63 8RD-221 is a well-rounded performer, thanks to its Core i5-8300H processor and small but speedy 256GB solid-state drive (SSD). Windows 10 Home is installed the SSD, and the 8GB of RAM is the bare minimum for productivity, let alone modern gaming. Nonetheless, it is a good entry level system, with the possible option of upgrading the RAM to 32GB, via two SO-DIMM slots on the motherboard.
On the other hand, the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti provides just enough power for the latest AAA games. Its 4GB of video memory is, dare I say, above the borderline for higher texture settings in some games. The 8th Gen Core i5 processor in our review unit doesn’t make up for the performance gap between the GTX 1050 Ti and the newer GTX 1660 Ti.
In real-world gaming, the MSI GL63 makes a good showing on modern AAA titles. Played at 1080p with maximum detail settings, it easily manages 76 FPS on Fortnite, 43 FPS on Grand Theft Auto, 74 FPS on Overwatch and 39 FPS on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. That’s the highest you can go with settings, anything above like Ultra settings will reduce the frame rates and overall playability.
If you need it better and include Virtual Reality (VR) support, you can step up to a GeForce GTX 1060 with 6GB of video. MSI offers the GS65 Stealth THIN-051 with a GTX 1060 graphics card and a better Core i7-8750H processor. Also, our Editors Choice, Acer predator Helios 300 offers the GTX 1060 (6GB) graphics card, 16GB of RAM and an Intel Core i7-8750H processor.
Most laptops in 2019 are moving towards G-Sync screens, which prevents systems from using Nvidia Optimus to switch between the discrete graphics and dedicated graphics. Of course, G-Sync promotes gaming performance, but sacrifices battery life in the process.
The MSI GL63 8RD doesn’t support G-Sync, so its 41 WHs battery gets around 5 hours 43 minutes. Depending on usage, it can give or shed a few minutes. However, like most gaming laptops, it won’t last you through a full workday.
The MSI GL63 8RD offers some good traits — including a sturdy design, a quiet cooling system, a fast storage option and strong overall performance. However, it doesn’t include any true highlights that will set it apart from the crowd. If you’re getting it on a heftier discount, it will maybe manage to pull over the shadow cast by Asus and Acer alternatives.
Is there a better alternative?
Acer offers a GTX 1660Ti version with a 9th generation Intel Core i5-9750H, the Acer Predator Helios 300 PH315-52-78VL. The new CPU and Turing-based GPU and more affordable price make it an attractive option. We still think the Razer Blade 15 has the best balance of gaming capabilities, but it’s also one of the most expensive gaming laptops you can buy.
If you don’t mind a larger screen, the ASUS ROG Strix Scar II (GL704GV-DS74) is one of your better options. It’s quite bigger and heavier, but packs the same Intel Core i7-8750H processor, 512GB SSD and a GeForce RTX 2060 graphics card.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The MSI GL63 8RD-221 has a few flaws, but it comes in at a price that will offer budget gamers real value. Plus, it’s thin, portable and hosts good connectivity.