Sunday, August 1, 2021
LaptopsWindows laptops

MSI Pulse GL66 review – Core i7-11800H is here to stay


Today, we have a very special laptop for you. Its importance is not only related to the rebranding that’s going on in MSI’s corner but also because of the hardware it sports. In fact, the Pulse GL66 will be the first laptop we test, that comes with a Tiger Lake H45 processor. Ultimately, this is Intel’s best shot at AMD’s hegemony in the CPU world. And although the blue company was still number one in the gaming world, they are aiming to solidify their positions, and at least temporarily halt AMD’s progress.

Pairing their laptop with the latest from Intel and NVIDIA means that the device has another ace up its sleeve – resizable BAR. This lets the CPU access the entire frame buffer of the graphics card at once, which in theory, should lead to better performance. However, you should keep your BIOS and drivers up to date to receive the best optimization possible.

What else do gamers need besides good hardware? Well, they need high-refresh-rate displays. And MSI also delivered on this front. The “base” option here is a 1080p 144Hz panel. But there is an even more impressive option – the 1440p 165Hz panel. However, it won’t be available with the RTX 3050 and RTX 3050 Ti GPU versions.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-pulse-gl66/

Contents

Specs Sheet

MSI Pulse GL66 – Specs

HDD/SSD

up to 1000GB SSD + up to 1000GB HDD

OS

No OS, Windows 10 Home

Dimensions

359 x 259 x 23.9 mm (14.13″ x 10.20″ x 0.94″)

Body material

Plastic / Polycarbonate, Aluminum

Ports and connectivity

  • 1x USB Type-A 2.0
  • 2x USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • HDMI
  • Ethernet LAN 10, 100, 1000 Mbit/s
  • Wi-Fi 802.11ax
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Audio jack 3.5mm Combo Jack

Features

  • Fingerprint reader
  • Web camera HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Speakers Stereo Speakers by Nahimic Audio
  • Optical drive

What’s in the box?

Inside the box, you will find a 180W power brick and some paper manuals. In terms of protection, the laptop is placed in a textile cloth, which is then put inside an antistatic bag.

Design and construction

This notebook is mainly built out of plastic. This is with the exception of the lid, of course, which is made from metal (presumably aluminum). Naturally, the design reflects the new “Pulse” naming, with some lines going both on the lid, and on the base. Interestingly, despite the rather inexpensive material on the base, it doesn’t flex at all when stressed.

And although the lid has some flex when you twist it, it really doesn’t feel like something critical. Thankfully, the lid can be opened with a single hand. With that said, the hinges feel stable and relatively smooth. In terms of looks, the laptop has slim bezels to the sides of the matte panel, a quite pronounced chin, and a forehead, that packs a couple of mics, and an HD Web camera.

Going to the keyboard, we see a pleasant surprise. Gone is the entirely Red unit, and in its place, you get an RGB backlight, with white details on the keycaps. So, the key travel is decent but the feedback is a bit on the soft side. Other than that, the unit has a good layout, includes a NumberPad, and the Arrow keys are not too small either. We can’t help but mention the ton of function buttons. This includes the “Turbo fan speed” one, which shares space with the “Up” arrow button.

Move further down, and you will see the touchpad, which has some weird imprints. Some people might like them, others will hate them. We feel neutral towards it, but what we are happy to see, is the responsiveness, and the tracking accuracy.

Flip the Pulse GL66 upside down, and you will find two tiny speaker cutouts and a huge vent on the bottom panel. Respectively, the hot air exits the chassis from two slots on the back, and one on the side.

Ports

On the left side, you will find the charging plug, a USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and a USB Type-A 2.0 port. Switch to the right, and you will see an RJ-45 connector, an HDMI connector, a USB Type-C 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, another USB Type-A 3.2 (Gen. 1) port, and an audio jack.

Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

To get inside of this device, you need to undo 13 Phillips-head screws. After that, pry the bottom panel with a plastic tool and remove it from the chassis.

This notebook’s battery pack has a capacity of 53.5Wh.

Thankfully, there are two RAM SODIMM slots that fit 64GB of memory in total and work in dual-channel mode. Interestingly, this is one of the few devices that still feature a 2.5-inch SATA drive bay. Furthermore, there are two M.2 PCIe x4 slots.

Lastly, the cooling solution comprises a total of six heat pipes. Two of them are cooling the CPU, three are intended for the GPU, while one is meant for the graphics memory and voltage control.

Display quality

MSI Pulse GL66 has a panel with a model number AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution – 1920 х 1080 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:9, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 142 ppi, and a pitch of 0.18 х 0.18 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 60cm (24″) (from this distance one’s eye stops differentiating the separate pixels, and it is normal for looking at a laptop).

Viewing angles are excellent. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

We measured a maximum brightness of 335 nits in the middle of the screen and 351 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of 14%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 7700K – colder the optimal for the sRGB standard of 6500K.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. In other words, the leakage of light from the light source.

Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work. The contrast ratio is good – 1320:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people on HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows MSI Pulse GL66’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers 93% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of MSI Pulse GL66 with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale, and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.

Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 9 ms.

After that, we test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.

PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

MSI Pulse GL66 doesn’t use PWM in the adjustment of its brightness. This makes the screen comfortable for extended periods of use, without presenting excessive harm to your eyesight in this aspect.

Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin, and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Conclusion

MSI Pulse GL66’s panel in the configuration we tested has a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, and a good contrast ratio. Additionally, it covers 93% of the sRGB color gamut and doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment. Furthermore, you get pretty high color accuracy with our Gaming and Web design profile. What is more impressive, and arguably more important for gamers, is the pixel response time. It’s safe to say that it is fast, and the 144Hz refresh rate won’t feel stuttery at all.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for MSI Pulse GL66 configurations with 15.6″ 144Hz FHD IPS AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED).

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia’s products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work - screen profile

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming - screen profile

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard - screen profile

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

All

Sound

MSI Pulse GL66’s speakers produce a sound of good quality. Its low, mid, and high tones are clear of deviations. However, the maximum volume is a bit low.

Drivers

All of the drivers and utilities for this notebook can be downloaded from here: https://www.msi.com/Laptop/support/Pulse-GL66-11UX

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. This device’s 53.5Wh battery lasts for 4 hours and 1 minute of Web browsing, and three hours and 14 minutes of video playback.

CPU options

Currently, this notebook can be found with the Core i5-11400H and Core i7-11800H. Respectively six, and eight-core Tiger Lake H45 processors.

GPU options

As for the graphics, you can find the laptop with the RTX 3050, RTX 3050 Ti, RTX 3060, and the RTX 3070.

Gaming tests

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

Intel Core i7-11800H (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
MSI Pulse GL66 2.94 GHz (B+28%) @ 94°C @ 58W 2.76 GHz (B+20%) @ 94°C @ 52W 2.77 GHz (B+20%) @ 94°C @ 52W

Interestingly, the new generation Intel processors seem to be working at lower clock speeds. Or it is just that the cooling solution of the MSI Pulse GL66 is not efficient enough. We’ll have more information once we test more devices with this CPU.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (Max Fan)
MSI Pulse GL66 1433 MHz @ 83°C @ 85W 1408 MHz @ 87°C @ 84W 1437 MHz @ 81°C @ 85W
MSI GP66 Leopard 1863 MHz @ 72°C @ 124W 1852 MHz @ 75°C @ 125W 1849 MHz @ 69°C @ 127W
MSI GP76 Leopard 1860 MHz @ 71°C @ 129W 1857 MHz @ 73°C @ 128W 1869 MHz @ 67°C @ 128W

On the other hand, we have already found out how the RTX 3060 works. Interestingly, the large amount of heat pipes doesn’t result in low temperatures. Even though it has a TGP of 40-45W less than the GPU on the MSI GP66 Leopard, the temperatures it works at are more than 10°C higher.

Gaming comfort

Well, the laptop was both loud and hot during gaming, which is not ideal in terms of comfort.

Verdict

After having our day full of tests of the MSI Pulse GL66, we can safely say, that the Core i7-11800H is one of the most exciting processors Intel has made. While it still lags behind the Ryzen 7 5800H in terms of rendering performance, the Photoshop score blew our mind. However, we have to mention one thing. MSI didn’t do a particularly good job with the cooling solution. Both the CPU and the GPU were hanging for dear life during gaming. Even though both of them were working at clocks higher than their base ones, the temperatures were too high.

Naturally, this results in high noise, and warm externals. As a matter of fact, the hottest point we measured at the keyboard was about 54°C. Not something you want on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, the battery life was similarly unimpressive. We got 4 hours of Web browsing, and a bit over 3 hours of video playback. Expect less in day-to-day usage.

To some consolation, the laptop is paired with a very decent display. MSI Pulse GL66’s panel (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED)) in the configuration we tested has a Full HD resolution, comfortable viewing angles, and a good contrast ratio. Additionally, it covers 93% of the sRGB color gamut and doesn’t use PWM for brightness adjustment. Furthermore, you get pretty high color accuracy with our Gaming and Web design profile. What is more impressive, and arguably more important for gamers, is the pixel response time. It’s safe to say that it is fast, and the 144Hz refresh rate won’t feel stuttery at all.

Also, its upgrade options are on point, as it has two M.2 PCIe x4 slots and one 2.5-inch SATA slot for storage. Furthermore, you can count on two SODIMM slots for dual-channel memory of up to 64GB in total.

Ultimately, the laptop is a hit and miss. For some features that are great, there is one that is not. Not only you don’t get Thunderbolt connectivity with this device, but there is also no SD card slot, and one of the USB Type-A ports works at 2.0 speeds. On a laptop with beast hardware in 2021. It just doesn’t seem serious.

As a final note, the laptop is built like a tank, and we can tell that MSI has put effort into it. However, we are utterly disappointed by the cooling solution of the machine, and we hope that the manufacturer is going to address this issue sooner rather than later.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-pulse-gl66/

Pros

  • Two SODIMM slots, two M.2 PCIe x4 slot, one 2.5-inch SATA slot
  • Rigid structure
  • Lacks PWM (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))
  • 93% sRGB coverage and accurate colors with our Gaming and Web design profile (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))
  • Fast pixel response times and 144Hz refresh rate (AUO B156HAN08.0 (AUO80ED))

Cons

  • No SD card reader and Thunderbolt 4
  • Runs hot
  • Poor battery life





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