Outstanding Design and Performance - Deep Look into New MSI GE63VR 7RF Raider
WRITTEN BY 李文萱
Posted on November 29 2017
Over the recent years, MSI has been focusing on the high level and mid-range gaming marketing with 3 main series:
The finest is the GT series that pursues maximum performance;
the 2nd is the GS series with its slim & light but good performance;
the 3rd is the GE series in the middle ground, lighter than GT but faster than GS.
Recently the GE series just received a makeover, with improvements in aesthetics, design, and quality.
This article will focus on testing and analyzing the latest 15.6" of MSI GE63VR.
Starting from the A-side top cover, the design still iconic MSI with the brushed aluminum surface and a MSI dragon shield logo,
that illuminates when powered on, all quality adding to its looking and feeling.
The GE63VR now comes in both GTX 1060 GPU (7RE) and the top-notch GTX 1070 (7RF), both with the dimension of 383 x 260 x 27.5 mm.
The weight may vary a little depending on the configuration: official spec of the 7RF is 2.39 kg.
The actual measurement says 2395g, which has almost same.
Straight ridges and red line are presented on both sides of the center section to perform a sense of speed.
MSI often adopts the design of a sports car hood on the cover to match their brand image.
Personally, I think it’d look even better if the two red stripes can light up during boot up.
The backpack that came with the GE36VR excels in both quality and protection.
The new dragon shield logo has also been redesigned to remove the “GAMING SERIES” wording for simplicity.
The backpack fits up to 17” notebooks, which some may consider a bit too big but others may think bigger space is as a plus.
The adapter next to the GE63VR 7RF comes at a max 230W to power the high end GTX 1070 version.
The B-side surrounds the 15.6” matte display.
The webcam on the top features 720p 30fps capability, with a small hole for the microphone on its either side.
The high-end TN display features FHD resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, 3ms response time, and 94% NTSC color coverage.
It’s paired with a SteelSeries RGB gaming keyboard, featuring per-key RGB lighting.
The feedback may not be like a mechanical keyboard, but is exceptional for membrane keyboards.
I personally also like the dedicated left and right button of the track pad, as this offers better accuracy when pressed down.
The outer is decorated with red line, like the GS63VR, to enhance its visibility and aesthetics.
The slim buttons on the right represents power button, SteelSeries keyboard lighting, and fan speed adjustment.
Starting from the left is the SD card reader (XC/HC), USB3.0 X2, ventilation.
I’ve noticed the red lighting from the USB port during the initial boot up, which also adds visibility during installation.
Starting from the left is Kensington lock, ventilation, RJ45 Ethernet port, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, USB3.0, Type-C USB3.1.
Gold-plated 3.5mm audio jacks are for Hi-Fi headphone and microphones. The headphone-out supports ESS SABRE HIFI technology.
The rear has also been decorated with the red line to further enhance aesthetics and the speed theme.
Ventilation can also be seen on either side for the latest MSI exclusive Cooler Boost 5 cooling technology.
Under the D-side
The center dragon totem not only adds to the look-and-feel, but also features massive ventilation grills.
The lighting at the bottom suggests power, battery, and hard drive status.
The speaker is in collaboration with the well-known Danish audio company: Dynaudio.
The sound chamber is 5x the size than previous GE design, as shown in the bottom left/right of the picture,
which made us really look forward to the audio quality and volume.
MSI has also improved a lot on their exclusive software over the past two years.
Almost every features comes with its own software that allows for finer tweaks,
especially for the gaming features, like audio, keyboard, display, etc.
This is also where most of the other brands that I’ve tested fall short, like Dell or HP.
First with the audio, Nahimic 2+. The audio software has been constantly upgraded to add more features.
The MSI Nahimic 2+ actually looks very similar to Alienware Sound Center, but offers more configuration for different environments.
For those who stream games, uses team chats, or even make video calls, the software plays an important row with the microphone settings.
The following is the thoughts for the speakers from the GE63VR.
This is much more subjective, and is based on comparison with other high-end gaming notebooks.
High Freq. – No overly sharp tunes, rich details, great overall performance.
Mid Freq. – Nice overall detail clarity, human vocal also stronger above average.
Bass Freq. – Most outstanding part, strong but not blurred out, but may overpower the Highs and Mids.
The GE63VR with the Nahimic 2+ present excellent audio quality, thanks to the two 2W stereo speakers and two 3W GIANT woofers.
The overall sound detail was remarkable strong, and has the highest volume of all the high-end gaming notebooks tested ever.
The details are also pretty outstanding, even comparing to Dell Alienware 17 R4.
Whether it’s watching movies, playing games, or listening to music, the audio is just amazing.
The headphone output features ESS SABRE HiFi DAC, supporting up to Hi-Res 192kHz/24bit output.
The actual listening experience with a Hi-Res headphone also performances on par with the best Dell Alienware to date.
Keyboard Software with SteelSeries Engine 3
It offers the common lighting control, macro settings, and multiple profiles.
Lighting presets are also available, adding extra fanciness to the RGB design.
The waves of color changes with each key, similar to the high-end Corsair K70 RGB mechanical keyboard tested.
Clicking into Engine Apps
Click on the AudioVisualizer to the center-right.
Detailed menu are presented on the center-left.
With a few tweaks, you can have the preview sound wave in sync with the RGB keyboard.
This adds an extra layer of visual experience when listening to music.
Display Software is MSI True Color 2.0
The software is quite unique on first sight. There are 6 modes to choose from for preference and different purposes.
It comes with pre-calibrated configurations, as well as detailed manual adjustment options.
Gamer Mode has more configuration than the aforementioned sRGB.
For gaming scenarios, the response and details in shadows of a display is especially crucial.
Designer Mode Offers Rich Color Adjustments
Aside from gaming, MSI gaming notebooks are also perfect for image designers that demand accurate colors.
As stated on the website, MSI collaborates with Portrait Display, Inc., and make sure every unit has been indecently calibrated during factory production.
Such service was previously only seen on Japanese high-end monitors like EIZO. MSI sets high standards for gaming notebook displays
Dragon Center is the most important MSI exclusive software.
It neatly integrated all other related software, with access to system status and tuning.
MSI is considered to be among the best when it comes to software integration for notebooks.
Offers configuration for VR, performance, fan speed, and display color.
In the Shift system performance configuration, an extra Turbo Mode can be found when plugged in to AC.
There’s also a toggle on the far right for the cool USB lighting.
The following performance tests are based on Turbo Mode for enhanced 3D performance from the higher GPU frequency.
GS63VR comes in GTX 1070 (7RF) and GTX 1060 (7RE), with various capacity options for DDR4 RAM and M.2 SSD storage, hence the price varies.
Hardware performance test for the GS63VR 7RF are as follow:
Single thread => 390
4C8T multi thread => 1925
Fritz Chess Benchmark => 28.23/13548
CPU => 731 cb
CPU (Single Core) => 159 cb
The GE63VR features Intel Core i7-7700HQ, with 4C8T.
The main difference from the previous gen (Core i-6700HQ) is the frequency, 2.8~3.8GHz vs 2.6~3.5GHz.
I’ve tested and shared many results from Intel 6th gen and 7th gen CPU performance.
The performance is almost on identical when under the same frequency.
The 5~10% increase is due to the slightly higher frequency from the 7th gen.
It is more rely on better cooling capability.
PCMARK10 => 4768
The storage comes in two M.2 NVMe PCIe Gen.3 x4 SSD in RAID 0 config.
The 7RE features 128GBX2, and the even higher 7RF comes in 256GBX2.
The model is Samsung MZVLW256HEHP, aka PM961.
The hard drive is a HGST 1TB 7200rpm drive.
AS SSD Benchmark - 3272
Seq Read - 2878.09 MB/s Write - 2065.34 MB/s
4K - 64Thrd Read - 1054.32 MB/s Write - 889.37 MB/s
The SSDs comes with the performant M.2 SSD PM961. There are also the faster SM961.
However, the highest read speed for a single PM961 is 2800 MB/s, write speed of 1100 MB/s.
The RAID 0 configuration also enhances the transfer speed.
It’s a shame that both desktop PCs and notebooks are still far from the ideal of PCIe M.2 RAID 0,
not sure if Intel RST still requires improvement or that Intel chipset still can’t performance at its fullest.
Either way, the GE63VR with NVMe M.2 SSD and 1TB HDD is an excellent config with both speed and capacity.
Both the Intel HD Graphics 630 and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 are featured as its graphics.
The GTX 1070 comes with 8GB GDDR5, just like the desktop counterpart.
The following results are from the GTX 1070: 3DMark Fire Strike => 14668
For comparison, the previously tested GTX 1060 scored 8883, and GTX 1070 Max-Q scored 11910.
1080p Medium => 13537
For comparison, GTX 1060 scored 7902.
Far Cry 4
1920x1080 resolution with 3D effects at Ultra.
Opening scene – 283 FPS, right after the opening animation (shown in pic) – 90 FPS.
For comparison, the previous GTX 1060 has 82 FPS, and GTX 1060 Max-Q has 86 FPS.
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six® Siege
1920 x 1080 with graphics at Ultra.
Beginning of the game - 167 FPS
The previous GTX 1060 has 110 FPS and the GTX 1070 MAX-Q has 145 FPS
Assassin's Creed Syndicate
1920 x 1080 with ULTRA HIGH graphic preset.
Beginning of the game - 59 FPS
The previous GTX 1060 has 37 FPS and the GTX 1070 MAX-Q has 48 FPS
1920 x 1080 with High graphic preset.
Switch to the highest settings with 8X Anti-Aliasing and 16X Texture Fliter
After browing through the internet for some answers,
we’ve confirmed that the frame rate has been capped at 60 FPS, the same number even after turning off V-Sync.
Reviewers abroad tested GTX 1060 and scored only around 45~53 FPS, and the GTX 960 at only 28~32 FPS. This is quite a 3D performance intensive game.
The GE63VR 7RF features the standard GTX 1070. Its powerful 3D performance can be observed from the previous tests,
outperforming than regular GTX 1060 quite a lot in many of the 3D games.
The Max-Q GTX 1070 falls somewhere in between the two.
Room temperature at 30 degree C. GPU NVIDIA GTX 1070 cooling capability test.
Idle at 39 degree C and full load at 78 degree C with FurMark.
After activating Cooler Boost 5, the idle is now at 37 degree C and full load at 70 degree C.
With 2-degrees difference at idle and 8-degrees difference at full load, are pretty impressive results.
The Cooler Boost 5 cooling module of the GE63VR does a pretty good job with GPU cooling,
and keeps the GTX 1070 under 80 degrees even at full load, without activating Cooler Boost 5.
The i7-7700HQ CPU comes in default at 2.8~3.8GHz, with power mode set at Balance.
When running full load with LinX 0.6.5 – 85~96
Activate Cooler Boost 5, and run full load with LinX 0.6.5 – 75~83
LinX 0.6.5 is one of the most demanding burn-in software, as others usually generate lower temperatures.
From what I can recall, launching burn-in test with AIDA64 has a lower temperature by over 10 degrees than with LinX 0.6.5.
The fan noise is quite loud when activating the cooling button, which is only suggested if you wear headphones or have speaker volume at over 60.
This prevents you from being affected by the full speed fan noise. Otherwise the GE63VR stays relatively silent under standard circumstances.
Both the 7RE and 7RF version of the GE63VR use the same gaming display.
With FHD resolution, 94% NTSC, 3ms response time, and 120Hz refresh rate, these are one of those rare high-end TN displays.
They are also ideal for games with fast-paced actions, like the modern FPS games.
We tried adjusting both notebook displays to a similar brightness, to better compare the image details.
On the left is the high-end TN display from the GE63VR; on the right is an IPS display from the ASUS ROG GL502VS, which has a similar spec and price with the GE63VR.
The comparison is made with the built-in Windows 10 wallpaper, but you can use your own if interested.
Many used to have the impression of TN displays having smaller visible angle than IPS.
Yet the comparison clearly shows that the high-end TN display nowadays already have similar, if not better, viewing angles than high-end IPS displays.
With a wide color coverage of 94% NTSC, it’s a definite win against the competing ASUS IPS display, whether you're viewing from the front or the sides.
I’ve seen many beauty IPS displays, but with more and more manufacturers, the quality and spec also varies greatly.
Opening up the bottom cover of the MSI GE63VR 7RF Raider reveals the interior hardware design.
Two DDR4-2400 slots and woofer on the right; two more DDR4 slots preloaded with 16BX2 under the keyboard.
Two NVMe PCIe M.2 SSD slots; 2.5" SATA3 HDD to the left.
The top section is the new MSI Cooler Boost 5 cooling design.
The cooling design has been the focus of MSI gaming notebooks over the recent years.
With the latest Cooler Boost 5, there are dual fans, 7 heat pipes, and 3 cooling sections.
The massive cooling design with ventilation across multiple sections on the chassis prove how the GE63VR takes cooling very seriously.
There are total of 4 speakers, certified by the renowned Danish company Dynaudio.
Two 3W giant woofers and two 2W stereo speakers.
The thermal pad on the M.2 SSD is also a thoughtful design for the high-speed high-temperature NVMe M.2 SSDs.
I was planning to demonstrate with videos, but the recorded files size ended up a bit too big. I've replaced them with photos for now.
SteelSeries per-key RGB backlight keyboard and USB port lighting. They look better in person than in photos.
I couldn't help but think that I was positive to compare with Dell and Alienware.
ROG may have been the leading brand for motherboards, but just doesn’t seem to be putting enough effort in gaming notebooks.
There’s still much to be improved to catch up with other gaming notebook brands.
Battery life. Windows 10 power mode set to balance.
Built-in battery capacity of 4730mAh 51Wh. Seems to be slightly small.
With GTX 1070 playing DVD video, it's left with 66% after 1hr; 30% after 2hr; 10% after 2hr 30min.
The maximum battery life of the GE63VR is around 2hr 40min, a somewhat acceptable number considering the high-end spec.
Conclusion for MSI GE63VR 7RF Raider
Pros and Advantage:
1. GE63VR has more speedy ID design, also more sturdy than the previous GE62.
2. Features up to a standard NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics, drastically enhanced its 3D performance.
3. The GIANT speakers and woofers offer the best sound I've ever heard so far.
4. 120Hz/3ms display with 94%NTSC color coverage is exactly what's needed for gaming. It even comes with True Color 2.0 color calibration.
5. The built-in Dragon Center is feature-rich and also nicely integrated other exclusive software.
6. The new Cooler Boost 5 boosts the cooling capability of the GE series.
7. Exceptional keyboard feedback with software that offers RGB lighting, macro, multiple profiles.
8. ESS SABRE HiFi Audio DAC for headphone output. Supports "Hi-Res Audio ready".
9. Super RAID 4 with two high speed NVMe M.2 SSDs in RAID 0.
10. Killer solution for both wired and wireless network to form Killer DoubleShot Pro, plus the Killer Shield design.
Cons for Improvement:
1. The metal brush pattern on the A-side top cover leaves fingerprints easily.
2. Only 720p resolution for the webcam. The image quality could also be improved.
3. The high-end TN display has wide visible angle for top and both sides, but lacks when viewed from the bottom.
4. Slightly low battery life due to the GTX 1070. It’d be better if it lasts over 3.5hr.
Performance Ratio ★★★★★★★★★☆ 93/100
Material Ratio ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 88/10
Specification Ratio ★★★★★★★★★☆ 93/100
Aesthetics Ratio ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 86/100
Price-Value Ratio ★★★★★★★★☆☆ 88/100
Comparing to the last gen GE62, the GE63VR has removed the built-in ODD, but still weighs the same.
This is due to many of the enhancement under the hood, especially the cooling design and the full GTX 1060/1070 graphics.
The huge sound chambers grant the GE63VR far superior audio experience in volume, detail, and bass.
The quality and sturdiness upon picking up the notebook proves this to be a quite an evolutions over GE62.
With the MSRP just under 2000 USD, the MSI GE63VR 7RF actually costs slightly less than its rivals with similar spec.
The GE73VR with GTX 1060 6GB also has quite the aggressive pricing, with MSRP around 1600 USD.
The GE63VR is the mid-high model among MSI lineup, and will probably also comes in various versions to choose from, just like the GE62.
So far, only the version with i7-7700HQ and GTX 1060 6GB is available in Taiwan.
It’s available with GTX 1060 6BB and 1070 8GB for GPU options.
If they come in 4C4T Core i5 with GTX 1060, they should be able to further lower the price tag, and become even more affordable for those who love the GE series.
Aside from 3D performance, I think a lot still needs to be worked on, like audio, display, keyboard, cooling, chassis.
The GE63VR may not have scored 100/100 in all aforementioned category, but are at least 80~90+ in most.
The GE63VR is a well-balanced notebook with gaming-grade performance.
Of course, there’re still some things that I’d like to see addressed.
But the new version already has a major upgrade. I look forward to seeing more verions available for the consumers.
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