Reference is not everything! Performance in games mainly depends on the power of the graphics card. If the CPU should not restrain it, its role is often overestimated. We tested a laptop with a “simple” Core i5 and a GeForce RTX 2070 to verify this. It’s not always easy to find a good laptop. This is even more the case when we target certain uses such as multimedia creation or video games. The components evolve quickly, their characteristics are not always very clear, the pitfalls are numerous. Above all, certain beliefs die hard, making the choice more complex.

One of them is that you necessarily need a very high-end CPU to take advantage of a high-performance graphics card. And therefore an expensive machine. Currently, MSI offers just a 15.6 “GL65 Leopard (1080p, IPS, 144 Hz) with 16 GB of memory, 512 GB of SSD, a GeForce RTX 2070 and a Core i5-10300H.

The set is sold for 1,199 euros . NVIDIA offered to test it for us to make our own opinion. Here are our results, compared to a Blade 15 (Max-Q certified) signed Razer, also equipped with a GeForce RTX 2070, but with a Core i7. The opportunity to come back to an essential point: you should not rely on component references alone.

MSI GL65 laptop PC Good features at a good price

MSI’s first choice to reduce the price of this machine is to ship it without an OS. Thus, no Windows 10 license is integrated. You will therefore need to provide it separately or even install Linux. We have indeed configured the machine without problem under Ubuntu 20.10, which natively integrates the drivers from NVIDIA. Canonical system allows Optimus management through proprietary drivers, and therefore allows switching from Intel IGP to NVIDIA GPU on demand, depending on the application, etc. Others go further.

It is still rare to find a GeForce RTX 2070 integrated into a 1,200 euro laptop. The emptying of stocks before the launch of the RTX series 30 encourages manufacturers to multiply the discounts. Resellers also seem to have decided to strike hard at the end of the year marked by the health crisis. We thus find a model with a GTX 1650 at 600 euros at Dell, another with Ryzen 5 for 400 euros, etc.

In addition to its CPU / GPU duo, this GL65 Leopard (10SFK-641XFR) model from MSI has everything to please those looking for a PC to play in 15.6 “with numeric keypad: it has an IPS panel with thin edges ( non-touch) climbing to 144Hz, 2x 8GB DDR4-2666, 512GB NVMe SSD (Kingston OM8PCP3512F-AI1).

The laptop is not an ultra-thin but remains in a reasonable format: 357.7 x 248 x 27.5 mm for 2.3 kg. On paper, it therefore seems interesting for those who cannot / do not want to wait a few months for the release of the next generation.

MSI GL65 Leopard Cooling

It is cooled by a “Cooler Boost 5” device with seven heat pipes and two fans. The system automatically manages the speed of the latter. Don’t expect a quiet machine in the game, it’s designed to provide efficient cooling, especially when used at full throttle.

If at rest it is not heard, as soon as the CPU/GPU are called upon it ventilates, sometimes quite strongly. Of course it is possible to opt for a more respectful operation of our ears, but this will be done to the detriment of performance. Air extraction is mainly done from the left side of the machine.

Dragon Center 2.0 software allows you to adjust everything to your liking. A button also allows you to opt for a blower mode, at constant maximum speed (and from the rear), to ensure the best performance is obtained without the automatic management intervening.

Direct access to many components

The lower part has many small holes and lets the components breathe, with another strong point: scalability. While many screws need to be removed to open the cover, there is a removable battery, SSD, and two swappable memory modules, as does the Wi-Fi chip. It’s appreciated!

RGB enthusiasts are not left out with the keyboard equipped with configurable LEDs key by key. Those who are opposed to it will appreciate that we can change their brightness, even turning them off, via a combination of keys. A fairly discreet webcam is present on the top of the screen. This is a fairly basic model (720p, 30Hz).

The different components of the MSI GL65 Leopard that we tested and the performance of its SSD. The connection is rather complete with three USB 3.2 (5 Gb/s), a USB 3.2 Type-C (10 Gb/s), and a duo of video outputs (HDMI 1.4 and miniDP) allowing to manage up to three screens. There is also an SD card reader, a 1 Gb/s RJ45 port (Realtek RTL8111HS) and a jack duo (headphone / microphone).

The built-in battery is a 51 Wh model (6 Li-ion cells). The DC type power connector. The machine is supplied with a fairly large block of 230 watts (19.5 V for 11.8 A). The warranty is guaranteed for 2 years.

In practice, the machine rather keeps its promises. Our main regret concerns its keyboard, some keys of which are placed in a rather unusual way. With the presence of a touchpad, everything is also shifted to the left. Some will like it, some won’t. One thing is certain: it will take a little getting used to.

Another point that can cause concern in practice: the USB ports being numerous, they are quite close to each other. You must therefore use a small extension cable for USB keys or slightly large devices.

MSI GL65 Leopard Weird key placement

Despite its name, the Core i5-10300H is a processor that does not lack interest compared to models like the Core i7-8750H integrated into our previous Razer Blade 15. Why this comparison precisely? Simply because it was a GeForce RTX 2070 model that we had available at the lab.

The difference in range comes from the fact that it is a 4-core model (8 threads), which is sufficient for many uses. Especially since its frequency is given for a maximum of 4.5 GHz, against 4.1 GHz for the 8750H (6 cores, 12 threads). Both with a TDP of 45 watts. The Blade 15 is nevertheless Max-Q certified. These CPUs are engraved in 14 nm, with a similar architecture: Comet Lake (10300H) and Coffee Lake (8750H). Suffice to say that there should be no fundamental difference in performance, except when many cores are used. To check it, we used the usual Cinebench in its latest version (R23).

As you might expect, the two processors are neck and neck when a single thread is used, with the 10300H coming first due to its higher frequency. More surprisingly, they are also so when all hearts are tapped. Here, it is undoubtedly the limit of TDP which penalizes the 8750H, which still remains in the lead.

This processor is quickly limited to 2.7 GHz when all its cores are active, against 4 GHz for the 103000H of the MSI machine. Although we took the trouble to configure the Blade 15 in Creator mode (prioritizing the CPU) during this test. A point not to be overlooked on Razer machines with sometimes aggressive optimization profiles.

And in games, what exactly is it? To find out, we have already run a test in 3DMark to see if the configuration of the GeForce RTX 2070 of our two machines implies different results. This benchmark is indeed not very dependent on the CPU and thought of as such, this will give us a good starting point:

  • MSI GL65 Leopard:
    Graphics test 1: 49.96 fps
    Graphics test 2: 43.65 fps
  • Razer Blade 15:
    Graphics test 1: 45.85 fps
    Graphics test 2: 40.76 fps

The Blade 15’s GeForce RTX 2070 certified Max-Q announces frequencies of 1080/1290 MHz for its GPU and 1500 MHz for its memory against 1260/1455 MHz and 1375 MHz for that of the GL65 Leopard. Logically enough, the latter therefore comes out on top. The difference is not very large (7 to 9%), enough to be noted.

Is it found in games, or does the Core i7 compensate for the Core i5? To verify this, let’s start with two tests on Shadow of the Tomb Raider. We are launching the in-game benchmark at 1080p with all settings at maximum, but without DLSS / Ultra Ray tracing, then with:

  • MSI GL65 Leopard:
    SOTR – 1080p Very high: 87 fps
    SOTR – 1080p Super High + RT Ultra / DLSS: 62 fps
  • Razer Blade 15:
    SOTR – 1080p Very high: 81 fps
    SOTR – 1080p Super High + RT Ultra / DLSS: 59 fps

Here we find the same gap in favor of MSI GL65 and its faster GPU. The presence of six hearts changes nothing. Is this also the case with a more recent title like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla? Here too we carry out two tests with the integrated benchmark: in 1080p Medium then Ultra:

  • MSI GL65 Leopard:
    ACV – 1080p Medium: 80 fps
    ACV – 1080p Ultra: 58 fps
  • Razer Blade 15:
    ACV – 1080p Medium: 74 fps
    ACV – 1080p Ultra: 55 fps

Pay attention to the specifications

We were able to verify this with our two machines: although they had very different CPU and the same GPU on paper, in practice, it was almost the opposite that we noted during the tests. Both processors perform at the same level, with the Core i5 outperforming the i7 in some cases, mainly due to higher frequencies. For the GPU, this is due to the reduced frequencies of Razer Max-Q model which aims for quieter use than MSI’s which favors performance.

However, we note that the Core i5-10300H used here does not seem to penalize the GeForce RTX 2070 in particular. In a laptop PC, it is in any case above all the overall TDP and the cooling system which are the first constraints on the components. The balance therefore seems to be in order.

This is all the more true since the machine is delivered with a 1080p panel. The scores show that the RTX 2070 is cut out for such use, whether with or without the duo ray tracing and DLSS. We should therefore most often be in the frequency range of the screen which can climb to 144 Hz and have a synchronized display.

This machine (delivered without OS) will therefore be suitable for those who do not care about silence, rather looking for a good connection and high performance. Offered at 1199 euros, it is even more attractive than its initial price (around 1500 euros). Note that it will also be offered in promotion with Windows 10.