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REVIEW: MSI Vector GP66 – Rock-Solid QHD Performance

MSI has been a mainstay in my gaming review stable for a while, and I’ve never found its laptops wanting – but in all the machines I’ve reviewed, from any manufacturer, I’ve never had one whose screen went above 1080p resolution.

At long last, however, the MSI Vector GP66 has crossed my desk, and broken free of FHD into the glorious sunlit lands of 1440p – but was it everything I’d hoped for?

Design and Features

Like a few of its high-end notebooks, MSI pitches the Vector not just at gamers but also at professional users like engineers and graphic artists. This means that, while you do have gamer-centric features like a Steelseries per-key RGB keyboard, they’re attached to a minimalist black chassis that doesn’t have a lot of the visual flourishes you’ll find on an Alienware or Asus ROG machine, for example. It’s understated and unobtrusive, which I do appreciate.

Connectivity-wise, the laptop is equipped with both USB-C and USB-A 3.2 ports; mini-DisplayPort; full-sized HDMI output ([email protected] / [email protected]); and gigabit Ethernet plus Wi-Fi 6E, so you won’t find it lacking either in ports or in internet speeds.

One interesting thing to note: the Vector also has Windows 11 installed by default, and is the first gaming laptop I’ve reviewed that came with the new operating system instead of Windows 10. Windows 11 is fine enough, and I didn’t have too many grievances with it – my biggest bugbear was that you now need a Microsoft account to set up your PC; the old “turn off the wi-fi” trick no longer works. While you can still create a local account after setup, it’s frustrating that you can’t do so right from the start. Still, that’s on Microsoft, not MSI, and isn’t a dealbreaker (for me, at least).

Display and Sound

If you’ve read my reviews before, you’ll know I’m a proponent of 1440p (QHD) displays for gaming. QHD is an excellent step up for anyone who wants to move beyond 1080p, but doesn’t have the budget, the power, or the inclination to go all the way to 4K UHD. It’s a nice middle ground, which makes it a shame that so many laptops jump straight from FHD to UHD without considering QHD as an option.

Well, pop the champagne corks, dear readers, because the Vector GP66 has 1440p available! I was thrilled to fire our review unit up and get a good look at the lovely 15.6-inch 2560×1440 IPS-level screen, which comes with a zippy 165Hz refresh rate and is vibrant and detailed enough to make any gamer very happy.

On the sound front, the audio is… fine. The two side-firing speakers are an interesting choice, and I’m definitely glad MSI didn’t stick them on the bottom like with a few other laptops I could name – but they’re still pretty small, and you have to crank up the volume a fair bit to hear over the noise of the fans in Cooler Boost mode (more on that later). As with most gaming laptops, I recommend availing yourself of headphones and not bothering with the speakers unless you have to.

Performance

The Vector comes equipped with the latest 12th Gen Intel Core i7-12700H Processor, as well as Nvidia’s RTX 3070 Ti mobile graphics card; this is a step up from the stock RTX 3070 in many of the previous MSI machines I’ve reviewed, and bridges the gap between it and the flagship-level 3080 and 3080 Ti series.

I was expecting good things from this silicon – but I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting this good. I tested the Vector with two games on maximum graphical and ray tracing settings, Control and Cyberpunk 2077, and the results were jaw-dropping.

Control hit around 40-50 frames per second with DLSS off, and when I switched it on, that number jumped out above 70. That’s pretty damn good, especially when you consider how Control has tested the mettle of many a graphics card in the past.

Meanwhile, Cyberpunk 2077 hovered in the 40-50 range with DLSS enabled, which is very respectable even if it never did hit that magical 60 mark; you can do a lot worse than 40-50 frames in Cyberpunk (trust me, I have). In the interests of full disclosure, I did experience some stability issues and crashes with Cyberpunk; however, given that game notoriously has roughly the same relationship to bugs as a termite colony does, I’m willing to give the hardware the benefit of the doubt and blame the software.

And, again: this was at 1440p! The RTX 3070 Ti is matching and even outperforming its sibling on just about every laptop I’ve seen the 3070 in, and those machines all ran at 1080p. The fact that the Ti outpaces it at a higher resolution earns it serious kudos from me.

However, that does come at a cost, and it’s the eternal bane of gaming notebooks the world over: heat. The Vector can get scorching hot during intensive gaming, and while the Cooler Boost fans do help, they sound like the inside of a wind tunnel (and don’t ramp up or down depending on load if you turn them on – full-speed is all you get).

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Verdict

If you’re not looking to shell out for MSI’s top-of-the-range options with RTX 3080-series graphics and 4K screens, then the Vector GP66 is an excellent choice for good, dependable 1440p gaming – or whatever other uses you can find for a 3070 Ti. As long as you can overlook a couple of its minor foibles, the Vector should put you on a straight line to gamer (or engineer, or graphic designer) heaven.

Pros
• Understated design with plenty of connectivity options
• 1440p display option available
• Quality screen with good refresh rate
• Solid performance from Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti GPU and 12th-gen Intel i7 CPU
• Wi-Fi 6E and gigabit Ethernet connections
• Comes with Windows 11

Cons
• Average sound quality
• Pumps out a lot of heat
• Cooler Boost fans are very loud
• Comes with Windows 11

RATING: 8.5/10



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