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REVIEW: MSI’s Dragonshield Is A Space Age Gaming Machine, Inside And Out

MSI is known as a leader in gaming laptops, and with good reason. The Taiwanese manufacturer has just done something brand new: partnered with a Hollywood artist for a special limited-edition version of its GE66 Raider. The result, the 15-inch GE66 Raider Dragonshield, is a sci-fi masterpiece with the specs to back up its exterior.

Design

The design of the GE66 Raider Dragonshield is absolutely stunning. Created by Hollywood VFX designer Colie Wertz (who we interviewed exclusively for ChannelNews), the laptop really does look like a panel that fell off the side of a space fighter, with plenty of fine detail both on the lid and the base. It’s a refreshing departure from the black-and-chrome-and-RGB aesthetic you’ll find on most gaming laptops.

Colie Wertz shows off the MSI GE66 Raider Dragonshield.

Of course, this is not to say there’s no RGB at all. The SteelSeries keyboard has a number of RGB profiles, including customisable ones for individual games, and a light bar at the front to match. Holding down the Fn key will also light up the keys with alternate functions, which is helpful. The keyboard lighting did get stuck on a pattern at one point, but that problem was easily fixed. My biggest issue with the keyboard, though, is that it’s a bit cramped to game on – it could probably have done with being a little bigger.

You’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to connectivity, with plenty of ports to plug just about anything into: two USB-C, three USB-A, ethernet, HDMI 2.0, 3.5mm audio combo, Mini DisplayPort, and a full-sized SD card reader. It also supports Bluetooth 5.1 and WiFi 6.

There’s some matching goodies that come alongside the laptop, as well: a mousepad, a concept art book, a model of the very spaceship the laptop is based on (which is sick as hell, by the way), and – probably most relevant for day-to-day use – a free wired gaming mouse that matches the Dragonshield’s design. I tested the mouse while I was there, and it did just fine; its RGB logo that syncs with the keyboard is a nice touch, too.

Display and Sound

The display is great – full HD with a 3ms response time and a blistering 300Hz refresh rate. It’s crisp and clear, with nice colours and an 82 per cent screen-to-body ratio. Games look gorgeous on it, and while you might want to make use of one of those HDMI or DisplayPort outputs if you’ve got a bigger screen available, I wouldn’t hesitate at all to use the built-in display when gaming on the go.

Unfortunately, I found the audio somewhat lacking. To put it bluntly, the laptop’s speakers, well… sound like laptop speakers. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by proper desktop speakers, but the two front-firing “Duo Waves” on the Dragonshield just didn’t really do it for me – they seemed a bit tinny and weak for my liking. Fortunately the 3.5mm combo jack will let you upgrade that sound with the headphones or speakers of your choice.

Performance

The GE66 Raider Dragonshield makes my five-year-old desktop look like an electric toothbrush. I threw World of Warcraft at it in the middle of a pre-patch event with dozens of people all pounding away at the same bosses, and it ate up the insane particle-effect maelstroms like they were nothing – I only wish I was able to hang onto it long enough to take it into the new expansion and really see the Shadowlands come to (after)life.

Overwatch, too, ran without a stutter on the highest settings (I did experience issues getting it to run full-screen, but no other games threw that up, so it’s probably a problem with the software rather than the hardware). I did lose a lot, but that’s less the laptop’s fault and more the fact that I am very bad at Overwatch.

A look at the spec sheet will tell you why this laptop plays so well – a 2.4GHz Intel Core i9-10980HK processor plus NVIDIA RTX 2070 Super graphics card plus 32GB(!) RAM equals an absolute beast, helped along by MSI’s Gaming Mode which automatically kicks in to optimise settings whenever you launch a game.

Word of warning, though: this machine runs hot. All that power generates a lot of heat, and I was feeling it through the keyboard pretty quickly. The fans are pretty powerful to compensate, but that of course means that while you’re gaming, they start to sound like a spaceship engine taking off (which I suppose adds to the aesthetic, but doesn’t help the audio issue).

Verdict

There’s no way around it: this laptop is the best computer I’ve ever gamed on. It’s powerful, it’s fast, it’s drop-dead gorgeous, and the few minor bugbears I ran into did very little to detract from the overall experience.

In the end, here was my biggest problem with our review unit of the GE66 Raider Dragonshield, after spending just a few days with it:

I had to give it back.

Pros:

  • Plenty of power
  • Beautiful design
  • Fast and responsive display
  • Excellent port selection
  • Comes with a free gaming mouse and other sweet knick-knacks

Cons:

  • Lacklustre audio
  • Lots of heat
  • Very loud fans
  • Cramped keyboard

RATING: 9/10

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