Best MSI Laptops

Updated August 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
12 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best MSI laptops

The gaming world is always expanding. Today, you can play modern games on computers, consoles, phones, tablets, and even televisions. And while desktop computers are still king in terms of performance, the laptop market is healthier than ever. Look no further than MSI’s gaming-centric laptop lineup, which features processors and graphics cards that rival even high-end PCs.

Even if gaming isn’t your thing, MSI has you covered. The brand has products for a wide range of uses, including content creation, design and manufacturing, business, and virtual reality.

No matter the use, though, laptops offer a compromise between raw power and portability. They may not have the space for next-gen cooling or decades of futureproofing, but they allow you to take your rig anywhere, which can be invaluable depending on your situation. Plus, you’d be surprised at just how capable a laptop can be. Want proof? Scroll through our MSI laptop buying guide to learn more.

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Compared to desktop PCs, laptops are limited in terms of space, which hinders their ability to be upgraded in the future. You’re likely to use the same CPU and GPU for the duration of your laptop’s life, but depending on the model, storage and RAM can be expanded.

Key considerations

Screen

Screen considerations can be broken down into three main categories: size, refresh rate, and resolution.

Size

“Size” refers to how physically large a screen is. Screen size is measured diagonally. Larger screens can obviously fit more things on them at once, and they make visuals during games and videos pop more. The downsides are additional weight and reduced portability, but MSI offers several sizes to help you balance your decision. Choices currently include 14 inches, 15.6 inches, and 17.3 inches. A healthy middle ground may be the 15.6-inch option, but preferences can vary.

Resolution

Resolution determines how detailed and crisp your display will look. Specifically, resolution is determined by the number of pixels on the display. A resolution of 1920x1080, or 1080p, measures 1,920 pixels wide by 1,080 pixels high. 1080p is a common resolution that provides a clean image without using excessive graphical resources and is suitable for the majority of users. For next-level picture quality, MSI offers 4K screens on select models.

Refresh rate

The refresh rate, measured in Hertz (Hz), reflects how often the screen is refreshed. Higher refresh rates look smoother, which is particularly important when you need quick responses in gaming. Much like 1080p resolution, the industry standard refresh rate of 60Hz is more than enough for most laptop users. Believe it or not, though, some MSI laptops offer staggering refresh rates of 300Hz for the smoothest gameplay imaginable.

Video card

The backbone of any gaming machine is its video card, also called a graphics processing unit or GPU. This is because video games are mostly visual renderings. However, games with complex physics simulations can be more CPU-bound.

A product’s GPU strength is measured by the chipset it contains (AMD, NVIDIA, Intel, etc) and how much built-in memory (called VRAM) it has. For 1080p gaming, we recommend a minimum of 4GB of VRAM, but we suggest more if you’re interested in playing the newest demanding titles or using higher resolution. For non-gamers, less-powerful cards such as integrated Intel Iris graphics are more than capable of meeting basic needs.

MSI’s current catalog includes some incredible GPUs that are strong enough to play any game on the market in the highest settings. These GPUs are also fantastic choices for tasks like 3D asset rendering, streaming high-definition video, and virtual reality.

Processor

The processor, also called a central processing unit or CPU, is fundamentally important to any computer’s performance. This is because the CPU determines how efficiently the machine can run programs and execute commands. Think of it as your laptop’s “brain.”

CPU speed is measured in GHz, and the higher the number, the quicker it can retrieve and interpret instructions. The number of cores and threads a CPU has is also paramount, as they dictate how many tasks can be accomplished at once and how fast they are managed. MSI offers some of the best CPUs available in their laptops, including Intel’s 10th-generation i9 series and 11th-generation i7 series.

Memory

Gamers often focus on their CPU and GPU to improve gaming performance, but memory can be just as integral. Specifically, we’re talking about random access memory, or RAM. RAM is active memory for running programs, which plays a big role in determining the speed and responsiveness of your computer, particularly when gaming or multitasking.

MSI has a wide variety of RAM amounts available, all the way up to a whopping 64GB. This is overkill for the majority of users, as 16GB is sufficient even for high-end gaming. We recommend shooting for at least 8GB as a benchmark and budgeting for more if you can.

Storage

Storage is a fairly basic concern; it’s simply how much data your computer can store. The amount you need will vary depending on your day-to-day use. If you’re rendering portfolios of 3D assets or saving gaming footage, you’ll need at least 1TB. If your laptop is solely for business, you can get away with a lot less.

All of MSI’s laptops currently use internal solid state drives (SSDs) instead of hard disk drives (HDDs). This is good news, as SSDs are faster, quieter, and more reliable than HDDs, and they use less power as well. Select models are available with an additional HDD for more storage, though.

Battery life

Depending on your use case, laptop battery life could be a primary concern or a complete afterthought. If you use your laptop for gaming, chances are you’ll be near a power source for almost all of your sessions. If you’re a traveling business person who works on the go, a larger battery becomes much more attractive.

Invest in larger batteries when you can, and if your model uses removable batteries, consider purchasing an extra. That way, you can swap in a fully charged spare if you need extra runtime away from outlets.

MSI’s Dragon Center software allows users to monitor their system’s performance in real time while also setting up multiple performance profiles. Dragon Center also facilitates fan speed control and customized RGB settings.

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Features

Connectivity ports

A laptop is purpose-built to be a comprehensive, all-in-one machine that you can take on the go. That said, the option to expand its capabilities doesn’t hurt, which is why additional connectivity ports are sought after. Outside the standard gambit of USB, HDMI, audio jack, and Ethernet ports, models with redundant HDMI ports, DisplayPorts, USB-C connections, and even SD card readers have significantly more utility.

VR capability

MSI laptops are known to be among the best in the business in terms of being VR ready. Why? You need powerful components to render virtual reality environments, and high-end MSI laptops have some of the best GPUs, CPUs, and RAM available. Keep in mind that if you want to do VR, you will likely need several connectivity ports.

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DID YOU KNOW?
Laptops generally use either IPS (In Plane Switching) or TN (Twisted Nematic) screens. IPS displays tend to have wider viewer angles and color accuracy, while TN displays boast faster response times and higher refresh rates. This makes the TN panel ideal for competitive gaming.
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MSI laptop prices

Inexpensive: Entry-level MSI laptops cost between $650 and $800. For the money, expect smaller screens of 14 to15.6 inches in 1080p resolutions and 60Hz refresh rates. Processors and GPUs will be sturdy enough for casual use, business, and light gaming. Built-in storage is likely to be 500GB or lower.

Mid-range: Increase your budget to between $800 and $1,000, and you will be looking at more capable gaming rigs. Screens will be larger, and refresh rates will be higher. Expect increased storage as well. Processors will be in the Intel i5 range, with GPUs performing similarly to NVIDIA’s GTX 1650.

Expensive: In the $1,000 to $1,500 range, you’ll see 17.3-inch screens and stronger CPUs/GPUs comparable to Intel’s i7 and NVIDIA’s 20XX series. At the extreme ends of the range, you will find incredible flagship gaming computers with Intel i9 processors, NVIDIA 2080 Super GPUs, terabytes of storage, and oodles of RAM. Buyer beware: these models can cost upward of $3,000.

MSI laptops offer customizable RGB lighting on their keyboards. Some models even have RGB under glow to give your computer a more distinct presence.

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Tips

  • Laptops are meant to travel, so we recommend a padded laptop bag. Not only do these keep your machine safe from damage, they often have extra pockets for mice, power cords, and other accessories.
  • A cooling pad is a great accessory to keep your laptop’s operating temperature in a safe range. These pads physically lift your laptop off their surface for improved circulation, and sometimes, they even put the screen in a more comfortable position for your neck.
  • It’s important to stay on top of system updates that add security and convenience features to your computer. This applies to graphics drivers as well, particularly if you’re playing modern games.
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If you aim to use your MSI laptop in competitive gaming, invest in a high-quality mouse with programmable buttons and adjustable DPI sensitivity. A solid headset with a noise-cancelling mic is also recommended, as you will be able to communicate with your teammates clearly.

FAQ

Q. How do I know what processor, video card, and RAM I need?

A. The easiest way to determine your ideal specs is to start at your most common tasks and work backwards.

For games, this process is fairly straightforward because games always list their minimum and recommended specifications. Use these specs as a guide, keeping in mind that exceeding specifications will not only result in smoother performance at high settings, it will make your machine more capable in the future for more demanding titles.

Use the same logic for other tasks, such as 3D modelling and content creation. Look up the requirements of the particular programs you think you’ll use, and ask peers in your chosen field.

Q. Which is the better resolution for gaming: 1080p, 1440p, or 4K?

A. As with many things in the gaming world, the answer to this question depends on your preferences. 1440p and 4K look crisper than 1080p; this much is not debatable. That said, your GPU is not capable of generating the same frames per second at 4K as it is at 1080p because there are only so many resources to go around.

This is why competitive gamers still tend to prioritize 1080p over higher resolutions: it gives them smoother gameplay, faster reactions, and better results. Most of us aren’t competitive gamers, though, so there’s no need to use lower resolution for a competitive advantage. If you’re into single-player and casual games, there’s no problem with splurging for a crisper picture.

Q. How can I protect my laptop from viruses?

A. MSI laptops come with the Windows 10 operating system, which has myriad antivirus and security features built in. That said, we do recommend purchasing third-party antivirus software to make your machine even safer.

In addition, utilize your common sense to not open and download email attachments from unknown sources. Don’t download files from risky sites, and install a browser that warns you of insecure and risky domains.

 

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