MSI is one of several laptop makers to update its line of gaming laptops with Nvidia’s RTX 30-series GPU — and yet that’s the least impressive part of its GP66 Leopard. Not content to just stuff new components into the same old chassis and call it day, MSI has given its Leopard model a total overhaul from its previous iteration, the GP65. I normally balk at the idea of aggressive-looking, chunky gaming laptops — it’s just not my preferred aesthetic. But MSI has won me over with its newest Leopard, because the spec list and price help, too.
The Leopard is not a slim laptop. It’s 2.3 centimetres thick, but it weighs 2 kg, which is on the lighter side for a gaming laptop with its dimensions. While it’s light enough to carry around when needed, it’s still more of a desktop replacement, especially since the battery life clocks in at just four and a half hours on balanced mode. The GP66 Leopard is built for power, and its battery life falls in line with other similar gaming laptops we’ve tested in the past, like the Asus Strix Scar G15.
MSI has made some design tweaks that I appreciate. The touchpad no longer has separate mouse buttons; they’re now blended seamlessly into the touchpad itself, so the whole thing is a smooth, flat surface. MSI’s iconic dragon logo on top of the lid is no longer red, but black, and the engraved lines flanking either side of the logo are gone, too. The whole thing has a more sleek, professional look. MSI ditched the full keyboard for a 10-keyless, which bums me out a little because I like full keyboards, but going with a 10-keyless makes the entire keyboard look less cramped in the smaller chassis.
The number and types of ports also make the Leopard a great desktop replacement. All the important ports, like the charging port and the Ethernet port, are located on the back of the laptop, so tucking the cords behind a desk is neater and easier. There’s also an HDMI port than can output up to 4K at 60 Hz, in addition to a USB-C, three USB 3.2 Gen 1, and a dual mic/headphone port. It’s all the essentials of a desktop packed into the footprint of a laptop.
The Intel Core i7-10870H processor inside is one of the newest editions to the 10th-gen family; Intel quietly released it along with the Core i5-10200H last September. It’s not much different from the Core i7-10875H that we’ve seen in a lot of higher-end laptops, like the Razer Blade 15 Advanced. Both are 8-core, 16-thread processors, but the i7-10875H has an extra 100 MHz tacked onto both its base and boost clock. It’s also more expensive than the i7-10870H, but only by about $40. And in my experience with the i7-10875H, I haven’t seen it reach its max 5.10 GHz clock frequency because it runs too hot for Intel’s Thermal Velocity Boost to kick in and squeeze out an extra 100 MHz of juice from the CPU.
The Core i7-10870H suffers from the same issue, but a 100 MHz difference is not noticeable at all while gaming (and it can reach up to a 5.0 GHz boost clock, although not consistently). The RTX 3070 in the Leopard saves the day, since it can reach desktop-level performance. Comparing some games to our previous RTX 3070 GPU tests, the mobile RTX 3070 is only about 5-10 frames per second lower than its desktop counterpart at 1080p on ultra.
The GP66 Leopard gets 120 fps in Far Cry 5, 83 fps in Total War: Warhammer II, 118 fps in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, 79 fps in Metro Exodus with ray tracing off, and 67 fps in Metro Exodus with ray tracing on. In a game like Overwatch, the frame rate easily exceeds 300 fps at 1080p on ultra, too, so not only can MSI’s newest Leopard easily handle graphically intensive games, but competitive first-person shooter players will most likely love the high frame rates in those games. After all, this laptop can handle up to a 240 Hz refresh rate. Sure, some gaming laptops have a 300 Hz display now, like Acer’s new Predator Triton 500, but 240 Hz is still damn good for competitive FPS gaming or if you just like higher refresh rates. (They do make a difference!)
I feel like I need to talk about thermal issues every time I review a laptop with an Intel 10th-gen mobile processor inside, and the newer Core i7-10870H is not immune from those. Running the laptop under a high load, HWInfo recorded max temperatures of 98 degrees Celsius and detected thermal throttling. This didn’t seem noticeable when running gaming benchmarks because, again, most of the games are GPU-bound, but it’s important to point out because of how well MSI’s GP66 Leopard handles those high temperatures.
Even when running back-to-back Metro Exodus benchmarks, the skin temps above the keyboard never went past 48 degrees Celsius (118.4 degrees Fahrenheit). And this is the best laptop that I’ve tested so far that keeps skin temps even lower when playing a game like Overwatch. Temperatures across the keyboard itself hovered around 38 degrees Celsius or lower. MSI managed to do this with a new thermal design that uses one less heat pipe than its GP65 Leopard, too. The dual fans can get a little loud at times, but that’s par for the course with gaming laptops.
All that brings me to the price, which I would normally say is a bit much. However, considering this is a great desktop replacement and some desktop hardware components are hard to find at the moment, the $2,799 price tag on this model is in line with what you’d normally spend building your own desktop — probably cheaper.
The desktop RTX 3070 can found for around $1,500 right now, which is double the MSRP thanks to a massive GPU shortage. By the time you’re done adding a motherboard, CPU, cooler, memory, storage, power supply, and case, you’re already spending more than $2,799 if you spec the desktop similarly to how this laptop is specced. If you’re thinking about going with a laptop instead of a desktop for your next rig, allow me to steer you toward the MSI GP66 Leopard. It gets everything right.
- Stellar performance
- Beautiful design
- Meh battery life
- Pricey, but cheaper compared to how much it would cost to build a desktop
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