MSI Katana GF66 Review (2022)

Count on a gaming laptop named after a legendary blade to define the cutting edge in budget gear. The MSI Katana GF66 (starts at $799; $1,199 for the in-store Micro Center model tested here) is an impressive value among 15.6-inch budget gaming laptops, offering an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 GPU at a price you'd normally expect to find an RTX 3050 Ti, plus an eight-core Intel Core i7 CPU and a roomy 1TB solid-state drive. Though its battery life is shorter and its screen less vivid than we'd like, the Katana nevertheless covers the gaming essentials without major weaknesses, especially in these days of rising core-component prices and a redefinition of what makes for a "budget" gaming laptop. It replaces MSI's Bravo 15 as our Editors' Choice winner among affordable 15-inch gaming rigs.

Staying on the Budget Rails

The Katana GF66 is about as wallet-friendly a gaming laptop as you’ll find. The $799 base model is good for basic 1080p gaming and esports, with a six-core Core i5-11400H processor, a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, a 144Hz screen refresh rate, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of solid-state storage. Step-up models offer Nvidia's 4GB RTX 3050 Ti for peppier performance. Windows 10 Home and a one-year warranty are standard across the board.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (1)

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MSI Katana GF66 Review (2)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The top-tier $1,199 model seen and tested here has an eight-core, 2.3GHz (4.6GHz turbo) Core i7-11800H, GeForce RTX 3060 graphics with 6GB of display memory, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB SSD. The price only applies in-store at Micro Center, but even if you spend up to $200 more online, it's still reasonable: Asus' comparably equipped TUF Gaming F15 commands $1,399 on Amazon. You can find an RTX 3060 for less in the Gigabyte G5 KC (I saw that model for $1,049 after rebate), but that laptop is saddled with a previous-generation Core i5-10500H chip and half the storage (512GB).

MSI Katana GF66 Review (3)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Visually, the Katana GF66 makes its gaming credentials plain. The black-and-red color scheme is far from unique among gaming laptops (take a look at the Acer Nitro 5 for a seeming sibling), but it still provides a sense of identity. An angled lid and large cooling vents complement the look.

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(Video) The Ultimate Budget Gaming Laptop | MSI Katana GF66

Inward-sloped edges help the Katana look sleeker than its actual measurements of 0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches (HWD). Its weight is within budget gaming expectations at 4.96 pounds. Ditto for its all-plastic build, which feels solid if not luxurious.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (15)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The Katana GF66's 1,920-by-1,080-pixel display could be better. Its 144Hz refresh rate is its best feature, enabling a silky-smooth gaming experience; the GeForce RTX 3060 GPU has no trouble pushing it to the limit in many games, as our benchmark tests will show below. But its picture quality is ho-hum for discriminating eyes; our Datacolor SpyderX Elite measured a meager 62% coverage of the sRGB color gamut and a peak brightness of a modest 267 nits.

Average Inputs and Outputs

Red keyboard backlighting is the MSI Katana GF66's only real nod to gamer-style bling. Both the tops and the edges of the keys are illuminated, and I like the futuristic font on the keycaps.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (16)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Keypresses, unfortunately, lack tactile engagement; there should be more up-and-down travel. The number pad also seems like a squeezed-in afterthought, with undersize keys and a nonstandard three-column layout. The touchpad, offset in line with the keyboard, has a similar mix of pros and cons: It's rightly sized and has a smooth, stutter-free surface, but it makes you work with its stiff physical click-down action. Relying on gentle, virtual tap-to-click is an easy way to get around that.

The physical connectors arrayed on the Katana's sides include three USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (two Type-A and one Type-C), a legacy USB 2.0 port (well suited for plugging in a mouse), headset and Ethernet jacks, and an HDMI 2.0b video output.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (17)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

MSI Katana GF66 Review (18)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Thunderbolt 4 remains on the wish list. There are no built-in biometric features, and the 720p webcam atop the display lacks a privacy shutter. Twin speakers under the palm rest project strained but loud-enough sound.

The memory and storage are user-upgradable, though removing the bottom panel is tricky. After taking out numerous screws, you'll need a trim-removal tool to gently pry around its edges before it comes free. Inside, you'll find two M.2 2280 PCI Express 3.0 SSD slots and two DDR4-3200 memory sockets. The upper RAM limit is 64GB (via two 32GB modules). Also accessible are the Intel AX201 Wi-Fi 6 card and the 53.5-watt-hour battery. (See our feature on how to upgrade your laptop.)

Testing the Katana GF66: Solid Performance for the Money

To refresh, our Katana GF66 test unit has an eight-core Intel Core i7-11800H CPU, a 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB solid-state drive. That recipe is well-suited for 1080p gaming, as our benchmarks will show. The RTX 3060 GPU, as implemented here, is rated for 85 watts.

As for cooling, the Katana isn't a silent runner by any means, but its fans aren't distracting, and its chassis has no hotspots where you'd normally put your fingers.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (19)

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The Katana GF66 faces an uphill battle against most of the gaming laptops I used for comparisons, which are listed below. They include the Alienware x15, MSI's own Delta 15, and the XPG Xenia 15 KC. The smaller Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 is the only one that also sports an RTX 3060 GPU. As tested, however, all of these models cost at least several hundred dollars more than the Katana.

Productivity and Content Creation Tests

Our first test is UL's PCMark 10, which simulates a variety of real-world productivity and office workflows to measure overall system performance and also includes a storage subtest for the primary drive. The Katana GF66 scored well, hitting far above the 4,000 points we consider a sign of strong productivity performance. Though it didn't excel in the storage test, its SSD offers ample pep for general use.

Our other three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our final productivity test is Puget Systems'PugetBench (Opens in a new window)for Photoshop(Opens in a new window), which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

The Katana GF66's middling CPU performance is disappointing; the XPG and especially the Alienware outperformed it using the same Core i7-11800H. This kind of performance deficiency suggests its CPU is reaching a power or thermal limit. The bargain MSI is still a potent performer, but not as potent as it should be.

Graphics and Gaming Tests

For Windows PCs, we run both synthetic and real-world gaming tests. The former includes two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark test suite: Night Raid (more modest, suitable for systems with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). Also looped into that group is the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which we use to gauge OpenGL performance.

Moving on, our real-world gaming testing comes from the in-game benchmarks of F1 2021, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Rainbow Six Siege, representing simulation, open-world action-adventure, and competitive/esports shooter games, respectively. On laptops, Valhalla and Siege are run twice (Valhalla at Medium and Ultra quality, Siege at Low and Ultra quality), while we run F1 2021 once at Ultra quality settings and, for GeForce RTX laptops, a second time with Nvidia's performance-boosting DLSS anti-aliasing turned on.

Fortunately, the Katana GF66's CPU performance difficulties didn't seem to carry over into the GPU-focused tests, where it generally outperformed the Asus, also equipped with the RTX 3060. Of note: It achieved well over 144fps in Rainbow Six Siege, making full use of its 144Hz screen. No recent RTX 3050 laptop has gone through our new benchmark suite yet, but the RTX 3060 is a far superior performer and has more video memory (6GB versus 4GB). If you can afford the jump, it's worthwhile.

Battery and Display Tests

PCMag tests laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with screen brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100% until the system quits. Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting are turned off during the test.

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its brightness in nits (candelas per square meter) at the screen's 50% and peak settings.

Neither battery life nor display quality is a strength for the Katana GF66. We expect at least six hours from a 15-inch gaming laptop, and on the display side, 100% of sRGB and at least 300 nits of brightness would be nice. As I noted, what salvages the Katana's screen for gaming is its 144Hz refresh rate.

The Essence of Laptop Budget Gaming

Though we wish the MSI Katana GF66 had a more vivid screen, a little more CPU muscle, and longer battery life, none of those flaws stops it from being a respectable budget gaming laptop. It offers GeForce RTX 3060 graphics at an RTX 3050 Ti (or even regular RTX 3050) price, and that GPU helps it make the most of its 144Hz display. That's a rare achievement for a laptop in this price class, and equally unusual for the money is its roomy 1TB solid-state drive, well suited to the ballooning sizes of today's game installs. All told, the Katana GF66 is a standout value and earns an Editors' Choice award for cash-strapped gamers' consideration.

MSI Katana GF66

4.0

Editors' Choice

(Opens in a new window)

See It$1,269.00 at Amazon(Opens in a new window)

Base Configuration Price $799.00

(Video) MSI Katana GF66 Review - Ultimate Budget Gaming Laptop 2022 + Nvidia RTX 3060

Pros

  • Aggressive price for the component mix

  • Solid 1080p gaming performance

  • 144Hz display

  • Roomy 1TB SSD

View More

Cons

  • Display isn't overly bright or colorful

  • Middling CPU performance

  • Brief battery life

The Bottom Line

MSI's Katana GF66 is a well-priced, well-rounded budget gaming laptop that cuts competing models down to size.

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(Video) 2022 MSI Katana GF66 - BUDGET or "CHEAP"

FAQs

Is GF66 Katana good? ›

Powerful hardware at an affordable price. This is exactly what the Katana GF66 offers. After the upgrade to Alder Lake, the Katana gaming laptops are even more powerful. However, to end up at a sales price of around 2000 Euros ($2142), MSI cuts some corners in many areas.

Should I buy MSI Katana GF66? ›

Staying on the Budget Rails. The Katana GF66 is about as wallet-friendly a gaming laptop as you'll find. The $799 base model is good for basic 1080p gaming and esports, with a six-core Core i5-11400H processor, a 4GB GeForce RTX 3050 GPU, a 144Hz screen refresh rate, 8GB of memory, and 512GB of solid-state storage.

Are MSI laptops any good? ›

Yes, MSI laptops are some of the best gaming laptops available on the market. MSI makes highly attractive and feature-packed laptops. Most MSI gaming laptops have impressive specifications, and they all are equipped with strong video cards capable of handling the most power-hungry games.

Is MSI a good brand? ›

MSI not only dug itself out of the double digits this year but it fully propelled itself into the top 5 best laptop brands. The company not only improved its gaming laptops, but also expanded its selection and reconfigured the design of its core flagship laptops.

Is MSI Katana good Reddit? ›

It's very good for gaming, almost all games run at 1080p with the maximum graphics settings and smooth fps (like forza horizon 4, dying light 2, god of war…). It has a powerful cooling system for both the cpu and gpu, a little noisy when playing heavy AAA games, but acceptable.

Is MSI sword 15 good for gaming? ›

The laptop offers a single display option, with a 15.6-inch diagonal, Full HD resolution, and an IPS panel. The display also offers a 144Hz refresh rate, which is fantastic for gaming, and great to see come as standard even in budget laptops.

When was MSI Katana GF66 released? ›

The MSI Katana GF66 11UG-220 is one of a whole series of new gaming laptops with Intel processors of the 11th generation and RTX 3000 series graphics cards that MSI has introduced only in May of 2021.

Is MSI Katana VR Ready? ›

VR-ready NVIDIA graphics.

Is MSI Katana dual channel? ›

Get the mighty performance out of your laptop with support of the latest DDR4-3200 memory. Enjoy the faster system speed and responsiveness, the new standard will take your gaming experience to the next level. *Dual channel performance test by AIDA64. Performance may vary by system setting and configuration .

Is ASUS or MSI better? ›

Overall, Asus is better value for money than Msi. Asus laptops are durable, long lasting, and they come with top-notch components and features. That being said, Msi laptops work just fine in most cases and you won't be missing out on much if you go with an Msi laptop.

How long will an MSI laptop last? ›

On average, mid-range gaming laptops tend to last for around 3-4 years, while high-end ones can last between 4-6 years. However, with effective care and maintenance, they can last longer. The physical components can last up to 10 years but they may not be able to support the software of a decade's time.

Which series of MSI is best? ›

Best MSI creator-class laptop
  • MSI Creator Z16. Best MSI creator-class laptop. Specifications. CPU: Intel Core i9-11900H. ...
  • MSI Summit E13 Flip Evo. Best MSI 2-in-1 laptop. Specifications. ...
  • MSI Alpha 15 (A3DDK) Best mid-range MSI gaming laptop. Specifications. ...
  • MSI Katana GF66. Best budget MSI gaming laptop. Specifications.
Mar 4, 2022

Is MSI a Chinese company? ›

Micro-Star International Co., Ltd (MSI; Chinese: 微星科技股份有限公司) is a Taiwanese multinational information technology corporation headquartered in New Taipei City, Taiwan.

What does MSI stand for? ›

(1) (MicroSoft Installer) See Windows Installer. (2) (Medium Scale Integration) An earlier measurement of transistor density on a chip. MSI was between 100 and 3,000 transistors.

Which is the best laptop brand? ›

Top Laptop Brands
  • Apple. Apple is definitely one of the luxury brands when it comes to Laptops, Smartphones, Computers and Tablets. ...
  • HP. HP also known as Hewlett-Packard is one of the oldest electronics brands that is not as popular as it used to be. ...
  • Lenovo. ...
  • Dell. ...
  • Acer. ...
  • Asus. ...
  • MSI. ...
  • Microsoft Surface.

Is MSI sword worth? ›

Should you buy the MSI Sword laptop. At $2,099 the Sword is half the price of many high performance laptops. While the 3D performance isn't earth shuddering it will still play most games at max settings. There's little that it does wrong so we're happy to recommend it.

How long does MSI sword battery last? ›

The Sword 15's general battery life ranges around 2-4 hours while browsing or light streaming.

Is MSI popular in India? ›

Yes, MSI has taken many steps over the past 2-3 years to expand its presence and portfolio of gaming laptops sold in India. It remains one of the premier brands for gamers globally.

How much RAM does MSI Katana have? ›

Katana GF66
Differences are marked in redKatana GF66 11UG
ChipsetChipset Intel® HM570
GraphicsGraphics NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 Laptop GPU 8GB GDDR6 Up to 1315MHz Boost Clock, 85W Maximum Graphics Power with Dynamic Boost. *May vary by scenario
MemoryMemory DDR4-3200 2 Slots Max 64GB
15 more rows

What is a mux switch? ›

What is a MUX switch? A MUX (multiplexer) switch improves graphical performance by swapping the graphics processing unit (GPU) actively used by the display, so instead of pulling from the integrated GPU, it'll channel the discrete GPU.

Does the MSI Katana have a camera? ›

Webcam: 720p. Ports: 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, 1 x USB 2.0 Type-A, 1 x HDMI, 1 x audio combo-jack, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet.

Is MSI good for VR? ›

MSI is therefore now the first and the only gaming notebook brand being certified by HTC Vive and Intel for VR technology. It is now considered the most reliable VR ready notebooks in the market.

Is the MSI Katana GF76 good for gaming? ›

The MSI Katana GF76 has decent CPU performance for a budget 17-inch gaming laptop thanks to its 12th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU. Plus, its Japan-inspired chassis exudes plenty of flair. However, the laptop's 3050 Ti GPU performance may underwhelm some gamers.

Does MSI sword have Thunderbolt 3? ›

MSI Super port can get full Thunderbolt™ 3 features by updating Firmware, and has the exactly the same function as Thunderbolt™ 3 after firmware update. There would be no difference after update Firmware. 2.

How do I update my katana MSI? ›

️ MSI Katana GF66 (12Ux) - disassembly and upgrade options

Is MSI better than Gigabyte? ›

Generally, MSI's line of motherboards tends to be more diverse and more well-rounded. On the other hand, Gigabyte's line of motherboards tends to have more options on the highest end and lowest end of price ranges. MSI motherboards do offer a much better, easier to use BIOS than Gigabyte boards.

Are MSI motherboards reliable? ›

Yes they are on top of the list with other big dog manufactures. I personally only use MSI since I've moved to Intel from my AMD rig about 4 years ago. I had a Z270 and now on a Z370 Gaming 5 mobo.

How long does MSI battery last? ›

MSI delivers excellent battery life in our most demanding test. The device is not quite at the top, but over ten hours is a solid result in this quite demanding workload.

Can a laptop last 10 years? ›

Can a laptop last 10 years? Yes, absolutely. If you take good care of a laptop, it could last for more than 10 years. Usually the first thing that gives out is the battery, which you can usually replace or use your laptop plugged in.

Why do gaming laptops not last long? ›

A gaming laptop can last longer if proper care is taken. Gaming laptops do give better performance, but the components are still fragile, and every component has a life. So, if the components are broken or damaged, it can affect your gaming laptop.

Does gaming reduce laptop life? ›

Gaming will reduce the lifespan of your laptop, especially if you game in long sessions. Gaming leads to heat, and gaming for hours on end may cause your laptop components to overheat. Compared to desktops, laptop fans are not strong enough to sustain heavy use, so your laptop's components may wear out more quickly.

What is MSI famous for? ›

As a world leading gaming brand, MSI is the most trusted name in gaming and eSports. We've dedicated countless hours and numerous resources to the eSports community to support the world's most aspiring gamers and leverage their gaming expertise to optimize our product design.

Is MSI a good gaming computer? ›

Desktop machines are some of the most powerful devices in the computing space, and MSI makes plenty of excellent ones that will serve you well for gaming, although they'll also do perfectly for content creation and other power-hungry activities.

Are MSI the best gaming laptops? ›

MSI holds a spot on our list of the best gaming laptops (opens in new tab) for a reason. Laptops like the GS66 Stealth don't compromise one strong gaming performance and battery life—two things that are vital in a choice gaming laptop.

When was MSI Katana GF66 released? ›

The MSI Katana GF66 11UG-220 is one of a whole series of new gaming laptops with Intel processors of the 11th generation and RTX 3000 series graphics cards that MSI has introduced only in May of 2021.

Is the MSI Katana GF66 VR Ready? ›

VR-ready NVIDIA graphics.

What is Saya Katana? ›

The saya is the name of the scabbard used for Japanese sabers, swords and daggers such as katana, wakizashi, ïaito or tantō. The saya are normally made from light wood and lacquered on the outside. The best wood for making saya is magnolia because it has the particularity of being hygrometric.

Is MSI Katana dual channel? ›

Get the mighty performance out of your laptop with support of the latest DDR4-3200 memory. Enjoy the faster system speed and responsiveness, the new standard will take your gaming experience to the next level. *Dual channel performance test by AIDA64. Performance may vary by system setting and configuration .

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