Gaming laptops are trending toward mobility, with sleek notebooks like the Asus Zephyrus G14 and Alienware X15 punching well above their weight class in terms of gaming ability. But every millimeter you take away leads to compromises, often in the way of performance and cooling. Enter the MSI Raider GE76 12U, a monstrous laptop that says to hell with portability in favor of raw power, sustained performance, and a lovely assortment of ports.
If the Raider were a car, It’d be American muscle. What it lacks in finesse is made up for with untamed might. It’s big, heavy, and appropriately brash—the sort of thing you’d expect from a gaming laptop that promises to be the “pinnacle of performance.” I’m happy to report that, after using the Raider GE76 (we’re dropping the 12U for the rest of the review) as my daily laptop and gaming rig for the past several weeks, it mostly lives up to the billing.
I can’t introduce the Raider without mentioning its claim to fame as one of the first systems to use Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake processors. Let’s remember, though, that while the GE76 was the showcase device for Intel’s latest chips, it’s not the only gaming laptop using them. That said, the purpose of this review isn’t only to reveal how well 12th Gen Intel chips compare against their rivals, but to see where the MSI Raider GE76 lands among a crowded field of gaming rigs.
Let me stop here. If you don’t have $3,000 to spend on a gaming laptop, then feel free to close this review— I won’t take it personally. The unit MSI sent me comes equipped with a 17-inch, 2560 x 1440-pixel display, an Intel Core i7-12700H CPU, 32GB of DDR5 RAM, a 1TB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU. Ready for the price? Grasp your wallet tightly, because this config will run you $3,500.
Of course, there are cheaper models available. One model with a Core i9 CPU and an RTX 3070 Ti with 8GB of VRAM goes for $2,900. Believe it or not, it also gets more expensive. Pairing that Core i9 CPU with the RTX 3080 Ti will cost you $4,100 or so—the price of a used car in a regular market.
Normally, I start by talking about design, but this MSI is all about power. Under the hood is a twin-turbo engine consisting of an Intel 12th Gen Core i7-12700H CPU mated to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti GPU with 16GB of GDDR6 VRAM. Those beefy components are paired with 32GB of DDR5-4800 RAM and a healthy 1TB NVMe SSD on the review unit MSI sent me.
Before I get into the numbers, we need to chat about CPUs. The 12th Gen Alder Lake chips found in the GE76 represent a fundamental shift for Intel to a new architecture that uses a mix of performance and efficiency cores. This hybrid process isn’t entirely new to Intel, having made its debut on the company’s Lakefield processors, but this is the first time it’s going mainstream. Essentially, it tasks big, high-powered P-cores with heavy, single-threaded tasks, and leaves background processes and multi-tasking to smaller E-cores. In theory, this allows for more energy-efficient cores to offload low-priority tasks from those muscular performance cores.
Based on our benchmarks, it works, so long as you aren’t expecting those efficiency cores to work any magic on battery life (more on that later). Armed with the best from Intel and Nvidia, the Raider GE76 is a juggernaut. It blasted through each of our performance benchmarks without so much as a whimper. On the Geekbench 5 overall performance benchmark, the MSI scored a whopping 12,561, crushing every laptop we’ve tested thus far besides the MacBook Pro 14 (12,663), which it narrowly failed to overtake. You can assume the Core i9 model will shoot ahead of the MacBook.
It took only 2 minutes and 40 seconds to render a 3D image in Blender. This time, the MSI got the best of the MacBook Pro 14 (4:57), which needed a few more minutes to complete the same task. The only laptop that got close to the GE76 is the Zephyrus G14 (3:03), a more compact system. The ROG Flow Z13 (3:51) also did a good job.
On the Handbrake test, the Raider GE76 needed 5 minutes and 22 seconds to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution. That’s fast. Almost as quick as the MacBook Pro (4:51) and a full second ahead of the Alienware x15. The Zephyrus G14 needed only 3 minutes and 15 seconds.
The reason you buy the Raider GE76 is for frame rates. All of the fps. On the Far Cry 5 benchmark at 1080p on Ultra settings, the GE76 hit 139 frames per second, well ahead of last year’s Alienware x15 (106 fps), though that competitor had an RTX 3070. At native resolution (2560 x 1440), the laptop dropped only 11 frames.
All other games we tested were at 1080p, as we were primarily interested in seeing how high frame rates could get on this thing. Our configuration came with a 240Hz screen, so it’s clear a high fps is the goal here.
When I ran Total War: Warhammer II, the Raider GE76 hit 129 fps, which flat-out embarrasses anything else we’ve tested up to this point. The Zephyrus G14 with a Radeon RX 6800S GPU notched 68 fps, though we’re comparing David against Goliath here.
On the Shadow of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the Raider GE76 boosted to 150 fps, enough to get the most out of a 144Hz monitor. Alienware’s x15 got pretty close at 127 fps. I’m interested to see how the upgraded 12th Gen version of that laptop fares.
And finally, the MSI ran Metro Exodus at a brisk 96 fps, topping the Alienware x15 (75 fps), the Zephyrus G14 (56 fps), and the Flow Z13 (78 fps) when connected to its RTX 3080-touting eGPU. Remember, the MSI is the first gaming rig we’ve tested with a 12th Gen CPU, so expect a closer race against refreshed competitors down the line.
These are impressive numbers, even if they don’t get the most out of a 240Hz display, but the MSI’s battery life isn’t so good. This beastly rig lasted for only 2 hours and 44 minutes on our battery test, which consists of video playback with the screen set to 200 nits. It goes without saying: that is one of the shortest runtimes we’ve seen from any laptop. Then again, it isn’t completely uncommon for gaming laptops with these specs to sacrifice battery life.
Like we stated above, games are showcased on a 17-inch, 2560 x 1440 IPS display with a 240Hz refresh rate. At least, that’s the panel gracing our review unit. It’s a fine one, but certainly nowhere near best-in-class. The matte finish does a good job of dissipating glare so your view is undisturbed while gaming in a bright room. I just wish it got brighter, because the 298-nit rating we clocked is right on the threshold of what I consider adequate.
This isn’t the most vivid panel either, but the colors are accurate and punchier than a typical matte screen. I enjoyed watching Queen of the South and playing Halo Infinite on the MSI—the screen is huge, fast, and colorful enough.
If you want more pixels, MSI options a 4K at 120Hz screen, or you can get faster refresh rates with the 1080p at 360Hz panel. Personally, this QHD screen is the one I would choose.
MSI boasts about its larger dual fans and widened heat pipes, and for good reason: the GE76 got hot but never reached concerning temperatures during my testing. I didn’t experience any throttling, and it’s nice to have fan controls easily accessible via a dedicated key.
For such an intimidating system, the Raider GE76’s design is rather restrained. There are some aggressive slanty angles and cutouts in the corners and rear bumper to give the laptop a more aggressive stance. Otherwise, it’s all pretty ordinary, especially the silver aluminum lid (MSI calls it Titanium Blue) with a color-matching MSI dragon logo.
A somewhat bland exterior is aided by some dazzling RGB lighting. Rainbow hues glow from a light bar that runs across the bottom front edge, a striking design element that gives the Raider spaceship vibes. Opening the deck reveals a per-key RGB illuminated keyboard with unique pastel colors that gives off a retro arcade vibe. These can, of course, be customized in infinite ways via the MSI Center or a SteelSeries key on the shortcut row.
To be clear, this is not a portable laptop, and don’t let MSI try to convince you otherwise. Need something you can take to work with on trips? MSI’s Stealth GE series is a better choice, or you could go with the outstanding Asus Zephyrus ROG G14. This Raider is unashamedly beefy, measuring 15.63 x 11.18 x 1.02 inches and weighing 6.4 pounds. I’ve been carrying the GE76 around my house (with two hands) just fine but wouldn’t consider packing it in my backpack during travel, in part because the power brick is similarly huge.
The SteelSeries keyboard is as fun to type on as it is to look at. Key travel is adequate and the switches are so springy that my fingers effortlessly bounced between letters as I typed this review. Short of being mechanical, the keys have a satisfying “click” yet aren’t any louder than those on an ultra-portable laptop. It also has a full numpad for extra shortcuts or crunching numbers in spreadsheets. I’ll admit, though, that the offset home row drove me mad for the first few days of use, and I wish the volume and brightness controls were on the top row instead of as Fn functions on the arrow keys.
I also hope MSI expands the touchpad on the next model to take advantage of the Raider’s expansive palm rest. This small, offset rectangular surface against such a wide chassis reminds me of the small blue cap on Arnold Shortman’s massive football-shaped head. Anyway, the touchpad is smooth and precise and responded immediately to my erratic swiping and quick multi-finger gestures.
That extra girth allows for an outstanding selection of I/O. On the right side of the GE76 are two USB 3.2 Type-A ports and a full SD card slot. On the opposite side are another USB 3.1 Type-A, a USB 3.2 Type-C input, and a headphone jack. MSI strategically placed more permanent connections on the rear, including a Thunderbolt 4, an HDMI 2.1, a Mini-DisplayPort, a LAN port, and a power jack.
The rest of the fixings are all pretty good. There is a decent 1080p webcam that’s good enough for video chats and will do in a pitch for streaming if you have good enough lighting. It can be shut off to spying creeps with the tap of a key shortcut. Wi-Fi connectivity is strong thanks to Wi-Fi 6E support, and Bluetooth 5.2 is also supported.
I was very impressed by the sound of these quad Dynaudio-tuned speakers, which consist of dual 2W tweeters and another pair of 1W woofers. Head and the Heart’s “Paradigm” sounded crisp and airy, filling my room without any distortion when I cranked the volume to 100%. The treble got a bit peaky at times, but even my sensitive ears weren’t too troubled.
If you need the most powerful gaming laptop and don’t mind sacrificing portability, the Raider GE76 is a good choice. It serves as a capable model for showcasing Intel’s latest 12th Gen Alder Lake chips, which outperformed even Apple’s M-series processors on some of our tests, albeit while guzzling more power.
I would caution against spending this amount of cash without considering the alternatives. You can get most of the performance on display here for a much lower price and in a more compact, travel-friendly package. I’m partial to the Asus Zephyrus G14. It’s a gorgeous laptop with a comparatively petite chassis and plenty of computing muscle to run demanding tasks or play most games at adequate frame rates—it isn’t, however, in the same performance league as the Raider.
Here’s the other thing: the Raider GE76 isn’t the only gaming laptop with 12th Gen chips, and it certainly isn’t the cheapest option in its class nor does it feel like the most premium. A specced-out Alienware m15 R7 with the same components (but a smaller display) costs $2,899, around $600 less than the MSI. If you can stretch your budget, the Razer Blade 17 goes for $3,999 but is more portable and premium than the Raider. And for around $200 less, you can get a similarly specced Asus ROG Strix Scar 17. We haven’t tested the latest versions of these competitors yet, but they’re certainly worth shortlisting before you plunk down this sort of cash.
In any case, the Raider GE76 achieves its goal of providing gamers with enough firepower to play the most demanding titles at high frame rates today and for years to come. It’s even powerful enough to be a desktop replacement, and given its size, that’s really where it’s best suited.