MSI Katana GF66 Review

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7.8 Total Score
GOOD

MSI Katana GF66 (12UD-436) is a decent gaming laptop with good performance, is affordably priced, but is outperformed by other laptops with the same or lower price. And, there are some compromises made to keep it as affordable as possible.

PROS
  • Affordable price point
  • Solid 1080p gaming performance
  • 144Hz display
  • Decent Intel processor
CONS
  • Washed-out, underwhelming screen
  • Poor battery life

Count on MSI to do deliver some of the best gaming laptops to drive your latest AAA games. I’ve reviewed a lot of MSI gaming laptops over the past few years, and they’ve consistently impressed with its lineup of gaming machines that go from the ultra-thin to the ultra-big and pretty everything in between. And, with the MSI Katana GF66, you have an impressive gaming laptop that offers more value for the buck than some of the best gaming laptops.

The Katana GF66 is available in various configurations, but the MSI 12UD-436 model we’re reviewing in that lineup offers an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti at a price you’d normally expect to find on a lower specification, plus a 12th generation Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB, and a roomy 512GB solid-state-drive.

Though its battery life is short and the screen is less bright than we’d like, the Katana nonetheless delivers the gaming essentials without major sacrifices on performance, especially now that core-component prices are redefining what makes for a budget gaming laptop. The Asus TUF Gaming F15 (2022) remains our Editor’s Choice winner among midrange 15-inch gaming rigs.

About the MSI Katana GF66

As priced, the MSI GF66 Katana is on the lower end of the pricing spectrum for a gaming laptop. Somehow, MSI positions in a way that it doesn’t directly compete with similarly priced laptops. Our review unit, the MSI Katana 12UD-436 comes with an Intel Core i7-12650H CPU, an RTX 3050Ti GPU, 16GB, and 512GB NVMe SSD storage.

There’s also an RTX 3060 iteration – the MSI Katana 11UE-617 – with an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11800H processor, everything else remains similar. No matter the model you choose, you’re still getting great gaming performance across the board at reasonable prices. Here is a quick look at the specs of our review unit.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (12UD-436) lid

MSI Katana GF66 SPECS

Laptop ClassGaming
ProcessorIntel Core i7-12650H
Processor Speed4.7 GHz
RAM (as Tested)16 GB
Boot Drive TypeSSD
Boot Drive Capacity (as Tested)512GB
Screen Size15.6 inches
Native Display Resolution1920 by 1080
Touch ScreenNo
Panel TechnologyIPS
Variable Refresh SupportNone
Screen Refresh Rate144 Hz
Graphics ProcessorNvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
Graphics Memory4 GB
Wireless NetworkingBluetooth, 802.11ax
Dimensions (HWD)15.63 x 10.24 x 0.9 inches
Weight4.85 lbs

Design and Features

If you’re looking for a discrete laptop for gaming and maybe college, the MSI Katana GF66 extends that favor by opting to remain plain, with a plastic black lid and only an engraved MSI logo added to the lid. The bottom is fairly curved downward and blends well with the hinge.

However, opening the lid reveals a rather gaudy design. Most people will instantly tell this is a gaming laptop from the edgy red keyboard, and of course, the red keyboard lighting. Well, the keyboard is without RGB backlighting as with most of its competitors, and a cheap one at that. The bezels on the screen are not too thick, but we’ve seen slimmer. The design is simple, but being an affordable gaming laptop doesn’t necessarily mean it has to look cheap.

At 15.6 x 10.2 x 0.9 inches and 5.1 pounds, is thicker and heavier than its competitors, some even from MSI. For instance, the Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 measures 14 x 9.6 x 0.8 inches and weighs 4.2 pounds, while the MSI Stealth 15M measures 14.1 x 9.8 x 0.6 inches and weighs 3.7 pounds, making for sleeker profiles than the Katana GF66.

Port selection is decent, but it would’ve been nice to see a Mini DisplayPort. On the left side, there’s a power jack and a pair of USB Type-A ports, while the right side features an RJ45 port, an HDMI port, a USB Type-C, a USB Type-A port, and a headphone jack.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (12UD-436) ports

Display, Keyboard, and Touchpad

For the display, the Katana GF66 gets a 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display that looks flat and isn’t bright enough to stand out among its competitors. Its 144Hz refresh rate does very little to save the viewing experience. It covers a measly 43.9% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, which is well below the 70% mainstream gaming laptop average, and at 247 nits of brightness in testing, the panel is middling compared to the average mainstream gaming laptop (303 nits). Both the Asus Zephyrus M16 (481) and Stealth 15M (255 nits) pack more vivid screens.

As with all MSI laptops, typing on the keyboard is OK. The keys are comfortable and clicky, and the experience is far from the worst gaming keyboard I’ve typed on. It’s typically what you’d expect from a budget gaming laptop. The red keyboard lighting is a drag as always on a budget gaming laptop – MSI should just go for white or full RGB.

Below the keyboard is a 4.1 x 2.6-inch touchpad that is smooth but sometimes feels sticky. The clickers are a little stiff for my liking, but Windows 11 gestures, like two-finger scrolling and three-finger tabbing work fine.

MSI Katana GF66 Review (12UD-436) keyboard

Performance

The MSI Katana GF66, despite packing a not-so-bright display, packs some impressive internals: three configurations available, and our review unit is the latest in that lineup with a 12th-gen Intel Core i7-12650H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD. RTX 3050 and RTX 3060 options are also available, but any GPU options bring to the table the latest ray tracing tech and the DLSS (Deep Learning Super Sampling) feature from Nvidia that uses artificial intelligence to boost frame rates.

The Katana GF66 12UD-436 can run most AAA games comfortably at 1080p resolution, though not at the same frame rates as more expensive and more capable laptops such as the Asus ROG Strix G15 (AMD Ryzen 9; RTX 3070) or the Alienware M15 R6 (Intel Core i7-11800H; RTX 3080). With Red Dead Redemption 2 configured to use almost all of the 4G graphics memory, for example, the Katana GF66 averages 42-60 frames per second. For all but the most demanding gamers, this is more than enough muscle under the hood, and the stereo 2W speakers also do a good job delivering solid audio.

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In the Time Spy 3D Mark benchmark, the laptop averages a score of 5,680, which is way below the laptop average of 5,730 – not class-leading performance, but you’re buying this laptop for gaming and not blistering performance. That’s still decent productivity performance, and for the price, together with some of the latest chips from Intel backed with a dedicated graphics card for buttery gameplay, we can’t demand more. Add in that the laptop stays fairly cool and quiet during gaming, and it’s a fantastic package overall.

Elsewhere, battery life is typical of most gaming laptops – lasting only 3 hours 48 minutes over continuous video streaming at maximum brightness. Again, that’s going to take a sharp dive once you start to run demanding games on it. Don’t plan to stay away from a power socket for too long with this particular laptop. However, all is not lost with gaming laptops and battery life, lately, we’ve seen excellent battery life on some laptops, with some like the Acer Predator Triton 330 SE and Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 lasting almost all day.

MSI Katana GF66 12UD-436 Review | Verdict

While we wish the MSI Katana GF66 had longer battery life and its screen were more vivid, none of those flaws hold it back from being a fantastic budget gaming laptop. It delivers respectable gaming performance thanks to the latest Intel Core chip and offers GeForce RTX 3050 Ti at a reasonable price, and that GPU helps make the most of the 144Hz display. That’s impressive for a laptop at this price point, and the good-quality keyboard makes this an ideal option for everyday gaming on a tight budget.

For the same price, you can pick up the Asus TUF Dash 15 (2022) which features 7-plus hours of battery life, a colorful battery, an RTX 3060 GPU, and a sleek chassis. And, it is very portable and boasts an equally comfortable keyboard.

Overall, the MSI Katana GF66 (12UD-436) isn’t a terrible choice if you want to prioritize performance, but you can do much better for the price.

Is MSI Katana GF66 good?

If all you need is an affordable gaming laptop with good performance, YES. Otherwise, everything else from the not-so-vivid display and short battery life doesn’t help things either, and you can do better elsewhere for the price.

Last update on 2022-08-07 at 14:01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

OUR PICK

ASUS TUF Dash 15 (2022) Gaming Laptop, 15.6” 144Hz FHD Display, Intel Core i7-12650H, GeForce RTX 3060, 16GB DDR5, 512GB SSD, Thunderbolt 4, Thunderbolt 4, Windows 11 Home, Off Black, FX517ZM-AS73

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as of August 7, 2022 2:02 pm
MSI Katana GF66 Review
MSI Katana GF66 Review
$1,149.00
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