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HomeReviewsMSI Katana GF76 12UGS review: Is one of the most affordable RTX 3070 Ti gaming laptops worth it?

MSI Katana GF76 12UGS review: Is one of the most affordable RTX 3070 Ti gaming laptops worth it?


In the comparison portals, the MSI Katana is listed as one of the most affordable gaming laptops. The first is the 17-inch Alder Lake model for 1199 Euros (~$1249) for the version with an RTX 3050 Ti. The model with an RTX 3060 starts from 1349 Euros (~$1406), and our test configuration with the RTX 3070 Ti will cost you 1949 Euros (~$2031). After the Acer Nitro 5 and the smaller 15-inch sibling, our 17-inch model is the most affordable laptop with an RTX 3070 Ti. Last year, we tested the predecessor with a Tiger Lake CPU and RTX 3060 , and now follows the upgrade to Alder Lake and the Ti GPUs. Since our database currently lacks affordable 17-inch laptops with RTX 3070 Ti GPUs, we compare the new Katana in addition to its predecessor also with the significantly more expensive Razer Blade 17 top dog, the Aorus 17 XE4 , and the 15 and 16-inch Lenovo Legion 5 Pro 16 G7 and MSI Vector GP66 12UGS models. The materials used in the case of the Katana are solely plastic. The display and its frame produce some powerful creaking noises even if you only warp it slightly, particularly in the top corners, and we immediately start worrying about the panel. The base, on the other hand, gives a robust impression. Otherwise, the workmanship appears to be good, and we do not notice any obvious gaps. The hinges are able to open the display up to 180 degrees. They are only slightly weak in the last third of the opening range but otherwise hold the display in place fairly well. The design is kept rather simple, other than the colorful keyboard illumination and the stylized lettering on the keys. There is a large notch in the front of the base, allowing you to easily open the laptop with one hand. Considering the included hardware, the Katana is fairly compact, and the plastic case also makes it appear lighter than the Blade 17, even though the difference is only about 100 g (~3,5 oz). Although the Aorus is minimally thicker, it is almost 20 mm (~0.8 in) less deep. The Blade 17 is slimmer and also smaller overall. While the Katana is rather one of the larger gaming laptops, it still didn’t turn out too thick. Even in 2022, MSI continues to equip the Katana with a USB-A 2.0 port, and it also continues to forgo Thunderbolt and an SD card reader. The USB-C port only runs at USB-3.0 speed and of course doesn’t offer Power Delivery. The power plug doesn’t fit very tightly in our model and can also slip out slowly when moving the laptop. The fit of some USB-C devices is not optimal in the corresponding port. The external, USB-C connected M.2 case of the author has some problems with several laptops such as the MSI Katana or also the MSI Pulse GL66 but works fine with other laptops. Apparently, some plugs cannot be inserted deep enough into the ports, which leads to the SSD being provided with power but not being recognized reliably by Windows and continuously disconnecting. The author had to use a USB-C-to-A adapter and run the SSD via a USB-A port. The fact that the ports for potentially thick and stiff cables such as HDMI and LAN are on the right side, where a mouse might also be used, is also less than optimal. An Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 module is used for WLAN communication. In combination with our Asus ROG GT-AXE11000 test router, the module achieves suitably good transfer rates, and the connection is also fairly stable. As the webcam, a standard 720p camera is used. While the image quality wouldn’t help in turning the user into a YouTube star, the color deviations still remain within limits. Considering the low price, the lack of any included accessories shouldn’t be surprising. As usual with MSI, the warranty period is two years. The bottom of the case is secured by 13 screws. Since the final one is placed below a sticker seal, we don’t want to break it because of our test unit being a loaner. Unfortunately, MSI continues to use sticker seals and thus reserves the option to limit the warranty after improper opening of the device by unqualified users. However, there shouldn’t be too many changes compared to the predecessor, and you can find an image of the opened Katana in the review of the predecessor . For a 17-inch laptop, the keys turn out rather small, and squeezed on the right side of the base is also a numpad with incredibly tiny keys. Despite the fact that there is still sufficient space on the left and right side of the keyboard, MSI doesn’t use this to increase the key size. In the top row of the Function keys, the keys are only half as tall. The Power button is placed as a regular key in the top right corner of the numpad. As customary for MSI, strangely the Fn key is placed on the right side, but you can switch its function with the Windows key on the left. The key stroke is relatively short, but the feedback is noticeable. However, the keys still feel slightly spongy, and the user gets the impression that the keys are only really fixed in the middle and can tilt easily towards their sides. On the other hand, typing tasks still succeed fairly quickly and easily. The typing noise is moderate. The key lettering is easily visible, but their font is a little unusual, which is probably supposed to attract gamers. In dark surroundings, the keyboard illumination helps. While there is only a single zone, the light can be dimmed in three steps. It is only illuminated in red. The touchpad is sufficient but not very large for a 17-inch device (~10.5 x 6.5 cm, ~4.1 x 2.6 in). The surface facilitates sliding of the fingers, and they only get stuck with very slow movements or if the fingers are wet. The integrated keys also work fairly precisely, but they have an extremely short stroke and appear very crisp. The trigger noises aren’t really quiet. MSI has decided to use the same Full-HD display from AU Optronics as in the predecessor. Even though this can handle 144 Hz, at an average of 264 nits, the brightness isn’t very high. The response times are really weak for a gamer, particularly the more than 40 ms from gray to gray. At 88%, the brightness distribution is still relatively even. At least, the display has a fairly low black value, which leads to a good contrast. Professional image and video editors should use an external monitor, since the displayed color space is rather narrow. Only around 40% of AdobeRGB are reproduced, and less than 60% of sRGB. In the state of delivery, the grayscale deviations are already smaller than 1. However, the color deviations are higher, but unfortunately, they don’t improve significantly by a manual calibration using our X-Rite color measurement device (Portrait Displays Calman Color Calibration). While the matte surface prevents many reflections, the low brightness and rather weak viewing angle stability lead to a limited usability outdoors. While usually, IPS panels shine in terms of their viewing angle stability, this is less the case for the display of the Katana. From extreme viewing angles, the brightness and colors decrease noticeably in intensity. The Katana GF76 12U is available in a total of nine configurations. Eight of those use a Core i7-12700H as CPU and only a single model comes with an i5-12500H . The GPU versions start from the RTX 3050 up to the RTX 3070 Ti , including all the currently available RTX models from Nvidia. The display and RAM (2x 8 GB DDR4, also 16 GB) are the same for all models. As SSD size, either 1 TB or 512 GB are available. Our configuration represents the top end with an RTX 3070 Ti and 1-TB SSD. It should be able to play all the current games in the native FHD resolution smoothly even at maximum detail level. For the best benchmark results, we use the “Extreme Performance” mode in the MSI Center. While this software allows you to adjust various important system settings, at its first startup, you have to agree to a data privacy statement that asks to send anonymous user data. The adjustment settings include the user profiles, fan control modes, and also general settings such as switching the Fn and Windows key. It also allows you to search for driver updates, but unfortunately they don’t install automatically after the download. The MSI Center takes too long to load for our tastes, and it also happened repeatedly that the fan profile switched back to “Balanced” without any discernable reason after the software was restarted. MSI uses an Intel Core i7-12700H , which besides the only minimally better i7-12800H represents one of the standard CPUs for current gaming laptops, as long as you are looking for Intel and not AMD. It possesses a total of 14 cores and is able to operate on 20 threads simultaneously. Each of its six P cores are able to run at up to 4.7 GHz in Turbo Boost, and their basic clock speed is 1.7 (E cores) and 2.4 GHz (P cores). While the 45-Watt CPU should really be able to consume up to 115 watts for a short time period, our test unit only reaches 105 watts for a very short time in the first run. In the following runs, it still reaches 70 to 76 watts, which it is able to maintain relatively well within one run. With this, the Katane performs at the same level as the competitors, which are also good. The previous Katana is surpassed by about 30%. In the Cinebench R15 test, the performance is reduced by about 40% in battery operation. In PCMark 10, the Katana does a good job, placing second most of the time. Only in the Digital Content Creation segment, the performance drops slightly. Neither opening the browser, nor several open tabs on our Homepage create any problems for the Katana. However, the LatencyMon tool does show some delays when playing our 4K/60-fps YouTube test video, but there are still no dropped frames during the reproduction. MSI uses an NVMe SSD from Micron with 1 TB. While the storage is already connected via PCIe 4.0, the speed is still more at a high PCIe 3.0 level, so that the models in the more expensive competitors are often faster. On the other hand, the constant performance is very good, ending up on a good 12th place in our list of best storage devices. The Nvidia Geforce RTX 3070 Ti is one of the most powerful mobile GPUs and should really be able to play all the current games smoothly. However, in the Katana its TGP is limited to only 100 watts, while some of the competitors reach 150 watts here. The graphics performance should end up correspondingly lower. In the synthetic 3DMark tests, the Katana finishes slightly below average, ending up about 7 to 10% behind an average RTX 3070 Ti, which should be due to the lower TGP. In battery operation, the 3D performance is reduced by more than 70%, as another Fire Strike run shows. In the native FHD resolution, almost all the games are also reproduced smoothly at maximum detail settings. However, in ” Cyberpunk 2077 1.5 ” things can already become tight at times for raytracing effects, and the frame rate drops from about 48.5 fps to only 28.5 fps with activated Raytracing Ultra. Overall, the RTX 3070 Ti in the Katana performs about 10% lower than the average of all laptops with the same GPU in our database. Considering the performance of an RTX 3070 Ti, most users should be able to live with that, but performance enthusiasts might want to take a look at laptops that don’t limit their GPU to 100 watts. In that way, the direct competitors are mostly faster. The predecessor with RTX 3060 is beat by “only” 15 to 20%. Most of the time, the MSI Vector places first in terms of the 3D performance. The frame rate while running ” The Witcher 3 ” for one hour remains fairly constant. The CPU cores reach a clock speed of 3.8 GHz (76 °C, ~169 °F) on average, and the GPU, of about 1.3 GHz (~70 °C, ~158 °F). The cooling system isn’t optimally adjusted in terms of the noise level. The fans turn on even during idle operation without any load and in the Balanced or even the Silent Mode. They are active almost constantly, also varying their speeds. This seems unnecessary and is annoying. Even the slimmer Blade 17 , for example, remains mostly silent during idle operation even in the highest performance mode. The rather suboptimal cooling system is probably also the reason for the GPU being limited to 100 watts. In 3DMark06, the Katana is the noisiest model in our comparison, and while gaming and in terms of the maximum volume, it is only surpassed by the Vector, which also comes from MSI. Despite the fans turning on sporadically, at up to 37 °C (~99 °F) the Katana is already warmer during idle operation than the competitors. Under load, the Blade 17 and the MSI Vector remain cooler than the Katana, despite their higher performance. The Aorus and the Legion get similarly warm. Hot spots, which are located in the center as well as toward the display, can reach up to 55 °C (131 °F). The CPU cores start off our stress test at about 4 GHz. However, they only maintain this very briefly, since after a few seconds the cores already surpass the thermal limit at more than 90 °C (194 °F), causing the clock speeds to drop afterwards, and finally leveling out between 2 and 2.4 GHz. The temperatures are around 81 °C (178 °F) on average. On the other hand, during the whole test period, the GPU clock speed varies continuously between 800 and 1600 MHz, and the storage speed, only between 1.4 and 1.5 GHz. The core temperatures range around 70 °C (158 °F). The graphics card consumes about 71 watts on average, only reaching the specified 100 watts sporadically at best. The speakers don’t get very loud and clearly lack in bass. But at least, the mids are fairly balanced. We recommend connecting external audio devices. To do this, a combined 3.5-mm headset port is available. During idle operation, the Katana consumes about as much or little power as the Razer Blade 17. Under load such as gaming, it then becomes one of the most efficient devices in our comparison, due to its limited GPU power consumption. For example, in ” The Witcher 3 ,” it consumes only 6% more power than its predecessor with the RTX 3060, while offering a performance that is up to 26% higher. We measure a brief maximum power consumption of 219 watts, which the 240-Watt power supply should be able to handle without any trouble. The Katana has a 53.5-Wh battery. While this is no different than the predecessor, it is also significantly smaller than that of the competitors, some of which offer almost twice the capacity (Aorus 17). Correspondingly, the battery life doesn’t turn out to be very impressive, particularly under load. In our video test, the laptop only lasts less than 3 hours. Depending on the adjusted brightness, you can surf away from the outlet between 1:47 hours and 3:47 hours. The MSI Katana GF76 12U is one of the most affordable gaming laptops with all the advantages and disadvantages this brings. The positive part is that the Katana is able to reproduce almost all the modern games smoothly even at maximum detail settings. Those for whom this is sufficient will get an affordable gaming laptop with the Katana, whose operation is also relatively efficient. Of course, the low price also brings some disadvantages. The display forms rather the lowest IPS quality level, the battery is small, and the battery life, short. The connections are not very modern, the cooling system needs some urgent optimization, and the RTX 3070 Ti is limited to 100 watts, which means that its performance isn’t even able to come close to its potential. The MSI Katana GF76 is one of the most affordable gaming laptops. While interested buyers with a limited budget should be able to play all the current games smoothly, the many smaller disadvantages call for a higher budget. Among the competitors, the Gigabyte Aorus 17, which also offers Thunderbolt and a higher performance while only being slightly more expensive than the Katana, is worth taking a look. The Asus TUF Gaming F17 might also be worth your consideration with its higher performance, but its most affordable version has a display that is even worse in parts. Due to the significant TGP limitation, checking out a model with an RTX 3060 and higher TGP might also be worthwhile. The 2022 MSI Katana GF76 is available for example from Amazon starting from $1499 .

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