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  • Cheryl Tan

It’s Kinda New? It’s… A Refresh – MSI GL65 Leopard Review ft. Intel 10th-Gen H Series

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

It’s been quite a while since I’ve actually had a laptop like this come my way, and it’s one that’s really meant for and designed just for the sole purpose of gaming. But I’m still going to take a look at it from a creative standpoint. This is the GL65 Leopard from MSI.

So let’s get started with what’s new, and that’s the all-new Intel 10th-gen H-series processor, that’s still based on the 14-nanometre process and still part of Comet-Lake.

The Leopard that I have right here is rocking the Intel Core i7-10750H processor, and comparing that to the previous Core i7-9750H… there are basically just two key differences. A higher max turbo clock speed of 5.0 GHz compared to 4.5 GHz, and support for faster RAM out of the box.

That’s pretty much it. Honestly, you can even just say it’s basically a better-binned 9750H. You’ll even be able to see it in the benchmarks later on. To say it simply, it’s a refresh.

But since we’re talking about specs, let’s move on to the rest of it.

As mentioned, it has the Intel Core i7-10750H, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060, 16GB of RAM, and a 1TB NVMe SSD.

If you’re familiar with MSI, you’ll know that their Leopard lineup is aimed towards entry-level gaming in general, and that’s also a decision which influenced the overall design.

It’s definitely not a thin-and-light, coming in at about 2.3 kilograms, and it’s primarily made up of hard plastics. As you can tell, the laptop is chunky, and the whole design aesthetic is very gamer-ish. The lid and keyboard deck does make use of aluminium however, so it helps to make it look slightly more professional in a way. Though I’ll leave it up to you if you like that huge MSI dragon on the lid.

In essence, it does look and feel like your typical MSI gaming laptop, and if you haven’t noticed, the design hasn’t really changed since 8th-gen Intel models.

For the display, you get two options. You can choose between a 1080P 120Hz IPS or a 1080p 144Hz IPS. For my review unit, it comes with the 144hz option.

I would say it’s not the best 144hz display out there, but it’s definitely above average. You get, of course, that buttery smooth 144Hz refresh rate, which is great for not just gaming, but general use as well. It covers nearly 100% sRGB and about 65% AdobeRGB while pushing a max brightness of around 320 nits.

It’s basically great for content consumption and definitely for gaming. As for creative work, as long as you’re not doing any kind major colour correcting or grading, it’ll do you fine.

The bezels are quite thin all around, except for the chin, which is quite large, and just a little thicker at the top for the webcam.

Anyways, it’s a standard webcam, that’s enough for video calls and such, and the microphone is decent enough.

Moving down, we have a full-sized keyboard, complete with a numpad and like most MSI laptops, it’s made by Steelseries. You can choose either a single colour red-backlit keyboard or a full per-key RGB keyboard.

Overall, it’s a good enough keyboard with a good amount of key travel and tactile feedback. In fact, I felt right at home when gaming on this machine with this keyboard.

For typing, on the other hand, it wasn’t as great. But I would say that it’s mainly because I prefer a 15-inch laptop without a numpad, so the entire keyboard is centralized.

However, there are a couple of things I don’t like on this keyboard. The first is the position of the function and windows key. I understand why it’s like this, to prevent the accidental press of the windows key while gaming, but when I do want to use the Windows key, I found myself pressing onto the alt key or the function key rather frequently because of habit.

The other thing, the functions are kind of all over the place, or I guess in 3 separate zones. Yet, the ones that I’ll use the most, being volume and brightness, are located on the arrow keys. So now, instead of being able to change those settings with one hand, I have to use both.

To me, it’s just a weird layout. A good enough keyboard, but a really weird layout.

Moving down, we have the trackpad, and it’s fairly large. It runs Precisions, and it feels great, and it works, gestures and everything. It’s also one of the few trackpads where the left and right-click have dedicated buttons.

They do feel tactile and have a satisfying click. I also do find that dragging and dropping files is easier with such a design. All in all, no qualms about it.

You get two 2 watt speakers that are located on the bottom of the unit, and they sound average at best. Get a pair of headphones.

Moving to I/O, you get a healthy amount. On the left, you’ll have your RJ45 ethernet port, HDMI 1.4, Mini-Display Port, a standard USB 3.2 and a Type-C port along with dedicated headphone and mic jacks.

On the right, you have your power jack right in the middle, an SD card reader, and two more standard USB 3.2 ports right at the edge.

While I do appreciate the number of ports, I do have to question putting the USB ports right at the edge, and also, why only HDMI 1.4, and not 2.0? An oversight by MSI in my opinion.

With all that out of the way, it’s time for the performance. There are several profiles to choose from using the MSI Dragon Centre, but most of our results were done on the Custom User setting with the performance set to high and the fans to auto.

First up, as usual, is Cinebench R20.

Here, the Core i7-10750H scored a Multi-Core of 2773 and a single core of 443, which is a slight improvement from the Core i7-9750H that I previously tested with the Razer Blade 15. Granted, it’s not that fair of a test, considering the two very different thermal solutions, but in general, you get about 10% more performance with the 10th-gen chip.

But I also did run the test on the Turbo profile with the fans on CoolerBoost mode. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much difference with the results, being within the margin of error.

In both tests, the CPU hovered around the 95 degrees celsius mark, which is not great, given that the fan is actually spinning really fast and getting very loud, but it does so without dropping the boost.

Moving on, we have DaVinci Resolve.

The 1080P edit took 8 minutes and 57 seconds to render, while the 4K edit took 23 minutes and 45 seconds. Compared to the 9750H on the Razer Blade, the render times are also, within the margin of error, pretty much the same.

Now, as you might know, DaVinci does favour a powerful GPU and with the MSI Dragon Centre, you can actually activate Extreme Performance mode, and you can overclock the GPU for both the core and memory.

Naturally, I maxed it out and let it render once more.

This time, the 1080P edit took 8 minutes and 38 seconds while the 4K edit took 22 minutes and 47 seconds. So it was roughly an average of 45 seconds faster to render with the overclock.

The main difference, however, was the temperatures. With the high-performance mode and fans set to auto, the CPU temperatures hovered in the mid-80s, whereas with the turbo mode, with an overlock on the GPU and CoolerBoost active, the CPU hovers in the mid-90s instead.

In short, for creative work, I suggest just leaving the performance set to high, and the fans on auto, as you don’t really get that much of a benefit, and yet it was at the cost of immense noise. Like it’s really loud with the CoolerBoost turned on.

The NVMe drive on this machine pretty fast, with extremely good sequential read and write speeds, although 4K random is a little lacking.

We now touch on gaming, and to be frank, it’s a very capable gaming machine. Not only do you get great frame rates playing eSports or triple-A titles, but it’s also enjoyable as well, thanks to that 144Hz display.

Temperatures are not that great, but the performance is there. The CPU was pushing nearly 4GHz on all cores with temperatures around 93 degrees celsius, while the GPU was boosting up to 1830MHz with the temperatures around 82 degrees celsius.

Now you can still further tweak the profiles using the MSI Dragon Centre to find the right balance between performance and thermals, and you can also actually do your own custom fan curve, which is quite neat.

Also to mention is that due to the thickness of the laptop itself, you’ll also be able to game for long hours at a time, as despite the somewhat high temperatures, the keyboard only gets slightly warm.

It is a comfortable gaming experience on all fronts.

As for battery life, it’s pretty average for a gaming laptop, coming in at around 4 hours of actual usage in my use case.

In terms of upgradability, you get access to two RAM slots, so you can upgrade to 64GB of RAM should you so desire, a single slot for an NVMe drive, but also a 2.5-inch drive on the other side, for another SSD or HDD if you want to.

Overall, this has been a pretty enjoyable laptop to use. As mentioned at the start, I do look at laptops with a creative standpoint in mind, and this laptop was not too bad in that regard. But to be fair, this laptop was designed for gaming in mind, and in my opinion, with a little bit more tweaking to the profiles and stuff, it definitely offers a great gaming experience, especially if you’re looking for something that’s more of a desktop replacement.

But there’s something I have to talk about, and it’s that the GL65 Leopard is kinda in a weird position right now.

Now to clarify, this laptop that I have right here is actually just one of many SKUs which MSI offers. The GL and GP lineup from MSI with the Leopard designation is mainly aimed towards entry-level gaming in general.

But in the last couple of years, there’s essentially no difference whatsoever between the GL and the GP lineup. You now get pretty much the exact same chassis, and even the configurations are exactly the same. You can get a Leopard anywhere from a 10th-gen Intel Core i5 with a GTX 1650, all the way up to the 10th-gen Intel Core i7 with an RTX 2070, for both the GL and the GP variants.

So, the variant which I have right here costs S$2,849 on Lazada here in Singapore.

For that price, you can look at even other offerings from MSI themselves, like the MSI GF63 or even the GS65 Stealth. If you wanna save even more, opt for the 9th-gen version. Because honestly, there really isn’t that much of a difference in performance from the 10th-gen version.

If you’re still interested in the GL65 Leopard, however, I would say, look at the 1660Ti version, or as mentioned, those with the 9th-gen CPU instead, you’ll get arguably the same performance, at a much more reasonable price.

More information and purchase options for the GL65 Leopard (S$2,849) can be found on MSI’s Lazada store.

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