Many of the gaming laptops I have the luxury of testing are incredibly powerful devices designed to blow your mind. Often, review devices are packed with the latest technology, meaning you can play the latest games at the highest quality and often get excellent frame rates to boot. While this is all good in theory, this level of performance comes at a hell of a price, and that often means a lot of review unit laptops are way out of most consumers’ price ranges. This time it’s a different story, because I tested the MSI Katana GF76, and this gadget is a great piece of kit for those looking for high performance at a plausible price, albeit at the expense of visual fidelity and graphics.
I say this because the Katana GF76 comes with a 17.3″ 1080p display panel which can run at up to 144Hz. For those who don’t know what that means, 1080p/144Hz displays are usually reserved for gamers who prioritize performance over graphics, as you can run a game much smoother with these specs, even if said games don’t look as crisp or live. For the Katana GF76 screen, the same is the case, so when you walk in, understand that this is a device that puts performance first.
But if so, what kind of hardware does it have under the hood? Well, this review unit has a 12th generation Intel i7-12700H processor along with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, all with 16GB of RAM. This hardware isn’t top notch, but what it does do is combine well with the display to prioritize 1080p high-performance gameplay over games running at extreme settings.
Keeping the latest titles on high or low settings, the Katana GF76 can deliver frame rates around 100 fps, with Forza Horizon 5 ranging from 90-120 fps depending on stressful situations. Age of Empires IV on the other hand usually clocked between 50-100fps, again it all depends on the amount of units and the chaos that unravels at a time. Now, it’s worth noting, as with most gaming laptops these days, this is all mains powered and not just battery powered. The reason this matters is that performance takes a massive hit when using battery power, so much so that Age of Empires IV even struggled to maintain 28fps in low-stress situations, which, given that the Katana GF76 can show game at up to 144Hz, significantly lacking in the number of images.
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Long story short, hardware and screen combine for a laptop that can handle most titles at high graphics settings while delivering frame rates above 100, which is pretty good, and all without overwhelming the computer most of the time and causing fans to do their best impression of an F-15 fighter jet. Before I leave the subject of performance and graphics behind, it’s worth noting that if you intend to run games at the highest graphics settings with the Katana GF76 (which seems like an unusual idea given the 1080p display), frame rates will take a hit , which typically drops by about 50% depending on the situation.
Now that the performance is out of the way, it’s worth going back and talking more about the cooling solution for this laptop, as well as its noise levels. On the bottom of the Katana GF76 are a series of vents that act as the primary means of heat dissipation. The problem with this solution is that the hot air is blown out from the same place where the laptop rests, which is often on your thighs and means your legs are cooked when the Katana GF76 is stressed. Likewise, the Katana GF76 is not a very quiet device when used at its maximum limits. So I would suggest getting a good pair of noise canceling headphones if you intend to push this laptop to its limits.
Otherwise, this laptop is quite an attractive device that has a relatively low profile. Considering the 17.3-inch screen, it’s quite large, and considering the hardware it packs, it’s also particularly heavy. But it has a subtle and fairly conservative design, one that’s a bit too basic in places, as the body has a huge amount of negative space around the keyboard (which has red backlighting) and the trackpad. It’s hard to shake the feeling that the keyboard could have been a little bigger, especially when you look at the number pad, which is crammed to the right side.
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In terms of connectivity and battery life, the Katana GF76 comes with a range of ports including a 4K/60Hz HDMI, various USBs (two Type-A 3.2, one Type-A 2.0 and one Type-C 3.2) and a Wi-Fi 6 -enabled Ethernet port. The battery will keep you going for many hours, provided you use it for less stressful tasks like word processing or watching Netflix. If you’re aiming to play a game on the go, you’ll be lucky to get a few hours out of the battery, so keep that in mind.
All in all, given the type of portable that the Katana GF76 is and the type of gaming experience it seeks to deliver, it’s hard to really knock this computer down. Sure, it’s a bit basic in design and mostly missing its 1080p display, but for anyone looking to game at higher frame rates and sacrifice visuals, this is a great laptop to use, and all for a pretty reasonable price considering the retail value of high-end laptops and gaming hardware these days.