MSI Katana GF66 12U Review

The MSI Katana GF66 12U is a traditional gaming laptop through and through. That’s not to say it lacks punch, as it uses a panel that will appeal to competitive PC gamers and esports enthusiasts alike. Still, it feels like MSI has taken a confusing approach with its budget model specs, which translates to a price that might tempt you to look elsewhere.

Armed with a 240Hz screen, MSI Katana GF66 12U The portable gaming laptop is no ordinary machine. While its screen resolution and selected graphics card accommodate 1080p gaming, its high refresh rate is a boon when playing the best FPS games.

Advantage The difficulties
  • 240Hz fast panel
  • Snappy Intel Alder Lake processor
  • Dear
  • Bland aesthetics
  • Restricted ports

It takes more than a fast screen to succeed in the best gaming laptop ring, as there are cheaper competitors that use a high refresh rate. The MSI Katana GF66 12U has the potential to sway some Gigabyte, Acer and Asus alternatives, but its aesthetics, choice of specs and price could keep it out of the limelight.

MSI Katana GF66 specifications

MSI Katana GF66 12U
CPU Intel Core i7-12700H
GPUs Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 laptop graphics card
Memory 16 GB DDR4, 3200 MHz
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD
Screen size 15.6 inches
Screen resolution 1920×1080
Refresh rate 240 Hz
Price £1,399

Please Note: This SKU is currently out of stock, but MSI tells us it will be back soon. Here is a similar model that you can buy today.

MSI Katana GF66 12U design

Take a moment to picture a gaming laptop in your mind. I found something? Well, it probably almost looks like the MSI Katana GF66. At 15.6 inches, this particular gaming laptop features the same low-profile chassis as previous models, with high-quality plastics contributing to its rigid chassis.

If you’re looking for a solid laptop that can withstand daily knocks, the Katana GF66 should hold up just fine. At 2.25kg, it’s reasonably beefy, but it actually weighs more than the Asus TUF Dash F15 – an extremely durable laptop that I use as a daily driver. It’s hard to decipher why MSI’s machine is heavier, but it’s visually heavier and anything but slim.

The Katana GF66 uses a fairly typical screen frame, but MSI hasn’t gone out of its way to refine anything. In fact, unlike some laptops (looking at you, Asus TUF Dash F15), this model includes a 720p webcam. In terms of performance, the portable rig’s electric eye is reliable and clear, making it more than adequate for business meetings.

Aesthetically, the Katana GF66 falls somewhere between understated and bland. Don’t mistake yourself; I’d take MSI’s matte black finish on a loud and proud racing stripe rich any day of the week. However, there’s something very basic about the laptop’s exterior, with a look I’d normally associate with cheaper options. In other words, if you type “gaming laptop” into this Dall-e Mini AI generator, you’ll probably get something similar.

That’s not to say the laptop is completely devoid of color, as it packs menacing red accents around its keys. If you’re not a fan of red, you’re out of luck, as the laptop’s chiclet gaming keyboard features a monochrome LED backlight that screams “the dark side of the force.”

Speaking of keyboards, the Katana GF66’s clicky-clacky solution includes a comically small numeric keypad that takes up two inches of space on the right side. Fortunately, the rest of the laptop’s keyboard layout doesn’t feel cramped, but it’s all a bit off-center compared to the alternatives. This shouldn’t mean much to the average user, but I’ve already deleted this sentence four times to correct typos, so take what you will.

Numerical keyboard for MSI Katana GF66 12U gaming laptop in red

MSI Katana GF66 12U features

The star of the show is undoubtedly the Katana GF66’s 240Hz display, as options at this price point typically include a 144Hz panel. If you’re determined to play games on a high-refresh screen, this laptop will help you achieve that goal, but its inclusion comes with a trade-off, especially when it comes to getting what you pay for.

Under the hood, the MSI Katana GF66 has an Nvidia RTX 3060 – a portable GPU that pairs well with 1080p gaming. My main issue with this specific SKU is that you can get an RTX 3070 laptop for around the same price, and with RTX 4000 graphics cards on the horizon, they’ll likely be cheaper.

Of course, these models usually include a 144Hz screen, but to get the most out of the Katana GF66’s panel, you’ll have to go to great lengths to increase the frames per second to get closer to the 240Hz shown here. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it will be harder to achieve with future versions, and you may need to lower your settings in newer games (we’ll get to that in a bit). All of this is to be expected if you play competitive shooters, but if that’s not your bag, you might want to spend the money on an RTX 3070 rig instead.

Side view of the MSI Katana GF66 12U with USB and HDMI ports

The Katana GF66’s GPU comes with an Intel Core i7-12700H processor, 16GB DDR4 RAM and a Gen 4 1TB NVMe PCIe SSD. In terms of ports, the laptop is equipped with three USB 3.2 ports, one USB 2.0 port, USB-C and one HDMI 2.0 port.

The number of ports included is pretty typical, but I’m having some issues with the MSI setup. First, the limitations of HDMI 2.0 mean that if you want to connect the Katana GF66 to the best gaming monitor, it will be limited to 4K 60Hz. The laptop’s USB-C port also lacks Thunderbolt and power delivery capabilities, further frustrating my plans to integrate it into my gaming desktop setup.

Of course, the measurement of a gaming laptop’s merit should be based on its gaming PC’s performance, and the MSI Katana GF66 is a 1080p-capable machine. You’ll need to lower your settings to take advantage of its 240Hz screen, but you should be able to hit above 60fps in many modern games without touching a dial.

The RTX 3060 isn’t a bad laptop GPU, and it’s more than capable of delivering a modern gaming PC experience. If you’re not a fan of frame rate, you can even take advantage of its ray-tracing capabilities while hitting 1080p 60fps in games like Guardians of the Galaxy.

That said, the RTX 3060 is an entry-level card, and using it to hit 240fps is no small feat. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get Halo Infinite to run above 170fps, even with ground resolution scaling. Of course, the GPU can pump out more frames in older shooters like CS:GO, but you can expect that much from a 2022 model.

MSI Katana GF66 12U monitor with Samurai themed wallpaper

Most of my concerns with the Katana GF66 lie in its panel/GPU pairing. An RTX 3060 laptop rig typically sells for around $1,200, and it’s entirely possible to get one for less than $1,000 on sale. However, MSI’s SKU costs £1,399 (around $1,650 including VAT) in the UK – a price you’d expect to see slapped on an RTX 3070 model.

When you consider the fact that the RTX 3060 isn’t necessarily capable of hitting 240fps in most games, even on muted settings, it calls into question the inclusion of the high-spec laptop. To add insult to injury, the screen is visually poor and lacks both vibrancy and definition. Fast-paced games like Neon White are silky smooth at 240Hz, but the platformer’s vivid images didn’t show up for the panel party.

Of course, the Katana GF66’s Intel Alder Lake processor also contributes to the price, as the 12th gen chip helps with gaming performance and keeps things sharp during regular use. However, the processor’s capabilities only excuse the price to a certain extent, as the AMD Ryzen chips are not far behind the i7-12700H in terms of gaming performance.

MSI Katana GF66 12U with MSI Center software on screen

The icing on the cake of MSI’s questionable spec choices is the decision to forego a MUX switch. The inclusion of motherboard graphics technology would have helped the RTX 3060 produce more frames and get closer to the preferred fps of the 240Hz panel.

Gaming laptop performance sometimes comes at the expense of peace and quiet, but the Katana GF66’s cooling solution isn’t too high. You can change fan speed settings using MSI Center, and the software comes with a bunch of profiles to suit a variety of usage scenarios.

Please Note: This SKU is currently out of stock, but MSI tells us it will be back soon. Here is a similar model that you can buy today.

The laptop’s “smart-auto” fan profile should, in theory, scale things automatically by monitoring GPU and CPU health. While the mode seems to work as expected, the fan noise seems to be at a certain level during gameplay, which is actually fine by me.

If all the fan noise bothers you, you probably won’t be happy until you block it out with a gaming headset. Boot used by Asus TUF F Dash 15 is sometimes cumbersome.

MSI Katana GF66 12U gaming laptop charger

Battery life is a bit of a sore spot for the Katana GF66 as it will only cover you for a fraction of your day. During testing, I had to reach for its heavy PSU after three hours of regular use, meaning I couldn’t venture too far from a power outlet. That the laptop’s USB-C lacks charging options adds salt to the wound, as it also means you can’t use a power bank in one slot.

Ultimately, the biggest downside to the MSI Katana GF66 is its price, and that’s a kicker when you consider what you can actually buy for around £1,400. If you’re a fan of fast refresh rates, the panel on this laptop might tick a few boxes, but unfortunately the rest of this particular SKU feels like an expensive mismatch. Using a super-fast panel like a peacock feather isn’t enough to hide that fact, and unless you want to stick to older games and lower your settings, the 240Hz machine will struggle to fly.

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