This laptop serves up great performance at the cost of limited graphics.
A lot of the gaming laptops I have the luxury of testing are incredibly powerful units that are designed to blow you away. Often review units are crammed with the latest technology, which means you get to play the latest games in the highest quality and often still get great frame rates to boot. While this is all good in theory, this level of performance comes at one heck of a cost, and often means that a lot of review unit laptops are well out of the price ranges of most consumers. This time is a different story, as I've been testing the MSI Katana GF76, and this gadget is a great bit of kit for those looking for high performance at a plausible price point, albeit at the cost of visual fidelity and graphics.
I say this as the Katana GF76 comes with a 17.3" 1080p display panel, which can run up to 144Hz. For anyone unfamiliar as to what this means, generally 1080p/144Hz monitors are reserved for gamers who prioritise performance over graphics, as you can run a game far more fluidly with these specifications, even if said game doesn't look as crisp or vibrant. For the Katana GF76's display, this is the same case, so going in you should understand that this is a device that puts performance first.
But, with this being the case, what kind of hardware does it have under the hood? Well, this review unit features a 12th Generation Intel i7-12700H CPU, as well as an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics card, all with 16GBs of RAM. This hardware isn't top-of-the-line, but what it does do is combine well with the display to prioritise 1080p high-performance gameplay over games running on Extreme settings.
Sticking the latest titles on High settings or below, the Katana GF76 can serve up frame rates of around 100fps, with Forza Horizon 5 ranging from 90-120fps depending on stressful situations. Age of Empires IV on the other hand generally clocked in between 50-100fps, all again depending on the amount of units and chaos unravelling at a time. Now it should be noted, as is the case with most gaming laptops these days, that this is all while plugged into the mains and not running solely off of battery power. The reason this is important is because performance takes a massive hit when using just the battery, so much so that Age of Empires IV even struggled to hold 28fps in low-stress situations, which considering the Katana GF76 can display games at up to 144Hz, is a significantly lacking number of frames.
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Long story short, the hardware and display all combine for a laptop that can tackle most titles on high graphical settings and still deliver on frame rates of over 100, which is pretty good, and this is all without overloading the computer a lot of the time and causing the fans to do their best impression of an F-15 fighter jet. Before leaving the topic of performance and graphics behind, it is worth noting that if you do intend to run games on the highest graphical options with the Katana GF76 (which seems like an unusual idea considering the 1080p display), frame rates will take a hit, usually dropping by around 50% depending on the situation.
Now that performance is out of the way, it is worth circling back and talking more about the cooling solution for this laptop, and likewise its noise levels. On the base of the Katana GF76 is a range of vents that act as the primary way to dissipate heat. The issue with this solution is that the hot air is being blasted from the exact same place that the laptop is resting, which often happens to be on your thighs and will mean that your legs get baked when the Katana GF76 is under stress. Likewise, when being used to its maximum limits, the Katana GF76 is not a very quiet device. So, I'd suggest getting a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you intend to push this laptop to its limits.
Otherwise though, this laptop is quite an attractive device that has a relatively low profile. Considering the 17.3" display, it is rather big, and when taking into account the hardware it's packing, it's particularly heavy as well. But, it has a subtle and rather conservative design, one that if anything is a little too basic in places, as the body has a huge amount of negative space around the keyboard (which has red backlighting) and trackpad. It's hard to shake the feeling that the keyboard could've been a tad larger, especially when looking at the number pad, which is crammed on the right side.
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In terms of connectivity and battery life, the Katana GF76 comes with an array of ports, including a 4K/60Hz HDMI, various USBs (two Type-A 3.2s, one Type-A 2.0, and a Type-C 3.2), and a Wi-Fi 6-enabled ethernet port. The battery will keep you going for plenty of hours assuming you're using it for less stressful tasks like word processing or watching Netflix. If you do aim to play a game on-the-go, you'd be lucky to get a couple of hours out of the battery, so keep that in mind.
All in all, when considering the type of laptop that the Katana GF76 is, and what kind of gameplay experience it's looking to offer, it's hard to really knock this computer. Sure it is a little basic in design, and lacks mostly in its 1080p display, but for anyone who is looking to game at higher frame rates and sacrifice visuals, this is a great laptop to go with, and all at a pretty reasonable price point when taking into account retail value for high-end gaming laptops and hardware these days.