MSI GL65 9SE review – brings a 120Hz screen and a great performance on the table

With us today, we have the MSI GL65. It is a solution that is somewhat friendly to your budget and offers a good variety of hardware. It all starts with the Core i5-9300 + GTX 1650, and gradually creeps up to the powerhouse of machine we got – a combo between the Core i7-9750H and the GeForce RTX 2060.

Of course, this configuration is not a joke, and it needs a beefy cooling solution. By the looks of the device, we would set high expectations, as there are three heat spreaders around the chassis. Moreover, the laptop is neither super thin, or super light, so, there must be a lot going on on the inside.

In addition to that, the laptop comes in two display varieties – a 60Hz 1080p panel, as well as a nimble 120Hz 1080p one. Then, there is the Steelseries keyboard, that can be backlit by either a solid Red color or a Per-Key RGB, controllable from the Dragon Center.

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-gl65-leopard-9sx/

Contents


Specs Sheet

MSI GL65 9SE review – brings a 120Hz screen and a great performance on the table - Specs

  • AUO B156HAN13.0 (AUOD0ED)
  • Color accuracy  4.2  3.8
  • HDD/SSD
  • up to 2000GB SSD + up to 2000GB HDD
  • RAM
  • up to 64GB
  • OS
  • Windows 10 Home, No OS, Windows 10 Pro
  • Battery
  • 41Wh, 6-cell, 51Wh, 6-cell
  • Dimensions
  • 357.7 x 248 x 27.5 mm (14.08" x 9.76" x 1.08")
  • Weight
  • 2.30 kg (5.1 lbs)
  • Ports and connectivity
  • 3x USB Type-A
  • 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • 1x USB Type-C
  • 3.2 Gen 1 (5 Gbps)
  • Displayport mini
  • Card reader
  • SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Ethernet LAN
  • GB Lan
  • Wi-Fi
  • 802.11ac
  • Bluetooth
  • 5.0
  • Audio jack
  • 1x Mic-in, 1x Headphone-out
  • Features
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Web camera
  • HD
  • Backlit keyboard
  • Speakers
  • 2x 2W, Nahimic 3
  • Optical drive
  • Security Lock slot
  • Kensington Lock

All MSI GL65 Leopard 9Sx configurations

#CommissionsEarned

What’s in the box?

Inside the box, there is a 180W power brick, which is pretty beefy – we’ve seen smaller 180W packages out there. Next, there are the mandatory paper manuals, as well as the laptop, itself, protected by an antistatic bag, and protective cloth.


Design and construction

When it comes to the quality of build, there are two things – first, the entire body is made out of plastic, apart from the lid, and second, the device feels quite sturdy. You have to keep in mind that the GL65 is not the lightest 15-incher out there, neither it is the slimmest – 2.3 kg and 27.5mm in profile. This makes it significantly bulkier than the Acer Predator Helios 300 (2019) for example, which is some 5mm thinner.

As we mentioned, only the lid is made out of aluminum. This gives it a bit of resistance to flex, and it is incredible how thin this thing actually is. Sadly, you won’t be able to open it with a single hand, but on the bright side, you end up with almost non-existent bezels on the sides and at the top, while the bottom is rather big. Not in the last place, is MSI’s decision to keep the camera up top.

Now, let’s move on to the base. There you’ll find the Steelseries keyboard, which has a good key travel, and slightly softer feedback, than what we’d like. Another oddity we observed is that when you press a key on its edge, there is a probability it won’t register the stroke – they are not very well balanced. Other than that, it is decent for gaming purposes. By the way, you have the option to get the device with a Per-key RGB backlight, if you fancy.

Then, there is the standard for MSI trio of buttons in the top right corner. They are separated from the rest of the keyboard and are dedicated to the Power button, a Dragon Center quick launch tool, as well as a maximum fan shortcut. This way, you can cool off the internals quickly with just a press of a button.

Keeping the good tone, we continue to the touchpad, which works great with the 120Hz display. The experience is smooth and all the gestures work fine. Additionally, it has a good size – bigger than the average, and this is taking into consideration the dedicated keys. Although, they are made out of plastic, and while the click they produce is not very satisfying, it is still better than having embedded keys, beneath the touchpad (at least in our opinion).

Now, let’s turn the laptop upside down, where we can see a huge ventilation grill. It’s clear that the GL65 won’t have a shortage of breath here. Additionally, there are the speaker cut-outs, while the hot air comes out of the machine from three locations – two at the back, and one on the left side.


Ports

On the left, you’ll find an RJ-45 connector, an HDMI connector, as well as a Mini DisplayPort, followed by a USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) and a USB Type-C 3.1 (Gen. 1). Then,  swtich sides, and you’ll see the beefy power plug, an SD card reader and two USB Type-A 3.1 (Gen. 1) ports, placed directly next to the edge of the device.


Disassembly, upgrade options and maintenance

In order to open the get to all of the internals, you need to remove the back panel. It is held in place by 12 Phillips-head screws. After you remove them, you’ll need a (preferably) plastic pry tool, or a guitar picks to pop the plate out of the chassis.

Inside, you’ll see 7 heat pipes, which despite looking thin, are quite beefy. So, four of them are cooling the GPU and its VRM modules and memory. Of them, one is cooling the CPU voltage regulators, while two others are cooling down, the CPU, itself. Interestingly, though, the heat sinks look quite narrow (although they are almost as thick as the laptop, itself. We’ll see how they manage the thermals of the device in the Temperature section of the review.

Then, in terms of upgradability, there are two RAM SODIMM slots, stacked above each other, and they support up to 64GB of DDR4 memory. Storage-wise, you can put an M.2 PCIe/SATA drive, while the big gap on the left is reserved to the 2.5″ SATA drive.

Last, but not least, there is the 51Wh battery pack. It is easy to remove, but sadly it looks too small for a laptop of this caliber.


Display quality

MSI GL65 9SE in the configuration we tested has a Full HD 120Hz IPS panel with a model number AUO B156HAN13.0 (AUOD0ED). Its diagonal is 15.6″ (39.62 cm), and the resolution 1920 х 1080 pixels. The screen ratio is 16:9, and we are looking at a pixel density of – 142 ppi, and a pitch of 0.18 х 0.18 mm. The screen turns into Retina when viewed at distance equal to or greater than 60cm (24″) (from this distance one’s eye stops differentiating the separate pixels, and it is normal for looking at a laptop).

Viewing angles are excellent. We offer images at 45° to evaluate image quality.

We measured a maximum brightness of 300 nits in the middle of the screen and 293 nits as an average for the whole area, with a maximum deviation of only 2%. The Correlated Color Temperature on a white screen is 6650K – slightly colder than the optimal for the sRGB standard of 6500K, which is not bad at all.
In the illustration below you can see how the display performs from a uniformity perspective. In other words, the leakage of light from the light source.

Values of dE2000 over 4.0 should not occur, and this parameter is one of the first you should check if you intend to use the laptop for color-sensitive work. The contrast ratio is great – 1500:1.

To make sure we are on the same page, we would like to give you a little introduction to the sRGB color gamut and the Adobe RGB. To start, there’s the CIE 1976 Uniform Chromaticity Diagram that represents the visible specter of colors by the human eye, giving you a better perception of the color gamut coverage and the color accuracy.

Inside the black triangle, you will see the standard color gamut (sRGB) that is being used by millions of people in HDTV and on the web. As for the Adobe RGB, this is used in professional cameras, monitors, etc for printing. Basically, colors inside the black triangle are used by everyone and this is the essential part of the color quality and color accuracy of a mainstream notebook.

Still, we’ve included other color spaces like the famous DCI-P3 standard used by movie studios, as well as the digital UHD Rec.2020 standard. Rec.2020, however, is still a thing of the future and it’s difficult for today’s displays to cover that well. We’ve also included the so-called Michael Pointer gamut, or Pointer’s gamut, which represents the colors that naturally occur around us every day.

The yellow dotted line shows MSI GL65 9SE’s color gamut coverage.

Its display covers only 51% of the sRGB/ITU-R BT.709 (web/HDTV standard) in CIE1976.

Our “Design and Gaming” profile delivers optimal color temperature (6500K) at 140 cd/m2 luminance and sRGB gamma mode.

We tested the accuracy of the display with 24 commonly used colors like light and dark human skin, blue sky, green grass, orange, etc. You can check out the results at factory condition and also, with the “Design and Gaming” profile.

Below you can compare the scores of MSI GL65 9SE with the default settings (left), and with the “Gaming and Web design” profile (right).

The next figure shows how well the display is able to reproduce really dark parts of an image, which is essential when watching movies or playing games in low ambient light.

The left side of the image represents the display with stock settings, while the right one is with the “Gaming and Web Design” profile activated. On the horizontal axis, you will find the grayscale and on the vertical axis – the luminance of the display. On the two graphs below you can easily check for yourself how your display handles the darkest nuances but keep in mind that this also depends on the settings of your current display, the calibration, the viewing angle, and the surrounding light conditions.


Response time (Gaming capabilities)

We test the reaction time of the pixels with the usual “black-to-white” and “white-to-black” method from 10% to 90% and vice versa.

We recorded Fall Time + Rise Time = 32 ms – definitely a slow response time for a 120Hz refresh rate panel.

The next image shows the reaction time of the pixels with the “Gray-to-Gray” method from 50% White to 80% White and vice versa between 10% and 90% of the amplitude.


PWM (Screen flickering)

Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is an easy way to control monitor brightness. When you lower the brightness, the light intensity of the backlight is not lowered, but instead turned off and on by the electronics with a frequency indistinguishable to the human eye. In these light impulses, the light/no-light time ratio varies, while brightness remains unchanged, which is harmful to your eyes. You can read more about that in our dedicated article on PWM.

MSI GL65 9SE’s display doesn’t flicker at any brightness level. This provides comfort in extended periods of use.


Blue light emissions

Installing our Health-Guard profile not only eliminates PWM but also reduces the harmful Blue Light emissions while keeping the colors of the screen perceptually accurate. If you’re not familiar with the Blue light, the TL;DR version is – emissions that negatively affect your eyes, skin and your whole body. You can find more information about that in our dedicated article on Blue Light.

Conclusion

MSI GL65 9SE’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, great viewing angles, and good contrast ratio. Furthermore, it lacks PWM for brightness adjustment. Sadly, though, the response times of this display are very slow, which results in severe ghosting in quick-paced games. Additionally, it covers only 51% of sRGB.

Buy our profiles

Since our profiles are tailored for each individual display model, this article and its respective profile package are meant for MSI GL65 9SE configurations with 15.6″ FHD IPS AUO B156HAN13.0 (AUOD0ED).

*Should you have problems with downloading the purchased file, try using a different browser to open the link you’ll receive via e-mail. If the download target is a .php file instead of an archive, change the file extension to .zip or contact us at [email protected]

Read more about the profiles HERE.

In addition to receiving efficient and health-friendly profiles, by buying LaptopMedia's products you also support the development of our labs, where we test devices in order to produce the most objective reviews possible.

Office Work

Office Work should be used mostly by users who spend most of the time looking at pieces of text, tables or just surfing. This profile aims to deliver better distinctness and clarity by keeping a flat gamma curve (2.20), native color temperature and perceptually accurate colors.

Design and Gaming

This profile is aimed at designers who work with colors professionally, and for games and movies as well. Design and Gaming takes display panels to their limits, making them as accurate as possible in the sRGB IEC61966-2-1 standard for Web and HDTV, at white point D65.

Health-Guard

Health-Guard eliminates the harmful Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM) and reduces the negative Blue Light which affects our eyes and body. Since it’s custom tailored for every panel, it manages to keep the colors perceptually accurate. Health-Guard simulates paper so the pressure on the eyes is greatly reduced.

Get all 3 profiles with 33% discount


Sound

MSI GL65 9SE’s speakers produce a sound with relatively good quality. Its low, mid and high tones all have some deviations.


Drivers

MSI is one of the few manufacturers that offer partition of the internal storage full of all of the drivers you’ll need. However, you can find all of the latest ones here: https://www.msi.com/Laptop/support/GL65-9SX

Battery

Now, we conduct the battery tests with Windows Better performance setting turned on, screen brightness adjusted to 120 nits and all other programs turned off except for the one we are testing the notebook with. Sadly, our unit had damaged battery, so we weren’t able to conduct these tests. We are going to update this part of the review, as soon as possible.

CPU options

There are two processor options with the GL65. The more budget-friendly one is the Core i5-9300H, working with 4 cores and 8 threads. However, if you want the full gaming (and more) experience, there is the Core i7-9750H, with 50% more cores and threads than the previous one.


GPU options

In terms of graphics cards, the laptop features three different scenarios. On the bottom end, there is the GTX 1650, then the GTX 1660 Ti and finally, the flagship choice for this device would be the GeForce RTX 2060. You can recognize the different GPU choices by the model of the laptop – in the same order, they would be the GL65 9SC, 9SD, and 9SE.


Gaming tests

Far Cry 5 Full HD, Normal (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)
Average 84 fps 82 fps 78 fps

rise-of-the-tomb-raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings) Full HD, MAX (Check settings)
Average 110 fps 69 fps 47 fps

Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Very High (Check settings) Full HD, Ultra (Check settings)
Average 66 fps 61 fps 48 fps

Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018) Full HD, Medium (Check settings) Full HD, High (Check settings) Full HD, Highest (Check settings)
Average 74 fps 72 fps 55 fps

Temperatures and comfort

Max CPU load

In this test we use 100% on the CPU cores, monitoring their frequencies and chip temperature. The first column shows a computer’s reaction to a short load (2-10 seconds), the second column simulates a serious task (between 15 and 30 seconds), and the third column is a good indicator of how good the laptop is for long loads such as video rendering.

Average core frequency (base frequency + X); CPU temp.

Core i7-9750H (45W TDP) 0:02 – 0:10 sec 0:15 – 0:30 sec 10:00 – 15:00 min
MSI GL65 9SE 3.52 GHz (B+35%)@ 85°C 3.51 GHz (B+35%)@ 95°C 3.07 GHz (B+18%)@ 84°C
ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GU502 3.59 GHz (B+38%)@ 77°C 3.59 GHz (B+38%)@ 84°C 2.84 GHz (B+9%)@ 76°C
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S GX502 3.77 GHz (B+45%)@ 87°C 3.69 GHz (B+42%)@ 90°C 2.93 GHz (B+13%)@ 76°C
Lenovo Legion Y740 17″ 3.31 GHz (B+27%)@ 93°C 3.35 GHz (B+29%)@ 93°C 3.00 GHz (B+15%)@ 80°C
Acer Predator Helios 300 15 (2019) 2.78 GHz (B+7%)@ 63°C 3.03 GHz (B+18%)@ 68°C 2.98 GHz (B+10%)@ 72°C
Lenovo Legion Y540 2.78 GHz (B+7%)@ 74°C 3.08 GHz (B+18%)@ 90°C 2.87 GHz (B+10%)@ 79°C
ASUS ROG G531 3.41 GHz (B+31%)@ 95°C 3.23 GHz (B+24%)@ 95°C 2.72 GHz (B+5%)@ 79°C
HP Omen 17 2019 3.44 GHz (B+32%)@ 86°C 2.74 GHz (B+5%)@ 71°C 2.67 GHz (B+3%)@ 71°C

Although, the temperatures throughout the test were on the slightly higher side, we experienced a very high clockspeed on all of the cores, with the frequency never dropping below 3.00 GHz.

Real-life gaming

NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2060 GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 2 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min) GPU frequency/ Core temp (after 30 min + fan boost)
MSI GL65 9SE 1590 MHz @ 71°C 1588 MHz @ 73°C 1590 MHz @ 68°C
ASUS ROG Zephyrus M GU502 1454 MHz @ 76°C 1394 MHz @ 85°C
MSI GS65 Stealth 8SE 1305 MHz @ 77°C 1267 MHz @ 80°C
Dell G5 15 5590 1400 MHz @ 72°C 1438 MHz @ 70°C
Lenovo Legion Y740 1526 MHz @ 70°C 1499 MHz @ 74°C

Additionally, these results were solidified in the gaming test. The GPU is working 100 MHz higher than its nearest competitor, while the temperatures never exceeded 73C. Then, we launched the “Maximum fan boost” mode, which resulted in a 5C decrease of the temps and an insignificant clock speed boost. However, gaming in these conditions is uncomfortable and genuinely requires a good noise-canceling headset.

Gaming comfort

This device is on the average when it comes to outer temperatures and noise.


Verdict

When we look at the overall picture, we are left with good impressions of this device. Ultimately, GL65 9SE is a good gaming laptop. It offers one of the best performance in benchmarks we’ve seen on a laptop with an RTX 2060 inside. Moreover, it works cool-enough, given the performance it delivers.

However, paying a premium for powerful hardware is sometimes hard to swallow. Instead of pairing the Core i7-9750H, you can get a more budget-friendly option, like the GTX 1660 Ti, or the GTX 1650 (both of which feature different characters after the 9S moniker.

MSI GL65 9SE’s display has an IPS panel with a Full HD resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, great viewing angles, and good contrast ratio. Furthermore, it lacks PWM for brightness adjustment. Sadly, though, the response times of this display are very slow, which results in severe ghosting in quick-paced games. Additionally, it covers only 51% of sRGB. If we have to add another disadvantage to the laptop, it would be the thick profile of 27.5mm.

Now, in terms of upgradability, the bottom plate of this device is not extremely hard to open. Inside, you’ll find an M.2 slot that supports both PCIe and SATA drives, as well as a 2.5″ SATA drive bay. More impressive to us, however, is the 64GB of DDR4 2666 MHz support.

Also inside, you’ll have a great view of the cooling solution. It features a total of 7 heat pipes, which are thin in diameter, but unlike most of the laptop coolers, are not flat, but actually look like pipes. Our tests proved, that the cooling solution is perfectly capable of dealing with the Core i7-9750H + RTX 2060 combo, and furthermore, you would be able to boost the fans to their maximum with the touch of a dedicated button, found above the keyboard.

Speaking of input devices, the keyboard is decent, as it features a relatively long key travel, a little bit softer feedback than usual, and a backlight. It’s worth noting that MSI offers the notebook with a Per-key RGB illumination, as well. By the way, the GL65 features a great touchpad. Tracking is good, as is the size, which is definitely larger than the average of Windows devices. Moreover, it sports dedicated buttons, that doesn’t really give the most premium experience out there, but are better than embedded ones.

So, if you don’t mind the slow response time of its display, the MSI GL65 is a great device for gaming, beating the ROG Zephyrus M GU502 in a straight fight.

Pros

  • Exceptional performance
  • Great I/O connectivity with an SD card reader
  • Optional Per-key RGB backlight
  • Lack of PWM (AUO AUOD0ED)
  • Capable cooling solution and up to 64GB of DDR4 memory
  • Comfortable viewing angles and good contrast ratio


Cons

  • Quite bulky for 2020
  • Slow response times, despite the 120Hz refresh rate
  • Covers only 51% of sRGB (AUO AUO23ED)

You can check the prices and configurations in our Specs System: https://laptopmedia.com/series/msi-gl65-leopard-9sx/

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