I could not help gawking at MSI's latest gaming laptop, which sports a backlit keyboard that cycles through a multitude of colours. These colours shift in a preset pattern that is almost mesmerising.
While there is no shortage of backlit keyboards that can display millions of colours, the MSI GE63VR 7RE Raider is one of the few that let you customise the backlight colour of each key. Most gaming keyboards display only a single backlight colour of a cluster of keys.
The keyboard is designed in collaboration with gaming peripherals maker SteelSeries. This means the backlighting and other keyboard settings, like custom macros, can be tweaked using the SteelSeries Engine 3 app. More importantly, the key travel is excellent with good depth. And they do not feel mushy when pressed.
What I found most useful: When you press and hold the Function key, the backlight turns off for most of the keys. Only the keys with preassigned Functions, such as the volume control or the brightness adjustment, remain backlit in red.
This makes it much easier to locate the Function keys without having to scan the entire keyboard. I would love to see more laptop makers add this feature.
Another useful feature is that all three of its USB 3.0 ports are illuminated in red. For those who play games with their lights off, this means no more groping in the dark to plug in a USB device.
I was less impressed by its exterior chassis, which looks very much like other MSI gaming laptops, with the company's backlit logo prominently on its black, brushed aluminium lid. Place it beside an older MSI laptop and I would be hard-pressed to identify the newer model.
PROCESSOR: Intel Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz)
GRAPHICS: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5
RAM: 16GB DDR4
SCREEN SIZE: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
CONNECTIVITY: 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jack
BATTERY: 51 watt-hour
BATTERY LIFE: 1/5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5
Its 2.4kg weight is average for its size. The sides are dotted with connectors, including a speedy USB 3.1 Type-C port that supports up to 10Gbps transfer speeds.
Gamers are likely to appreciate its 15.6-inch screen, which offers a 120Hz refresh rate for smooth and responsive gameplay.
Being a twisted nematic (TN) display, the screen is perhaps not as vibrant as an IPS variant, but it is still a very good display with decent viewing angles.
Powering this display is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 graphics chip. This mid-tier chip can play most games smoothly at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, including more demanding virtual reality titles.
In Crysis 3, the Raider scored around 70 frames per second (fps) at Very High setting, while it managed about 80fps in Doom at Ultra setting. These results are about 10fps higher than the Aftershock S-15 (GTX 1060) that I tested last year, probably because the MSI laptop has a newer Intel processor and updated graphics drivers.
Like many of its rivals, MSI has bolstered its laptop with gaming-centric apps. Its own Dragon Center software lets you monitor the laptop using the laptop itself and also via a smartphone app. It also comes with a free one-year premium licence for the XSplit Gamecaster software for gameplay recording and broadcast. Another useful add-on is a two-month licence for WTFast, a virtual private network service to reduce latency in online games.
• Verdict: Its dazzling keyboard makes up for the uninspired chassis design. But, as a gaming machine, the Raider gets it right with good performance, responsive display and useful gaming features.