The MSI GF63 Thin is cheap, it handles everyday esports and mainstream games at mid-range settings, and it’s got a decent keyboard and a slim, light design. That said, the flimsy chassis, poor screen and meagre set of features mean we’d prefer to save a little more for a better, faster machine if possible.
The MSI GF63 Thin 11UC is one of the cheapest gaming laptops around, with a UK price of just £699 and a US price of $1,006
Those numbers will make anyone take notice, but low prices sometimes mean plenty of design and component compromises.
And while it’s true that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 graphics core is modest, it’s still capable of handling 1080p gameplay – and, similarly, the Core i5-11400H processor remains a solid choice.
There’s no shortage of competitors if you’re after a cheap gaming laptop, though, so it’s time to go hands-on to see if the MSI GF63 Thin 11UC is a great bargain or just destined for the bargain bin.
MSI GF63 Thin specs and features
As configured, our MSI GF63 Thin test system is selling for £699 from Scan and $1,006 from NewEgg and features the following specs:
CPU: Intel Core i5-11400H
Memory: 8GB onboard
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 4GB
Storage: 512GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 144Hz IPS
Connectivity: 1 x USB Type-C, 3 x USB Type-A, HDMI 2.0, combo audio jack.
Networking: Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, Gigabit Ethernet
OS: Windows 11 Home
Battery capacity: 52.4 Watt-hours
Dimensions: 14.13 x 10 x 0.85 inches
Measured weight: 4.1 pounds
Price: £699/$1,006 (as tested)
MSI’s rig looks better than its price suggests: the brushed metal casing looks smart, and the red keyboard edging and logos lend the GF63 consistency. It’s more mature than the military-inspired Asus TUF Gaming A15 and sleeker than the Acer Nitro 5. Only the Dell G5 15 Gaming can really compete unless you’re willing to spend more.
At 1.86kg on the scales, the GF63 won’t weigh you down, and its 21.7mm-thick body impresses, too – every competitor weighs more than 2kg and is at least 25mm thick.
The MSI may be slim and light, but it’s not sturdy. The metal above the keyboard flexes, the plastic base moves too much, and the display wobbles. If you’re using the MSI at home it’s not a big deal, but you’ll want a protective sleeve outside.
The MSI’s left-hand edge houses a single full-size USB 3.2 Gen 1 port, and the right-hand side has a USB-C port at the same pace and two more full-size USB connections alongside Gigabit Ethernet. The rear has an HDMI 2.0 socket, and on the inside there’s dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2. The chassis features conclude with a 720p webcam without Windows Hello support. There’s no card reader or Thunderbolt either.
For everyday gaming that’s fine, but other notebooks are more generous. The Asus has two USB-C ports, the Acer has faster USB connectivity, and the Dell has a fingerprint reader and HDMI 2.1.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard has no numberpad and a single-zone red backlight rather than RGB LEDs. Hands-on time, though, reveals surprisingly competent hardware. The buttons are fast and reasonably crisp, so they can handle the rigours of mainstream gaming.
The Asus has crisper buttons and a numberpad, the Acer’s buttons are too soft, and the Dell has RGB LEDs but a hollow action. The MSI easily competes here.
The trackpad has responsive buttons, but it’s too small to prove satisfying for gaming. A USB mouse would transform your gameplay even if you only spend ten pounds or dollars.
Screen and speakers
The 15.6in display is an IPS panel with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, which is normal at this end of the market.
Sadly, though, the budget bites when it comes to quality. The maximum brightness of 227 nits is fine for indoor use but not good enough for outdoors, and the contrast ratio of 946:1 is average – fine for everyday gaming but not high enough to deliver vibrancy or depth.
The panel’s delta E of 4.86 is mediocre and the display only rendered 58.1% of the sRGB colour gamut, so this screen won’t produce many of the shades needed for games.
This screen can still handle everyday gaming, even if titles look pallid and underwhelming – and it’s similar to the Acer. But the Asus and Dell laptops were significantly bolder and brighter.
The speakers, meanwhile, are serviceable – too tinny at the top end and with flat bass, but usable for games in a pinch. That said, a gaming headset will always provide better audio.
Under the hood
The RTX 3050 is Nvidia’s weakest laptop core, and that’s reflected in its specification: it only has 2,048 stream processors and 4GB of memory. In the MSI it also has a 40W power limit, which is miles behind its theoretical peak of 80W. The Core i5-11400H is a generation behind the curve, but it still includes six Hyper-Threaded cores and a top Turbo speed of 4.5GHz.
The rest of the specification disappoints. There’s a 512GB SSD and its read speed of 2,230MB/s is fine, but its poor write pace of 350MB/s will hinder game installations. And while 8GB of DDR4 memory is the bare minimum for any laptop, its single-channel configuration will slow down performance.
Unsurprisingly the MSI was not particularly fast in games. Its best benchmark score came in Rainbow Six Siege, where the GF63 averaged 134fps at Ultra settings, but that’s exactly 100 frames behind the Asus and its beefier RTX 3060.
The MSI couldn’t play Cyberpunk 2077 at Ultra settings thanks to an average of 24fps, and it ran at 41fps with the settings at Medium. That’s playable, but miles behind the competition. It ran Far Cry New Dawn with an Ultra quality average of 55fps, but other notebooks regularly hit 80fps.
It must be said that other laptops mentioned were tested with beefier graphics cards – but, it must also be said that the GF63’s RTX 3050 is not a fast example of this GPU. It scored 26,661 in the 3DMark Night Raid test, but an RTX 3050 at full power will score beyond 30,000 points. You should expect that pace from the cheapest Dell and Acer laptops, because those rigs run their RTX 3050 GPUs at 80W and 75W.
This leaves the GF63 somewhat limited. It’ll play most esports titles at speeds to sate the 144Hz screen, and it’ll play today’s mainstream single-player titles at mid-range graphics settings. You’ll need to spend more on RTX 3060 laptops if you want to max out settings at 1080p.
The processor isn’t particularly quick, either. The MSI’s Geekbench 5 multi-core result of 5,366 is just over 1,000 points behind what the chip achieves with dual-channel memory, and it’s miles behind the Dell’s Core i5-12500H. It’s also comfortably slower than the AMD Ryzen 5 6600H and Ryzen 7 6800H parts you’ll find in the Asus and Dell laptops.
If you need a laptop for content creation or tough workloads, you’ll want to shop around. That said, the Core i5-11400H will run Office tasks and loads of browser tabs, so it remains an acceptable everyday CPU. The GF63 also has a spare memory slot, so it’s easy to upgrade to 16GB of dual-channel memory if you’d like an affordable boost. It’s incredibly quiet, too – most of the time you just won’t hear it.
The budget bites in the battery department. In a video playback test the MSI lasted just over three hours, it delivered similar longevity in a work test. When playing games it ran out of juice after one hour and 15 minutes. The Asus and Acer were similar here, though, and the Dell was far better.
Pricing and availability
This machine’s model number is 11UC-081UK and it costs £699 in the UK and $994 in the US. It’ll be on sale until the end of 2022. If you’d like a small performance boost from the GF63, MSI builds a model with the RTX 3050 Ti and Core i7-11800H that costs £799 and $1,049.
Those prices compare well to rivals that do admittedly offer more quality in key areas. The cheapest Asus TUF Gaming A15 pairs an RTX 3050 Ti with an AMD Ryzen 6800H processor for £1,199 and $1,079. The latest Dell G15 costs £849 or $899 for a rig that pairs the RTX 3050 with a newer Core i5-12500H, and you’ll have to pay £999 or $1,049 for that laptop with the RTX 3050 Ti.
The only rival with prices that approach the MSI is the Acer Nitro 5. For a Nitro with the RTX 3050 it’ll cost you £749 or $799, and for the RTX 3050 Ti it’s £799 and $999.
Check out our chart of the best gaming laptops to see all the top options. If you need something cheaper then head to our best budget laptop chart.
The MSI GF63 Thin is about as cheap as gaming laptops get, and for £699/$990 you get an affordable machine that’ll tackle some important scenarios. It handles everyday esports and has the processing power for basic computing. The keyboard is decent, and the MSI is slimmer and lighter than any competitor.
Elsewhere, though, the GF63 struggles. Other laptops offer more gaming and processing power. If you’re happy to spend a bit extra you’ll find bolder, brighter screens, faster USB ports, better battery life and more robust, feature-packed enclosures.
The MSI GF63 Thin is slim, light and tackles modest gaming – and it’s extremely cheap. It’ll do the job if you’re after a budget notebook. But if you can afford more, we’d recommend other rigs.