We finally have our first 13th Gen Intel laptop in for review. It’s also the first with an Nvidia RTX 4000 series GPU. Much as we’re dying to see how it fares, it’s worth noting that the MSI Pulse 17 is more of a budget gaming laptop and is unlikely to change the world – or will it? The first 12th Gen laptop we saw was the wallet-friendly MSI Katana 17 and it destroyed the joint. Kinda. Can the MSI Pulse 17 follow suit?
Related: Check out our MSI Katana 15 review
Table of Contents
- Specs of the MSI Pulse 17
- Design, Features & Ergonomics
Specs of the MSI Pulse 17
|Screen||17-inch, matte, 144Hz, 1,920 x 1,080, IPS display|
|Processor||3.7–5GHz Intel Core i7-13700H CPU|
|Memory||16GB DDR5-5200 RAM|
|Graphics||Nvidia RTX 4070 with 8GB GDDR6 RAM|
|Hard drive||1TB NVMe|
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 1 (with DP)
1 x USB 2.0
3.5mm audio jack
|Speakers||2 x 2 Watt|
|Dimensions||398 x 273 x 27mm|
Design, Features & Ergonomics
We’ve seen a few iterations of MSI’s Pulse over the years. From the GL66, to the celebrity-designed 11th-Gen GL76. The main external difference with this, new, 13th Gen model is, once again the aluminium lid which now has a sporty MSI monicker emblazoned down one side. It’s less discreet than its forebears but many potential buyers of laptops from MSI’s ‘Performance’ branch of its budget gaming laptop range, will probably like it more (note: the ‘Portable’ branch features the Sword and Katana).
Opening up the MSI Pulse 17 reveals the large, 17.3-inch screen which is surrounded by a medium bezel. There’s an HD webcam above the screen which provides a reasonably sharp image, even in low light. The unspecified microphone(s) arrangement captures audio reasonably well but we’ve heard better background-noise cancelling elsewhere.
The twin, two-Watt speakers get reasonably loud and offer passable fidelity from the top to the low end. However, there’s very little bass to speak of.
The 17.3-inch IPS screen itself has a Full HD resolution which might feel constrictive to some but will be exactly what competitive gamers want in order to maximise the head-size for head shots in competitive shooters. It has a ‘fast’ 144Hz refresh rate to help in this effort although the pixel refresh speed is a little laggardly and can leave some lightly smeared edges trailing fast-moving objects. It’s still far faster than a standard 60Hz screen, though and only legit pro-gamers will grumble.
It didn’t take long to realise that this is a bit of a budget screen, though. Colours are washed out and muted rather than gloriously vibrant. Nonetheless. they’re functional for graphics and still help display a crisp and clear Windows Desktop. Multimedia performance is more of a mixed bag. Yes, colours aren’t particularly vibrant but casual viewers won’t care. Both colour and monochromatic transitions can exhibit light banding, but to a minor degree – we’ve seen much on other budget (and some premium) laptops before.
Contrast on the MSI Pulse 17’s screen isn’t great. Blacks are rather washed-out and some way off true black but, one suspects this is also by design, as it stops enemies hiding in shadows. However, highlights get blown-out a bit easily and detail (and enemies) can get lost in them. Still, it’s a functional screen, if not the best. Also note that it can fold down flat but that the hinge isn’t the strongest and it can wobble when you use it.
The MSI Pulse 17’s four-zone keyboard is the low-travel, four-zone-RGB, Scrabble-tile affair we’ve liked on predecessors but with a few cosmetic tweaks. The WASD keys are now translucent, because this seems to be the style of the day. The arrow keys also have icons on them for their alternate functions: Max fans, on-screen crosshair, play/pause playback and, er, screen off (in case the boss is coming??) The arrow keys might be reduced in size but they’re very usable. The same goes for the number pad on the right.
The small trackpad has some decorative stripes on it again. However, although it’s smooth and accurate to use, clicking with it requires a bit too much pressure to be comfortable or accurate.
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All in all, it feels very much like previous Pulse’s – and we expect that it’s exactly that, but for some cosmetic tweaks – but that’s generally what the budget gaming laptop market is all about.
For expediency of publishing this review, we won’t detail the benefits of Intel’s and Nvidia’s new technologies here – let’s just see how they perform compared to last-gen rivals.
Inside the MSI Pulse 17 there’s a 3.7–5GHz Core i7-13700H processor with its six Performance cores and eight Efficiency cores. These combined with 16GB of DDR5-5200RAM and a 1TB NVMe drive to score 8,155 in the general-computing-oriented PCMark 10 test. That’s very fast and only behind last-gen Core-i9s, full-powered HX processors and heavily overclocked premium gaming laptops with similar-level, last-gen CPUs. But, not all of them: for perspective, the 12th-Gen, beefy MSI Raider GE67 HX scored 7,142 with a 3.4–4.8GHz Intel Core i7-12800HX CPU and we said at the time… it’s a very good score!
In the Cinebench CPU rendering tests it scored 2,977 and 17,751 in R15 and R23 respectively. These are again very fast and only beaten by the same type of competitors seen in the PCMark 10 test.
Meanwhile, the MSI Pulse 17’s 3D performance comes from Nvidia’s new RTX 4070 GPU with its 8GB of GDDR6 RAM. In 3Dmark Time Spy and Fire Strike Extreme, which ape the performance you can expect to see in AAA gaming titles, it scored 12,389 (average 73fps) and 13,595 (average 64.5fps) respectively. That’s very impressive. There won’t be much that can be played at full, ramped-up display settings on the 1080P screen. Last-gen 3080 Ti GPUs are faster but this beats most, overclocked, 3070 Ti’s in premium gaming laptops, as you’d hope a new generation would.
In the difficult ray-tracing tests, it scored 7,276 (average 33.7fps) in Port Royal and 2,918 (29.2fps) in the newer Speed Way. These scores are both in line with the 3070 Ti we saw in last year’s MSI Vector. They’re good, but we were hoping for more, especially in the newer ‘cutting edge’ Speed Way which should thrive on Nvidia’s new GPUs.
Nonetheless, the MSI Pulse 17 pulled ahead in the (easy) Night Raid test where it scored 63,128 (average 665fps). The last-gen Vector scored 58,203 (620fps). Running an easy test at slightly better, stupid-fast speeds is not really a ringing endorsement though.
However, we were particularly interested in the CS:GO test. Here, Intel’s Dino Strkljevic (who’s also a legendary, Australian world champion overclocker) had been raving about how 13th-Gen Desktop CPUs made this game run faster when things got frantic with smoke and fire grenades. On many computers, performance can grind to a halt as the old, unoptimized game can suddenly stress an entire system like little else. This is all measured with the 1% Low score – the average fps of the slowest one per cent of frames in the test.
The MSI Pulse 17 averaged 422fps for the whole test (the Vector managed 401fps) and the 1% Low score was 80fps over 73fps. That’s a decent 10 per cent boost in performance and could be the difference between planting and defusing a bomb in a tournament setting. It also rivals the performance of the excellent, last-gen, Lenovo Legion 7i with its 3080 Ti.
Ultimately, the new GPUs doesn’t offer an earth-shattering performance enhancement – it’s more evolutionary than revolutionary – but it’s noticeable and boosts this budget gaming laptop into last-gen, premium gaming laptop territory, which has to be a big win for the market.
Also note that while much of MSI Pulse 17 feels similar to previous generations, the cooling system has been updated to MSI’s CoolerBoost 5 technology which uses two fans and five heat pipes. While you can max out the fans for ultimate (noisy) cooling we were impressed that, most of the time they remained silent. If they did ramp up under load there was only a quiet whoosh noise that wasn’t too distracting and the whole laptop rarely got more-than-warm. That’s impressive for a gaming laptop with this level of performance.
Connectivity hasn’t changed much on the Pulse for a few generations now.
Inside the MSI Pulse 17 there’s Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. These are last-gen connections but still reasonably fast. It all gives lie to the feel that the MSI Pulse 17 is MSI’s old laptop with a new engine and a paint job. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
We don’t expect much from 17-inch gaming laptops. Nonetheless, the MSI Pulse 17 weighs a hefty 2.7KG although the slim power supply and cables ‘only’ add another 745g to this weight (it can be double that for large gaming laptops).
We were also impressed that the MSI Pulse 17’s 90Wh battery ran our PCMark 10 Modern Office test for an impressive ten hours. That’s more than a day out of the office (or school) when doing office work and demonstrates that the benefits of latest-gen silicon are heavily power-efficiency focused.
In terms of build quality, the MSI Pulse 17 should survive life on the road – the chassis is solid and the aluminium lid is robust and doesn’t flex much when a twisting force is applied. However, it does lose marks for its plastic hinge which wobbles when typing and gaming and we fear a little for its longevity.
It feels weird calling the MSI Pulse 17 a budget gaming laptop when it costs a hefty $3,699 (currently $2,498) but it’s worth remembering that while it rivals last-gen, premium gaming laptops for raw performance, it costs half as much! You can also save money with lesser SKUs, here. The screen, features and ergonomics certainly feel less-than-premium but they’ll easily suit casual users. Ultimately, if you’ve been waiting for a latest-gen laptop that embraces the performance that the new chips provide, then this is worth waiting for. We don’t doubt that superior models will appear down the line, but the MSI Pulse 17 represents a desirable starting point for what’s to come, especially for those on a budget.
Fast 2D performance
Fast 3D performance
Speakers have little bass
MSI Pulse 17 Scores
New-gen silicon offers last-gen, premium performance in a new budget gaming laptop that has last-gen features and some updated design flourishes.