MSI GE63VR

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Not to be confused with MSI GS63VR


Introduction

The GE63VR series of laptops was revealed mid-2017 by MSI. They feature a relatively thin (for gaming laptops) metal-alloy chassis, 7th generation Intel processors (Kaby lake), a 120Hz/3 ms built-in screen, and a per-key RGB keyboard backlighting.

Only the variant GE63VR-7RE (or GE63VR Raider-215) was tested. Its specifications are :

  • CPU : i7-7700HQ 2.8 Ghz (Turbo up to 3.8 Ghz)
  • RAM : 16 GB DDR4
  • GPU : Integrated HD Graphics 630 + Dedicated NVidia GTX 1060 (6 GB)
  • Storage : Samsung NVMe SSD 512 GB
  • Built-in screen : Full HD 3 ms 120 Hz

The laptop was last tested with official kernel 5.8.12.

Compatibility

Feature Works ? Comments
Touchpad Yes Two and three fingers gestures work.
Camera and integrated microphone Yes Default volume settings for the microphone result in horribly distorted input, you may need to adjust them in the alsamixer console.
Function keys Yes Some function keys are specific to MSI and provide a shortcut for switching power modes on Windows. Of course they are inactive on Linux. They are recognized by the system though, and could probably be remapped by the user if wanted. Other standard function keys (such as volume, brightness, toggle external monitor, etc) work with no issues.
Audio Yes with workaround Plugging in headphones mutes audio, see below for fix. Audio through HDMI works, but the dedicated GPU needs to be powered on.

Not tested : plugging an external microphone.

WiFi Yes
Bluetooth Yes Tested with controllers and headsets.
HDMI display Yes The Nvidia GPU needs to be powered on. To use the HDMI port, you need to either run your whole X session on the Nvidia GPU, or run it on the Intel GPU and have the Nvidia card act as a display sink (this should work out-of-the box with recent drivers).
DisplayPort Yes Same caveats as HDMI apply.
USB-C Yes Tested with USB-C adapter Dell DA-200 (Ethernet OK; USB 3.0 OK; VGA not tested; HDMI not tested)
Dedicated GPU Yes The dedicated GPU can be used by either setting it as the primary GPU for X (and running the whole session on it), or via PRIME offloading. You can use optimus-managerAUR to configure those modes automatically.
GPU power switching Yes with workaround The dedicated GPU can be turned off with bbswitch. However, starting X on integrated graphics with the dedicated GPU turned off causes the system to hang. This can be fixed with a kernel parameter (see below). After applying that fix, you can use optimus-managerAUR to handle the power switching automatically.
Screen backlighting control Yes
Keyboard RGB backlighting control Partially Only partial control is available, see below.
SD card reader Yes A "wrong version" warning is thrown at boot about the SD controller, but it works.
Sleep/Resume Partially Resuming from sleep can cause graphical glitches if the desktop session was running off the Nvidia GPU. On the other hand, if the Nvidia GPU was turned off via bbswitch, resuming wakes it up and causes it to start consuming power again.
Hibernation to disk Partially See above.

Installation

You have to disable Fast Boot in the BIOS, then follow the Installation guide to install in UEFI mode. If you run into CPU lockup errors, also disable C-States.

Workarounds and fixes

Audio

By default, ALSA reports Headphone and Speaker channels separately. However, on this laptop, the Speaker channel actually controls both the speakers and the plugged-in headphones, while the Headphone channel does not control anything. This is a problem because PulseAudio automatically sets the Speaker channel to zero when headphones are plugged in, which causes all outputs to be muted in this case.

The proposed fix is to disable the auto-mute feature (https://bbs.archlinux.org/viewtopic.php?id=237456). Edit the file /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/paths/analog-output-headphones.conf and replace the section

[Element Speaker]
switch = off
volume = off

with

[Element Speaker]
switch = off
volume = merge

Note : This change may get overwritten when PulseAudio is updated.

GPU Switching

See NVIDIA Optimus for details.

The system will hang if you try to start the X server while the NVidia GPU is turned off via bbswitch. To fix it, add acpi_osi=! acpi_osi="Windows 2009" to your kernel parameters. Beware of the quotes " : for instance, if you use rEFInd as you bootloader, you will have to escape the quotes as "" since rEFInd already uses quotes in its configuration file.

After applying this fix, power switching in optimus-manager should work with the following minimal config (as of version 1.3.1):

[optimus]
switching=bbswitch
pci_power_control=no

RGB keyboard backlighting

On Windows, RGB keyboard backlighting can be configured with the SteelSeries Engine software, which is not available on Linux. As an alternative, the tool msi-perkeyrgbAUR provides partial control, specifically for MSI laptops with per-key RGB. Tools designed for models with region-based RGB, such as MSIKLM, will not work.

Since the RGB settings are stored into the keyboard itself, another option for dual-boot owners is to configure the keyboard once in Windows, and then reboot into Linux.

Miscellaneous

ACPI errors

A continuous stream of errors similar to the following will appear in kernel messages :

 AER: PCIe Bus Error: severity=Corrected, type=Data Link Layer, (Receiver ID)
 AER:   device [1969:e0b1] error status/mask=00000040/00002000
 AER:    [ 6] BadTLP

You can fix them with the kernel parameter pci=noaer.

When the acpi_osi workaround mentioned above is enabled, the following errors will occasionally appear as well. They seem harmless though.

ACPI Error: No handler for Region [VRTC] (00000000e51c2f4b) [SystemCMOS] (20180313/evregion-132)
ACPI Error: Region SystemCMOS (ID=5) has no handler (20180313/exfldio-265)
ACPI Error: Method parse/execution failed \_SB.PCI0.LPCB.EC._Q9A, AE_NOT_EXIST (20180313/psparse-516)

Read fan speed and temperature sensors

This laptop is compatible with the tool iswAUR. You can use it to read sensor information in real-time :

> sudo isw -r

-----------CPU-----------        -----------GPU-----------
┌─Temp─┬─Fan Speed──────┐        ┌─Temp─┬─Fan Speed──────┐
│ 49°C │ 40%   2343RPM  │        │ 48°C │ 0%    0RPM     │
└──────┴────────────────┘        └──────┴────────────────┘