I’m that rare breed of PC Master Race member that has an appreciation for the gaming laptop, which draws plenty of snide remarks from my tower-loving friends.
So imagine my smug glee when I got my hands on the MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G for review, a gaming notebook with a name so long I had to copy-paste it. Hit the jump to read my thoughts on this magnificent beast.
Look and feel
Calling this a “laptop” may be a bit disingenuous. Coming in at 3.78kg, you’re unlikely to be putting this on your lap unless you never skip leg day, and don’t mind roasting your genitals.
This isn’t a criticism, because the GT72S isn’t trying to be subtle, and it’s not trying to be a notebook you haul to the office every day. This is a beast, and it makes no apologies for it. It has contours and lines reminiscent of a supercar, with a grille along the back to match and aggressive flairs of colour to complete the look.
Basically, it’s trying to drop jaws at a LAN party, not blend in in a boardroom.
Short of an excessive amount of RAM or some kind of SLI shenanigans, MSI have crammed the best possible hardware into this notebook. Being a laptop focused on gaming, everything has been geared towards that – which means a blistering-fast CPU, high-speed DDR4 RAM and the best notebook GPU available. While you won’t be putting your Steam library on the 256GB SSD, it does have you booting into Windows in seconds.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is marketed as a SteelSeries design, which shows through most prominently with the stunning rainbow colour scheme. As you may expect you can customise this thing to do just about anything you want with the colours short of spelling out your gamer handle, and the flowing colours do make for a great talking point.
Aside from the aesthetic, however, it’s pretty ordinary. It has that same kind of gummy feel that laptop keyboards usually have – not necessarily unpleasant to type on, but somewhat lacking a significant tactile response. Still, the keys are separate, well-spaced and there’s a full number pad available. It’s nothing to complain about, but aside from the pretty lights it’s nothing to write home about either.
The trackpad is just as terrible as all laptop trackpads are. It gets the job done if you absolutely don’t have a mouse available, but as this is essentially a desktop replacement and not a portable work notebook you’re unlikely to ever be using this without one. For that reason alone I can forgive a mediocre trackpad, although I would have liked to have seen some support for gestures – such as using two fingers to scroll up and down.
Connectivity and sound
I was pleased to see the GT72S take advantage of its meaty build by using all that extra space for a pretty stunning array of I/O options. You’ll find a remarkable six USB 3.0 ports along the sides, which is a huge step up from the three I’m used to seeing. This means you can plug in a mouse, keyboard and headset and still have space for things like charging your mobile phone.
Things get a little more interesting when you flip it over. Along the back you’ll find HDMI and Mini DisplayPort ports, as well as a USB 3.1 Type-C. The USB C is a nice touch, and adds a level of future-proofing to the device.
Otherwise you get the standard Bluetooth 4.1, AC wireless and Ethernet ports, as well as an SD card reader and a welcome Blu-ray drive with write capabilities. No corners were cut in interfacing options with the GT72S, something which power users will no doubt appreciate.
Along the left side you’ll find more audio ports than you’ll know what to do with – offering support for 7.1-channel audio. The AC input is in the middle at the back which I’m not a fan of; I always find this AC placement to be a little awkward in terms of cable management, but this is a minor niggle.
The speakers come with a “powered by Dynaudio” label and a subwoofer of sorts built into the bottom, so I was expecting to be impressed. Unfortunately, notebook sound is still notebook sound, and MSI haven’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. With the boosts enabled it definitely sounds better than your average notebook, but the effect of the woofer is somewhat muted by its placement and the overall effect is good, but not mind-blowing. It’s more than acceptable for watching movies, or playing music or games, but to be honest the people buying this laptop will likely make use of the other great audio connectivity options rather than relying on the speakers.
Display and battery life
Despite being one of the most important (if not the most important) features of any laptop, the screen is often neglected. I’m happy to report that isn’t the case here. The laptop has a beautiful 1080p IPS display, and a 4K display is an option (albeit a somewhat pointless one). I’m a huge fan of IPS displays and since switching I haven’t been able to go back. The colours are rich and beautiful and the viewing angles are superb.
It also makes use of NVIDIA’s G-SYNC technology, which is so good it sent me into a spiral of depression when I had to return to my own PC. G-SYNC smooths out the display by constantly syncing the 75Hz refresh rate, effectively eliminating screen tearing and minimising any stutter or input lag. It sounds like a gimmick but it’s not – it works and works well, and is a welcome addition to the GT72S.
With this kind of hardware, you can only squeeze a few hours of battery out of the GT72S when watching a movie, a bit longer if doing some work or browsing. You can also use the integrated Intel GPU to get a bit more mileage out of it. It’s enough juice to make the notebook portable when it needs to be, but don’t expect to be doing much hardcore gaming on the battery alone – the dip in performance will probably be enough to discourage that.
As you might expect, the GT72 can handle almost any modern game at 1080p resolution and the settings cranked to ultra. I know that’s not enough for you hardware junkies, so I ran some synthetic benchmarks to sate your thirst for large numbers. To give you an idea of the performance, Unigine Heaven 4.0 managed an average of 42 frames per second with everything cranked to high, and that’s damn impressive for a computer you can sling over your shoulder. The performance isn’t surprising given the hardware, but it’s comforting to know that when you’re throwing down this kind of cash you won’t be forced to face the humiliation of adjusting your graphics settings down to high.
Let’s address the elephant in the room – the price. It’s not cheap. The benchmarks and the hardware are great, and for that kind of money they should be. It’s the rest that counts here, and the GT72 left me somewhat ambivalent.
I love the abundance of I/O ports, including the USB-C. I love the way it looks (oh man, that keyboard), and it feels sturdy and well-made. The screen is one of the best features, and that G-SYNC is every bit as good as it sounds.
On the other hand, there’s that price tag. There’s a certain point of diminishing returns when it comes to laptop hardware, and I struggle to find R20K worth of value between this and something in the R25-R30K range. That being said, it’s an excellent gaming notebook.