Hardware review: MSI GT72VR 6RE Dominator Pro Tobii
Oh look! It’s another gaming notebook from MSI. And – surprise surprise – this one is every bit as attractive an offering as every other gaming notebook in MSI’s stable. It’s called the MSI GT72VR 6RE Dominator Pro Tobii, and the two features that make it stand out from the competition are right there in its not-so-subtle name: it’s primed for virtual reality out the box, and it’s got built-in support for Tobii eye tracking. FANCY.
The GT72VR is the bulkiest gaming notebook I’ve seen from MSI in quite a while. While the GE72VR features a surprisingly compact, lightweight build for such an impressive piece of hardware, by contrast the GT72VR is a chunky, heavy beast. Not only is its frame quite a bit bulkier than the GE72VR, but it weighs nearly 4 kilograms – which isn’t all that outrageous, until you find yourself lugging this thing around, say, an airport for a few hours, and suddenly you might find yourself noticing that extra heft.
As is always the case with MSI notebooks, the build quality of the GT72VR is exceptional. The materials used in its construction scream premium quality, as does the familiar MSI aesthetic – which is just understated enough to be stylish, but not so understated that it could be mistaken for anything but a high-powered gaming notebook. It hits all the usual MSI notes: stuff like the backlit SteelSeries keyboard (which is a pleasure to use, as is the trackpad), Dynaudio speaker system, Killer networking, and Cooler Boost 4 tech to keep it all running cool.
Okay, so: let’s take a second to discuss that Tobii eye tracking. In truth, it doesn’t feel much more than gimmicky. But! It’s a very cool gimmick. Once you’ve got it properly configured (there are options to accommodate users with glasses or contact lenses, in case you’re wondering), the eye-tracking tech is surprisingly accurate. At least, most of the time. It’s not immune to the occasional tracking fumble and temperamental behaviour. Still, it’s impressive, and the GT72VR ships with demo software that lets you test the theoretical potential of Tobii’s suite. There’s something intrinsically awesome about being able to zap virtual asteroids with lasers from your eyeballs simply by looking at them. Beyond that, it’s obviously useful for features like automatically powering on the laptop’s screen the moment you look at it. Obviously, it’s all hugely superfluous if there’s no software to support it, and to that end Tobii already features support for games both old and new, with titles like Elite: Dangerous, The Division and Watch Dogs 2 boasting support for eye-tracking tech. That said, do I consider it a must-have feature? Well… no. It’s nice to have, but nowhere near what I’d call essential, at least not at this stage. It sure is impressive as a party trick though.
VR, meanwhile, is a far more universally appealing prospect, and the “VR ready” sticker on the notebook’s box is immediately a huge selling point. Thanks to the GTX 1070 that powers the GT72VR’s graphical capabilities, you’re getting a pre-built system that’ll handily tackle VR software and games, and if you’re willing to tweak the visuals in more demanding titles, you’ll be able to run pretty much anything at a frame rate smooth enough to not induce an impromptu vomit-fest.
And that leads us to the overall hardware performance of the GT72VR. Simply put, it’s an incredibly powerful machine, and it’ll comfortably handle almost any modern title you throw at it at the highest graphical fidelity. 3DMark Fire Strike hammers out a respectable 11,823 points, while Fire Strike Ultra produces a score of 3,659. The notebook’s DirectX 12 performance is strong, and 3DMark Time Spy awards it a score of 4,773.
It’s a fantastic example of quality hardware design and construction in every possible way. The Dynaudio speakers (along with the Nahimic software suite, which is very effective at enhancing various sonic components) produce audio that’s incredibly potent for a notebook, and it’s capable of impressively high volume levels. Matrix Display tech lets you easily connect the device to two external monitors, which includes 4K displays. MSI’s Dragon Center simplifies the art of fine-tuning the notebook’s performance to suit your needs. The inclusion of a year’s subscription to XSplit Gamecaster for streaming your gaming adventures is an excellent addition. Overall, the GT72VR is an expensive toy – but for your cash, you’re getting one of the finest, most feature-rich gaming notebooks around.
Tobii eye tracking is a neat gimmick
Outstanding audio with loads of volume
Eye tracking is slightly inaccurate
9MSI is once again on form with the GT72VR 6RE Dominator Pro Tobii. The eye-tracking suite is a novelty that’s likely to wear off quickly, but it’s nonetheless a nifty extra. It performs well, the audio is excellent and the overall feature set is thoroughly impressive.