Gaming laptops are expensive. There’s no way around this fact, but over the last few years it’s become harder to deny that maybe, just maybe, these massive slabs are worth every cent of their asking price. The concept is simple: take a high-end processor that’s been designed specifically for notebooks, pair that with a solid amount of memory, and bolt on the most powerful GPU you can cram into the space that’s left available. Combine that with a 17-inch screen and some shiny extras, and you’re done.
The MSI GT75VR 7RF Titan Pro takes the “gaming laptop recipe” to a whole new level. Before pointing out what makes this gaming laptop special, it’s important to look at the core ingredients: Core i7 Kaby Lake quad-core processor, 32GB of DDR4-2400 Kingston memory, and a great hulking NVIDIA GTX 1080 (with its own dedicated 8GB of GDDR5X). As with most gaming laptops, there are different variations of the GT75VR available, but all will feature the aforementioned core features as a minimum. In other words, the processor and GPU stay the same no matter which one you buy, but the storage, memory and screen will vary depending on the model you choose.
The GT75VR that MSI sent us for review boasts a 1TB spinning hard drive, a 256GB M.2 SSD (delivering 3121MB/s read and 1378MB/s write speeds), 32GB of DDR4 2,400MHz RAM and a 17.3-inch 1080p 120Hz screen. Optional extras include throwing in another M.2 SSD for some sexy RAID time, adding two more 16GB sticks to bring the memory up to 64GB (the max), and swapping out the 1080p 120Hz screen for a 4K panel with 100% Adobe RGB support (put your hands up if you use Photoshop). Bearing in mind that this is geared as a gaming laptop, the choice of the 120Hz screen is likely to find more favour with the majority of consumers. Furthermore, at 1080p you’ll find a lot of life in the GTX 1080 for many years to come, since it simply has fewer pixels to fill.
Continuing the cooking analogy, let’s look at the side dishes before moving on to what I consider to be the cherry on the cake. Gigabit LAN isn’t enough for this beast of a laptop. MSI has seen fit to include an Aquantia AQtion 10Gbps network card (which is hard to test when 10Gb networks are reserved for enterprise). On the Wi-Fi side we have the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 chipset, which delivers dual-band with a maximum speed of 876Mbps. It’s also got Bluetooth 4.1 support. MSI has peppered this laptop with a host of ports including five USB 3.0, one USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 3, an HDMI port, a Mini DisplayPort, an SD card reader, and four audio ports. There’s an 8-cell battery, but as with all gaming laptops it won’t handle the demands of the power-hungry hardware in full-performance mode. As an added bonus, the included AC adapter is a brick and could be used as a defensive weapon if the need ever arose.
The cherry on top of the whole package is the keyboard. The SteelSeries keyboard is a masterpiece. It’s an actual mechanical keyboard with per-key RGB lighting. It took me a while to get used to the keyboard, because the travel distance of the keys is longer than a traditional laptop keyboard, but significantly shorter than that of a full-sized mechanical keyboard. Still, after a few days of use I fell in love with those keys, even though it’s likely that this keyboard won’t be used all that much. Any person willing to spend over R50,000 on a gaming laptop will, more than likely, be pairing it with a full-sized gaming keyboard and mouse. But when you do need to use the notebook’s keyboard to send a quick email it’ll at least be a pleasurable experience.
On the performance front, there’s no doubt of this laptop’s capabilities. I threw 3DMark, PCMark, VRMark and Far Cry 5 at this laptop, and every result was pleasing. Remember that while the specs are similar to a desktop PC, the hardware within a gaming laptop has to be tweaked in order to balance power consumption and performance. This is most evident in the Far Cry 5 benchmark, which resulted in a minimum frame rate of 77, an average of 97 and a maximum of 127. Those results are more in line with a full-size GTX 1070 than the full-size GTX 1080. Ultimately, these are not figures to be upset about. The 3DMark Time Spy benchmark delivered a respectable score of 6,499, and PCMark 10 scored a solid 5,285.
MSI has marketed this laptop as a VR machine, and to that end I used VRMark to bench it and see what sort of frame rate we’d get if this system was paired with a VR headset. The average frame rate was 193fps, which is considerably higher than the Oculus Rift minimum spec frame rate of 81fps. If you’re looking for a convenient entry point to VR, this laptop is guaranteed to deliver a mind-bending experience in whatever game you choose.
The MSI GT75VR 7RF Titan Pro is a massive, heavy machine. But packed within that bulky package is hardware that delivers incredible performance. Adding a few optional extras would make it even more impressive. The asking price is intimidating enough to make most of us wish we had that sort of money lying around, but for those who can afford it, it’s a great all-round package – especially if you buy a VR headset to accompany it.