MSI GT72: Unboxing and Initial Impressions

Since this is a preview, I figure starting out with unboxing is in order. Yeah, unboxing on AnandTech, but bear with me. I'll get to the notebook once it's unwrapped….

The packaging is typical MSI, with a mostly black box sporting the MSI and Dragon Army logos along with information on the specific configuration. The notebook actually ships in a box within a box within another box, and there's a moderate amount of padding around the notebook to help keep it safe during shipping. Within the main box, the notebook is protected from scratches by a nylon sleeve, and furthermore there's a plastic sheet protecting the top of the notebook with a cloth sheet (that can also work as a cloth for cleaning off dust) between the display and the keyboard. There's nothing too unusual to see with the packaging, so let's move on to the notebook itself.

Having tested and used the GT70 several times during the past year or more, I'm actually thrilled to see MSI finally update the GT70 with a newer chassis. While this is still a big notebook, it's noticeably slimmer than the GT70 and the keyboard and palm rest have been updated to look like a modern design. The touchpad in particular looks much nicer now, blending smoothly into the surface of the palm rest; there's no edge for you to feel when using the touchpad, but since most gamers will use a dedicated mouse I don't find this to be a serious concern.

As for the keyboard, it remains largely the same in terms of the keys, but gone is the glossy bezel surrounding those keys – hallelujah! The top of the chassis is also clean now, with no garish speakers or capacitive buttons for controlling multimedia, WiFi, fan speed, etc.; those controls are now to the left of the keyboard and they look far more discreet. My only remaining complaint is minor at best: I still want the Windows key to the left of the space bar; others probably disagree and it's easy enough to adapt, plus you can use the MSI Steel Series software to reprogram any key if you want (except for the Fn key, unfortunately).

There's only one real sore spot I have with the GT72: the display. It's a bit maddening to me that MSI now has the GS60 with either an AHVA (similar to IPS) 1920x1080 panel or an IPS 2880x1620, but the 17.3" GT72 still gets saddled with a TN panel. Where's the 3K or 4K treatment for the laptop that has the best chance of actually powering games at high DPI resolutions? Oh, this is probably about as good as TN panels get, but it's still TN and not something better. Part of the problem is that there really aren't many options for non-TN 17.3" displays, but I know Samsung at least has a PLS 1080p panel that could work. Hopefully in the coming year we'll see enough demand from notebook vendors in general that we start getting higher quality 17.3" panels.

Overall, the new GT72 chassis is a huge improvement in my book. It looks more like a beefed up version of the GS60/GS70, and the build quality is also good. In fact, the new GT72 almost looks like an Alienware M17x in some respects, though without so much of the angled front and back sides. This is still more of a desktop replacement than a laptop in my opinion, but compared to the competition (Alienware 17 and various Clevo notebooks), I think right now the MSI GT72 is the overall best looking high-end gaming notebook. It's also large enough and has sufficient cooling that it won't get uncomfortably hot in your lap, which is a problem with some of the slim gaming notebooks (e.g. Razer Blade and MSI's GS60/GS70).

Introducing the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro MSI GT72: Ultra Quality Gaming Performance
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  • Flunk - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    On the topic of Optimus support, maybe Nvidia's new "batteryboost" technology is so magically delicious that they don't need it in order to have good battery life anymore. I have an Optimus-equipped laptop and it's mildly annoying sometimes so I can see the appeal of no Optimus on a gaming laptop. Optimus does reduce performance a bit too.
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    On the desktop you're hard-pressed to get any big GPU consume less than 10 W. That's more than the idle power consumption of an entire modern laptop...
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    There are pros and cons; I'd like to see an idle mobile GPU at no more than 1-2W before I'd say it's a reasonable alternative to Optimus, and I don't think NVIDIA is there yet. Keep in mind however that their mobile GPUs typically have much lower idle clocks than their desktop parts. Anyway, it's something I'll look at in the full review.
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    No optimus means you can overclock the display refresh rate ;)
  • flemeister - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Happily using manual graphics switching on my Alienware M11x R1 (GMA 4500H + GT 335M). I like being able to lock it to one or the other as needed. Most of the time I'm using the laptop for basic tasks, and would prefer that the Nvidia graphics stay off (and not turn on unnecessarily). Switching between GPU's doesn't require a reboot either. Just need to close any programs that use the GPU. For me this involves Firefox, f.lux and Steam. Not a big deal.

    Just wish that I could use a more recent driver version. Stuck on this custom 263.08 version, and modified drivers (to get Optimus working) don't properly disable the Nvidia GPU, resulting in poor battery life (same as if using the Nvidia graphics). With light usage I get 6+ hours with GMA 4500HD, but only 3.5 hours with the GT 335M.

    I wonder if the GT72 would have longer battery life (on Intel graphics) with manual switching, compared to if they used Optimus?
  • Icehawk - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    I don't really get the specs on this laptops - 4xSSD RAID and 32gb of RAM? What on earth does that do for you besides drive the price up and *maybe* (it won't) offer a tiny percentage of performance upgrade. If this was some kind of render machine that setup might actually be of use but as a gamer I'd much rather see more CPU, larger storage, etc.
  • Spoelie - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    You forgot the 8GB vram on the GPU.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    I understand the sentiment on the RAID 0 SSDs. Still, I will say that some operations are super fast. For example, after copying over all my Steam files (185GB or so), quite a few games need to have files "validated" -- something doesn't quite get transferred over right. On an HDD and a large game, this can take as long as 5-10 minutes. On a fast SSD, it might take a minute or so. With the GT72, the validation process was the fastest I've ever experienced, probably no more than 15-20 seconds. Is that worth the price premium over a single SSD? Probably not.
  • zepi - Sunday, October 12, 2014 - link

    What is the likelihood of one of four SSD controllers breaking down instead of one? How about wear leveling algorithms of 4x128GB drives instead of one 512GB SSD? I'd guess that at least the later suffers since the controllers can only shuffle data around their own small turf.

    Are the performance benefits really worth this tradeoff when a single fast M.2 Drive should reach over 700MB/s sustained transfer...
  • wetwareinterface - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    this isn't the laptop for you. as a gamer you'd be better off buying the base model with 980m and just adding your own m.2 drive and calling it a day. there are 4 different versions of the dominator pro this one being the top specced version. this one is for the ballers and professionals who need the storage system to be fast (think video editing ) and the video ram to be high.

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