As a gamer, I've avoided laptops and game consoles like the plague. I like my PCs to be flexible and powerful, built without compromise. "Gaming" laptops that I've tried in the past have always been an exercise in compromise. They're usually underpowered, in the name of battery life, or sacrifice thermal performance for slimness and weight.
Most of all, I've hated the lack of performance on these machines. I want to play games, why can't I dial the settings up to maximum?
MSI, however, claim to have a solution to the problem and that solution is this ridiculously priced and ridiculously powerful machine. They assured me that with the GT73VR 7RF, I'd have no such complaints. Were they right? Let's find out.
Build and Design: 9/10
It's the sheer bulk of this beast that hits you. It's legitimately huge. It is a 17-inch device, and you'd expect it to be big, but it's easily double the thickness of any gaming laptop I've seen in a long time. Only Dell's Alienware 17 comes close.
That bulk also had me excited however, as this means that thermal performance shouldn't be an issue. As it turns out, it wasn't.
The power brick is also a monster in its own right, given that it has to pump 330W of power into this beast. The power connector also looks like something straight out of Frankenstein.
The upper surface of the lid and the area that houses the keyboard and trackpad appears to be made from brushed aluminum. Most of the rest of the device seems to be made from sturdy plastic.
I say sturdy because there's barely any flex to be found. In fact, the screen is quite solid and I was surprised at the lack of significant flex in a screen this size.
The entire underbody is a single, massive air intake, as is the rear. The sides vent the hot air out, the left from the CPU and the right from the GPU.
Interestingly, even the MSI logo on the lid, which glows by the way, is protected by Gorilla Glass. This certainly is a sturdy device.
The hinge does wobble a little every time you adjust it, but that's just a minor complaint.
Keyboard and Trackpad: 8.5/10
The keyboard is made by SteelSeries and features RGB lighting. These aren't mechanical keys, but they're among the best non-mechanical keys I've used. As someone who uses mehcanical keys on a daily basis, I find the keys to be lacking slightly in terms of feedback, but that's just me.
The keys don't wobble much, I can press the edge of the space bar and the whole thing goes down with little hesitation and the backlight is rather good.
The height of the laptop also means that the laptop is a little easier to type on. Key response was excellent and I never missed a keystroke.
The touchpad is also very good and comes with RGB accents. It's not the very best trackpad I've used — I think it could use a textured surface — but it's precise, tracks perfectly and responds instantly. Windows' gestures are also supported.
If you're looking for the best hardware laptop that money can buy, the GT73 delivers in spades. Inside, you get an Intel Core i7 7820HK CPU (2.9GHz - 3.9GHz, unlocked), 32GB of 2.4GHz DDR4 RAM, two 256GB NVMe SSDs in RAID 0 and a 7,200 RPM 1TB HDD for storage. The best part? You get a desktop-grade Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB of GDDR5X of memory. Yes, the 1080, Nvidia's most powerful consumer-grade GPU till just a little while ago.
If that isn't enough to make you drool at the mouth, there's more. In terms of connectivity, you get five USB 3.0 ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port with Thunderbolt, four audio jacks, an ethernet port, a mini-DP, HDMI-out and an SD card slot. It goes without saying that the laptop supports Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac on dual-band.
The speakers are by Dynaudio and there's also an ESS Sabre HiFi DAC in-built.
The software is also great. The MSI Dragon Centre gives you full access to system controls, including keyboard lighting, fan speeds, volume control, etc. You can also overclock the CPU and GPU directly from within the control centre. Better yet, you can hook up your phone to the laptop via Wi-Fi and control everything from there as well. Android and iOS are both supported.
X-Split gamecaster comes bundled with the device, you also get a 1-year license. Hell, there's even a dedicated key for it on the laptop.
Another interesting piece of software is the Nahimic app. It's a kind of software equaliser, which is nothing new, but it's got an interesting sound tracking feature. When enabled, the you get a little pointer that points to the direction of an audio source.
It's quite nice to use in some games, particularly in tactical shooters like Arma III or Insurgency.
And did I mention that the hardware is overclockable? The K in the CPU name means that the multiplier is unlcoked. So, just like a desktop K series CPU, you can overclock it. This happens very easily via the Dragon Centre app. The same applies for the GPU clock speeds.
The display is just short of perfect. MSI claims that the GT73 supports the 100% Adobe RGB colour space, and we see no reason to doubt them. Whites are white, blacks are black and contrast ratios are excellent. Our Spyder 3 tool is on the fritz or we would have had some even more detailed data for you to peruse through.
The unit we received came with a 4K 60Hz display. You get an option of a 120Hz FHD display as well. As a gamer, I think I would have preferred that to the 4K display. But I'm just nitpicking now.
The display can get extremely bright as well, though I do have a complaint about the backlight. It's not completetly uniform, which is fine, but watching movies with dark scenes in the dark isn't the most pleasant of experiences. Colours are superb, better than you'll find on most computer displays, but backlight bleed is present in patches, especially a large patch in the top left corner, which can get distracting.
This only applies to very specfic use-cases and could only be a problem on our review unit though. Do look for it before purchasing the device, however.
Performance is, for lack of a better word, staggering. The hardware lives up to its potential.
The CPU comfortably overclocks to 4GHz and the cooling system ensures that the hardware never has to throttle.
We found that the CPU could hit 4GHz at around 80 degrees Celsius under moderate loads, like heavy gaming. Under heavy loads where all 4 cores are stressed, the CPU hit 90 degrees Celsius and about 3.6GHz.
The Cooler Boost Titan technology defintiely helps in this regard, bringing down temperatures slightly and keeping the CPU and GPU running at full tilt.
The benchmark figures bear this out. If you're wondering that this is some trick and that there isn't a desktop-grade 1080 in this laptop, prepare to be blown away. I had my own suspicions about the laptop's performance and decided to pit it against my PC, which is quite a beast in its own right.
My PC features an Intel i7 6700K at 4.4GHz, 16GB DDR4 RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970. The hardware is a generation behind, I know, but I didn't expect it to be challenged by the MSI device.
In benchmarks, the MSI GT73VR and its 1080 soundly thrashed my PC by almost a factor of 2. As an example, my PC managed around 2700 in the 3DMark Time Spy DirectX 12 benchmark. This MSI monster comfortably pushed out a score of 6261.
Gaming performance across the board was amazing. We saw 107.1 fps in Unigene Heaven at max settings and Full HD, Doom hit a 60fps cap at Ultra settings on 4K and even Rise of the Tomb Raider managed 42 fps at 4K at maximum settings and no anti-aliasing.
The 1080 does hit its limits as well and this was particularly noticeable in Battelfield 1. We couldn't get playable framerates at 4K in the game, not unless we toned down everything to medium. At FHD resolutions and Ultra settings, the game was buttery smooth.
For a laptop, this performance is simply unheard of.
It's true that any other machine with a similar configuration will hit such performance figures, but it's testament to MSI's cooling system that this performance stayed consistent.
As part of our benchmarking process, we run the device at maximum load for half an hour before recording results. Most laptops would have severely throttled performance by then. The GT73VR did not.
Under heavy load the fans do get loud, we measured aroudn 75dB on an iPhone, but it's still not loud enough to drown out the speakers.
Speaking of, the speakers are just as good as the rest of the device. They're quite loud and there's a sense of bass that's lacking in most laptop speakers. Any average 2.1 set will beat these speakers in terms of volume and bass, but the performance is, nonetheless, impressive. Stereo separation was also very good with these speakers.
MSI includes a "high-end" DAC in the device and I must say, it is pretty good. Audio quality is excellent and the low-end is reproduced very nicely. For the average person, this will be the best audio they've ever heard from a PC. The audio hardware also had no trouble powering my Audio Technica ATH M50x cans.
That said, audiophiles will still find the audio performance lacking. I used a dedicated AudioQuest DragonFly DAC for reference and I can tell you that the ESS Sabre misses out on the finer details of the audio. In Star Wars: Episode 7 for example, the footsteps of the troopers disembarking from their ships is not as clear as with the DragonFly. Even in Battlefield 1, a game with stellar audio design, the ESS misses out on the finer nuances of a gun shot.
Again, it'll only be audiophiles that notice this, so don't hold it against the GT73. The audio quality is by far the best I've heard on a laptop and unless you spend upwards of Rs 7,000 on a dedicated DAC, you won't hear better.
As mentioned earlier, the laptop features two NVMe SSDs in RAID 0. Unsurprisingly, read speads crossed the 3GB/s mark with ease.
In conclusion, the GT73 is capable of high FPS FHD gameplay and can push some games to 4K. It will also be great for VR as VR headsets normally require 90 FPS at a resolution of 2K, which the MSI machine should handle easily.
Battery Life: 2/10
With this much power on tap, there had to be some downside, and that is the battery life. Our standard battery benchmark gave us 98 minutes on a single charge, which is nothing. When gaming with Nvidia BatteryBoost on, we managed about 40 minutes of continuous play.
This is abyssmal, but then again, that's not what the MSI GT73VR is about. It's a monster that's meant to be a desktop replacement, not a portable gaming device.
Verdict and Price in India
The MSI GT73VR 7RF Titan Pro is the best gaming laptop we've ever tested bar none. It's performance is exceptional and it's really well-built.
The only downside is the price, which is much higher than anything we were expecting. Rs 3,36,000 is steep and almost double the price of the device' US price.
Rs 3,36,000 will get you the very best gaming PC, dual Nvidia 1080Ti GPUs, a couple of 4K displays and some change.
I can't, in good conscience, recommend this laptop at this price. But then again, a beast like this isn't for the sane of mind and the performance truly is uncompromised.