MSI GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review
Behold the beast that is the GT72VR 7RE!
What is the MSI GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro?Gaming laptops have certainly seen an impressive boost in performance of late thanks to the Nvidia 10 series chips and this doesn’t look to be stopping with the release of the Intel 7th Generation Kaby Lake CPUs. The previous generation gaming laptops even coupled with the then top-of-the-range GTX980M and costing over £2K wouldn’t have allowed you to play 1080P at maximum settings with a decent frame rate. Thankfully that all changed with the 10 series GPUs.
Our last two laptop reviews from Gigabyte both featured the Nvidia 10 series GPUs and the results received in our tests were superb, delivering performance that a laptop gamer could have only dreamed about before. We hope this continues with our next 10 series Nvidia laptop review, this time from MSI. Their VR ready, GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro which whilst a mouthful to say, does offer a very impressive specification including a 17.3” FHD 120Hz display, GTX1070 GPU, i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB DD4 RAM and both a 256GB M.2 SSD and a 1TB HDD. Read on to find out how this beast of a machine gets on in our tests...
Design and ConnectionsMSI have gone all out here with the design. If you’ve seen any of their previous gaming laptops we reviewed they tend to offer a lot of features that are missing from their competitors such as RGB lighting to the keyboard and other gaming design enhancements. This continues with the GT72VR but the first thing that grabs you with this machine is its size. It’s not small or lightweight in any way, weighing in at a hefty 3.8kg and measuring 428mm x 294mm and a chunky 48mm thick.
Once you’ve moved passed the sheer size of this beast, the all-out design is one you will either love or hate. This is in a different world when compared to the understated Gigabyte laptops that are all black with just white keyboard lighting. Here we get a black brushed metal lid, a swish of red across the edge of the lid and to a couple of areas on the rear. The full sized keyboard includes the NUM keys and has full RGB lighting. This lighting continues with the trackpad surround, SteelSeries logo and two areas on the front of the laptop of which all can be individually configured to whichever colour floats your boat. Additional white lighting is also found on the MSI Dragon logo on top of the laptop.
The battery in the GT72VR is a 9 cell 83Wh and, given the size of this gaming laptop, it’s no surprise that the connections are bountiful. To the left we have 4 x USB 3.0 ports, line in, line out, microphone and headset out/ S/PDIF out audio connectors and memory card reader. To the right we get a further two USB 3.0 ports along with the Hitachi DVD-RAM drive. No connections to the front with the rear giving us a Mini-Display port, HDMI, Ethernet, power connection and a USB C 3.1 port.
Is the specification any good?
The GT72VR 7RE features the new 7th generation Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of 2400Mhz DDR4 RAM, the all-important GTX1070 GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 and a 120Hz FHD display. It has a very impressive specification but then it needs to as this beast retails at around £2,000. Topping off the specification we have a Killer GB LAN, Killer ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and a HD webcam (30FPS @ 1080P).
- OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
- CPU: Intel Core i7 Kaby Lake-7700HQ (2.8GHz - 3.8GHz)
- Display: 17.3" FHD, (1920*1080) 120Hz Wide-View
- Memory: 2 x 8GB DDR4 @ 2400Mhz
- Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX1070 with 8GB GDDR5
Dual storage, which appears to be the norm now in these high-end laptops, is also featured here with a Samsung SM951 256GB Gen3 M.2 PCIe SSD. This has a quoted read speed of 2,150MB/s and write speed of 1,260 MB/s and using ATTO Disk Benchmark we received an impressive 2,253MB/s read and write of 1,299MB/s. The 1TB HDD is a HGST Travelstar 7200RPM and this, when tested, gave speeds of 137MB/s read and 118MB/s write.
Using the latest PC Mark 8 Storage test 2.0 that has been updated to provide better support for NVMe SSDs, which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs and is not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance, we get a score of 5085 with a storage bandwidth of 588.55MB/s.
Does the FHD 120Hz display hit the mark?The screen here is a 17.3" FHD 1920 x 1080 resolution 120Hz wide-view display. As the description suggests, the viewing angles are very impressive, with some of the widest angles we’ve ever seen. The matte display has a good level of anti-glare to keep those pesky reflections to a minimum. Although not a 4K display, the FHD screen certainly gives a good account of itself with an excellent quality image that delivers clear and bright colours with crisp text.
Using SpectraCal software and our C3 Colorimeter, the maximum screen luminance was detected at 265.9cd/m2. The screenshot below shows the pre- and post-calibration results. MSI uses True Color Technology with a 100% sRGB visible range and is claimed to have an extensive factory calibration.
Many thanks to SpectraCal for providing the software and C3 Colorimeter for use with our reviews.
Pre-installed SoftwareMSI haven’t flooded the GT72VR with bloatware thankfully, but what they have provided are a few useful pieces of software. All their software and settings are accessed via the Dragon Center. Here you can access all the various apps such as the Nahimic 2 for configuring the audio, MSI True Color for tweaking the display settings and the SteelSeries Engine III for configuring the keyboard lighting and macros. Additional programs can also be added to the Dragon Center for quick launch purposes.
Is the audio any good? (Yes!)This is normally an area to skip right passed as laptop speakers aren’t the greatest, even on high-end gaming laptops, but with the GT72VR MSI have really worked some magic with the speaker system. Compared to the tiny 1.5watt speakers seen on Gigabyte's P35X v6, MSI give us 2 x 3watt speakers and a 5w subwoofer provided by Dynaudio and the increase in power is immediately noticeable.
GT72VR 7RE Battery LifeThe battery fitted here is a 9-cell, with an 83Whr capacity.
Battery Life Tests
Powermark Battery Test 126minutes YouTube 1080P, High Performance, 100% Brightness 125 minutes YouTube 1080P, Balanced, 50% Brightness 187 minutes Netflix 1080P, High Performance, 100% Brightness 132 minutes Gaming 61 minutes
In our tests the Powermark result was especially poor and with Netflix it was just enough to watch a movie or a couple of episodes of your favourite show. Disabling the Battery Boost feature in the Nvidia Geforce Experience removes the 30FPS cap to gaming but unfortunately the MSI systems settings are locked to Eco mode only which significantly caps the performance. In Battlefield 1 for example under Ultra settings we received a poor 20FPS which was unplayable compared to over 50FPS using the battery with Gigabyte's P35X v6.
Lowering the settings considerably did improve the frame rate to a playable level but it is disappointing that the performance is hindered so much. Clearly the battery life is the culprit here but we’d much rather have 40 minutes of high performance gaming than the 60 minutes of low performance gaming we did manage to get and given the size of this laptop, we’d hazard a guess it will be in a fixed location and plugged in most of the time anyway. To charge from flat to 100% took 133 minutes.
GT72VR 7RE BenchmarksOur standard tests, as shown in the table below, are each run at least 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out with the laptop in high performance mode, mains power plugged in and the screen set to 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this laptop, we are using Nvidia 378.92 graphics drivers. With just a 10% reduction in performance compared to the desktop equivalent these new 10 series Nvidia chips have firmly consigned the previous generation to the history books. The GTX1070 uses Nvidia’s Pascal technology with 2048 pipelines, a core clock of 1443-1645Mhz and memory speed of 8000Mhz. So long the GTX980M, it was good whilst it lasted!
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 1 Ultra Settings 99
Battlefield 1 High Settings 109
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 115 Sims 4 Medium Settings 141 Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 75 Max Payne 3 High Settings 119 Metal Gear Solid 5 Maximum Settings 60 Metal Gear Solid 5 High Settings 60
The other test results were equally outstanding with Unigine Valley scoring 3460, the new Unigine Superposition benchmark giving 3363 (1080P Extreme setting) and 3D Mark Timespy 5140. These 10 series GPUs really are something special.
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 9 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 10.03 seconds 9 3D Mark - Fire Strike 13763 9 3D Mark - Sky Diver 29128 9
3D Mark - TimeSpy 5140 9
Passmark Performance Test 9.0 5593.2 8 Cinebench R15 Open GL 112.66 - CPU 752 CB 9 Unigine Superposition 3363 8 Unigine Heaven 4.0 2543 7 Unigine Valley 1.0 3453 9 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 4227 9 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 2.0 5085 8
System Noise and TemperatureThe HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our benchmarking and gaming test sessions. The CPU core temperatures at idle were 31°C and under test conditions these reached a toasty 90°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching 83°C.
Using MSI Shift technology, you can also quickly change between settings in the Dragon Center should you want to push the system to the maximum or to squeeze as much out of the battery as you can. We left the system on auto and it coped with everything we threw at it. Our only issue, and this may be because our review sample has been passed around a lot, was that the rear right hand fan whilst not being excessively loud did sound worn out, hopefully this is an individual fault and not commonplace.
- Outstanding onboard audio
- Excellent gaming performance
- Powerful GTX1070 GPU
- Fast Samsung M.2 PCIe SSD
- Dual Storage
- 120Hz Full HD Display
- Poor battery life
- Gaming performance heavily restricted under battery power
- Not the cheapest 1070 laptop you will find
MSI GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review
Should I buy one?Ignoring the price for a moment, the MSI GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro is a beast of a machine in terms of performance, design and size. Using the new Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ CPU and coupled with the superb GTX1070 GPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and a fast Samsung SM951 M.2 SSD, the gaming and benchmark scores were excellent. Considering what you would have expected with a previous generation gaming laptop with a GTX980M, you no longer have to put up with lower settings for the latest games with today’s gaming laptops.
On top of the impressive performance we also have the 120Hz Full HD display which allowed for some smooth gaming and we found the onboard speakers and audio software to provide what was easily the best sound we had ever heard on a laptop. Plus, despite the heat a high-power gaming laptop creates, the cooling system coped very well and even under high loads the system noise was impressively low. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows though as the battery life was not particularly good, with the gaming performance heavily restricted using battery alone and the sheer size of this beast doesn’t really make it that portable or something you would want on your lap. We said we'd initially ignore the price at the beginning of this conclusion but under our list of cons we should point out that the Dominator Pro it costs £2,000.
What alternatives are available?Yes, that’s right, £2,000. It’s no small purchase by any means but you really do get a fantastic gaming machine for the money. However, are the extras that MSI include above the likes of Gigabyte’s similarly specced (albeit previous gen CPU) P57X worth another £300? Or worth another £100 with the Acer Predator 17 G9-793? That’s up to you, but if you are already looking to spend £1,800 on a gaming laptop, then another £200 to get a machine as superb as this isn’t really that much to ask. Given all the above we are happy to award the MSI GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro an AVForums Recommended badge.
Those looking to buy the MSi GT72VR 7RE Dominator Pro can find it here
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