MSI GE72 2QD-037UK review

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Pros
  • Good mid-range gaming speed
  • Smart visual design
  • Solid 1080p screen
  • Cheaper than competitors
Cons
  • Beaten in benchmarks by rivals
  • Build quality is inconsistent
  • Battery life fails to impress

Key Features: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 screen; Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor; Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics; 8GB RAM; 128GB SSD; 1TB hard disk

Manufacturer: MSI

What is the MSI GE72 2QD-037UK?

Gaming laptop manufacturers have been striving to cram more power inside ever slimmer, lighter enclosures, so it’s something of a refreshing change to see a traditional 17.3-inch machine. The MSI GE72 offers a sensible design at a surprisingly low price.

The £999/$1,498 price hasn’t stopped MSI from filling the GE72’s capacious innards with decent components. There’s an Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M graphics chip, a Core i7 processor, an SSD and a 1TB hard disk – as well as a SteelSeries keyboard.

Design

The MSI’s exterior is adorned in a dark brushed metal. The lid is home to the MSI Gaming Series notebook logo, which sits between a pair of dramatic indents, and finished with red accents. The large trackpad is ringed with chrome-effect metal, and the keyboard has a backlight offering customisation in the form of colours and patterns. It’s unmistakenly a gaming notebook.

It looks good, but visually it can’t match the beefy Asus G751JL, with its brushed aluminium exterior featuring striking angles and red vents for only £100/$150 more than the MSI.

MSI fights back by undercutting its rival’s dimensions. The MSI’s 2.4kg body easily beats the 3.8kg Asus, and the GE72 is only 27mm thick – far better than the 43mm Asus. The GE72’s desktop footprint also compares well to the Asus: it’s 280mm deep, as opposed to the 318mm of the G751JL.

You’ll need a good-sized bag in which to lug around the GE72, but at least it’s much smaller than the Asus.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

The MSI isn’t as sturdy as the Asus, however. The right-hand wrist-rest has an alarming amount of movement and the underside displays a little flex. It isn’y easy to get inside either – I removed almost 20 screws before being able to get the base panel to budge. Note, too, that one of those screws is beneath the warranty sticker, so you’ll void that if you go inside.

One memory slot and two M.2 sockets are free, and most of the major components are accessible. It’s better than the Asus, which hid several of its chips away.

Features

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M is an impressive mobile graphics core. It has 2GB of dedicated memory, 640 stream processors and a rapid stock speed of 1,096MHz, which is the fastest of any GTX 900M-series card. That’s no surprise, since it’s based on the GM107 core that first appeared in the GTX 750 Ti, which is the first time I’d seen the Maxwell architecture in the wild.

The Core i7-4720HQ processor has four cores and a Turbo peak of 3.6GHz, and it’s paired with 8GB of DDR3 memory. Storage comes from a 128GB SSD and a 1TB hard disk, which should provide a good balance of speed and size.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

You’re out of luck if you want to change the components. MSI manufactures GE72 models with Nvidia GTX 965M and GTX 970M graphics cores, but they’re not available in the UK. If you’re after a system with more power then the 15.6in GE62 is the best MSI-made option.

The GE72 has dual-band 802.11ac wireless, Gigabit Ethernet, and HDMI and DisplayPort outputs, which is decent connectivity. In other areas, however, it falls behind the Asus. It has a DVD writer where the Asus includes Blu-ray, and its trio of USB 3.0 ports and single USB 2.0 connection can’t compete with the four USB 3.0 sockets and single Thunderbolt port included in the G751JL.

The MSI offers several apps. The Nahimic tool modifies the speakers, SteelSeries Engine 3 manages the keyboard, and the System Control Manager handles basic screen mode options and connectivity toggles.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

Elsewhere, it’s the usual mish-mash of useful apps and bloatware. I’ve no problem with Evernote and Skype, but am less keen on WildTangent games, a cooking tool and a Norton security suite.

The GE72 comes with a three-year warranty, which is generous; a year of coverage is usually the norm on a system like this.

Screen & Sound Quality

The GE72’s screen has a sensible resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 – enough to match the Asus and to provide plenty of sharpness in games. But it isn’t so high that it will tax the mid-range GPU.

The MSI’s panel gets off to a good start with some excellent results. The contrast ratio of 1,073:1 is better than the Asus panel achieved, and ensures that colours are punchy, with excellent depth. The black level of 0.26 nits is lower than the Asus – and means that dark scenes in games and movies will look even better on this screen.

The GE72’s measured brightness of 279 nits sits below Asus’ 353-nit result, but remains ample for gameplay. Images suffer only a minor drop in brightness when the screen is viewed from obtuse angles, and the uniformity isn’t bad – at its worst it deviates by around 12%, which is barely different from the Asus.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

It’s not all good news, however. The MSI’s average Delta E score of 7.49 means that it can’t keep up with the best displays when it comes to differentiating between colours. It’s worse than the 5.3 scored by the Asus, and is a far cry from the sub 1.0 scores of the best machines.

The GE72’s colour temperature also sits pretty far out from the ideal of 6,500K – at 7,549K. MSI’s System Control Manager app features a handful of screen modes, but these only serve to ramp the brightness up and down, rather than changing how colours are rendered. This can be fixed in software, though, if you have a colorimeter.

At this colour temperature games, movies and photos on the MSI lack warmth. It’s an irritating issue, but not critical – the GE72’s screen still delivers plenty of punch, contrast and resolution for playing games, and its matte finish helps.

The speakers are made by Dynaudio and tweaked by Nahimic. They offer three modes: the default, which is Music, plus Movie and Gaming options. The Nahimic tool also allows every option to be tweaked, from bass and volume boosts to voice clarity and reverb levels.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

With the default Music mode selected, the speakers churned out bass that rumbled with strength and depth, but the top-end was weedy and underwhelming. Games sound bombastic because of that mighty bass, but lighter sounds are weak.

The Gaming and Movie modes ramp up the volume, reverb and frequency, and sound is better with these options tweaked – the bass remains, and it’s accompanied by greater top-end clarity. I’d steer clear of maximum volume, however, as sound was a little distorted at this point.

It’s a similar result to the Asus, which delivered powerful bass but weaker high notes. Overall, the MSI’s speakers are good enough for gaming, but I’d recommend using headphones if they’re available.

Keyboard and Trackpad

MSI has found success with SteelSeries keyboards, and quality remains high on the GE72. The base is solid – which is pleasing considering the moving wrist-rest – and the keys move quickly and consistently, which is important for gaming.

The keys offer good travel, and it’s generally a clean bill of health for the MSI’s typing action. However, the Asus offers more key movement, which is more satisfying during intense gaming sessions.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

Elsewhere, the GE72 is a mixed bag. It has a more versatile backlight than the Asus, and the SteelSeries Engine software supports multiple profiles and macros. I’m not keen on the cursor keys sharing brightness and volume duties, though, and the Windows key is awkwardly positioned on the right-hand side. There’s a fiddly, small Return key, and the MSI is missing the dedicated macro, Steam and recording keys of the Asus.

Similar issues affect the trackpad. It’s large and responsive, but the two buttons just aren’t as firm or as fast as a proper gaming peripheral. If you’re taking this machine on the road, invest in a proper mouse.

Battery Life

The MSI’s six-cell battery lasted for 2hrs 53mins in our standard 40% screen brightness test, which is reasonable for a gaming machine, but the Asus lasted for four hours thanks to its eight-cell power pack.

The GE72 proved no stronger in gaming tests. I ran the Unigine Heaven benchmark with the screen at 100% brightness and the MSI lasted for 43 minutes. If you want to play games with this machine then don’t stray from the mains.

A 30-minute emergency charge saw the MSI regain an impressive 46% of its capacity, but that’s only good enough for 1hr 20mins of light use with the screen dimmed – and less than 30 minutes of gaming.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

Performance

The GTX 960M is a step behind the GTX 965M found in the Asus, and the gulf between the two became apparent in benchmarks. The MSI’s 3DMark Ice Storm result of 51,1135 is okay, but it’s a long way behind the 128,146 scored by the Asus. The gap closed in the Fire Strike test, but the MSI’s result of 3,831 still wasn’t able to match the 4,901 result of the G751JL. There was a similar gap in Unigine, where the GE72’s Extreme 1080p result of 19.4fps was around four frames behind the Asus.

The MSI still has enough power to play top games at decent quality. It easily handled BioShock Infinite’s Ultra settings with an average frame rate of 57fps, and it ran through Battlefield 4’s High graphics level with a 37fps result. It could only run Crysis 3 at Low settings, but it still managed a decent average of 28fps – and the game still looked top-notch.

The GE72’s application benchmarks followed the same pattern as the gaming tests. The MSI’s PCMark 7 score of 4,982 is acceptable, but it’s unable to match the 5,950 scored by the Asus. And its reasonable Geekbench result of 9,874 lags behind the G751JL’s 13,100 result.

The MSI doesn’t equal the Asus for pure power, and it couldn’t quite match its rival for thermal performance either. The processor and graphics core topped out with temperatures of 89°C and 81°C during stress tests, with the former a little hotter than the Asus, but the graphics core much toastier.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

Minimal heat made it to the outside of the machine, however, and the noise was kept to reasonable levels. There wasn’t much throttling at play, either: the processor continued to pelt along at 3GHz and the graphics core used Turbo to hit 1,202MHz at its 100% load. Despite these more positive points, it’s still a loss for the GE72 – it’s hotter than the Asus despite having weaker components.

Don’t expect record-breaking speed from the C: drive. The SSD’s sequential read and write speeds of 496MB/sec and 325MB/sec are only average, and not far ahead of the Asus machine. So although loading times will be decent, they’ll easily be beaten by machines with SATA M.2 drives or RAID arrays.

MSI GE72 2QD-037UK

Should I Buy the MSI GE72 2QD-037UK?

The MSI has the size and the looks to rival most gaming notebooks, but its £999/$1,498 price is a double-edged sword. It’s cheaper than most high-end portables, but the cut-backs are evident in several departments: the screen, keyboard and build quality aren’t as good as the equivalents on the Asus G751JL, which is costs around £100/$150 more than the GE72.

Those compromises extend to the components. The MSI has enough power to play games at impressive graphical settings, but the Asus is faster still – and it’s better in applications, and has more memory too.

None of the GE72’s issues are deal-breakers, which makes the MSI desirable for those wanting a big gaming laptop for less than £1,000/$1,500. However, £100/$150 more will buy you the Asus G751JL, which outperforms the MSI in every important category.

Verdict

MSI’s latest gaming laptop is a capable £999/$1,498 machine offering enough power to play games at high graphics settings. However, it suffers a host of minor problems that just aren’t present on notebooks costing only a little more, so I’d be inclined to fork out £100/$150 more and opt for the Asus G751JL instead.

Scores In Detail

Battery Life : 5/10
Build Quality : 7/10
Design : 8/10
Features : 8/10
Heat & Noise : 7/10
Keyboard : 7/10
Performance : 8/10
Screen Quality : 7/10
Touchpad : 7/10
Value : 8/10

(trustedreviews.com)

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