- Decent 1080p gaming performance
- Fast Core i7 processor
- Reasonable keyboard and trackpad
- GTX 1050 Ti only has 2GB of memory
- Below-average screen
- High price for the spec
- 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 2GB graphics
- 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 TN screen
- 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4 memory
- 256GB Kingston SSDNow SSD
- 1TB hard disk
- Windows 10 64-bit
- 2yr RTB warranty
- Manufacturer: MSI
- Review Price: £1,250.00/$1,875.00
WHAT IS THE MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO?
The new MSI GP72 7RE Leopard Pro is a big beast of a gaming laptop with a 17.3-inch screen and brushed metal design – but, despite that, its £1250 price plants it firmly in the mid-range.
The affordable price means that this system serves up a GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip and a 1080p screen – but MSI has also found room in the budget for a Kaby Lake Core i7 processor and a 256GB SSD.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – FEATURES
The MSI’s key component is its GeForce GTX 1050 Ti. It’s a new mid-range graphics chip that benefits from the Pascal architecture: that means more power with less power consumption and a keener concentration on task delegation. It’s a sea-change for GPUs, so it’s no surprise that it’s inside nearly every gaming laptop I’ve seen since the summer.
The mobile version of the GTX 1050 Ti has 768 stream processors clocked to 1493MHz, with that latter figure one of the highest in Nvidia’s range.
That’s a solid specification, but MSI has used a bespoke version of the GTX 1050 Ti with just 2GB of GDDR5 memory – half as much as the standard version. It’s the first time I’ve seen a manufacturer modify Pascal like this, and I’m intrigued to see how it reacts to modern games.
It doesn’t bode well when the the competition is considered. The MSI costs £1250, but the Asus ROG Strix GL702VM is £50 cheaper – and it includes a GTX 1060, which has three times the memory and a more powerful GPU.
The MSI fights back elsewhere. The Core i7-7700HQ is a 2.8GHz Kaby Lake processor with a 3.8GHz Turbo peak, and it has Hyper-Threading – so it’s better in every department when compared to the older Core i5 inside the Asus. The Leopard Pro has better memory, too: 16GB rather than the 8GB of the Asus, and at a faster 2,400MHz speed.
The MSI’s 256GB SSD Kingston SSDNow drive is twice as large as the SSD inside the Asus, and both have 1TB hard disks. The MSI also has Killer Ethernet – something the Asus doesn’t offer. This is a kind of wired network connection that’s optimised for games, promising to eliminate latency.
The GP72 is available in a couple of alternative specifications. There’s one model with 8GB of memory and an 128GB SSD that costs £1199/$1798.5, and the cheapest version is the 7RD-015UK, which has a weaker GTX 1050 graphics core alongside a lower price of £1,050/$1,575.
MSI’s latest gaming laptop has solid components, but we can’t help but ask questions: the GTX 1050 Ti may be hamstrung by its reduced memory, and the Core i7 processor is a great chip – but I’m not sure if it’s a wise use of the budget in a gaming laptop.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – DESIGN
There are few surprises to be found around the Leopard’s exterior. The brushed metal base is finished with a slim line of red, and the familiar MSI gaming logo adorns the lid. The power button is plain, and there’s no RGB backlighting.
The Leopard looks retro, but not in a good way. Its metal is bland and tired, and its red accents look dull. Build quality is a little better than the Asus, but there’s still noticeable rattles in the wrist-rest and flex in the screen – so it’s hardly a clean bill of health.
The Asus is better in most departments. Its brushed metal surfaces, orange accents and highlighted keys look sleeker, and its 24mm frame is almost a centimetre slimmer than the MSI. Both laptops weigh 2.7kg, so they’re hardly light.
Connectivity is good, with USB 3 ports and USB 3.1 connections alongside mini-DisplayPort and a DVD drive. The Asus has a similar selection, although it doesn’t have an optical drive and includes a Thunderbolt connection.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – PERFORMANCE
The MSI didn’t have a problem playing any test titles, but benchmarks indicate just how far this machine is behind the GTX 1060 inside the Asus – and the full-fat version of the GTX 1050 Ti.
The MSI’s Dirt Rally score of 61fps is fine, for instance, but the Asus ROG Strix GL702VM was eight frames better – and the MSI’s 53fps score in Shadow of Mordor was twenty-one frames behind the Asus. The Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming, meanwhile, has the GTX 1050 Ti with 4GB of memory, and it scored 59fps in Shadow of Mordor.
The MSI ran tougher games with mixed results. Its GTA V average of 56fps is playable, but it’s still almost 20fps behind the Asus – and its minimum framerate barely made it above 30fps. The MSI recorded a just-playable 30fps in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, but its minimum framerate of 15fps indicates that the game will struggle in more intensive moments.
The MSI showed weakness in 3D Mark tests, too. Its score of 6808 in the standard benchmark is nearly 2000 points behind the Asus, and its Ultra result of 1416 is 400 points behind machines with the GTX 1050 Ti and 4GB of video memory.
The MSI isn’t slow, and it’ll play most current games at medium or high quality levels, but tough games will still prove problematic in busier moments. The Asus and other GTX 1050 Ti laptops are faster right now, and the miniscule memory allocation doesn’t bode well for the future either. Most modern games exceed 2GB of video memory when given the opportunity, so this problem will only get worse in the future.
The new Core i7 processor helped the MSI deliver better application benchmarks. In the Geekbench 4 test its single-and multi-core scores of 4689 and 13,881 are the best we’ve seen from a mid-range gaming laptop, and its results of 4020 and 14,539 in Geekbench 3 were able to easily outpace the Asus – that machine could only manage 3036 and 9,271 in the same tests.
The Kingston SSD delivered read and write speeds of 538MB/s and 332MB/s – not far away from the Asus, but behind NVMe SSDs. That’s a middling and entirely expected result, and it means that game and laptop loading times will be decent.
The Core i7 processor ensures that the MSI delivers some of the best application scores I’ve seen from this level of gaming laptop, but that’s not what this machine is designed to do – and in many cases it’s going to be overkill. Few games need this CPU’s multi-threaded capabilities; it’s really only video and photo rendering that’ll benefit from this increased grunt.
At least the MSI’s chunky 17.3-inch frame keeps the components cool. The default Sport mode kept the graphics card at a comfortable 66°C without throttling performance – it averaged beyond 1700MHz during a stress-test. The noise was low throughout, and the exterior barely warmed up.
This impressive performance continued to comfort mode, where the GPU was clocked to around 1570MHz with no real impact on noise and temperature. The eco mode is the MSI’s third option, and it saw the CPU reigned in to around 1.4GHz and the GPU running at its stock speed of 1493MHz.
The laptop remained cool and quiet, and this restricted mode didn’t have a huge impact on games performance – the machine’s original Dirt Rally result of 61fps declined to a still-playable 54fps. That said, I wouldn’t run tough games using eco mode.
The MSI’s poorest thermal results came in the processor tests. The chip reached a top temperature of 93°C – a few degrees higher than the Asus, and a little too hot for my tastes. That said, those results were recorded in a stress-test, and the MSI never became unstable. It also ran at a consistent 3.3GHz.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – SCREEN & SOUND QUALITY
The 1080p resolution and 17.3-inch size means that while this screen isn’t stunningly sharp, it’s more than good enough.
The matte panel uses TN technology, which means it’s likely to serve up great response times and brightness levels alongside poorer viewing angles and colour quality. We didn’t notice any ghosting when gaming on this panel, and we’ve no complaints about the backlight – the MSI served up a 299 nits brightness level and a solid contrast ratio of 996:1. That’s slightly better than the Asus thanks to a marginally deeper black level.
Get beyond the contrast ratio, though, and the MSI disappoints. Its colour temperature of 8,298K is cool, and causes a pallid blue pall over the entire panel – and its average Delta E of 7.31 (closer to zero is better) is wayward. This machine can render over 90% of the sRGB colour gamut, but none of those shades look rich or inviting.
The pale panel suffered elsewhere, too. Its top edge lost a middling 14% of its backlight strength and a massive 17% of the backlight vanished across the middle of the screen, and the gaming and movie modes made little difference to this screen’s poor performance.
The MSI’s panel isn’t awful, but it’s pale and lifeless – and so hardly ideal for showing off games and movies. The Asus was better, with an improved Delta E, superior colour temperature and a more uniform backlight. It’s also got G-Sync, which my MSI sample doesn’t have.
The audio kit is similarly underwhelming. The pair of 2-Watt speakers deliver crisp, clear vocals and other mid-range sounds, but that’s about it. The top-end is weak, and the bass is poor because there’s no subwoofer.
Music mode is chosen by default, and it’s the best option, with good balance and clear sounds. The Movie mode is muddy, and the gaming modes are a little underwhelming – weak treble in the Shooting option, for instance, and quiet, weedy output from the Strategy and RPG profiles.
The Music option may be the best choice, but the absence of a subwoofer leaves every option sounding a little underwhelming and weak. The Asus suffered similarly, so I found myself reaching for a headset in both cases.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – KEYBOARD & TRACKPAD
The Leopard Pro’s keys have impressive consistency and speed, with a moderate amount of travel. Their high level of comfort is paired with a solid, responsive base, and that makes it easy to get up to speed.
It’s a similarly decent bill of health to the Asus ROG Strix GL702VM but, as ever, the chiclet hardware is better for typing than gaming – larger gaming laptops and proper gaming keyboards still have quicker, firmer designs that are beneficial for frantic gameplay. Competitive gamers in particular will want hardware with a faster and more defined action.
The keyboard’s familiar action is paired with an fairly standard layout. The return and delete keys are small, and the cursor keys aren’t set apart from the rest of the buttons. The WASD buttons aren’t highlighted and there aren’t any macro keys.
The only special addition is a button to open the MSI Dragon Center app, which can be used to manage the backlight and access the rest of this laptop’s software options.
The keyboard is just as good as the Asus’ offering, but the MSI’s trackpad is better. Its two buttons are snappier than the Asus, and don’t push down as far – so they’re better at emulating the best gaming mice.
MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO – BATTERY LIFE
There were no surprises in the standard battery life test, where the MSI lasted for three hours and eleven minutes when running a low-intensity work benchmark with the screen at 40% brightness.
That’s more than thirty minutes behind the Asus, and it means you’ll barely get more than an hour from the MSI when playing games.
SHOULD I BUY THE MSI GP72 7RE LEOPARD PRO?
The MSI doesn’t have any serious problems, but a run of smaller missteps mean it can’t compete in a busy section of the laptop market.
The GTX 1050 Ti is fine for 1080p gaming, but the 2GB memory allocation means it’s slower than laptops with the proper 4GB version – and other machines at this price have faster GTX 1060 cores. The rest of the specification is fine, although to reduce the cost a cheaper Core i5 processor would have made sense to me.
The screen is a little underwhelming, the keyboard and trackpad aren’t much better than rivals, and the battery life is as ordinary as ever.
The Asus GL702VM has is faster in games and has a better screen for similar money – or we’d also recommend a machine like the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, which delivers the full-fat GTX 1050 Ti in a 15.6-inch device that’s significantly cheaper. The MSI is stuck in a bit of a no-man’s land. For some people it might hit the spot, but I think they will be few and far between.
This big gaming laptop performs well, but rivals and smaller alternatives offer a better experience.