- 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
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/$3K 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 Connections
MSI 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?
- 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
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/$3,000. Topping off the specification we have a Killer GB LAN, Killer ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and a HD webcam (30FPS @ 1080P).
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.
The 256GB SSD equates to 237GB in Windows and arrived to us with 184GB of free space and the 1TB HDD equates to 931GB in Windows. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a superb average time of just 9 seconds, which is one of the fastest boot times we have seen in a gaming laptop.
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.
Out of the box it wasn’t terrible, but given the above claims we did expect slightly better than a ColorChecker error of 3.31 and a Greyscale error of 4.75. Following the calibration, the ColorChecker error was reduced to superb 0.43 and Greyscale to just 0.55. The software does allow a good level of tweaking of the display and we found the MSI True Color ‘Designer’ setting to work the best as it had the widest range of settings to tweak.
MSI 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.
There are extra tabs in the Dragon Center that take you to the System Monitor which does what it says on the tin and monitors the temperatures, performance and network usage. Then we have the LED Wizard which is a simplified version of the SteelSeries Engine III for tweaking the keyboard backlighting, System Tuner for altering the fan settings, power modes and audio preset and Mobile Center to connect a Smartphone via the MSI App. The mobile app works very well and allows you to tweak most of the settings that are available in the Dragon Center although we aren’t entirely sure why you would need to use it, but it’s a tick in a box.
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.
Coupled with the Nahimic 2 software (which we wouldn’t recommend turning off) the audio quality without any doubt is easily the best we have ever heard on any laptop we have reviewed. The maximum volume is generous enough and no breakup is heard either. With a punchy bass, it really is a joy and a surprise to have audio this good coming from a laptop.
GT72VR 7RE Battery Life
The 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|
Despite the improvements seen in performance from the new Intel CPUs and more prominently the Nvidia 10 Series GPUs, there doesn’t appear to be a lot moving in the gaming laptop battery world. With a high-end gaming laptop the power draw is still significant and battery life is not especially good.
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 Benchmarks
Our 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|
Our last review, the Gigabyte P35X v6 with the Nvidia GTX1070 did not disappoint in the gaming and benchmark tests and using the same GPU, but with the new Kaby Lake generation of CPUs, the MSI GT72VR impresses even further with improved results across the board when compared to Gigabyte’s machine. 99 FPS in Battlefield 1 with Ultra Settings, 75FPS in Max Payne 3 with everything on maximum and 115FPS in Sims 4 using maximum settings are impressive results and something a previous generation GTX980M laptop could only have dreamed about.
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 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 Temperature
The 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.
The GT72VR uses MSI’s Cooler Boost 4 technology with dedicated heat pipes for the GPU and CPU and whilst the above temperatures seem high, the laptop coped well with them and expelled the heat efficiently through the two vents to the rear. All whilst keeping the noise level low with a maximum of 40dBs registering during our gaming and benchmark tests which is considerably lower than we’ve experienced with some of our previous laptop reviews.
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.
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/$3,000.
What alternatives are available?
Yes, that’s right, £2,000/$3,000. 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/$450? Or worth another £100/$150 with the Acer Predator 17 G9-793? That’s up to you, but if you are already looking to spend £1,800/$2,700 on a gaming laptop, then another £200/$300 to get a machine as superb as this isn’t really that much to ask.