MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review

by - 7 years ago

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Introduction


MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator ProMSI is an established player in the gaming laptop scene and produces a huge range of products to suit various usage scenarios. Whether you’re prioritizing portability or simply require raw horsepower, MSI has a laptop to suit your specific needs. The company’s quintessential styling and robust construction beautifully balances performance with unique features and includes a comprehensive software package. This magical combination has proved to be incredibly popular among the gaming audience. Previously, we reviewed the budget-orientated MSI GE62 6QD Apache Pro which performed remarkably well in 3D benchmarks despite its relatively affordable price point.

While the gaming prowess of laptops around the £1000 mark are good, some users have higher demands to reach 60 frames-per-second at extreme graphical presets. The type of laptop which caters to this demographic is the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro and comes in a number of top-tier configurations. The review unit we’re looking at today features an Intel i7-6820HK, 16GB DDR4 2133MHz RAM, GTX 980M and 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD boot drive. Furthermore, the system opts for a 17.3″ 1920×1080 display, 9-cell battery, and 1TB data drive. As you can see, this is a stunning specification and more than capable of competing with high-powered desktops. On another note, the pioneering MXM graphics module offers an upgrade path for the future and makes the investment seem more worthwhile. Overall, I expect the system to shine in gaming tests at extreme graphical settings.

Specifications

  • Name: MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro
  • Case: Brushed Aluminum Laptop Chassis
  • Processor: 6th Gen. Intel Core Skylake i7-6820HK @ 3.6GHz
  • System Memory: 16GB (2x8GB) DDR4 2133MHz
  • Main Boot Drive: Toshiba 128GB NVMe PCIe SSD
  • Additional Storage Drive(s): HGST 1TB 7200RPM  
  • Graphics card: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 980M 8GB GDDR5
  • Battery: 9 Cell Li-Polymer
  • Optical DriveBlu-ray Writer
  • Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n/ac Killer Double Shot Pro AC
  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • Display: 17.3″ 1920 x 1080 FHD Anti Glare Wide View Angle with NVIDIA G-SYNC™
  • Weight: 3.78Kg (With Battery)
  • Dimensions: 428(W) x 294(D) x 48(H)mm
  • Warranty: 2-Year Collect and Return (1 year global)
  • Price: £1962.20 as configured delivered.

Packing and Accessories

Given the laptop’s hefty construction, MSI decided to employ a thick cardboard box to adequately protect the sample during transit and reduce the impact of any small knocks.

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The inner packaging adopts MSI’s iconic gaming dragon logo and outlines the system’s key specification.

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Once opened, we can see the laptop’s accessories are divided into segments which makes the unboxing process a more pleasant experience. Furthermore, MSI opted for a durable plastic cover, and luxurious protective cloth which reduces the likelihood of damage occurring during shipping.

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In terms of accessories, the laptop is bundled with a soft cleaning cloth, documentation, driver disk and power supply. The felt cloth feels beautiful in the hand and evokes a sense of luxury. While the power supply is on the larger side, this is expected given the laptop’s immense specification.

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CPU-Z

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GPU-Z

gpu-z

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A Closer Look

The system is designed as a desktop replacement and utilizes a fairly large frame to properly cool the internal components. Here we can see the 17.3″ 75Hz G-SYNC display which features excellent viewing angles and minimal backlight bleed. This allows for a sharp image without impacting on the panel’s responsiveness or causing noticeable ghosting. Thankfully, MSI made the correct decision and selected a 1920×1080 display to allow for high framerates in a variety of visually demanding games.

While I’m not overly keen on most trackpads, the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro’s large surface area feels comfortable for extended periods. Additionally, there is an illuminated border to help signify the trackpad’s limits during low lighting conditions. Overall, it’s pretty good but the trackpad’s material accumulates a large amount of grease even if your hands are quite clean. This makes the cleaning process an arduous and infuriating task.

Other inclusions to take note of are the magnificent Dynaudio speakers which produce a crisp, and balanced sound. Unless you’re a serious music enthusiast, the internal speakers will genuinely surprise you and negates the need for a dedicated set of portable speakers. On another note, the island-style keyboard is comfortable to type on and contains a great deal of customization through the Steelseries engine software. RGB lighting adds a visual flair to the system and contrasts beautifully with the understated black chassis.

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Unfortunately, the laptop’s subtle branding is overawed by the chassis’ lid which becomes covered in fingerprints. Prior to this picture, I only handled the laptop briefly to carry it between two rooms and conduct basic tests. Honestly, there’s no way it should be attracting fingerprints on such a huge scale. To test the chassis’ surface, I intentionally used the laptop for a day and wiped the lid with a microfiber cloth. This had a minuscule effect on the number of finger prints and I couldn’t remove the huge array of smudges. Perhaps, the best course of action is to purchase a protective cover or decal to obscure the lid.

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On a more positive note, the laptop is constructed from premium materials and utilizes large ventilation areas to aid with heat dissipation. When it comes to connectivity, the rear section integrates a mini DisplayPort 1.2, MSI dubbed “Super Port”, HDMI 1.4, Gigabit Ethernet and power connector. The “Super Port” is essentially a traditional USB 3.1 Type-C connector capable of outputting 4K video and offers 3A of power to charge devices quickly. Most impressively, it is capable of transfer rates to 1000MB/s, a significant increase compared to USB 3.0.

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The laptop incorporates a Blu-Ray Writer, and six USB 3.0 ports. This provides a huge scope to connect various devices and backup sensitive data onto optical media. Many customers, might simply use the Blu Ray drive to watch films or encode videos into commonly used digital formats.

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There is also a multi-format SD card reader, and gold-plated audio jacks. Theoretically, this reduces interference and prolongs the life of audio hardware when inserting 3.5mm jacks on a regular basis.

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The underneath portion features four long rubber feet, a dedicated subwoofer, and ventilation area. This ensures the laptop stays perfectly in position and doesn’t reach an uncomfortable temperature when resting on your lap. Opening up the system is relatively simple, and revolves around 7 accessible screws. However, please note this will invalidate the warranty. Once the screws have been carefully removed, you need to pry between the cover and chassis with a small flat-headed screwdriver. Obviously, patience is key and you must gently lift at specific points by gradually releasing tension on the bottom cover. In summary, the cover is constructed from thick, durable plastic and protects the internal components exceedingly well.

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Here, we can clearly see the exemplary cooling apparatus which uses a dual chamber, 6-heatpipe design to effectively expel CPU and GPU heat in an effective manner. Furthermore, the clean, logical layout provides headroom for multiple ultra fast M.2 NVMe drives in a RAID0 configuration. As previously mentioned, MSI’s MXM graphics module allows authorized technicians to upgrade the internal hardware. Although, it’s unknown if this will apply to mobile chipsets in the future based on NVIDIA’s upcoming Pascal architecture. I suspect so, but this cannot be confirmed due to the secretive nature of unannounced products; nevertheless, it’s a great feature to have embedded onto the PCB.

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A close-up image illustrates the neat fan cabling and thermal bridge which dynamically adjusts the cooling via a simple button press. This means the end-user can select between louder operation and reduced temperatures or silent running and hotter load results.

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The cable routing and shielding are installed in a proficient manner which showcases the system’s premium design.

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MSI’s Cooler Boost 3 system revolves around tightly fitted dual fans that utilize supporting tape to reduce vibration during high RPM circumstances. This works rather well and ensures the laptop remains quiet even with a large frequency boost.

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Testing & Methodology


To test each system or notebook, we want to stress every component of the system to check stability and performance, giving us an idea as to why those particular components were picked for this particular system. We use a wide variety of applications to gain a broad spectrum of results for comparing diverse aspects of system performance.

Unless specifically stated, all games are running at maximum settings but any vendor-exclusive features such as TressFX or PhsyX have been disabled to make the results fair. There are some titles where the maximum preset can be altered further in regards to AA, AF, Tessellation, and Draw Distance. To allow our readers to make the most informed decision, any additional options will be clearly labeled in this section.

Hardware

  • Acoustic dBA meter
  • AC “Killawatt” power meter

Software

  • 3DMark
  • AIDA64 Engineer
  • Cinebench R15
  • CrystalDiskMark
  • CPU-Z
  • GPU-Z
  • HW-Monitor
  • MSI Afterburner
  • OCCT
  • Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0
  • PCMark 8
  • Prime95
  • Super PI
  • Unigine Heaven 4.0
  • Grand Theft Auto 5
  • Metro Last Light
  • Tomb Raider
  • Bioshock Infinite

PC Mark 8

The PCMark 8 Home benchmark includes workloads that reflect common tasks for a typical home user. These workloads have low computational requirements making PCMark 8 Home suitable for testing the performance of low-cost tablets, notebooks, and desktops. Home includes workloads for web browsing, writing, gaming, photo editing, and video chat. The results are combined to give a PCMark 8 Home score for your system. Download here.

3D Mark

The new 3DMark includes everything you need to benchmark your hardware. With three all new tests you can bench everything from smartphones and tablets, to notebooks and home PCs, to the latest high-end, multi-GPU gaming desktops. Download here.

Unigine Heaven

Heaven Benchmark with its current version 4.0 is a GPU-intensive benchmark that hammers graphics cards to the limits. This powerful tool can be effectively used to determine the stability of a GPU under extremely stressful conditions, as well as check the cooling system’s potential under maximum heat output. It provides completely unbiased results and generates true in-game rendering workloads across all platforms, such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. Download here.

Grand Theft Auto V

Our GTA5 Benchmark is run on the standard benchmark with MSAA=Off, FXAA=On, Very High Preset, Advanced Graphics Disabled and the settings detailed below:

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Metro Last Light

Metro: Last Light (formerly Metro 2034) is a first-person shooter and horror video game developed by Ukrainian studio 4A Games and published by Deep Silver for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was released in May 2013. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world and features a mixture of action-oriented and stealth gameplay. Metro: Last Light features technology which boasts new lighting effects and improved physics claimed to set a new graphical benchmark on the PC and consoles.

Very High Preset, AF=16x,  Tessellation=Very High, SSAA=Off, PhysX=Off

Tomb Raider

In Tomb Raider, the player is confronted with a much younger Lara Croft who is shipwrecked and finds herself stranded on a mysterious island rife with danger, both natural and human. Tomb Raider is a demanding game offering up ultra quality textures, full DirectX 11 support, SSAA, FXAA, MSAA and AMD TressFX technology.

Bioshock

BioShock Infinite is the third and last game in the BioShock series. It is a first-person shooter video game developed by Irrational Games and published by 2K Games. BioShock Infinite supports dynamic shadows, post-processing, light shafts, ambient occlusion, object level of detail, Diffusion Depth of Detail, FOV adjustment controls and other advanced DirectX 11 features.

Cinebench R15

Cinebench is a widely respected benchmark for testing the performance of x86 CPUs. The program allows you to test single and multi-threaded performance as well as GPU performance by rendering with Open GL. Download here.

Super Pi

Super PI is a single threaded benchmark that calculates pi to a specific number of digits. Super PI is a single threaded benchmark ideal for testing pure, single threaded x87 floating point performance and while most of the computing market has shifted towards multithreaded applications and more modern instruction sets, Super PI still remains quite indicative of CPU capability in specific applications such as computer gaming. Download here.

AIDA64 Engineer Edition

AIDA64 Engineer is a streamlined Windows diagnostic and benchmarking software for engineers. It has unique capabilities to assess the performance of the processor, system memory, and disk drives. AIDA64 is compatible with all current 32-bit and 64-bit Microsoft Windows operating systems, including Windows 8 and Windows Server 2012. Memory and cache benchmarks are available to analyze system RAM bandwidth and latency. Download here.

CrystalDiskMark

CrystalDiskMark is a portable storage drive benchmark utility that enables you to measure sequential and random read/write speeds on different block size data. CrystalDiskMark will work with any storage drives including hard drives, SSDs and USB flash drives. Download here.

Passmark

The PassMark Advanced Network Test (which is part of PerformanceTest) is designed to test the data transfer rate between two computers both of which must be running PerformanceTest. One of the computers must act as the server and will sit waiting for a connection. The other computer acts as a client. It connects to the server machine and sends data to it for the duration of the test. You can download a trial version of PerformanceTest from here.

Acoustic Performance

The amount of noise produced by any computer is a vital consideration for most buyers, even gamers don’t really want a noisy PC because less noise is always better. We use an acoustic dBA meter held 2 feet behind our test system at idle and under load to get the idle and load noise levels for the system. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the acoustic measurements 5 minutes into both of these scenarios.

Power Consumption

To test power consumption we measure the total system power draw during idle and load scenarios. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the power measurements from the “Killawatt” AC power meter 5 minutes into both of these scenarios at the same point.

Temperatures

To test thermal performance we measure average CPU and GPU core temperatures during idle and load scenarios. For idle we allow the system to sit at the Windows desktop, for load we let Unigine Heaven 4.0 and Prime95 to loop together – we take the temperature measurements from within CPUID HWMonitor 5 minutes into both of these scenarios at the same point. For load we take the average of the maximum temperatures, for idle we take the average of the minimum temperatures.

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Synthetic Benchmarks


PC Mark 8

pcmark8-logoDuring typical desktop tasks, the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro performed incredibly well and easily surpassed a number of highly regarded gaming laptops. Additionally, it didn’t trail too far behind traditional desktop systems which is a remarkable feat.

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3DMark

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In terms of 3D benchmarks, the system’s GTX 980M competed against a desktop-grade GTX 970 surprisingly well. Furthermore, the data emphasizes the GTX 980M as a graphical powerhouse which legitimately offers excellent synthetic performance in a relatively small package.

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Unigine Heaven

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The figures here correspond with other graphical tests and signify the laptop’s abilities in demanding 3D scenarios. Once again, it’s important to reiterate that the numbers are fantastic for mobile-based chipset.

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Gaming Performance


Grand Theft Auto 5

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Grand Theft Auto V didn’t exhibit any stutter, hitching or sudden frame drops during our benching procedure despite running on an extremely demanding preset. I was impressed to see the game achieve above 60 frames-per-second and maintain this figure during hectic chase scenes.

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Metro Last Light

MetroLastLightgpureviews

In Metro Last Light, the huge array of tessellation effects and astonishing texture quality can pose a problem for many gaming rigs. Thankfully, the GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro reported an average frame-rate of 60 and consistently hovered around the 45-70 range.

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Tomb Raidertombraider

The system didn’t encounter any issues whilst running the Tomb Raider benchmark and reported well above the magical 60 frames-per-second mark.

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Bioshock Infinite

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Some of the results in Bioshock Infinite are a little puzzling, but the laptop’s performance remained within my expectations. Furthermore, the results demonstrate the kind of performance possible with NVIDIA’s GTX 980M chipset.

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CPU & Memory Performance


Cinebench R15

The system’s i7 6820HK utilizes a default turbo frequency of 3.6GHz and compares favorably against desktop Skylake chips and the previous generation 6700HQ.

cineSuper Pi

The statistics in SuperPI illustrate the significantly reduced time compared to other laptops although it’s still some way off Intel’s latest mainstream desktop CPU.

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AIDA64 Engineer

As you might expect, the dual-channel DDR4-2133MHz memory offers enhanced bandwidth when compared to DDR3 systems and attains superb read, write and copy results.

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Storage and USB Performance


CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Read

The laptop’s 128GB M.2 NVMe SSD reaches astounding read speeds and recorded a staggering 2142MB/s. While it’s not the fastest we’ve tested, it offers the kind of performance which almost defies belief.

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CrystalDiskMark – Sequential Write

Unfortunately, the write results aren’t as impressive but still manages to forge ahead of traditional SATA drives by a decent margin. On another note, the HDD and USB 3.0 speeds operate within a good range.

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Networking Performance


Passmark PerformanceTest 8.0

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Ethernet (LAN)

The Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet provides consistent performance numbers which makes for a reliable network connection.

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WiFi

In contrast to this, there is a large range between the minimum and maximum values during WiFi testing. However, this shouldn’t be a problem and I was impressed by the maximum bandwidth which is a marked improvement over other network interfaces.

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Acoustic, Power, Battery & Thermal Performance


Acoustic Performance

The system’s noise output is nothing short of unbelievable and only reported a mere 41.4 decibels under extreme load. This is the best result we’ve encountered by a huge margin and makes for a silent experience when gaming. It’s difficult to accentuate how marvelous this is, and I must congratulate MSI for achieving such an astonishing performance to noise ratio.

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Power Consumption

In terms of power draw, the laptop is economical and only just exceeds 160 watts during intensive tasks. This is impressive given the performance numbers in 3D benchmarks and computational workloads.

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Battery Life

I was slightly disappointed with the 9-cell battery as the laptop’s large size should have allowed for improved longevity once unplugged. Although, for lighter workloads, the battery is capable of powering the system for a passable amount of time.

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Thermal Performance

You might think the laptop’s impeccable noise output comes at the expense of system temperatures. However, this isn’t the case as GPU and CPU thermals remained well within their maximum threshold. Technically, the i7 6820HK can be overclocked, and I did managed to attain a 4.0GHz frequency. Unfortunately, once this was completed, the temperatures began to hover around the 88C mark and dramatically increased the running noise. Despite this, the rigorous cooling solution is perfect at stock voltages, and surprisingly capable when you factor in the laptop’s size. I personally wouldn’t be overclocking the CPU as the performance increase is minimal and difficult to run at a safe 24/7 operating temperature.

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Final Thoughts


Pricing 

The MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro is currently available from Scan for £1962.20 which includes next day delivery and a standard 2-year warranty. Clearly, this is a huge investment and requires a great deal of consideration. The price is competitive when you take into account the build quality, specification and wide array of features. For example, the Nahimic audio software, XSplit license, and Killer network prioritization adds to the unit’s value.

To the best of my knowledge, the only similar specification out there is the Alienware 15 R2 HID46-AUK1 which retails for £2057.56. Granted, the Alienware machine opts for a 4K display, but I actually see this as a disadvantage due to massively reduced frame rates and greater battery demands. Ideally, the sweet spot for the MSI GT72S 6QE is £1899 but its current market price is good value if you’re looking for this specific configuration.

Overview

The MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro caters to high-end consumers requiring the absolute pinnacle of performance. My only major qualm is the chassis’ finish which collects an absurd amount of fingerprints and makes it almost impossible to keep clean. From an aesthetic standpoint, this is very irksome as the rest of the system features beautiful contours, and a premium finish. Additionally, the trackpad suffers from a similar fate and almost stores every inch of grease from the user’s palms. I was pretty surprised by this as someone with dry hands. As a result, consumers who perspire easily might struggle to maintain the trackpad’s original finish.

Thankfully, the system’s performance makes up for this slight visual annoyance and provides an experience which rivals many custom desktops. During our intensive gaming benchmarks, the laptop consistently remained above 60 frames-per-second and achieved numbers very close to a GTX 970. This is incredible and greatly assisted by the fantastic 1920×1080 G-SYNC display. As you might expect, the 75Hz refresh rate works in tandem with NVIDIA’s G-SYNC technology to create fluid, smooth gameplay. Even when the system drops suddenly to 50 frames-per-second from 80-130, it’s difficult to detect and seems more responsive than the frame-rate suggests. On another note, the vivid colours, wide viewing angles enhances the core experience, and the display didn’t exhibit any noticeable backlight bleed.  The panel is capable of a surprisingly bright maximum luminescence which encourages you to use the laptop more in poorly lit rooms.

MSI’s Cooler Boost 3 system is groundbreaking and results in the most impressive noise to temperature ratio we’ve seen from a laptop by some way. The cooling technology utilizes 6 heatpipes and includes a button to toggle between various fan modes. On the default setting, which I recommend you leave on, the laptop is almost inaudible during idle states. Even more ridiculous, the decibel rating under load only increases by a slight amount and I would describe its operation as silent. The noise levels undoubtedly sets a new standard and exemplifies how efficient premium gaming laptops can be with a skilled engineering team at the helm.

Furthermore, the laptop doesn’t compromise on running temperatures just to maintain low audible levels. I was astounded with the CPU temperatures which never exceeded 75C. Even more astonishing, the thermals are extremely consistent and remain within a very small range. This reduces the chance of sudden spikes in CPU temperatures and emphasizes how capable the cooling apparatus is. In theory, you can overclock the CPU to around 4.0GHz, but this dramatically increases both the load temperatures and noise.

In terms of storage, the M.2 NVMe drive’s performance numbers are sublime and makes a mockery of traditional SATA drives. Sadly, the capacity is fairly limiting, but this isn’t a shocking revelation and keeps the price under £2000. It’s not a cause for concern, as the majority of user data doesn’t require transfer speeds anywhere near 2000MB/s.

Other impressive features include the comfortable RGB keyboard, huge array of upgrade options, MSI’s ‘Super Port’ and Dynaudio speakers. The speakers are sensational and produce a balanced, warm sound. Furthermore, they can output a decent amount of volume without distortion and the sub-woofer enhances the audio reproduction during intense games.

Pros

  • Astounding SSD read speeds
  • Decent overclocking headroom
  • Excellent audio with a strong dynamic range
  • Gorgeous RGB keyboard
  • Incredibly efficient
  • Large quantity of USB 3.0 ports
  • MSI ‘Super Port’ offers marvelous transfer speeds
  • Reasonable weight considering the specification
  • Ridiculously quiet during demanding tasks
  • Superb temperatures
  • Wonderful gaming experience due to the 75Hz G-SYNC panel

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Surface material accumulates fingerprints extremely quickly

Neutral

  • 128GB boot drive capacity is pretty small but this is expected given the price of NVMe SSDs.

“The MSI GT72S Dominator Pro is built to an impeccable standard and revolutionizes the noise to performance ratio on luxury gaming laptops”

Editors-Choice

MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review

Thank you MSI for providing us with this sample.

Article Index

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look
  3. Testing & Methodology
  4. Synthetic Benchmarks
  5. Gaming Peformance
  6. CPU & Memory Performance
  7. Storage and USB Performance
  8. Networking Performance
  9. Acoustic, Power & Thermal Performance
  10. Final Thoughts
  11. View All

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