When a 17-inch gaming laptop with a powerful GPU lands in our offices for review, we fully expect the system to burn through some of our favorite games. But it's a great surprise to get a 17-inch system that expertly combines rich performance and hype-worthy good looks sure to appeal to any gamer. Fortunately for us, that’s exactly what happened when we reviewed the MSI GT72 Dragon Edition.
We called the 8-pound, 17.3-inch MSI GT72 "clearly best-bet gaming laptop for cutting-edge gamers” for good reason. The system sports a one-of-a-kind, red-and-black, dragon-themed chassis and a desktop-grade Nvidia GTX 980 graphics card that makes the GT72 one of the first laptops to support virtual reality gaming with the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift.
Though this laptop offered up some of the shortest battery life we've seen in a gaming rig, it earns a four-star review and an Editors' Choice award for seamless gaming prowess and bold good looks. In fact, MSI pulled out so many stops on this beauty-and-brawns laptop, we decided to list out a few of our favorite features.
Black and red isn’t a new color scheme for gaming laptops. Acer uses the same palette on the massive Predator 17 but the effect is drab compared to the sexy, energetic crimson paint job on theMSI GT72. Etched atop the glossy, hot shade of sweet rouge is a stylish, whirling dragon, one that — as Laptop mag reviewer Sherri Smith points out — appears to swirl around the MSI logo, almost as though to protect its maker's logo. For a little flare, the eye of the dragon is a cut-out that’s backlit, adding “a touch of whimsy” to an already dramatic presentation.
The penchant for small -- but sharp -- design accents extends to the palm-rest, where another dragon encircles the wide two-button touchpad. On the front lip of the laptop, thin, red lights line the far right and left sides of the system, and around back, flanking the sporty cooling vents, are perforated-metal covers in the dragon's familiar shade of raging red.
A beautiful gaming rig needs brawn, too. MSI packed the GT72 with a full-powerNvidia GeForce GTX 980 chip, a graphics card designed for beefier desktops. The MSI GT72 didn’t fare so well on the resource-heavy Metro: Last Light benchmark, but it excelled on Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. We’re talking 197 fps on the low setting at 1080p, and a killer 105 fps on the high setting, also in full HD. Though the frame rates in Witcher 3 were lower, gameplay looked as sharp and amazing as ever.
While playing The Witcher 3 on the MSI GT72, Smith couldn’t help but notice that the sound of Geralt’s sword during fight scenes was "nauseating" and "fleshy." That's a testament to the Dragon’s Dynaudio speakers and bottom-mounted sub-woofer. Even non-game audio that sounded tinny on other 17-inch gaming systems came out of the MSI GT72 crisp, even, and unmarred by potentially overwhelming low-end sound. For broadcasting gameplay, the included HD recorder was also a blast for capturing high-definition live audio.
If there’s something middle-of-the-road about the MSI GT72, it’s the 17-inch display that caps screen resolution at 1080p. Some newer laptops boast displays with panels sharperthan 1920 x 1080 pixels, like the Dell XPS 13 and its 3200 x 1400-pixel touchscreen. What we can say is that Sherri Smith enjoyed the GT72’s “sumptuous color and sharp details." And though the GT72 was not as bright as competing systems, support for Nvidia G-Sync frame rate technology made for smoother, more detailed gameplay.
We’ve seen MSI and SteelSeries team up on keyboards before and the keyboard on the Dragon doesn’t disappoint. Sherri Smith measured key travel at 1.4 millimeters, which is a little short for a comfortable typing experience. To compensate for the short distance, the keys require a little more force, about 60 grams of pressure. The result was a comfortable, springy keyboard feel. Color-code freaks will enjoy the back-light customization options available through SteelSeries Engine. There are 16.8 million color options that can be applied to six keyboard zones, then saved in profiles that correspond to specific games or apps. Stat-happy players can even track their key input to help improve their performance in MOBA games.
Most of the 17-inch gaming laptops Smith reviews offer4 USB 3.0 ports, but the MSI GT72 offers six. We’d be even more excited if it offered more than one USB Type-C port but since that technology is still relatively new, we won't sweat it. After all, we know better than to look a gift dragon in the mouth.