Known for customizing MSI laptops, Xotic PC has turned the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro into a bespoke gaming machine with a custom wrap, a variety of cooling options and an overclocked, VR-ready Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card. At $2,673 ($1,599 to start) and just 5.4 pounds, the GE62VR 6RF is a portable rig that won't break the bank or your back. However, you can get better graphics performance and brighter displays on similarly priced competitors.
While some MSI branding might give away who really makes this computer, I wouldn't blame you if you didn't recognize it at first. The first thing I noticed when I laid my eyes on the notebook was Xotic's $89 custom graphic wrap on the lid. The Apache came with the same combination of futuristic red lines on top of a black and gray background that we saw on the GT72 Dominator Pro, and Xotic's logo is also placed prominently on the wrap.
Xotic also offers a number of customization options, including textured wraps, decals for additional surfaces like the palm rest and bezel, laser etching, backlight modifications, and full custom paint jobs. If you care about inner beauty, you can also choose amongst different chipsets and cooling options.
Lifting the lid reveals a more familiar sight: the 15.6-inch, 1080p display flanked by MSI's logo on the bottom and Xotic PC's emblem on the top, as well as a full, island-style keyboard with a number pad. The black plastic deck and the trackpad have a faux brushed-aluminum pattern, and the front of the palm rest and the back of the notebook feature red accents.
The Apache is a lightweight at 5.4 pounds and 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches. The Gigabyte P55W v6-PC3D is heavier, at 5.8 pounds, but smaller, at 14.9 x 10.6 x 1.3 inches, while the Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition is a hefty 8.9 pounds and 16.9 x 12.7 x 1.5 inches.
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There are plenty of ports for expandability and attaching your home entertainment devices and controllers. The left side of the laptop features a security lock slot, Ethernet jack, a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a single USB Type-C port, HDMI output, mini DisplayPort, and headphone and microphone jacks. On the right, you'll find the DVD drive, USB 2.0 port, SD card slot and power jack.
The 15.6-inch, matte, 1080p display is crisp, sharp and colorful, but I wish it were a little brighter. When I watched the trailer for Doctor Strange, yellow cabs on twisting New York City streets popped against the black pavement and I could make out all of the little geometric shapes that make up the Ancient One's portal between realities.
When I played BioShock Infinite, I saw the sadness in Elizabeth's big, blue eyes and pinpointed the exact spot where Booker's talons meet his palms when using his Murder of Crows attack (which disgusted our nearby lab tech). The matte display made navigating a building leading to the city of Finkton more challenging than it should be, because there wasn't enough contrast for dark scenes. When I emerged to the blue skies on a partly cloudy day in the city, I no longer had problems.
The Apache's display reproduced an excellent 113 percent of the sRGB color gamut, beating out the mainstream-notebook average (91 percent) and the P55W (110 percent). The G752V did slightly better, measuring 114 percent.
But the display on the Apache isn't as precise as that of its competition. It has a Delta-E color accuracy score of 1.2 (0 is best), which is better than the 2.3 category average, but not as good as the scores of the P552 (1.0) and G752V (0.9).
With an average brightness of 301 nits, the Apache's panel is brighter than the 266-nit category average, but dimmer than both the P55W and G752V, at 321 nits and 326 nits, respectively.
Unfortunately, unlike the G752V, the Apache Pro doesn't feature Nvidia's G-Sync technology, which matches the matches a display's refresh rate with the system's graphics card to prevent stuttering, tearing and lag. Gigabyte's P55W also lacks G-Sync.
The Apache's Dynaudio speakers with integrated subwoofer pushes out strong bass and the punch of every gunshot. When I played BioShock Infinite, a phone call with Columbia's most powerful man, Jeremiah Fink, was crystal-clear and the bolts from Booker's Shock Jockey vigor snapped through the air and paralyzed a policeman.
The MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro is especially great for those who like their entertainment loud. When I listened to Air Traffic Controller's "You Know Me," our labs were immediately filled with the booming sound of the band's vocals, synths, bass and drums. I'd recommend playing your music at less than maximum volume, though, as music had a tendency to sound strained when I pushed the speaker to its limits.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The SteelSeries keyboard on the Apache Pro is comfortable enough to work or play on for hours at a time. The keys, which have 2 millimeters of vertical travel and require 64 grams of force to press, are springy and responsive. On the 10fastfingers.net typing test, I typed at 114 words per minute, (surpassing my usual 107 wpm) and had zero errors (far better than my usual 2 percent error rate). The red backlights make the keyboard easy to see in dark rooms and give the computer a bit of a menacing look. My only complaint is that it's missing the left Windows key.
The 4.2 x 2.3-inch Synaptics touchpad is roomy enough for navigating Windows and the web, but it doesn't respond to every gesture. I could two-finger swipe and zoom in without a problem, but a three-finger swipe to minimize windows to the task bar didn't work. I'm not a fan of the rough texture on the trackpad, but it didn't harm the navigation experience.
Gaming, Graphics and VR
The Apache Pro's Nvidia GTX 1060 graphics card with 6GB of VRAM gave mixed performance when we ran it through our gaming benchmarks. The 1060 is part of Nvidia's latest generation of GPUs that can handle intense games and are suitable for use with VR headsets like the Oculus Rift. When you're not gaming, the computer falls back to its integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 GPU.
In BioShock Infinite, I powered through hordes of henchmen and heavily armed mechs that looked like George Washington. On Very High settings at 1080p, a shoot-out in the fortress leading to Finkton went smoothly at 145 frames per second, albeit with some screen tearing. The tearing was mostly resolved when I moved down to High settings and played the game at 147 fps. When I lowered the game to Medium, I got a bump up to 150 fps while shooting electric bolts at a Handyman.
We ran the Hitman benchmark on Ultra settings with DirectX 12, and the Apache cruised along at 56 fps, surpassing the 30 fps needed for playability, but not the mainstream laptop average of 67 fps. The P55W (also with a GTX 1060 GPU) hit 57 fps, while the G752V (Nvidia GTX 1070 GPU) ran the game at 89 fps.
On Metro: Last Light at high settings and 1080p resolution, the Apache hit 30 fps, beating the average score of 25 fps. The P55W was a stronger performer, at 45 fps, and the G752V was buttery smooth, at 70 fps.
The 1060 GPU pushed the Apache to a score of 7.1 on the StreamVR Performance Test, a showing that falls in the Very High range. It's lower than the mainstream-notebook average of 8.4 and the G752V's excellent mark 10.5, but it's better than the P55W's score of 6.6 and more than adequate for VR gaming.
It's still game on for the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro, even when you're working. The laptop is a serious multitasker, thanks to a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe-SSD, a 1TB, 7,200-rpm HDD and an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. When I browsed the web with Google Chrome, I had more than 40 tabs open, including one streaming a 1080p episode of Last Week Tonight, and didn't notice any lag.
The Apache Pro was no slouch in our synthetic tests, scoring 13,502 on the Geekbench 3, blasting past the mainstream notebook average of 8,232. The P55W, which has the same processor as the Apache, notched 13,530, while the G752V and its 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK CPU earned an even-higher 15,563.
The Apache's 512GB SSD took 10 seconds to transfer 4.97GB of mixed-media files for a speedy 508.9 megabytes per second. That's far faster than the 155.6MBps mainstream average and the P55W's sluggish SSD, which achieved 124.1MBps, but the G752V's SSD smoked the rest of the field with its blazing mark of 848.2MBps.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro test, the Apache paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 36 seconds, surpassing the category average of 4:29. It barely beat the P55W (3:37), but fell short of the G752V's time (3:23).
The new Pascal GPUs take a toll on battery life. The Apache lasted 3 hours and 9 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test, which involves continuously surfing the web over Wi-Fi. The Asus G752V lasted longer, at 3:54, but neither touched the mainstream category average of 6:44.
The Apache has six heat pipes and two fans (three pipes and a fan each for the GPU and CPU) that are supposed to keep the machine cool. After the Apache streamed 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, the bottom of the notebook reached 106 degrees Fahrenheit and the touchpad hit 110 degrees, both of which surpass our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center of the keyboard hit our 95-degree comfort limit exactly.
The Apache got even steamier after I spent 15 minutes playing BioShock Infinite. When I paused following an attack in a nightclub, I found that the touchpad climbed to 117 degrees, the center of the keyboard reached 113 degrees and the bottom of the notebook was still at 106 degrees.
If you're looking to stream some games on Twitch, you'll want to consider a webcam other than the one built into the Apache. When I tried taking a selfie with the 720p camera, the resulting photo was grainy, and I could see pixels around my colleague's heads in the background. My gray shirt also looked a shade lighter in the picture than it did in real life. The camera is fine for casual Skyping, but for anything else, you'll want to upgrade to something better.
Software and Warranty
Our Apache Pro came with a clean Windows 10 install, because Xotic PC removes all preloaded software as part of its optional "Redline Boost" system tune-up. The usual software you would expect on an MSI gaming rig was missing, including MSI True Color for screen calibration, Nahimic 2 for audio adjustment, SteelSeries Engine 3 for keyboard customization and XSplit Gamecaster. However, you can download these online.
The programs that survived the reinstall were bloatware that's common to Windows 10, including Farmville 2: Country Escape, Twitter, Netflix and Candy Crush Soda Saga.
The Apache comes with MSI's two-year parts and labor warranty. For $245, you can bump it to three years, and $349 also throws in accidental damage protection.
Gaming laptop modifications don't come cheap. The Apache I reviewed costs $2,673 and includes a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB M.2 PCIe-SSD, a 1TB, 7,200-rpm HDD and an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM. It also featured some of Xotic's customizations, including IC Diamond Thermal Compound for the GPU and CPU, OS Redline Boost, custom graphic wrap and an overclock video card.
The $1,599 base model comes with a 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 SSD, a 1TB and 7,200RPM hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU with 6GB of VRAM.
Xotic PC's version of the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro is a colorful, customizable gaming PC with an Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU for VR readiness, but the screen is slightly dimmer than the competition and it had a hard time playing some of the most intense titles out there.
If you prefer to spend your extra cash on games, you should take a look at the more affordable Gigabyte P55W v6-PC3D (starting at $1,399), which has more consistent performance, but lacks powerful, immersive sound and isn't as easy to carry around. For much better graphics performance, consider the $2,499 Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition and its beefier GTX 1070 GPU.
But if you want something portable, customizable and VR-ready, with loud speakers, the MSI GE62VR 6RF Apache Pro is a good choice.