You don't always have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get a solid gaming system. Case in point: the MSI GL62M 7REX ($899 as tested). This laptop delivers good performance on both the gaming and productivity fronts, thanks to an Intel Core i7 processor and an entry-level Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU. And the system has a surprising amount of gamer-friendly software, whereas competing systems are typically loaded with bloatware. However, a dim display and weak audio keep the 7REX from earning a higher rating.
With its prominent red-backlit dragon sigil, there's no mistaking that the 7REX is an MSI system. But with its semi-boxy shape, it's not the most eye-catching laptop in the company's stable. That said, the black matte soft-touch finish on the lid feels really good against my fingertips -- so much so that I left quite a few unsightly fingerprints. So you might want to keep a microfiber cloth around.
Upon opening the lid, you see the smooth, black-plastic deck, which is a nice contrast from the texturized base. The deck lacks the soft touch of the lid, so it doesn't feel as nice. But it still has plenty of space to rest your wrists. Typical of most gaming laptops, the backlit keys are lined in red. The power, fan and Dragon Center button sit in the top-right corner of the deck, above the keyboard.
Although it's classified as a budget machine, the 7REX has more than enough ports to turn it into a viable gaming battlestation.
On the right, you'll find a single USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader and a jack for the AC adapter. Along the left, you'll see a pair of USB 3.0 ports, a USB Type-C port, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, a mini DisplayPort, a secure lock slot, and jacks for headphones and a microphone.
At 5.3 pounds and 15.1 x 10.2 x 1.1 inches, the 7REX is lighter than competing systems, including the Acer Nitro 5 (5.9 pounds, 15.4 x 10.5 x 1.1 inches) and the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming (6 pounds, 15.2 x 10.8 x 1 inches). The 15.1 x 9.9 x 1-inch HP Omen 15t is just a smidgen lighter, at 5 pounds.
The 7REX's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen is a font of color. It's just a shame that you can't appreciate the depth of hues, because of the display's dimness. When I watched the trailer for "A Wrinkle in Time" on this panel, I could clearly see the plaits in Mrs. Who's jet-black tresses and the delicate houndstooth pattern in her gown. However, the supernatural being's usually warm brown skin looked a bit ashy, and the olive robe took on more of a yellowish hue.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt also suffered from color degradation. The green-and-black armor the titular character wore was a few shades darker than normal. But details remained clear enough that I could see several shooting stars as I looked up to the night sky.
Averaging a dismal 198 nits, the 7REX's display is awfully dim. It's well short of the 245-nit average, as well as the 233, 247 and 273 nits posted by the Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, HP Omen 15t and Acer Nitro 5.
For such a relatively dim display, the 7REX registers a ridiculously high color-gamut score. The panel can reproduce 153 percent of the sRGB color gamut, surpassing the 100-percent mark, which we consider excellent. It's also much more vivid than the 95-percent entry-level-gaming average. The Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming, Nitro 5 and Omen 15t paled in comparison, turning in rather dull scores of 68, 70 and 71 percent, respectively.
While you can use the 7REX without headphones, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it. Despite the onboard Nahimic 2 software, which does an excellent job of enhancing sound with its myriad presets, the pair of speakers mounted on the front lip of the system doesn't really pack the power you want from a gaming laptop.
I heard every guitar riff and drum beat on Janelle Monae's "Make Me Feel." However, I had to lean in to really hear anything, even with the extra boost from the Music preset. When I switched to Role Play on the Nahimic 2 software for The Witcher 3, I could hear every clank of steel as I fought off bandits, but the usually raucous fight music with the frantic tambourine and energetic yelps seemed submerged in the background.
The 7REX's island-style keyboard is decent. With 1.5 millimeters of travel and 72 grams of force required to actuate the keys, it's in our acceptable comfort level. I definitely didn't bottom out while I was typing, but it lacked the clicky responsiveness I prefer. I hit my usual 65 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test.
The 4.2 x 2.3-inch Synaptics touchpad is spacious enough that I never hit the edges when navigating web pages and documents. Windows 10 gestures such as two-finger scroll, pinch-to-zoom and launching Action Center worked well.
Gaming and Graphics
Armed with a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM, the 7REX can play most games at respectable frame rate, albeit on lower settings. On my quest to track down Geralt's lost love Yennefer in The Witcher 3, I smote a pack of woods, slashing, dodging and launching my fire spell. On Ultra settings, the 7REX produced 35 frames per second, which rose to 45 fps when I dropped the settings to High.
When we ran the Rise of the Tomb Raider test (1920 x 1080, Very High), the 7REX delivered 22 frames per second, missing both our 30-fps playability threshold and the 37-fps entry-level-gaming average. The Acer Nitro 5 and its 1050 Ti did slightly better than the 7REX, at 24 fps. Armed with its GTX 1060 Max-Q GPU, the Dell Inspiron 15 hit 31 fps.
The 7REX had a better performance on the Hitman test, notching 46 fps. That was good enough to beat the HP Omen 15t's (GTX 1050 GPU) 32 fps. However, this MSI still fell short of the 56-fps category average, as well as the 54, 55 and 66 fps obtained by the Nitro 5 and Inspiron 15.
During the Grand Theft Auto V benchmark, the 7REX hit 31 fps, which missed the 47-fps average. The Nitro 5 edged it out, with 32 fps, while the Inspiron 15 achieved 44 fps.
When you're not building or saving the world, the laptop utilizes its Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU for less-intensive tasks, like watching videos or writing up a paper.
MSI made sure that the 7REX was ready for both work and play by equipping the laptop with a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor with 8GB of RAM. That meant I had no problem watching a couple of streams on Twitch while running Windows Defender with 18 tabs open in Google Chrome.
The laptop did well on most of our synthetic tests, such as Geekbench 4, which measures overall performance. The notebook notched 11,817, which was slightly below the 12,079 entry-level-gaming average. However, that was enough to keep the Dell Inspiron 15 (10,535) and the Acer Nitro 5 (11,572) and their Core i5-7300HQ CPUs at bay. The HP Omen 15, which has its own Core i7-7700HQ CPU, just missed the mark, scoring 11,769.
During the Excel Macro Test, the 7REX took 1 minute to pair 65,000 names and addresses in Excel, beating the 1:12 average, the Inspiron 15 (1:29) and the Nitro 5 (1:33). The 7REX took only 14 minutes and 11 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p during the HandBrake benchmark. That's faster than the 15:46 average, the Inspiron 15's 19:06 and the Nitro 5's 18:00.
When we tested the 7REX's 128GB mSATA SSD, it copied 4.97GB of mixed media files at a transfer rate of 141.4 megabytes per seconds, which topped the Omen 15t (1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive). It's a respectable result, but not enough to match the 210.9-MBps category average. It was also slower than the Inspiron 15 (256GB SSD) and the Nitro 5 (256GB m.2 SATA SSD).
Most gaming systems don't offer long battery life, and the 7REX is no exception. The laptop lasted only 3 hours and 33 minutes on our battery test, which consists of continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. That time is below the 5:17 average but on a par with the Nitro 5's3:18. The Inspiron 15 wrecked the curve with a time of 7:17.
I played 15 minutes of The Witcher 3, where I fought a ferocious griffin. Once I dispatched the beast, I measured a few key points on the laptop. The touchpad measured 99 degrees Fahrenheit, which was a few degrees above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The center and bottom of the system were even warmer, at 100 degrees each.
When the 7REX cooled down a bit, we streamed a high-resolution YouTube video for 15 minutes and remeasured. The notebook was still a bit hot, with the touchpad and bottom hitting 98 and 96 degrees, respectively. The middle just skated our comfort threshold, at 94 degrees.
The 7REX has a 720p webcam that takes passable stills and video. Everything I saw was plagued by visual noise, which made my navy-blue walls take on a grayish tinge, and the camera delivered hardly any detail.
The laptop's saving grace is its TriDef SmartCam software, which can strip out or blur your background. That can come in handy for a livestream.
Software and Warranty
For a budget system, the 7REX has a lot of top-notch gamer-friendly software. You get the Dragon Center app, which has been tweaked to incorporate the Nahimic 2 audio presets. There's also System Monitor, which checks your system's status, and System Tuner, which lets you create profiles that control fan speed, the display's color temperature and more. System Control Manager is there to let you quickly toggle the Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, webcam and display on and off.
You also get a few third-party apps geared toward gaming, such as Nvidia's GeForce Experience, which offers a solid suite of apps to optimize settings or livestream your gameplay.
Third-party apps include Bubble Witch 3 Saga, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Plex, Music Maker Jam, SketchBook, March of Empires and Norton Security.
I took the $899.99 version of the 7REX for a spin. It has a 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor; 8GB of RAM; a 128GB mSATA SSD with a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive; an Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU; and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM.
There's also the $729 base model, which offers a 2.5-GHz Intel Core i5-7300HQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB M.2 SATA SSD, an Intel HD Graphics 630 GPU and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU with 2GB of VRAM.
Even though it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of some of the more expensive systems in MSI's lineup, the $899 GL62M 7REX never makes you feel like this is anything other than a gaming laptop. The system delivers solid performance for both gaming and productivity, and has a surprisingly nice keyboard. It also comes loaded with gaming software that I wouldn't expect to see on a laptop in this price range.
If you're looking for something with a bit more gaming oomph that's VR-capable and has long battery life, you'll want to check out the $949 Dell Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming laptop. But if you're a budget hawk gamer who wants to save a few dollars that could be put toward buying more games, the MSI GL62M 7REX is a good choice.
Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag