Change is good, especially when it's a gaming laptop sporting a brand-new design. Ditching the tired black-and-red gamer aesthetic, the MSI GT76 Titan is stepping out in all its silver, foxy glory. The new look is nothing short of stunning, and when paired with MSI's custom of employing the most powerful components available, the Titan is a force to be reckoned with, performance-wise and financially. Starting at $2,999 ($4,599 as tested), the Titan is a pewter-colored dream to all but the most deep-pocketed gamers. But this superpremium machine deserves a spot on our best gaming laptops, best VR-ready laptops, best RTX 2080 gaming laptops and best 4K laptops list, and it should be on your short list.
MSI GT76 Titan price and availability
I had a rousing good time with this beast of a gaming laptop. I tested the $4,599 configuration, which has a desktop 3.6-GHz Intel Core i9-9900K processor with 64GB of RAM; a pair of 512GB NVMe PCIe SSDs; a 1TB, 7,200-rpm hard drive; an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU; an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM; and a 3840 x 2160 panel with a 60-Hz refresh rate.
The $2,999 base model has a 3.6-GHz Intel Core i7-9700K CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 1920 x 1080 panel with a 240-Hz refresh rate.
The $3,599 configuration is the middle child, but its specs are far from middling. It offers a 3.6-GHz Intel Core i7-9700K CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD, an Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU, an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 GPU with 8GB of VRAM and a 3840 x 2160 panel with a 60-Hz refresh rate.
MSI GT76 Titan design
After years of rocking the black-and-red gamer aesthetic, the Titan has gone gray. Decked out in a slate-gray aluminum and a black plastic undercarriage, the notebook looks like an imposing set of armor ready to protect a gamer headed into battle. Done in burnished gray, MSI's dragon sigil looks every bit like a coat of arms. The large rear vents are made of faux carbon fiber and makes me think of a powerful supercar, primed and ready to hit the track.
Peering inside the laptop is like stepping into the maw of the dragon's den. The entirety of the deck is made of black metal that's cool to the touch. The backlit keys are like glittering treasure, tempting you to come closer. At the top of the deck, you'll find buttons for fan speed, power and MSI Dragon Center. Along the bottom of the front lip and sides of the laptop is an undulating rainbow thanks to SteelSeries' lighting effects and an LED strip.
With a name like Titan, it's no surprise that this gaming laptop is on the heavy side. The system measures 15.6 x 12.9 x 1.3~1.7 inches and weighs 9.9 pounds, which is slightly heavier than the Origin PC Eon17-X (9.5 pounds, 16.4 x 11.6 x 1.6 inches). At 8.5 pounds, the Alienware Area-51m (16.1 x 15.9 x 1.1~1.7 inches) is the lightweight in this bunch.
MSI GT76 Titan display
MSI has a history of delivering displays with eye-catching color, and the GT76 Titan doesn't disappoint. Details during the Miss Virginia trailer on the 17.3-inch, 4K (3840 x 2160) matte panel were so crisp, I saw several moles near actress Uzo Aduba's left eye as well as tiny hairs cascading along the fringes of her afro. Her olive jacket -- with its dark green, crimson and golden accents -- brought out the slight sheen in her rose-colored blouse and warm, brown skin.
The gorgeous color cavalcade continued as I played Far Cry New Dawn, where a crimson and black rattlesnake coiled, ready to strike with thin yellow lines accentuating the black diamond patterns on the reptile's taut body. The full moon overhead helped bring attention to the delicate scales making up the transfixing pattern.
Color looks so good on the Titan because of its 157% reproduction on the sRGB gamut, which helps maintain the vibrancy. It's higher than the 148% premium-gaming-laptop average as well as the 120% and 118% put up by the Eon 17-X and the Area-51m.
It also helps that the screen is very bright, averaging 339 nits, which tops the 318-nit average and outshines the Area-51m (284 nits) and the Eon17-X (211 nits).
MSI GT76 Titan audio
Dynaudio speakers paired with Nahimic's audio software tend to deliver loud, clean audio. It's the same on the Titan -- for the most part. Chloe x Halle's light, airy vocals came through light and clear on the bottom-mounted speakers. However, some of the instrumentals, like the keyboard, were a bit muddy, although others, like the percussion, were fairly clean. Not even fiddling with Nahimic's presets, which can usually fix most audio issues, rectified that. Out of the four presets (Gaming, Music, Surround and Voice), Gaming delivered the most balanced performance.
When playing through Far Cry New Dawn, I switched over to Surround, which made me feel like I was walking through the forest, complete with different birds calling and winds blowing gently through the trees. It was all peaceful until I heard a guttural growl that seemed to come from everywhere, letting me know almost too late that a cougar was stalking me as its prey. A few well-placed shots from my submachine gun further fractured the calm but helped me turn the tables on the wild animal.
Switching from the Music preset to Movie or Gaming transforms the audio from a warm-but-somewhat-one-dimensional performance with a 360-degree effect for realistic immersion. You can even adjust the vocals to make them sound closer or farther depending on your preference. At max volume, you can lose some of the accuracy despite Dynaudio's Smart amp's efforts to maintain the levels, but it's still a great feature.
Nahimic's Sound Tracking tech continues to be some of the best I've used. It definitely came in handy during Far Cry, preventing some of the more determined Highwaymen from sneaking up on me. And for streamers, the Static Noise Suppression feature will be a favorite, especially if you're recording in a noisier environment.
MSI GT76 Titan keyboard and touchpad
It's not mechanical, but the Titan's island-style keyboard feels great nonetheless. The keys are large and generously spaced and offer bouncy feedback without a hint of bottoming out. I scored 72 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, which is slightly above my typical 70 wpm.
The keyboard makes use of SteelSeries' Engine 3 software to deliver per-key customizable lighting making use of 16.8 million colors. If you don't feel like meticulously designing your own RGB creation, the SteelSeries button along the side of the number pad lets you cycle among eight dazzling preconfigured profiles.
Want more functionality? Try the GameSense feature, which syncs up the lighting for certain games to blink or flash when something important happens. For instance, in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, you can map certain keys to react to getting kills and scoring a headshot, in addition to keeping tabs on your health and ammo. You also can map several macros to one key. And all your settings are saved to the cloud with the CloudSync feature for use wherever you go.
The 5.4 x 2.5-inch touchpad is absolutely massive. It's also really fast and accurate. Summoning Cortana, scrolling between open apps and zooming in or out on an image were nearly instantaneous. The two discrete mouse buttons are almost as springy as the keyboard.
MSI GT76 Titan gaming, graphics and VR
One look at this laptop and it's safe to assume it's got some serious power under the hood. With Titan, you've got a full Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 GPU with 8GB of VRAM. And for those moments you aren't gaming, there's an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 630 GPU.
During my New Dawn walk-through, I skulked through the woods to my next objective. I sneaked up on a small herd of pronghorn deer, nocked my arrow and let it fly, resulting in a meaty thud as it landed in my prey's neck at 56 frames per second on Ultra at 3840 x 2160. The frame rate jumped to 71 fps when I dropped the setting to 1920 x 1080.
The Titan kept pace with its competition for the most part. Although it stumbled on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, scoring only 68 fps on High at 1080p. It's better than the 65-fps premium laptop average. Equipped with their own 2080 GPUs, the Area-51m and the Eon17-X hit 92 and 81 fps, respectively.
Switching over to Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the Titan delivered 79 fps, beating the 63-fps average. The Eon17-X was only a frame higher at 80 fps.
When we ran the Hitman benchmark, the Titan achieved 113 fps, beating the 107-fps category average. However, the Eon17-X's 125 fps and the Area-51m's 143 fps both had higher scores. The Titan, however, delivered an impressive 70 fps at 4K, sailing past the 55-fps average.
On the Grand Theft Auto V test, the Titan matched the Area-51m with 105 fps, defeating the Eon17-X's 97 fps and the category average of 78 fps.
During the Middle-Earth: Shadow of War benchmark, the Titan notched 110 fps, topping the 95-fps average but not the Area-51m or Eon17-X, which obtained 132 and 130 fps.
Thinking about investing in an Oculus Rift S or a HTC Vive Pro? The Titan is more than capable of supporting any of the VR headsets currently on the market. The system maxed out the SteamVR Performance test with 11.
MSI GT76 Titan performance
Just because the Titan goes hard on the gaming performance doesn't mean it takes its foot off the gas during regular tasks. On the contrary, the laptop's desktop 3.6-GHz Intel Core i9-9900K processor with its 64GB of RAM, is a multitasking, productivity dynamo. The notebook ably streamed an episode of Disenchantment on Netflix with 25 open Google Chrome tabs, some running Twitch, YouTube and Tweetdeck, with Far Cry running in a separate window.
The Titan kept that same energy on our synthetic benchmarks, scoring 32,500 on Geekbench 4.3 which measures overall performance, easily defeating the 25,040. With their own 9900K CPUs, the Eon17-X and Area-51m scored 27,544 and 32,591, respectively.
When we ran the HandBrake transcoding test, the Titan took 5 minutes and 51 seconds to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, blowing past the 9:23 average. The Area-51m was hot on its tail at 6:00, with the Eon17-X trailing with a time of 6:53.
During the File Transfer test, the Titan's pair of 512GB NVMe PCIe SSDs in Super RAID 4 configuration (with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive) duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files for a transfer rate of 1,454.1 megabytes per second, roasting the 782.4 MBps average and the Eon17-X (2TB SSD) 565 MBps. The Area-51m with its own dual 1TB NVMe PCIe SSDs came the closest to the Titan with 1,272.3 MBps.
MSI GT76 Titan battery life
Sporting so much power, it's expected that the Titan will be short on battery life. However, the system lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That time is longer than the 3:24 premium gaming laptop average, the Area-51m's 2:36 and the Eon17-X's 1:50.
MSI GT76 Titan heat
Besides battery life, cooling tends to be a longstanding problem with gaming laptops. MSI employs a three-pronged attack, using 11 heat pipes, four fans and an undercarriage that's more vents than anything. The heat pipes are made of high-polished copper to get as much heat dissipation as possible. It's a necessary measure if you want to maintain your overclock for longer than 5 minutes.
For the first test, I liberated an outpost in Far Cry for 15 minutes. After which I tested strategic points on the laptop (touchpad, center of keyboard and undercarriage) and saw temperatures of 96, 112 and 129 degrees Fahrenheit. All of which are above our 95-degree comfort threshold.
We ran the test again when the system cooled down, running a 15-minute video. Temperatures for the touchpad, middle and bottom reached 83, 92 and 104 degrees, respectively.
MSI GT76 Titan webcam
You're going to want to invest in an external webcam. Despite its 720p shooter, the Titan delivered grainy and slightly washed-out images. In the test shots I took, my skin looked a lot redder than usual and the blue in my shirt was lighter.
Regarding detail, my braided locs looked like elongated blobs.
MSI GT76 Titan apps and warranty
Even though it's a gaming laptop, the Titan has a lot of preinstalled apps and utilities, and some are more helpful than others. The most important app is MSI Dragon Center, which acts as a hub for most of the manufacturer-branded utilities. From here, you can review and adjust system diagnostics, including CPU, GPU and fan speed.
The VoiceBoost feature lets you adjust the VoIP and game audio. You also have the ability to switch between several different optimized system presets with the System Tuner. Dragon Center also has Gaming Mode, which automatically optimizes the laptop complete with GameSense lighting for games like Dota 2, Overwatch, PlayerUnknown Battlegrounds and Starcraft II.
Other utilities housed in Dragon Center include Burn Recovery and Battery Calibration.
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There are also several third-party apps designed to enhance gaming performance, including Killer Control Center, which prioritizes network bandwidth to data-intensive software. The laptop also comes with Nvidia GeForce Experience, which has its own set of helpful functions, including Battery Calibration, Game Optimization, Whisper Mode and In-Game Overlay.
Unfortunately, the notebook has its fair share of bloatware, such as Candy Crush Saga. However, some people might find value in apps like MusicMaker Jam, Evernote, Cyberlink PowerDirector and PhotoDirect. The laptop also features Norton Studio to keep things secure.
MSI is mixing old and new and I'm here for it. The new is the lovely new silver design that's Camelot-meets-the-racetrack. It's a bold departure from the tried-and-true red-and-black gamer motif. The old is the company's kitchen-sink approach to gaming laptops. At $4,599, this laptop has just about everything, including an Intel desktop processor and a full Nvidia RTX 2080 GPU, which means it's plenty powerful for gaming and productivity.
At $5,223, the Alienware Area-51m is more expensive than the Titan when similarly configured, but it offers a slightly more understated (for a massive gaming laptop) look than the former. The Alienware also allows you to upgrade all the components for some serious future-proofing. But overall, the MSI GT76 Titan is an excellent choice for a desktop replacement gaming laptop.
Credit: Laptop Mag