The MSI WE72 7RJ is like a mullet -- business in the front, party in the back. While the $1,799, 17-inch workstation is unassuming when it's closed, it has a comfortable, customizable RGB keyboard and a screen with vivid colors that will make photos and videos shine. Mix that with a blazing-fast SSD, and this workstation is prepared for both work and a little bit of play. However, with the MSI WE72 7RJ's short battery life, you'll want to make sure you always take a power brick along for the ride.
Design: Straight Off the Batmobile
From afar, the WE72 looks like most other workstations: black and blocky. But there are a few details that I really appreciate: Its subtle, silver logo is placed above the Workstation logo, and the black aluminum lid has a few small, symmetrical bumps -- it looks like the hood on the Batmobile.
When I lifted the lid, I was greeted by the thick-bezeled, 17.3-inch 1080p display and an island-style keyboard with RGB backlighting.
At 6.2 pounds and 16.5 x 11.3 x 1.2 inches, the WE72 has a larger footprint than competing workstations, but it's not the heaviest. That honor goes to the Lenovo ThinkPad P70, at a backbreaking 7.6 pounds. The Dell Precision 5520 (4.4 pounds, 14.1 x 9.3 x 0.4 inches) and HP ZBook Studio G3 (4.6 pounds, 14.8 x 10 x 0.7 inches) are on the smaller side, but they also have 15-inch displays.
As one would expect from a workstation, the WE72 has a ton of ports. On the left side are the Kensington lock slot, Ethernet jack, a pair of USB 3.0 ports (HDMI out, Mini DisplayPort, USB Type-C), and separate jacks for headphones and a microphone. On the right are a disc drive, USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot.
Display: Colorful, But Not Bright Enough
The colors on the WE72's display are rich and vivid, but I wished I could turn the display brightness higher. When I watched the trailer for Thor: Ragnarok, red face paint stood out against actor Chris Hemsworth's skin, and the Hulk was the perfect shade of forest-green.
The WE72 covers an astonishing 196 percent of the sRGB color gamut (100 percent is excellent), handily beating the desktop-replacement average (120 percent), Precision (113 percent), ThinkPad P70 (158 percent) and ZBook Studio (169 percent).
MORE: Best Laptops
Those colors aren't just vivid; they're accurate, too. The WE72's Delta-E score is just 0.4 (0 is ideal), which is lower than the average (1.3), ZBook Studio (2.4), Precision (1.5) and ThinkPad P70 (0.7).
Unfortunately, the WE72's panel is dimmer than the average (293 nits), measuring just 200 nits. The ZBook Studio (241 nits) and ThinkPad P70 (277 nits) also missed the mark, but they're brighter than MSI's machine. The 335-nit display on the Precision was way more luminous than the competition's.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Typing on the SteelSeries keyboard on the WE72 is an absolute pleasure. Its 1.4 millimeters of travel doesn't feel shallow, and the 71 grams of actuation force (55 to 60 is typical) gives it a punchy, responsive feel. On the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I zipped along at 117 words per minute with an error rate of less than 1 percent (my usual max is 115 wpm with a 2 percent error rate).
The touchpad, though, is merely serviceable. At 4.2 x 1.8 inches, there's plenty of room for navigating, and the Synaptics drivers support basic gestures like pinch-to-zoom and two-finger scrolling, but don't work with more complex Windows 10 gestures like tapping four fingers to open the Action center.
Audio: Loud and Proud
When you're done using the WE72 for work, you can use it as a stereo. This thing gets nice and loud. When I listened to Blue October's "You Make Me Smile," it instantly filled the space in one of our test areas, and the drums, guitars, bass and vocals were well-balanced. Just don't turn the volume all the way up, or it gets a little whiny.
The MSI WE72 will blast through everyday tasks, thanks to its 2.8-GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and an Nvidia Quadro M2200 GPU with 4GB of VRAM. I had 40 tabs open in Chrome, one of which was streaming a 1080p episode of "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," and there wasn't even a hiccup.
On the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, the WE72 achieved a score of 14,400, beating the desktop-replacement average (13,193) but falling behind the Precision (Intel Core Xeon E3, 15,309).
Blink and you'll miss it -- the WE72 copied 4.97GB in just 6 seconds, a rate of 848.2 MBps. The average is 561.1 MBps, and the Precision (462.7 MBps) and ZBook Studio (508.9 MBps) are both slower, but the ThinkPad P70 tied MSI's workstation score.
MORE: Best MSI Laptops
On our OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro, the WE72 paired 20,000 names and addresses in 3 minutes and 22 seconds -- a hair faster than the average of 3:24, and the ThinkPad P70 and ZBook Studio (tied at 3:23). The Precision was speedier, at 3:08.
The WE72's Nvidia Quadro M2200 with 4GB of VRAM isn't meant for gaming (it just passed 30 frames per second on our Hitman benchmark), but it will give you a solid boost in AutoCad or Photoshop. On 3DMark Fire Strike, it notched a score of 5,331, falling short of the average (9,092, though this includes high-end gaming laptops) and the ThinkPad P70 (Nvidia Quadro M4000M, 6,645), but outperformed the Precision (Quadro M1200, 3,987) and ZBook Studio (M1000M, 3,351).
Battery Life: Desk-Bound
There's a reason we call the WE72 a desktop replacement. It lasted just 2 hours and 57 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test, which involves browsing the web continuously over Wi-Fi. While the category average is 4:19, the ZBook Studio (5:08), ThinkPad P70 (5:53) and Dell Precision 5520 (a whopping 11:57) lasted far longer.
The WE72 stayed nice and cool in our testing. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video from YouTube, it measured 90 degrees on the touchpad, 88 degrees on the center of the keyboard and 85 degrees on the bottom.
The 720p webcam on the WE72 is solid, with accurate colors and lots of detail. In test shots taken at my desk, the camera caught the red stripes in my shirt exactly, and I could make out individual hairs on my head. Additionally, the lights behind me weren't blown out the way lesser webcams usually make them appear.
Software and Warranty
Most of the software preloaded on the WE72 is useful. MSI Dragon Center is a hub to monitor system performance, customize fan speeds, calibrate your battery and register your laptop. The True Color app adjusts your screen to remove blue light (great for working at night) and provides specialized settings for gaming, movies and work.
Of course, there's also some bloatware that comes on every Windows 10 PC, like Candy Crush Soda Saga, Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition, Twitter, Facebook, March of Empires and Sling.
The MSI WE72 7RJ is a capable workstation that will handle any task you throw at it with aplomb. It offers strong performance, a fast SSD and a very comfortable keyboard; but while the screen outputs vivid colors, it's not as bright as competitors' offerings.
If you can drop a bit more cash, the Lenovo ThinkPad P70 (starting at $1,889) offers a brighter screen and lasts almost twice as long on a charge. But if you're not taking the WE72 away from your desk and don't need the brightest screen out there, it's still a solid machine for almost $200 less than Lenovo's workstation.