As a gaming laptop reviewer, I love all things ridiculous and fantastical. Which is why the MSI GT83VR Titan makes me break out in a toothy grin. It's an 18.4-inch monster that thumbs its nose at practicality, flaunting its overclockable Intel Core i7 processor, dual PCI-e SSDs in Super RAID 4 configuration, and not one, but two, Nvidia GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI. Saying the Titan is fast and powerful is an understatement, but at budget-shearing $5,099, it's a power fantasy that's out of reach for most gamers. But if you can afford to spend that kind of money, the GT83VR will give you really strong graphics performance.
For a laptop this massive, the Titan is rather understated. It makes me long for the bright-red, dragon-clad "I am laptop, hear me roar" motif of the GT72 Dominator Pro Dragon Edition. Instead, you have a rather stately black brushed-aluminum lid with a pair of glossy, blood-red accents. Toward the center, you'll find the backlit red and white dragon sigil and a chrome MSI logo. A plastic strip toward the front acts as the lip, begging you to explore the laptop further.
Once you open it, you'll be intrigued by the large dragon that's etched into the top of the deck, daring your fingers to dance along the red backlit mechanical keyboard. As with the previous model, the keyboard has been pushed toward the bottom of the deck for easy access to the laptop's innards via the large, dragon-decorated panel. A trio of buttons (Fan Speed, Display and Power) sit on the bottom right of the ebony beast, above the rectangular touchpad. The rear and bottom of the notebook are made of hardy black magnesium alloy. The back vents are lined in a red pearlescent finish.
The right side of the laptop houses a scant two USB 3.0 ports, while the left has three USB 3.0 ports, a tray-loading Blu-ray player, a 3-in-1 card reader, Hi-Fi headphone-out jack, a S/PDIF, and line-in and out jacks. In the back is a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 1.4 out, a Mini DisplayPort, Gigabit Ethernet and the power adapter.
Such an outlandish laptop can't be expected to sport an ordinary plug. In order to power the pair of GTX 1080 GPUs as well as the rest of the system, the adapter connects to a power adapter dongle, which fans out into two separate 2.6-pound bricks.
At 11.6 pounds, 18 x 13.3 x 1.7~2.7 inches, the Titan is a big gun. It makes 17-inch behemoths like the Acer Predator 17 X (10 pounds, 16.7 x 12.7 x 1.8 inches), Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition (8.9 pounds, 16.4 x 12.7 x 0.8~1.5 inches) and the MSI GT72VS Dominator (8.4 pounds, 16.9 x 11.6 x 1.9 inches) look small by comparison. Add in the power bricks, and you're carrying 16.8 pounds of electronics with you in a giant bag.
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You could have as many eyes as Argus and still never get bored of gazing into the Titan's 18.4-inch 1920 x 1080 display. The matte, anti-glare IPS screen delivered a wide array of rich, luxurious color as I watched the Hidden Figures trailer. Actress Taraji P. Henson's bronze skin seemed to glow, drawing the eye to her lovely crimson lips and white teeth. Details were so crisp that I could clearly see the folds of the small pink flowers adorning her sweater and matching fascinator.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was an even lovelier sight to behold. As I gallivanted through the world on horseback, the sun gleamed off the chainmail sections of Geralt's armor, showing off the individual links. The sky was a crystal blue with large, cotton-white clouds reaching toward the horizon. Galloping down the well-worn dirt road, I felt like I could ride forever.
Those captivating colors are partly due to the panel's ability to reproduce 111 percent of the sRGB gamut (100 percent is excellent), which is enough to beat the Dominator's 108 percent, but not the 129 percent category average. The Predator 17 X and G752VS performed slightly better at 112 and 114 percent, respectively.
At 1.3 on the Delta-E benchmark, the Titan's screen is pretty accurate (0 is ideal) and matches the desktop-replacement average and tops the Dominator's 1.5. However, since most of the laptops in this category are gaming desktops, the competition is tight. The Predator 17 X obtained 1.1, while the G752VS proved itself to be the most accurate at 0.9.
Averaging 275 nits on our brightness test, this Titan is no Helios. It missed the 296 average as well as the 288, 319 and 326 nits achieved by the Predator 17 X, Dominator and G752VS, respectively.
Paired with its bottom-mounted subwoofer, the Titan's four Dynaudio speakers filled our lab with loud, fairly clear audio. I heard almost every guitar strum on the Foo Fighters' "The Pretenders." The drums were front and center, but the bass was somewhat submerged. Switching to Kendrick Lamar's "Alright," I got sweet vocal harmonies in the background, coupled with a brash horn that gave a solid backdrop to the artist's acid-tongued raps. However, when the piano came into play, it got lost in the horn, signaling lack of separation.
From Geralt's grunts of exertion during battle, to the insistent rustle of the trees caught in a particularly strong wind, the world of Witcher 3 is aurally sublime. When I wasn't listening to the sounds of cicadas and birds, I was caught in the somber strings that gave way to a fevered soundtrack of handclaps and yelps when a battle started.
Similar to most current MSI laptops, the Titan comes with Nahemic 2 audio software. The software comprises several preconfigured settings for gaming (Shooter, Racing, Strategy and Role Play) and multimedia (Music, Movie, Comm), and listeners can pick a setting that suits their tastes. It also includes the second iteration of HD Audio Recorder, which allows gamers to record and map audio samples for use while streaming. You also get the Sound Tracker software, which provides a visual representation of where an enemy is approaching from, so the bad guys will never get the drop on you.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The GT83VR Titan is one of only two gaming laptops to feature a mechanical keyboard. Using a SteelSeries keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches, MSI provides a high-end, desktop typing experience on a laptop. I hit 70 words per minute on the 10FastFingers Typing Test, besting my usual 65 wpm.
Boasting 3.1 millimeters of key travel with 75 grams of force to press the keys, the GT83VR Titan provides strong feedback that's even better than Lenovo's Ideapad Y900 proprietary mechanical keyboard (3.1 mm, 71 g). I loved the audible clickiness of the Y900, but preferred the large keycaps and stronger response of the Titan.
Just like its predecessor, the Titan lacks the ability to customize keyboard color. I don't have anything against the bright red backlighting, but MSI and other gaming laptop manufacturers have spoiled me.
The Titan retains its rectangular, 2.3 x 3.4-inch Synaptics touchpad, which doubles as a digital number pad when you press the illuminated NUM key. Both modes offer rapid response, allowing me to quickly peck out a few numbers or perform three-finger flick or press. Pinch-zoom is possible, however, the slim profile makes it a little cramped.
Graphics, Gaming and VR
(Cues thunderous voice) BEHOLD, THE POWER OF DUAL NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 1080 GPUS! Just like its predecessor, the Titan wields a pair of Nvidia cards with 8GB of VRAM each. Only this time, the cards are VR-capable.
As is our custom, we ran the SteamVR Performance test to determine how virtual-reality-friendly the system is. It scored 10.1, which places it in the high end of the ready quadrant. That's on a par with the G752VS (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU), while soundly trouncing the Dominator's (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU) 6.1 and the Predator 17 X's (Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 GPU) 8.1.
I roamed the remnants of a battlefield in Witcher 3, trying to help a peasant identify his missing brother, when we were set upon by a group of ghouls. Geralt sprang into action, hacking into the undead horde with his silver sword and ashen mane. In one well-timed stroke, he decapitated one of the monsters, sending his head flying at a silky-smooth 72 frames per second on Ultra at 1080p with Nvidia's HairWorks software enabled.
On the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark, the Titan snagged 72 fps on Ultra, pushing past the 52 fps set by the G752VS and the desktop-replacement average. The Dominator delivered a playable 36 fps. The Titan really started flexing on the Grand Theft Auto V test, scoring an impressive 111 fps, toppling the 72-fps average as well as the G752VS' 69 fps and the Dominator's 50 fps.
If dual GPUs weren't enough, MSI also outfitted this monster with an overclockable 2.7-GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK processor with a ridiculous 64GB of RAM. I opened 20 Google Chrome tabs -- with one streaming an episode of Stranger Things on Netflix -- while running a system scan. It barely registered with the system. Only after I launched Witcher 3 in a separate window did I start to see any latency.
However, the Titan stumbled a bit out of the starting block, scoring 14,765 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. While that score is below the 18,000 desktop replacement category average, it's important to note that the average includes laptops with desktop CPUs such as the Origin Eon17-SLX (18,779). Armed with their own i7-6820HK CPUs, the G752VS and Predator 17 X produced 15,563 and 13,763, respectively. The Dominator and its 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ CPU notched 13,728.
What a difference a second makes. Duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files in 7 seconds for a transfer rate of 727 megabytes per second, the Titan (dual 512GB PCI-e SSD in Super RAID 0 configuration) might win a footrace against Hermes. It actually tied the Predator 17 X, which has a dual 512GB PCI-e SSD. Neither was a match, however, for the G752VS (256GB M.2 PCI-e SSD) or the Dominator (512GB M.2 PCI-e SSD), which turned in rates of 848.2 MBps and 1,017.9 MBps, respectively.
T'was battery life that killed this beast. The Titan tapped out after 1 hour and 54 minutes of our battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi). That's well below the 4:40 desktop-replacement average. The G752VS lasted 3:43, while the Dominator and Predator 17 X finished at 3:33 and 3:13, respectively. There's a reason this thing comes with two power bricks to keep things running.
MSI has completely overhauled its cooling system, outfitting the Titan with a 15-pipe configuration with dual exhausts that cools both the CPU and GPU. The result is a system that stays cools under the rigors of overclocking, gaming and VR. To test it, I played Witcher 3 for 15 minutes and at the end, measured specific points on the laptop.
The touchpad, center of the notebook and undercarriage measured 79, 82 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit -- all of which are under our 95-degree comfort threshold. The bottom left vent was the hottest point at 102 degrees, but since you're never going to be using this monstrosity in your lap, it's pretty much a moot point.
When I wasn't romancing ladies and dispatching rock trolls in Witcher 3, I was watching videos and writing this review. After I streamed a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the touchpad and space between the G and H keys were nice and cool at 76 and 75 degrees, respectively. The bottom of the laptop measured 102 degrees.
The new cooling system is as quiet as it is efficient. During my entire time reviewing the Titan, I could barely hear the fans, which allowed me to really focus on my games and media.
The Titan has one of the best webcams I've ever used. The integrated 1920 x 1080 device delivered accurate color and sharp detail in my test photos. The red-orange stripes in my dress were spot-on, as well as my purple locs, with a few flyaway strands. The camera also captures video at 30fps, which should come in handy for streaming yourself playing your favorite games.
Software and Warranty
MSI has wisely pooled the majority of its gamer-centric resources under one easy-to-access hub called the Dragon Center app. Some of the chief software programs you'll find include Nvidia GeForce Experience, MSI True Color and Killer Network Manager.
The hub features several tabs such as System Monitor, which lets you check the laptop's status, and LED Wizard, to create custom indicator lighting. System Tuner allows you to make custom profiles that tweak everything from VR optimization, the color temperature of the display and more. In order to protect your system from crashes and maintain battery health, there's the Tools & Help tab, which houses Burn Recovery and Battery Calibration software.
The System Manager hub has also gotten a makeover to display a cleaner, more modern look as you look to toggle Wi-Fi, Display Brightness, Volume and Webcam.
Third-party apps include Flipboard, Candy Crush Soda Saga, Twitter and Magix Music Maker. MSI also provides a free year of XSplit Gamecaster service for streaming fans and a two-month trial of WTFast to keep down latency and spike lags while improving RAID performance.
The MSI GT62 Dominator Pro ships with a two-year limited warranty.
Since you're investing $5,099 in a laptop purchase, MSI wanted to make sure to give buyers some level of future proofing. The unusually large panel above the keyboard isn't there just for the wicked dragon motif; it's to provide access to the notebook's innards so that they can be swapped out for better components at a later date. Similar to the previous model, you can upgrade the GPUs, memory and storage, but not the processor.
Removing the plate remains a relatively simple process. You simply remove the two screws at the bottom and slide the panel off to the right.
It didn't even take a year for MSI to look at the Titan and ask itself, "How can I make this better?" So the company made some key improvements, including an overclockable processor, dual Nvidia Pascal GPUs, PCI-e SSDs and more RAM, upping it from 16 to a whopping 64GB. MSI finished the successful equation by maintaining the things that made the Titan a stand-apart system in the first place, like the mechanical keyboard, innovative touch/numpad, upgradeability and lovely display.
At $5,099, the GT83VR Titan SLI is out of the price range of most gamers. For those who can afford it, MSI's laptop delivers performance that's close to, but not quite as fast as, the most powerful desktops. If you're looking for a powerful VR-capable laptop, with a lovely display and speedy file transfers that won't put such a hurting on your wallet, check out the $2,499 Asus ROG G752VS OC Edition. Overall, the Titan is a great example of the powerful features and performance you can get when money is no object.