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MSI GT72 Dominator

I was tasked again this issue with reviewing another MSI gaming notebook. This time, a powerful or rather, the most powerful gaming notebook MSI has ever built. It doesn't take a genius to figure that out if you look at the benchmark results. Sure it’s not going to match a mid-range desktop machine, but that doesn't matter. You shouldn't be expecting any notebook to do that.

What the GT72 does do however is make some generational improvements over the previous GT70. Gone is the bright red edition of many moons ago along with the generic rounded look of the previous model. In its stead we have angular lines that are reminiscent of the ASUS GX notebooks or better yet the AORUS X7. The GT72 treads between these two design types and delivers something that is subdued, but unmistakably gaming. It doesn't shout its intended use nor should it, instead it looks like a road warrior, perhaps even a mobile workstation. If you pull this out in front of anybody, they will know you mean serious business. It’s either you’re in need of an upgrade from your early to mid-90s laptop (in size) or you’re there to present a real-time 3D rendering of a future real estate investment or some such thing. It’s not pretty by any stretch of the imagination and the GS60 is light years ahead in aesthetics. However,unsightly it is far from. It’s just business all around with a hint of excitement.


In previous reviews I expressed concern with what vendors sell as key features for their offerings. This was usually RAID arrays with promises of ridiculous sequential data throughput. This hasn't changed with the GT72 but the use of four 128 GB M.2 drives in a RADI 0 array has to be respected. As usual I was not able to match the claimed 1.6GB/s read speed but I did record over 1.2GB/s which is more than enough. More meaningful, was the 4K read and write speed which was impressive delivering well over 600MB/s respectively. I’m inclined to think this is the reason boot up times are insanely quick. Actually this is the fastest notebook I’ve ever used and makes my older gaming notebook seem truly archaic by comparison.

Gaming on this notebook is of utmost importance,as one doesn’t buy an this kind of machine for any reason but playing games (or at least this should be the primary reason). Powered by the GTX 880M and the 4710HQ, it was always going to handle all games splendidly on the 1080P display. The truth is that as much as I’m impressed by the wonderful 17.3" FHD TN display, I was hoping that with the GT72, MSI would surprise us all and deliver a QHD panel where all the processing and GPU power would get a chance to shine. As it is, a GTX 870M is pretty much able to play most modern games at 1080P. What the 880M allows you to do is add MSAA to that which is great, but not as impressive as what a higher resolution would yield on such a screen.

Playing FPS games on the GT72 was more than splendid as you can expect. The only issue I had concerned the notebooks height off any given surface,as it meant that the mouse was noticeably lower. To alleviate this, I had to stack several magazines and place a mouse mat over them. This isn’t something MSI can do anything about but it is worth being aware off as it can get annoying gaming on uneven surfaces.
“The MSI GT72 Dominator is incredibly powerful alright and it is better than its predecessor in almost every way imaginable...”
Another noteworthy change from the GT70 is that on the GT72, the keyboard is mounted on a separate or independent frame from the notebook casing with only the keys peeking through. As such,no matter how hard you may press the keys (within reason of course) there will be no flexing at all. This also causes the keys to have an extremely shallow travel and they are a little less meaty to hit than on other MSI notebooks. This is great for gaming but it isn’t ideal for typing as I was prone to
more mistakes being used to more travel. Assuming you’ll want to do some typing, be mindful of this as it will take some time to get used to.

Along the keyboard to the left is a set of short cut keys including one for instantly starting your game streaming, switching to an enhanced/high performance fan profile, force enabling the discreet GPU (Supposedly some programs do not automatically switch to the discreet GPU therefor this button would allow you to set this manually) and cycling through various illumination schemes. This is perhaps one of the more frustrating things with the notebook as it is pretty difficult to get a single solid white backlight without jumping through hoops. The SteelSeries software allows all manner of light effects, across all layers (There are three layers of LED lighting on this notebook) but selecting a simple one colour option is anything but intuitive. That goes hand in hand with the inability to reduce or increase brightness via the software. You have to do that via a two button key press on the opposite end of the keyboard. With this key combo you can cycle through a few brightness levels including turning the backlight on and off, but for the different colour configurations you need to use the separate “shortcut” key. The enitre experience is not well executed and it complicates what should be an otherwise simple and straightforward process.

As with all other notebooks in the family, MSI makes use of Dynaudio speakers. These are slightly larger than what was on the GT70 and are more powerful on paper,but in practice just aren't as loud. I do suppose MSI was not going for volume here but quality and in that regard they have succeeded. The audio is much deeper with far more depth and clarity, especially in the mid range. It is however not as loud as before, in fact I would dare say this speaker system is a touch is too soft even with the volume cranked all the way up. It is best then to bring your gaming headset with you as once again this will be the best way to experience audio.

In closing, such notebooks are always going to feature the best of the best in hardware. The challenge for vendors is how they bring all that power into a package that is not only accessible, but appealing. The MSI GT72 Dominator is incredibly powerful alright and it is better than its predecessor in almost every way imaginable, but there is still some distance to be covered before it becomes a highly sought-after notebook like the GS60 Ghost in its niche. For this price, you’re not going to do much better at present. If you have the money to spend, do give the GT72 some consideration.

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