With the release of Nvidia’s 1000 line of desktop graphics cards, it was only a matter of time until their Mobility line hit the scene. The time has come and laptop manufacturers are leveraging the power of Pascal to show us just what’s possible in the world of portable PC gaming. I was recently offered the opportunity to spend some time with MSI’s GT72VR 6RE Dominator Pro Tobii, and I jumped at the chance to see if the rumors were true: can laptop gaming finally compete with a full-fledged tower? The answer seems to be yes.
Everything on the spec sheet fit the bill. The GT72VR comes with an Intel Core i7 6700HQ processor, 32GB of DDR4-2400 memory (including two extra slots for up to 64GB), a 1TB 7200 RPM hard drive with a 512GB PCI-e Gen 3.0 x4 speed solid state drive capable of writing at 2200 MB/s, and an nVidia 1070 with 8GB of DDR5 VRAM. The laptop features a 17.3” full-HD screen. On top of performance specs, the GT72VR features an impressive-for-mobile sound system powered by Dynaudio and Nahimic Immersive Audio to provide virtual 7.1 surround sound. It also has a bright, customizable RGB chicklet keyboard with three zones of color customization and full programmability from Steelseries. If all of that wasn’t impressive enough, it also features Tobii eye tracking to speed up touchpad navigation and immerse you into your favorite games.
The GT72VR is a beast of a machine. Without exaggeration, it is the largest laptop I have ever used. The footprint is a large 16.9”x11.6”x1.9” and weighs a hefty 8.3 pounds. This is a laptop that will make people stop and take notice. Even me, a dyed in the wool gamer, let out an audible “wow” when I took it out of the included dust jacket. When it’s up and running, it’s likely to attract even more eyes: the 1080p screen is big and bright, the keys are a vibrant rainbow by default (you can make them pulse and wave, as well), and the Tobii sensors do their best to look like bright red stop lights. Two trim strips and the MSI logo are also illuminated. It all looks very slick, but even if you turn every light off and abandon the gamer chic, the GT72VR is still a very stylish, and very clearly expensive, laptop.
Taking a tour around the PC, you’ll find a number of little nods to style. The lid is a brushed gunmetal. The underside is heavily vented for heat disbursement and underneath is a second, bright red grill for flair. On the main body, the keyboard sits above an extra large touchpad. And those Tobii stop lights? Their brightness wears on you over time, but they contribute admirably to the overall black and red aesthetic.
The GT72VR is a VR ready laptop, which means you have all the requisite inputs and outputs; handy, even if you don’t have a VR headset (which we didn’t, unfortunately). There are six USB 3.0 ports, a multi-card reader headphone, mic, and line in/out jacks, as well as a DVD multi-drive, an HDMI and mini-DisplayPort out, and an ethernet port.
Booting up is rapid - only 11 seconds from a cold boot and 7 with Windows’ Fast Startup - and there is virtually no bloatware to be found. Instead, MSI packs a suite of performance and customization utilities into its Dragon Center hub. Here you’ll find an app portal with easy access to your audio and network controls, the Steelseries Engine, Xsplit, and more. It’s also where you’ll find the hardware monitor, illumination controls, performance and fan settings, and a mobile center.
But this is a gaming laptop and, fancy customization aside, what really matters is how it performs. Coming from an overclocked GTX 1060 in my desktop, I was surprised to find that the 1070 Mobility in the GT72VR outperformed it in every single game I tried, sometimes by 10-15 FPS! Running Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, it was able to hold a steady 60 frames a second on Ultra settings. On the 3DMark DX11 Firestrike and DX12 Time Spy benchmarks, it scored graphics scores of 5422 and 13705 respectively, outperforming EVGA’s overclocked desktop GTX 1060 card we reviewed earlier this month. The 1070 mobility does fall short of the desktop variant, but these results are still quite impressive.
The 1070 boosts itself up to just above 1800MHz when fully utilized, but throttles itself down when running on the battery, which can dramatically decrease the frames per second on same settings. You can, theoretically, use a lower power mode when plugged in also, but you won’t want to when gaming.
Heat may be an issue over time. The card hovered around 40 degrees celsius when not being used but quickly jumped up to 76 degrees within games,though never felt more than warm on my lap. Over time temperature may become a problem as dust gathers, making cleaning a regular necessity. The GT72VR is also exceptionally loud for a laptop. Anytime the card is being utilized, the fans are blowing loudly. It easily rivals my desktop, with its five separate case fans. If you enable Cooler Boost, it’s even louder, but such is the trade-off for desktop level performance.
Clearly, the GT72VR is a powerhouse, as it should be carrying an MSRP of $2599, but it’s not perfect. A handful of issues bring this otherwise excellent laptop down a peg. The keyboard, for example, is ironically cramped and the keys have a tendency to squeak. Its touchpad is also an oil magnet and started to look spotty right away.
The Tobii Eye Tracking, while neat, didn’t feel ready for primetime gaming. I surprised myself by really enjoying it for browsing, however. Once you calibrate it, the mouse will warp to where you’re looking just by scrolling in that direction. I went in questioning the merit of eye tracking, but I can honestly say, it made using the laptop with a touchpad much easier.
Playing games, it just isn’t precise enough to reach its potential, and if the laptop is actually atop your lap, forget about it. When I turned it on in Mankind Divided, it immediately felt like Jensen was drunk on his feet until I set it on a desk. Even then it was disorienting. The camera would slightly turn as your gaze roamed the screen, as if Jensen were turning his head to look along with you. It has immersion potential, but the current reality is that a wobbly camera that flicks around the screen just isn’t that appealing.
But are some fingerprints, fan noise, and a cramped keyboard make or break issues? Absolutely not. And Tobii will only get better as time goes on and updates come out.