MSI Gaming GT72 2PC Dominator Pro Gaming Notebook Review 87
Playing games on a high end gaming PC is indeed a pleasurable experience, but for those who travels a lot and don’t have much time to sit in front of a PC to play games would prefer to go for a gaming notebook to satisfy their gaming needs. That’s when a gaming notebook comes to play. While manufacturers boasts on how their gaming notebook is specially tailored solely for gaming purposes, many failed to live up to that title. 
Today we’ll be examining a gaming notebook from MSI, special thanks to MSI Malaysia in provision of their GT72 2PC Dominator Pro Gaming Notebook. A bulky one it is but we’ll ignore its bulkiness for now and examine closely on what kind of performance and feature – will it be a worthy gaming notebook or will it be ‘just another expensive notebook’?

(SRP for the MSI Gaming GT72 2PC is around RM6,999)
 Specifications
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Overview
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Our first impression of the GT72? Looks just like most high-end gaming notebooks out there – colorful LED, unusual shape, keyboard with a numpad, etc. 
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Unlike most notebook design with 120° limitation on the hinge, the GT72 hinge design that allows you to lay it completely flat at 180°.     
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Fully backlit chiclet keyboard with RGB LED specially designed by SteelSeries, fancy.  
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The touch pad effective area is within the fancy looking glowing box. The touch pad buttons gives a rather heavy and solid click which is pretty satisfying in terms of its tactility.   

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There’s a pair of LED at the front of the chassis for that extra bling.

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The type of key switches used on the keyboard is the scissor switch which is commonly used on low profile keyboards. 

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There’s RGB LED located at the bottom of each keys and these LED can be customized to your liking with the SteelSeries Engine software. 

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  • F5: Eco mode (power saving mode) for lower power consumption 
  • F6: Enable / Disable the webcam.
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  • F10: Airplane mode that disables all network connection
  • F12: Hibernate mode to put the system to sleep
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The function key to adjust the keyboard LED brightness (total of 4 levels).
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  • Up & down arrow keys from screen brightness adjustment 
  • left & right arrow keys for volume adjustment 
  • numpad 0 for enabling / disabling the system sound
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The system audio is powered by Dynaudio, the Danish sound experts that are dedicated to the goal of authentic sound reproduction since they where founded 1977 in Danish Skanderborg.
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There are a series of shortcut buttons located at the most left of the keyboard with the functions as follows:
  • Power button to turn on the system / force shutdown
  • Toggle between the Intel HD graphics and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M
  • Increase the fan speed for extra ventilation (Cooler Boost)
  • Launch XSplit Gamecaster for easily recording gaming moments, broadcasting and sharing live gameplay sessions to Twitch, YouTube, UStream and more
  • Launch the SteelSeries Engine keyboard customization and lighting software

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A closer look at the lid you’ll find that it has a brushed metal texture which gives it a touch of premium for those who fancies it.
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Aside of the brushed metal texture lid, the glowing MSI dragon also gives an additional premium feel of a gaming notebook.
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The mini DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet Port and the charging port is very well placed in our opinion. Not only that it looks clean but it also makes desk cable management much more easier if you’re planning to have it staying on your desk in long term.
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Kensington Lock Slot for security purposes is available at the left (rear view).
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The vents for hot hair to be exhausted from the system.
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At the left side of the notebook you’ll find 4 x USB 3.0 ports (that’s a lot!) and the audio jacks.  
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At the right side of the notebook you’ll find the optical drive and 2 x USB 3.0 port.
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There’s large meshed area at the bottom for better airflow / ventilation and we’re actually very positive about the system cooling.  
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Remove the bottom cover and you’ll find 2 cooling fans for the CPU and GPU respectively, a 1TB 2.5″ HDD, dual Intel 128GB M.2 SSD in RAID 0 setup, RAMs, etc.
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There are 2 slot for 2.5″ HDD/SSD available here which allows for an additional drive if the current 1TB drive isn’t enough for your needs – though you would need to obtain extra parts needed from MSI.
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A pair of Intel 128GB M.2 SSD in RAID 0 gives you that blazing fast performance – only if the games / software is installed in it.
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The Dynaudio subwoofer got you covered with extra bass while you’re gaming, watching movies or listening to music.
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Here’s the battery connector that resembles the 24-pin on a desktop PC motherboard. Do remember to unplug this while performing hardware upgrade (GPU, memory, etc) as a safety precaution.
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The engineering sample we have here comes with a whopping 32GB worth of memory but just in case if the retail GT72 2PC isn’t, here’s the SO-DIMM memory slot if you plan to upgrade your current memory. 
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The CPU cooler contact plate.
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The GPU cooler copper contact plate. You’ll have to undo both screws on the GPU and CPU cooler cooper contact plate to remove the interconnected copper contact plate in event of dust removal or replacing thermal paste.
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The upgradable GPU is a game changing feature that wasn’t made available on most so-called gaming notebooks here gives you the flexibility to upgrade your GPU to a better performing GPU, but do note that you’re doing it at your own risk. The guide can be found at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZZ5hGDZpI8
Testing Methodology


Temperature 
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We’ve ran a series of system stress test with Prime95, Intel Extreme Tuning Utility, FurMark that has been widely used by enthusiasts around the globe for system stability test. While the stress test generates heat, we’ve recorded the temperature reading for both situation where the cooling fans operate normally and with Cooler Boost enabled.
Under normal operating speed, the CPU and GPU temperature peaked at 76°C and 81°C respectively – a little hot but still within the bearable range. With Cooler Boost enabled, the cooling fans operates at its maximum speed and we can see a significant drop in the temperature reading where the CPU and GPU temperature are now peaked at 71°C and 76°C respectively. 
Shaving off that 5°C isn’t something that can be easily achieved as not every notebook comes ready with adjustable fan speed. MSI offers the adjustable fan speed feature for that extra cooling performance but with a little extra to the fan noise as the trade off.  

Gaming

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For the gaming test, we’ve ran few graphically demanding games on ultra settings to see if the GT72 2PC is able to handle these games with playable gameplay. We take 30 FPS as the marker of our benchmark as it’s still considered as a playable frame rate.

The result turns out pretty well and we’re seeing a rough numbers that circles around 30 FPS even under ultra settings. Advanced Warfare, Far Cry 4, Battlefield 4 and Crysis 3 is among the games with lowest FPS recorded during our test but we didn’t notice any significant stutters that will affect the overall gaming experience.

Audio
The speakers performance exceeded our initial expectation for it as a sound system on a notebook. While gaming notebook manufacturer claimed that their speakers is able to deliver the promising audio quality but it turns out that not many is able to achieve that. 

The Dynaudio speakers delivers clear and powerful sound stage during gaming and movie session that is pretty satisfying despite of its size. When it comes to music test, the sound quality isn’t as good as what we’ve experienced with games and movies as playing music in lossless format (FLAC, WAV) and high quality MP3 (320K) doesn’t makes much of a difference. 

Keyboard 
When it comes to gaming keyboard, we’re expecting for design and feature that is beneficial to gamers. Designed by the renown gaming peripherals manufacturer SteelSeries, the keyboard on the GT72 comes with fancy lighting and key mapping that appears to be helpful for the gamers, but we find that the keyboard itself is lacking of the N-key rollover feature that has been widely used on most expensive gaming keyboards on the market.

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We’ve tried the commonly used key combination for FPS games and everything seems well for now.

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The commonly used key combination for racing games seems okay as well.

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When we tried playing rhythm games that requires simultaneous keys to be pressed at the same time, the signal blocking issue arises and the maximum amount of keys that can be registered simultaneously is limited to 6 keys (not including modifier keys). We’ve tried configuring the key configuration on other area of the keyboard and there’s not way for us to resolve the issue.

Software

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With this feature you can customize the buttons with macros according to your liking and needs.

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You can customize the effect, lighting and colors of the RGB LED available on the GT72 which later can be activated with FN key + 1 / 2 /3 / 4 keys for each configured layer.

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Not a fancy feature but it might comes in handy if the keyboard layout doesn’t match the current keyboard on your GT72.

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Here you can configure which profile to be activated when an application is launched to suit your current mood.

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Enabling the statistics will record details such as most frequent pressed keys so you can plan for the best macro configuration that will help to makes your daily tasks, gaming, etc easier.

Battery Life
While immersive entertainment experience is pretty much guaranteed, what’s holding it back is the battery life that isn’t really impressive when it’s not attached with its charger – as it will only last for about 2 hours on a continuous gaming session and around 4 hours for watching movies when the power settings is set to high performance.  

Verdict
On aesthetics aspect, the MSI Gaming GT72 2PC Dominator Pro is sculpted with an appearance that resembles an alien spacecraft that will give an impression of a high-end gaming notebook to almost anyone who first set their eyes on it, especially for its customizable keyboard back lighting.

In terms of graphics performance, we find 30 FPS is still a comfortable FPS count to game on but as not many will feel comfortable to gaming on 30 FPS (or less), turning down the graphics to high / medium will yield higher FPS count and smoother gameplay. What’s best is that you’re able to upgrade the existing GPU to the latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M / 980M without having to buy another gaming notebook solely for better graphics, thanks to the swappable GPU design.

Cooling performance is excellent and we have nothing much to complaint about except for the slightly increase noise as the result for both cooling fans operating at maximum speed. If you’re worried that having the cooling fans operating at maximum speed will encourage faster dust build up, have no fear as removing the bottom cover to clean up the cooling fans is as easy as pie.

The drawbacks that we find is its weight, size, battery-life. At this point we’ve already know that it’s a powerful gaming machine that is made portable, but we cannot deny the fact that the MSI Gaming GT72 2PC Dominator Pro is still one bulky gaming notebook that isn’t going to be pleasurable for one to carry around. In addition, large amount of energy is required in order for it to deliver stunning performance, the battery life isn’t going to last long enough especially if you’re on a long trip. 

Another subjective issue that we would like to highlight is the keyboard roll-over feature. While not everyone is going to press all of the keys on the keyboard at the same time, the N-key rollover is still an important feature that should be cater of if its targeted audience is to be gamers from all kinds of game genres.

Pros

  • Aesthetically pleasing 
  • Good audio performance
  • Good graphics performance
  • Customizable keyboard macros, LED colors and effect
  • Excellent cooling performance

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Short battery life
  • Bulky

Subjective

  • Keyboard doesn’t comes with N-key rollover feature

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