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Pinnacle of Mobile Gaming: MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G with GTX 980

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Design and Compute Performance

I'm going to be honest with you right off the bat: there isn't much more I can say about the MSI GT72S notebook that hasn't already been said either on this website or on the PC Perspective Podcast. Though there are many iterations of this machine, the version we are looking at today is known as the "GT72S Dominator Pro G Dragon-004" and it includes some impressive hardware and design choices. Perhaps you've heard of this processor called "Skylake" and a GPU known as the "GTX 980"? 

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The GT72S is a gaming notebook in the truest sense of the term. It is big, heavy and bulky, not meant for daily travel or walking around campus for very long distances. It has a 17-in screen, more USB 3.0 ports than most desktop computers and also more gaming horsepower than we've ever seen crammed into that kind of space. That doesn't make it perfect for everyone of course: battery life is poor and you may have to sell one of your kids to be able to afford it. But then, you might be able to afford A LOT if you sold the kids, amiright?

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Let's dive into what makes the new MSI GT72S so impressive and why every PC gamer that has a hankering for moving their rig will be drooling.

Continue reading our review of the MSI GT72S  Dominator Pro G gaming notebook!!

In most ways, the MSI GT72S is nearly identical to many of the recent gaming notebooks that MSI has released. That includes the design of the chassis, the keyboard, the screen configuration and more. 

  MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G
Processor Intel Core i7-6820HK (Unlocked)
Chipset Intel CM236
Memory 32GB DDR4-2133
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 8GB
Storage 2 x Samsung M.2 NVMe PCIe 128GB SSD (RAID 0)
1TB HGST HDD
Screen 17.3-in 1920x1080 IPS G-Sync Enabled
Networking Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet
Killer N1535 802.11ac 2x2
Display Connections Mini DisplayPort
HDMI
SuperPort (USB 3.1)
Connectivity 6 x USB 3.0
SD Card Reader
OS Windows 10 64-bit
Dimensions 16.85" x 11.57"x 1.89"
Weight 8.4 lbs
MSRP $3099

Clearly the hardware in here speaks for itself, though that price tag of $3099 is extremely high - $500 more than the exact same hardware with the GTX 980M integrated. That's a sharp increase for what we measure to be 20-30% additional performance but for those gamers that want nothing but the best, you'll find nothing better (unless you jump in to the world of multi-GPU). 

This generation adds some new hardware in the mix though, most of which improves performance in critical ways. First, MSI has included the new Intel Core i7-6820HK, a true quad-core Skylake processor with HyperThreading support giving users access to 8 processing threads. Compared to smaller notebooks that use a dual-core HyperThreaded CPU, this should give you more than twice the improvement in theoretical computer performance as the "true" cores are more valuable than the multi-threading capability.

By far the most dramatic change in this notebook is the move to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU; not the GTX 980M, a FULL GTX 980 GPU. Yes, as we first showed you back in September, this is the full GM204 GPU on the desktop GTX 980 graphics cards running at slightly lower clock speeds (on average). This means the GT72S offers nearly unparalleled gaming capability in a mobile form factor and proves that NVIDIA's work on improving the power efficiency of Maxwell has paid off.

Other important specification changes include the addition of a G-Sync capable 75Hz 17-in 1920x1080 IPS screen. With G-Sync added into the mix you will never have to worry about visual glitches from V-Sync like stutter or horizontal tearing. (And of course you can connect an external display with G-Sync support to extend that technology outside of the notebook itself.) MSI has installed a pair of NVMe SSDs running in a RAID-0 array for insane storage performance. Killer Networking (for both wired and wireless connections) along with 32GB of DDR4 memory really round out a machine to impress your friends.

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Excuse me now as I recount some of my thoughts on the MSI GT72S from the outside...

This machine is something to behold - though it looks very similar to previous GT72 versions, this machine hides hardware unlike anything we have been able to carry in a backpack before. And the sexy red exterior with MSI Dragon Army logo blazoned across the back definitely help it to stand out in a crowd. If you happen to be in a crowd of notebooks.

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A quick spin around the GT72S reveals a sizeable collection of hardware and connections. On the left you'll find four USB 3.0 ports as well as four audio inputs/outputs and an SD card reader.

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On the opposite side there are two more USB 3.0 ports (totalling six) and the optical / Blu-ray burner. With that many USB 3.0 ports you should never struggle with accessories availability - headset, mouse, keyboard, hard drive and portable fan? Check.

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Finally, on the back side, we have a mini DisplayPort connection, USB 3.1 port (no Thunderbolt 3 though), full-size HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet and power input.

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That Intel Core i7-6820HK is a quad-core HyperThreaded beast of a mobile processor scaling up to 3.6 GHz in Turbo mode. The processor is also multiplier unlocked so those that want to can try to stretch performance on the CPU side of things with a little overclocking. It's a unique trait for gaming notebooks with the release of Skylake K-series parts!

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Interestingly, compared to the previous generation of the MSI GT72 with the Broadwell-based Core i7-5700HQ, the Core i7-6820HK scores slightly lower in both single threaded and multi-threaded results in our CineBench scores. It's not by much, and would be imperceptible to anyone using the hardware in real time, but there it is. If you compare the results to a machine like my Dell XPS 13 using a dual-core Broadwell processor though, the multi-threaded result of the GT72S is 3.3x faster! Clearly if you are doing rendering, encoding, photo editing en mass, etc. then the power of a gaming system like this will net huge gains.

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If the CPU and GPU weren't enough to impress you, the pair of NVMe enabled Samsung M.2 SSDs might do the trick, pulling more than 3.0 GB/s of primary storage bandwidth! Is this overkill for a notebook? Yes; heck it's really overkill for ANY consumer product but isn't that what we are after in a machine like this to begin with?

But what about GAMING? That's what we're really all here for.


December 31, 2015 | 05:14 PM - Posted by cj100570

It's an awesome laptop but Pinnacle?

December 31, 2015 | 08:33 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's certainly the pinnacle of something, but calling it "mobile" is a bit of a stretch. "Moveable" would be more appropriate.

December 31, 2015 | 09:07 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'll wait for Zen and a more affordable AMD Laptop gaming solution, hopefully there will be some form of AMD based gaming laptop reviews on PCPer after Zen is released. I'm tired of all the Intel/Nvidia coverage. I will be convenced that something funny is going on for certain if Zen comes to market with some laptop SKUs and still there are no AMD gaming laptop reviews.

I have not read much reviews with the Lenovo Y700(FX8800P) being tested more thoroughly yet, except on some blogs by the users themselves, and it appears that review samples are not being offered up like the Intel/Nvidia Laptop samples are. I'd like to see more Affordable gaming laptop reviews rather than any overpriced "pinnacle" gaming SKU! For that price they can keep the Dominator Pro, and I'm sure that there is some trust fund kids with the dosh to afford this hunk of metal, but it's not for me at that price point!

December 31, 2015 | 09:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I'm as excited for Zen as anyone else, but AMD's current (Excavator) mobile APUs already seem like a great foundation for a midrange laptop with respectable gaming performance without completely giving up on reasonable cost and/or mobility. Those 512-core iGPUs should be able to drive costs and power consumption down dramatically compared to $500, 100W discrete GPUs while retaining enough performance for decent gaming and costing a lot less than Iris Pro based parts. I have no idea why there aren't any (decent) AMD-based laptops out there, makes me wonder if Intel is up to the same bribery they got fined for in the past.

December 31, 2015 | 09:17 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

While the benchmarks are impressive, at the end of the day, you're spending $3000 to game on a 17" display, and that's just a terrible experience regardless of framerate, especially considering the cost. With the exception of the GT80 and perhaps old Thinkpads, laptop keyboards have been consistently poor, and pointing devices even worse. Input and output matters infinitely more for a good gaming experience than benchmark performance, and I/O is where laptops have always failed. It seems pointless to push the limits of cost, weight, durability, noise, and battery life to the edge of what can even be considered mobile in the pursuit of a good mobile gaming experience that remains unattainable as long as focus remains on benchmark performance.

They could at least have the Dell XPS-like small bezel to give you an extra inch or so.

The same goes for smartphones: you can throw as many cores as you want on the SOC, but it will never be a good computing experience as long as it relies exclusively on a touchscreen, has a terrible battery life, etc.

January 3, 2016 | 05:30 PM - Posted by Supercat (not verified)

I agree, so many limitations and weaknesses to gaming on a laptop. I do like MSI, and for folks with money to burn who cares right, but for the common folk gaming laptops are not the best option. It is glamorous but it ends there. Until all laptops are using SSD all of the time, you have issues with poor reliability of mechanical hdd. Then what about battery life? What about poor battery life combined with folks who plug the power adapter and eventually damage the power port? For some laptops that is it, fubar. Unless you have money to burn. If one does decide to sink his entire tax return in a laptop like this and also be willing to sink another years tax return to repair it it then why go gaming laptop? Unless you really baby it, you are asking for trouble. Desktop gaming is much much more reasonable.

Unless you have money to burn.

FWIW, I do like MSI a lot and feel they are ahead of the crowd. MSI has become a much more ambitious company than they were years ago. Good for them, love their web site too.

January 19, 2016 | 05:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I personally don't use a laptop for mobility but by preference. I would pay extra for a laptop vs getting a desktop, why? I am not worried about money when it comes down to what i want. I have no desire to carry my laptop around. They are making products like this for people like me, so no it is not for the person who want to carry around a laptop, so stop making your reviews sound like you dedicating it to them. They have laptops for them to buy and these are for people like me. Why bring up people who want tiny laptop when this is not for them obviously.

March 8, 2016 | 09:18 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I have a GT72S 6QE and the thunderbolt3 controller is present.
Any Skylake CPU that is coming out now has the thunderbolt3 controller, its accessed through the USB-C 3.1 port at the back of the notebook.
For instance this is what you are in for if you decide to buy an MSIGT72S series.
http://www.caldigit.com/USB-C/

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