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Video Perspective: Breaking Down MSI's Gaming Notebooks

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

27 notebooks can't be wrong

A month or so back, I had a friend come to me asking for advice on which gaming notebook he should purchase. He had specific needs that were tailored to a portable gaming machine: he wanted to have a single machine for home and mobile use, he wanted to be able to game while traveling and he had a pretty reasonable budget. As the "guy that runs the gaming hardware website" I was expected to have an answer...immediately. But I didn't. As it turns out, dissecting and digesting the gaming notebook field is pretty complex.

I sent a note to MSI, offering to build a video and a short story around its products if they sent me one of each of line of gaming notebooks they sold. Honestly, I didn't expect them to be able to pull it together, but just a couple of weeks later, a handful of large boxes arrived and we were staring at a set of six powerful gaming notebooks to analyze. 

  GE62 Apache Pro-014 GS40 Phantom-001 GS60 Ghost Pro-002 GS72 Stealth Pro 4K-202 GT72S Dominator Pro G-220 GT80S Titan SLI-002
MSRP $1299 $1599 $1699 $2149 $2599 $3399
Screen 15.6-in 1080p 14-in 1080p 15.6-in 1080p 17.3-in 4K 17.3-in 1080p G-Sync 18.4-in 1080p
CPU Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6820HK Core i7-6820HK
GPU GTX 960M 2GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 970M 6GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 980M 8GB GTX 980M 8GB SLI
RAM 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB 32GB 24GB
Storage 128GB M.2 SATA
1TB HDD
128GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
128GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE RAID SSD
1TB HDD
256GB PCIE RAID SSD
1TB HDD
Optical DVD Super-multi None None None Blu-ray Burner Blu-ray Burner
Display Output HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
Connectivity USB 3.1 Type-C
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 2.0 x 1
Super Port
USB 3.0 x 2
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.1 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2 
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 6
Thunderbolt
USB 3.0 x 5
Dimensions 15.07-in x 10.23-in x 1.06-in 13.58-in x 9.65-in x 0.87-in 15.35-in x 10.47-in x 0.78-in 16.47-in x 11.39-in x 0.78-in 16.85-in x 11.57-in x 1.89-in 17.95-in x 13.02-in x 1.93-in
Weight 5.29 pounds 3.75 pounds 4.2 pounds 5.7 pounds 8.4 pounds 9.9 pounds

MSI sent this collection along as it appears to match closely with entire range of available options in its own gaming notebook line, without actually sending us ALL 27 OF THE AVAILABLE SKUs! Yes, twenty-seven.

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MSI GS40 Phantom

In the video below, I'll walk through the discussion of each of the series of notebooks that MSI offers for gamers, what the prevailing characteristics are for each and what kind of consumer should be most interested in it. I also discuss the specifics of each of the models we received for the project as well as getting into the performance deltas between them.

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MSI GS72 Stealth Pro 4K

  • MSI GE Series
    • $1099-$1499
    • The entry level of gaming notebooks, available in both 15.6 and 17.3-in 1080p screens, limited to GTX 970M or GTX 960M GPUs. You still get 16GB of memory, SSDs in MOST systems, Killer Networking hardware, Steel Series keyboards and weights range from 5.29 to 5.95 pounds.
  • MSI GS Series
    • $1499-2149
    • Varies in screen size from 14-in to 17.3-in but the focus here is on slimmer designs. Both 1080p and 4K screens are available, though you are still maxing out at a GTX 970M graphics solution. 16GB of RAM, NVMe PCIe SSDs are standard, with available models as thin as 0.78-inches and as light as 3.75 pounds.
  • MSI GT72 Series
    • $1599-3499
    • These focus on performance per dollar, getting maximum single GPU performance in the chassis. They all have 17-in screens with available G-Sync integration, and GPUs from the GTX 970M to the GTX 980 (full). 16-32GB of memory, all using SSDs, optical drives, Thunderbolt, six USB 3.0 ports but GT72 systems are bigger and heavier to compensate for all this.
  • MSI GT80 Series
    • $2799-4799
    • These are for the crazy enthusiasts only, all of which include SLI configurations or GTX 970M, 980M or 980. An 18.3-in 1080p screen is the only option for your display, but you get 16-64GB of memory, RAID enabled SSD configurations, Blu-ray burners, Thunderbolt, five USB 3.0 ports and a friggin Cherry Brown mechanical keyboard!

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After going through this project, here are a few recommendations I would have for users looking to pick up an MSI gaming notebook.

  • Best Gaming Value
    • GT72 Dominator G-831 - This combines the larger form factor with a GTX 970M GPU, 17.3-in 1080p screen, 16GB of memory, 128GB SSD and priced at $1599. I think this is a good balance of cost and GPU horsepower.
  • Looking for a Slimmer Design
    • GS70 Stealth Pro-006 - For $1699 you lose the optical drive from the above GT72, but get a lighter and thinner design. You have the same technical horsepower, GTX 970M, Core i7 processor, etc., but the integrated fans will likely be noticeably louder to expel the heat from the more narrow chassis.
  • If you need more performance
    • GT72 Dominator Pro G-034 - With a jump from the $1599 GT72 above to $2099, this model gets you a GTX 980M and a 256GB SSD. Based on the performance metrics I ran, that should net you another 40-50% of GPU horsepower.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these machines and I'll do my best to answer them!


April 18, 2016 | 06:57 PM - Posted by Rob T

I'm a bit disappointed with this review as you really only covered the basic differences in spec between the models. It would have been much more interesting if you'd also covered the things which can't be found on the MSI website.

For instance it would have been great to spend some time discussing the screens i.e. type, viewing angles, picture quality and responsiveness, effectives of the gsync option etc. It would have also been very handy to cover speaker quality of each of the models, in my experience this can vary significantly between laptops. Another thing to cover would have been fan noise when at idle, during video playback, while gaming and under full stress test.

April 18, 2016 | 10:21 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Unlike you Ryan actually has a fucking life bruh. Not everyone can sit around and jerkoff to Bangkok trannys all day ya fuck. This is a great write up. I'll be using this, A LOT.

Get a fucking life loser.

April 19, 2016 | 12:18 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Really gaming has a redneck problem, a serious problem with too many of the Floyd R Turbo types, but some better focus on gaming laptops needs to be done among all the gaming websites. Gaming laptops are a little bit overpriced for the level of gaming that they provide, so hopefully there will be less of the Intel/Nvidia only options and more of the Zen/Polaris gaming laptop options in the future!

Some Zen/Polaris Linux OS based OEM laptops are what I'm waiting for, as it's becoming hell waiting hours for windows update on my windows 7 based laptops, so Some NON Intel/Nvidia OEM made Linux OS based laptop options before 2020 will be very nice.

April 19, 2016 | 04:16 AM - Posted by -- (not verified)

Redneck problem?

Its called price for performance dollar.

laptops lose, and lose bad.

Now lets factor in upgradeable..........and laptops get a 0.00

game with a desktop, netflix with a laptop.

Stop being a pussy.

April 19, 2016 | 01:53 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Redneck problem, that is how a Redneck would respond to any time someone asks for more laptop information over and above simply plugging some OEM's products! Maybe you should get out of the sticks more often, and remember readers have a right to ask for reviews of laptops to be more thorough or maybe reviews should not be attempted at all. The OEM laptop market for "gaming" SKUs is poorly reported across the entire web based news and reviews sites.

The OEM laptop market is the market with the most product obfuscation, and maybe the "reviews" writers should be required to tell the readers if they have actually had a review sample, enough of these ads masquerading as reviews on some websites out there. PCPer is doing a good job with this review compared to most, but there is a need for more thorough and complete gaming laptop reviews, including revistitig reviews sometimes with more updates.

April 19, 2016 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

That's fair, but this wasn't supposed to be a review. Instead, I was hoping to cover the major differences between the different MSI lines specifically.

April 18, 2016 | 06:58 PM - Posted by Axle Grease

For as long multi-GPU setups are not supported in VR game development, not even the $3400 one is "VR ready". MSI does offer a GTX 980 in one of their laptops, but I forgot which model it is.

April 18, 2016 | 08:35 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

A desktop 970 seems to be the current minimum target for VR due to the large installed base. If VR is your target, you would just want to stay away from the 960M and 970M. The 980M is, I believe, close to a desktop 970, so it may be sufficient. It would be nice to see PCPer try it out. Multi-GPU support should be better going forward, but it is unclear when. It makes a lot of sense to have each GPU render for one eye, but there seems to be some software architecture issues. Also, it can be difficult to keep latency down with certain multi-GPU implementations. I wouldn't buy multi-GPU for VR at the moment.

April 19, 2016 | 08:26 AM - Posted by Axle Grease

The software architecture issues also interests me, so I asked a question about dual-gpu support for VR on the nVidia VR forum.

Tony.

April 19, 2016 | 02:34 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

The GTX 980M is CLOSE to being VR ready. I ran that SteamVR Performance Test on the EVGA SC17 to look at just that: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/Mobile/EVGA-SC17-Gaming-Notebook-Review

With a little overclocking, it did pass.

April 18, 2016 | 07:13 PM - Posted by funandjam

Those machines that have Thunderbolt, is it thunderbold 1, 2, or 3?

While all of them are nice machines, it just doesn't make sense to get a laptop that doesn't have support for eGPU going forward.

April 18, 2016 | 08:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

lol @ prices for what you get

April 18, 2016 | 08:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Have you guys had any contact with smaller laptop builders? I have been looking at a company called Mythlogic that builds systems based on Clevo chassis. It is still quite expensive, but you can get desktop components, if you really want them. A full desktop GPU is in a large form factor though, 1.77 inches thick and around 10.5 pounds. I definitely wouldn't want to travel much with such a large device. It would be nice if they could make a more powerful device that is lighter. I care more about the weight than the size.

April 19, 2016 | 02:35 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

MSI has those - look for the ones listed with the "GTX 980" rather than the "GTX 980M".

April 18, 2016 | 08:57 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

They could stand to simplify their naming schemes a bit rather than throwing in a bunch of marketing words that have no relation to each other. I am wondering how many discrete chassis they are actually making. You don't really need a separate name for different configurations of the same chassis, in my opinion. Is it actually 6 different chassis for all 27 SKUs?

April 19, 2016 | 02:59 PM - Posted by Rick0502 (not verified)

how about a big giveaway??

April 19, 2016 | 03:22 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I wish this review went as far as discussing the molecular differences between the models, not just what is on the website...

May 14, 2016 | 12:26 AM - Posted by Jim Tisinger (not verified)

Ryan,

Thanks for MSI laptop comparison show. I was totally undecided (PC or mac, desktop/laptop) on what to purchase for processing 4K video from 2 cameras. I'm not a gamer but needed the portable power of i7, 16G, plenty of storage not to mention 4K screen. The video comparison helped me decide on what I needed for my retirement hobby processing during RV travels. I now have Ghost Pro 60 15" with 256g SSD, 1T 7200 drive and 4K. Much improved over 2 year old i7 with less than 1080 resolution.

Thanks again for your shows (TWICH) and other PC related programs. MSI owes you commission $$ for my purchase..

Jim Tisinger (old tech geezer)

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