- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Test methods and drivers
- Synthetic 3D benchmarks
- Summarized gaming performance
- Crysis 3
- Bioshock Infinite
- Civilization : Beyond Earth
- Total War : Rome II
- Total War : Attila
- Metro : Last Light
- Battlefield 4 Campaign
- Alien : Isolation
- World of Tanks
- Elite : Dangerous
- Cities : Skylines
- Shadow Of Mordor
- Dragon Age : Inquisition
- The Witcher 3
- Borderlands The Pre-Sequel
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Overlocking GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
Full features with excellent gaming performance for the money, including flawless GSync, IPS display, 4xM.2 slots, very good keyboard, good speakers, 2xmDP and USB 3.1.
-- Main reason to avoid:
Size and weight and future coupons. Mainly size/weight (17.3″ + 3.8-3.9kg before PSU)
The Newer GT72 Dominator G-1668 (still GT72 2QD):
MSI GT72 Dominator G-1445 (GT72 2QD)
+ New, power efficient, Broadwell I7-5700HQ CPU
+ Very good thermals even under the highest load, without high noise in result
+ No throttling while gaming, with a simple workaround (probably will be fixed with future Bios/EC update)
+ 75HZ display results in smoother gameplay and better for the eyes.
+ GSync is flawless and difference is very felt.
+ Room for GTX 970M overclocking. Easy 15%-17% in many games (not all)
+ Very good quiet backlit keyboard with good feedback, clear keys pressure points and tactile response
+ Good speakers with very good mids and subwoofer and good highs. Enjoyable speakers with minimum hiss.
+ Optimus disabled, allowing for full Nvidia control panel options and configurations
+ Connecion ports: 2xUSB 3.1 alongside 4xUSB 3.0, 2xmDP, SPDI/F and HDMI
+ Good enough touchpad
+ 4xM.2 slots, each on SATA III channel
+ There's a button to switch between the Intel iGPU and GTX 970M, but it requires a reboot.
- Battery performance isn't great at 3.5-4.5 hours tops, under very light load. Optimus is not active. There's a switch button to Intel iGPU, with reboot.
- Battery is rather hard to replace (but not impossible)
- Big 17.3" frame, accompanied by high weight
- EC/Bios needed to prevent unjust throttling (but there's a workaround)
- 2.5" bay is connected to SATA II, not SATA III
- Display case produces noise of fragile plastic upon moving (but the hinges are ok)
- mDP is not the latest version
- Wifi performance fluctuating with pings going up and down
|Model||MSI GT72 2QD, GT72 Dominator G 1445|
|Price||Basic version: ~$1500|
Test version: refurbished, for $380
|CPU||I7-5700HQ (2.7GHZ-3.5GHZ, 47W)|
|GPU||Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5, GM204 (Maxwell II), 1280 shaders, core@1037-1124MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 192-bit bus|
In my unit - revision A1
|Motherboard Chipset||Intel Broadwell-U PCH-LP (Premium)|
|RAM||Samsung 2x8GB DDR3@1600MHZ |
4 banks of memory available, totally
|Storage||HDD : 1TB HGST HGST HTS721010A9E630|
(non SSHD), 7200RPM, 32MB cache
4xM.2 (adapter board inlcluded), 2xSATA 2.0 (HDD and DVDRW)
|LCD Panel||In review: 1080p IPS LG Display 17.3" LP173WF4-SPF1, 75HZ|
|Weight / Dimensions||3.81kg (~8.4 Lbs.)|
428 x 294 x 48 mm
16.85" x 11.57" x 1.89"
(w x d x h)
|Keyboard||Multicolor backlit (4 levels including off)|
|Connection Ports||right side: 2xUSB 3.0, power-in, DVDRW|
Left: 2XUSB 3.0, 2XUSB3.1, audio in, audio out, microphone, headphone, card reader
rear: 1xHDMI 1.4, 2xmDP, 1xLexington key, RJ-45, power
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1525 Wireless Network Adapter|
Ethernet: Qualcomm/Atheros e2200 PCI-E Gigabit
|Speakers / Audio||2.1 Dyanaudio speakers|
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||E1781IMS.30C / ?|
|Extra features||G-Sync supported|
UPDATE: MSI discontinued the GT72 Dominator G-1445 model and replaced it with the Dominator G-1668 model. I don’t know if there are real differences except having Windows 10 on board, instead Windows 8.1.
Welcome to the MSI GT72 Dominator G-1445 Review (G for G-Sync). The specific model is MSI GT72 Dominator G-1445 (or GT72 2QD). The new features it brings to the table are the Intel Broadwell I7-5700HQ CPU (non-removeable), operational G-Sync and an IPS 75HZ display (some older models had IPS though). The 2QD model also sports MXM GTX 970M 3GB (or 980M in the more expensive models), 1080p IPS display (LP173WF4-SPF1), 16GB of DDR3 right out of the butt with additional 2 slots available for RAM, making it 4 slots total. This basic model storage is a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD and it can house another 4 M.2 drives, each with full SATA III speed (but not PCIe).
Why did I get this model? Well, that’s the basic MSI GT72 model which is quite interesting. The launch price is $1500 and as I write these lines, it’s priced at $1420, so you can expect to get it for around $1300-$1400, judging by previous models, if you’ll wait for a deal. It has a very good combination of features and qualities. The G-Sync feature which is still not a standard (like FreeSync) and improves the gameplay significantly, IPS display, USB 3.1 ports, replaceable MXM graphics card which is a little future proof quality. Add to that the good storage options, alongside the usual stuff – good keyboard, good thermals, I7 performance, relatively good speakers and the very fast GTX 970M.
The G-Sync technology, like FreeSync, synchornizing the display to match the GPU output (unlike VSync which tries to sync the GPU with the display refresh cycle) and by doing that, it counter issues that result from low FPS (lower than screen refresh rate, that is) and/or from using VSync (stuttering). The G-Sync function results in a much smoother gameplay, especially when the FPSs frame times are not consistent and/or high FPSs are needed, for example, in very “quick” racing games.
Compared to the competition, with other models for $1300-$1400 you won’t get G-Sync/FreeSync (currently) and/or other stuff like an OS and the 16GB RAM. I’m talking mainly on the Clevo P650SE / Sager NP8651 which also comes with an I7 Haswell CPU vs the GT72 Broadwell. The Gigabyte P55W v4 (this one) is also an interesting proposition with 120GB SSD + 1TB HDD, IPS and GTX 970M and 16GB RAM in this specific sale from ExcaliberPC – all that for $1400. I guess that with time there will be even lower prices, but this one has no G-Sync.
Let’s see how the GT72 fairs in the review. We’ll talk about G-Sync/FreeSync separately with video and all, ok?
And special thanks to ExcaliberPC who helped me with this laptop, also technically, and for being nice!
The MSI GT72 is all plastic as far as I can see, but it’s not the shiny kind and the keyboard surface looks good. The outer lid is a little flimsy and the screen plastic makes noises when pressed or moved. Otherwise, the base body feels sturdy enough, including the base. Screen hinges feel ok to me.
I was happy to find that I couldn’t recognize a “hiss” sound with my earphones, unlike some other laptops (Y50 and others) which indicates good electrical build quality.
Maintenance and inner parts
Maintenance is mostly easy. Opening the back panel requires removing 7 screws and using some card or knife to pull the bottom plate as it’s not easy with just bare hands. one of the screws is under the sticker warning you that a damaged sticker will result in voided warranty. I do not know that it does voids the warranty unless you mess up the inner parts.
Inside you’ll discover 2×2.5″ bays, extension board with 4xM.2 connection ports (2 on each side). One 2.5″ bay is housed with the default 1TB 7200RPM HDD and the other is empty and you will not find any connection ports for it as there are none. The 4xM.2 connection ports all connected via dedicated SATA III ports and not PCIe. The HDD and ODD are both connected via SATA II bus (yes, “2”) but that should be ok as HDDs aren’t that fast anyway.
You’ll notice that pulling out the battery is not easy at all and some almost full disassemble process is needed.
Two empty DDR3 banks are available in addition to the 2x8GB DDR3 modules already installed on the other side. The CPU is not removable like in previous models, but the GPU comes in an MXM form, allowing for future upgrade (though MXM GPUs are often pricey). Both the CPU and GPU have two dedicated heatpipes with one heatpipe shared with the other (total 6 heatpipes). That’s a good solution that can mediate the heat load in many common cases when one part is more loaded and ‘needs’
Connection ports The GT72 comes with two USB 3.1 ports and additional 4xUSB 3.0 ports. 2xmDP, HDMI (1.4) and various audio ports including SPDI/F. 2xmDP ports are of v1.2 (v1.2a?) which is not the latest version, but can output 3840×2160 resolution. Other common connectors are also available. Connection options are good, but I would like to see higher standards of mDP and HDMI, though.
Keyboard. The Keyboard is a SteelSeries keyboard. Generally, a very good keyboard with clear pressure points, no yield under pressure, good feedback and fast keys response and spacing. I didn’t have any misclicks and very enjoyed the keyboard. It’s also quite quiet. Only one small issue – the travel length could be better and would add to the experience, but that’s not that bad.
The steelseries keyboard also has color zones and many configuration options for the keys. The colors do add something as having colors is great and, at least for me, result in some good feeling.
Touchpad. Simple and good touchpad with two dedicated and separated buttons. The touchpad surface is rather smooth and comfortable to use with only minor issues. Buttons are less so as they are a little stiff.
Very Good. The GT72 comes with 2.1 speakers set, marketed as “dynaudio”. The 2.0 speakers are located on the upper part of the keyboard surface, facing upwards. The subwoofer is facing the bottom. My subjective experience was actually pretty good with good strong and relatively good lows and highs. There was a good balance and I didn’t feel like the bass is taking over, for example. Sound was generally deep and rich and you can say that’s good quality for a laptop.
The MSI GT72 2QD comes with a standard 1TB 7200RPM HDD which is fast enough for my taste, but I would prefer an SSHD or SSD + HDD/SSHD. The M.2 slot can be used for that.
Here are GPU-Z and CPU-Z screenshots
OS is Windows 8.1 fully updated and drivers in use are the Nvidia 353.30. All games were tested on 1080p resolution and I’m sorry for no 1080p tests, I just don’t have an 1080p external monitor. GPU throttled somewhat while running Furmark, but under gaming situation it was only throttled a bit, not reaching it’s boost clocks (1037MHZ). There was a strange issue with the CPU clocks – see “throttling” section please. I’m still waiting for MSI reply. PU-Z showed that the GTX 970M is throttled due to power limitations.
- No tearing. Tearing eliminated since the display refreshes only when GPU is ready and before the next frame is ready. FPSs with GSync are limited to the display refresh rate.
- Input lag. Due to the fact that the display displays in its own rate, it might be showing a frame which was rendered a while ago (like 10-20 milliseconds ago). That's not a lot, but it counts. This is more pronounced in VR situations.
- Stutter. From the same reason as above, some frames might be showing for longer than others and not constantly, like that (frame display time) - f1:13ms, f2:26ms, f3:13ms, f4:26ms. Each frame is showing for a different length of time - usually happens when FPSs are lower than refresh rate significantly. What you'll feel the game is not smooth and more specifically - that things move in a strange way like they sometime "jump" (as you'll see two frames change instead of one, actually). It doesn't mean that the FPSs are low. It can occur of you get 40FPS on Crysis 3 on the MSI GT72 75HZ display. Remember that the I7 + 970M in the GT72 didn't get 40FPS at highest settings@1080p, so this is a real scenario for gamers.
Skyrim runs smoothly with very good FPSs@1080p with Ambient Occlusion set on “quality” via Nvidia Control Center.
The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.
Metro : Last Light is a very demanding game with AO and tessellation taking a lot of the GPU juice. It might be a matter of optimization too.
The benchmark consisted on a traveling inside and out the Cleve Hub space port which is a taxing graphical environment compared to this game.
This is a new “sim” game only new and much more fancy (link to steam) with vastly positive reviews from people (10/10 on Steam, for example). I run the Los Angeles premade city (download here) and run with the camera from the airport to the hills with almost maximal zoom.
Finally, the FPSs are not limited (like in my previous benchmarks). Don’t know if it’s a game thing or something with Nvidia. Gameplay was very smooth. This is version 1.1.0b.
StarCitizen is still a work in progress and performance should get optimized (by a lot). Anyway, the gameplay was very smooth, except for sudden freezes.
Witcher is a little too demanding at highest settings. GSync helps a little, but I would suggest using lower than highest settings.
Stress tests and throttling behavior
As described before, the GPU and CPU cooling consists of two dedicated heatpipes and one shared (6 total) for each. Cool air sucked from the bottom of the machine (hence, it’s important to keep its bottom above the sitting surface) and is thrown from th rear ventilation holes.
1. Idle, power saver mode
2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “Very High” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.
3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.
4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.
Even the highest temperatures are pretty good and it seems like a GTX 980M could be housed too without too much trouble from the temperatures aspects. Turning the fans full speed helps a bit but it’s not necessary, plus, it results in a very high noise.
The GT72 Dominator G has some strange issue with throttling:
- CPU doesn’t throttle even with Prime95 and/or Furmark running. But
- While gaming, without intervention, I got serious throttling reading. The CPU would downclock to aorund 0.8-1.0GHZ with no reason. No TDP or heat limitations. I’ve tried all MSI Dragon Gaming Center device settings (Sport/Comfort/Green) and I’ve used Windows “High Performance” and “Balanced” power modes just to check.
- However, it seems to be solvable. If you turn on ThrottleStop with multiplier set to above than the base clocks (2.7GHZ), the clocks are kept high.
I’ve contacted MSI technical support, but as of writing these lines, I’ve offered no solution and really trying to understand what’s the problem. My guess is that there is some problem with the EC or bios algorithm and it should be fixed.
Throttling example, without ThrottleStop (or some other solution):
Added a screenshot of Prime95 + furmark test and also a graph of the clocks while running BF4 Campaign on ultra settings, after manipulating the GT72 as described.
You can see that the CPU clocks are kept very high (3.2-3.3GHZ) and only the GPU core clocks are automatically downclocked to around 970MHZ under gaming. Running Furmark makes this 860MHZ and the indicator says that it’s due to power limitations.
Even at very high load, the GT72 shell doesn’t get hot almost at all, except for the upper part of the keyboard/speakers, near the screen’s hinges. As mentioned before, the CPU and GPU temperatures are very good even at very high load.
Under high load, the fans are audible, but not too strong. I could hear at least one fan noise, almost like it was a little bit loose (I didn’t disassemble it). Under light load with power mode on “balanced” or “power saver” the GT72 is not too noisy but not that quite – also because of the GTX 970M that needs to be cooled as it functions as the main and default GPU for the MSI GT72 (no Optimus). With the Intel 5600 in use instead, the fans are still audible under light use.
The LG LP173WF4-SPF1 IPS display is a good 17.3″ IPS matte display, with very good viewing angles (though not perfect) and good colors. Moreover, this specific model has a 75HZ refresh rate which is an advantage over the usual 60HZ in most displays and combined with the high FPS rates in games, it will result in a smoother gameplay.
Subjectively, I liked the screen and I must say that it’s sometimes more convenient to play / watch movies on a 17.3″ display (my personal laptop is a 14.0″ one).
The GTX 970M used as a default GPU with Optimus disabled in this machine. A button can be used to switch to Intel GPU and vice versa, but a reboot required – the button is located under the power button. This also results in higher than usual power consumption eve for light loads. the big battery helps with that to achieve around 3.5-4.5 hours of use without charging with the GTX 970M. Still, other laptops consume considerably less while idling or under light load.
With Intel HD5600 a little more can be squeezed, but it’s obvious the power consumption is not the main target of this laptop. Anyway, it’s great to have the switching option, at least, with other laptops lacking even that.
I’ve used MSI AfterBurner (version 4.1 currently) to overclock the GPU. These are the settings:
- GTX 970M core +135MHZ which is around 13-14% overclock.
- GTX 970M GDDR5 + 250MHZ which is 6.0GHZ vs 5.0GHZ, a 20% advantage.
I had no stability issues.
We see good improvements in performance across the board, except Thief. The Witcher 3 gain rather a little but still nice 7% and Skyrim 9-10%. Others gain around 14-15% in FPSs which is excellent and some games seem to be limited by the GDDR5 speed, not by the CPU only. In Dragon Age : Inquisition, the OC’ed 970M scores close to the GTX 980M numbers (see NBC benchmarks) and generally, the gap between GTX 980M and GTX 970M becomes quite small with this OC.
- The Wifi ping times fluctuates vastly, resulting in unstable gameplay. You will have to update to latest Killer driver (here)
- As mentioned, it seems that an optimization is needed here in regard of the CPU clocks as they are automatically lowered even when TDP and temperatures are very good. It is solvable locally by using ThrottleStop. People with thorough bios knowledge can solve it to, perhaps.
- The previous generation Haswell equipped laptops, like the P650SE / Sager NP8651 or the 17.3″ Clevo P670SE which sometimes have coupons and are somewhat more lightweight the the GT72. They are all at around $1300-$1400, without coupons, and without an OS. The P670SE is around 1.2-1.3kg lighter and the P650SE even more. No GSync. The NP8651 is selling for $1230 in cash and an IPS without an OS. $1400 from Amazon.
- The new Gigabyte P55W with 128GB SSD + 1TB HD and an IPS for $1400 before coupons/deals (Amazon, ExcaliberPC). No GSync.
- Alienware 17 for $1400-$1500 (Amazon) but with coupons from Dell, can be bought sometimes for like $1200-$1300. However, GPU is not replaceable and comes with no GSync.
There are other options, especially if you are good with refurbished laptops. The AW15 with GTX 970M can be bought for lke $1100-$1200 with an I7, IPS and 970M. Even the MSI GT70 can be bought for $1200 with some deals once in few months. I do think that GSync, better speakers, better keyboard and OS are worth it and gives it an edge over the P650SE, especially if you need the OS and if you are ok with a 17.3″ laptop.
Remember also that GTX 970M is pretty powerful and you might want to go with a little slower solution like the GTX 965M – the AW15 with an I5, IPS and a 965M GPU can be found for like $800-$900 refurbished (1 year warranty), sometimes on eBay or at Dell home outlet.
However, all of these come with no GSync and many of them, currently, coming with a Haswell CPU, not Broadwell. Alienware and Clevo P6X0SE have a non-replaceable GPU. I think the Clevo might be skipping Haswell and go directly to Skylake in few months. Other might be updating their CPUs though.
Anyway, you might want to wait for Skylake too, but don’t expect higher gaming performance with a GTX 970M laptop, even with a Skylake CPU.
Well. The MSI GT72 Dominator G-1445 (or GT72 2QD) is MSI’s 17.3″ gaming flagship. It’s aimed to the hardcore gamer with a full feature set including high gaming performance, MXM GPU, GSync support, storage upgrade options and many connection ports including USB 3.1. It also comes with 4xM.2 slots, good IPS display and a working GSync. Currently selling for $1420 (MSRP : $1500) and my guess is that we’ll see more coupons/discounts in the near future so $1400 can be considered its actual price tag.
In this review, the GT72 faired pretty well, with top 3D and gaming performance. It also has a working GSync which is currently rather unique for this segment of gaming laptops for such a price. The no Optimus approach allows for a full Nvidia control panel configuration, accompanied with a 75HZ IPS display which results is smoother gameplay and it’s also better for the eyes (we can see more than 24FPS). Using the built-in button to switch to Intel HD5600 iGPU works and will save you another few Watts, resulting in a little higher running times on battery, but it requires reboot.
Gaming performance is as much as you can expect from an I7 and a GTX 970M GPU and there’s also room for overclocking the GPU – in my simple MSI Afterburner test, the 970M achieved another 13-14% in core clocks and 20% in GDDR5 clocks and it was stable. The performance improvement in some games I’ve tested reached 15-17%, closing the gap with the GTX 980M, making it almost uninteresting. GSync is working flawlessly and you can feel it. No tearing and a much lower stutter.
The keyboard is also very good and I only wish it had a little more travel, but it’s good nonetheless. The IPS display is good too. Speakers are pretty good with very good mids and lows and good highs, making the GT72 an enjoyable music machine.
There are some problems though. There is some CPU throttling issue which occurs under gaming situation and is currently unsolved by MSI. It has not relation to TDP or temperature limit and I suspect the MSI’s EC/Bios algorithm needs a little knock on the head. A working workaround is using ThrottleStop and setting it to 27 and up multiplier (hiy “turn on”) which solves the problem effectively completely and the benchmarks show that.
Another annoying thing, is that the 2.5″ bay is connected to a SATA II port instead of SATA III. Fast SSDs will be limited, though it’s not an issue with an HDD/SSHD. Though there two bays, only one has a connection. However, 4XM.2 slots are easily accessible and each has a full SATA III channel.
The biggest problem, however, is the size and shape of the GT72. Being a 17.3″ laptop, its frame is pretty big and it’s also pretty high, housing also an MXM GPU. This might be a problem for wanderers. The 230W PSU is another 1kg more or less. And battery will suffice for 3.5-4.5 hours tops, depends on the way you use it (I’m talking light load).
Bottom line is, the GT72 Dominator G is a very good gaming machine if you don’t need to travel a lot with it (on back or hands). It has almost everything in it and for $1400. The GSync advantage is big advantage which does not exist in other laptops currently, in this price range. Ofcourse, you might want to wait for Skylake update or you might decide you don’t need that much power AND a GTX 965M is good enough. Also, waiting for the other manufacturers to update their models is a smart move. Clevo might provide a good hit with their next 15.6″ gaming laptops (with Skylake).