Review: MSI GT73VR Titan laptop
The best gaming notebook?
- Very powerful
- NVMe RAID SSDs
- Great speakers
- MU-MIMO WiFi
- Runs quiet under load
- Wide range of SKUs
MSI's portable gaming monster does it all. It's incredibly fast at, well, everything and yet it runs quiet too. The screen is good, the peripherals and other features are good. It's expensive, but worth it!
Now let’s talk turkey. We’ve reviewed a number of laptops that feature a Core i7-6820HK CPU, including the Asus G752 and the Acer Predator 17X, but none of them were equipped with the GTX 1080. The recently reviewed Origin EON17-X rocked the GTX 1080 but was paired with a desktop CPU — the Core i7-6700K — which was overclocked, to boot. But the Origin and MSI are extremely similar otherwise, even down to the dual PCIe SSDs, so this seems like the natural comparison. How much difference does the desktop CPU make compared to the mobile part? Let’s find out!
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme
This synthetic test is a staple of many reviewers’ testing regimen because it’s as accurate as it is stressful. It’s primarily a GPU benchmark, however, as opposed to a game that allows the CPU and memory to heavily influence the score.
Thus the GT73VR was essentially tied with the Origin EON17-X, with just 100 points separating the two machines. The EON17-X had the upper hand, but in this test that’s the slimmest of margins and well within the margin of error. Since they both use the same GTX 1080 GPU, the parity was expected. It’s also noteworthy that the GTX 1080 machines held a 25 per cent advantage over the last GTX 1070 equipped machine we tested, the Asus G752.
In Tomb Raider, the Core i7-6700K in the Origin EON17-X was able to assist the GTX 1080 quite a bit, as that laptop scored a decisive victory over the GT73VR Titan. The performance difference between the two machines, despite having the same GPU, was a surprising 11 per cent, with both notebooks pushing more than 150fps at 1080p.
It seems the extra clock speed of the CPU helped, because when we turned up the clock speed of the GT73VR the gap closed to just six per cent. It’s also worth noting that, compared to the GTX 1070-powered Asus G752S, the MSI GT73VR was only 16 per cent faster.
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Tomb Raider is a bit long in the tooth, so I also ran Shadow of Mordor with the 4K HD Content pack installed. This free texture pack needs at least 6GB of GPU memory to run properly, so it’s a killer and the type of game the GTX 1080 was made for.
In this test the CPU didn’t seem to play a role whatsoever, as both GTX 1080-equipped machines were within spitting distance of each other. Compared to the GTX 1070, the GT73VR was only eight percent faster, so there’s not a huge difference between the two GPUs in this game at this resolution.
Here I encoded a 30GB MKV file into an MP4 using the Android Tablet preset in Handbrake, which basically runs the CPU at 100 percent for an hour until the test is complete. It’s as real-world as you can get, and a great benchmark for CPUs, as it scales very well with clock speeds and core count. It makes for an interesting head-to-head between the i7-6700K and i7-6820HK, which are essentially the same chip except one is for the desktop running at higher clock speeds. You’d think the desktop part would wipe the floor with the mobile part, but that’s not quite what we saw in our tests.
Overall, the Origin EON17-X with its 6700K CPU was faster than the stock-clocked MSI notebook, but only by three minutes. That’s a very small margin, and when we overclocked the MSI GT73VR up to 4GHz for the duration of the test the margin was reduced to just one minute, making it effectively a tie as both systems took roughly 40 minutes to complete the encoding process. Overall this is a big win for MSI and its decision to use a mobile processor instead of a desktop part since it’s just as fast, and the system was mostly inaudible throughout testing, even at 4GHz. The Origin system sounded like it was about to lift-off from our desktop.
The one caveat to this is the Origin EON17-X, which as reviewed had issues running at its factory overclocked speed of 4.5GHz. Origin PC blamed a recent Windows update and was still working on a fix at press time.
MSI includes a software utility named Dragon Center that lets you tweak a bunch of the notebook’s settings, including overclocking the CPU (and the GPU). By default the CPU will boost up to 3.6GHz, but MSI provides sliders to adjust the multiplier for each core all the way up to 42, resulting in a clock speed of 4.2GHz.
The first issue I encountered was that whenever I moved the multiplier sliders to 42, the notebook hard-locked. It did this with the system idling too, not under load. After a forced reboot the system would set the multipliers at 40 instead, allowing the CPU to run at 4GHz, which is a decent overclock from the stock speed of 3.6GHz. But it begs the question as to why MSI would offer the option of running the CPU at 4.2GHz if the system can’t even handle it. For what it’s worth, we also tried running the GT73VR at 4.1GHz and it would reboot whenever the CPU was under full load, so that was also a non-starter. Acer’s take with its Predator 17X may be safer for overclocking noobs, which lets you set a maximum of 4GHz on its Core i7-6820HK chip.
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