We here at Stuff enjoy our gaming, when there’s time to actually indulge in the practise. We’ve played games on just about every platform created, though we haven’t managed to play that Tetris-on-the-side-of-a-building thing we keep seeing, and we’re well aware that what you’re playing on is just about as important as the game itself.
Some people favour consoles, which don’t require much maintenance, others are devotees at the Church of the PC where everything can be tweaked, shaved and modded for that extra frame-rate boost. Somewhere in between, but leaning much closer to the PC punters, are the ready-made gaming rigs: desktop replacements designed to have enough power to make any game on the market today just another morsel for their pixel-processing specs. And, like an episode of Jerry Springer, we just happen to have one of those machines on hand: the GT72 2QE Dominator Pro from MSI.
Let’s start relatively small, shall we? The GT72 has a name like a hardcore Call of Duty player’s gamertag and it has the looks to match. This 17.3-inch slab of hardware features lighting… pretty much everywhere. The SteelSeries keyboard is wholly backlit, as is the trackpad and the front edge of the machine (and you can adjust the lighting, of course). The lid/display is backed by a metal panel, one which makes the Dominator Pro a bit more durable than other similar products we’ve seen.
There are some massive vents in the rear, where the power and display outputs live,and at the bottom. That’s because the GT72 2QE gets hot enough to roast some chestnuts if you use it as an actual laptop. There are USB ports along both sides, with an optical drive on the right and a row of 3.5mm jacks along the left for connecting some external speakers. Very large external speakers. Oh, and an SD-card reader. It looks like what it is, though, and that’s a notebook designed solely to play games and replace your desktop at the same time. Must be why it weighs in at almost 4kg.[blockquote] Display: 17.3-inch Full HD (1,960 x 1,080) LED backlit
Processor: Intel Core i7-4710 HQ@2.5GHz
RAM: 16GB DDR3L
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M
Storage: 237GB + 917GB
Operating System: Windows 8.1
Battery: Li-Ion 83Wh
ALL the hardware
The weight along isn’t why you’re not going to have this MSI GT72 sitting on your lap, however. You can see the hardware configuration of the review machine we had above and the combination of Intel’s i7 4710HQ, 16GB of RAM and that lovely, lovely Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M runs extremely hot. You’re not going to want to rest this machine on bare skin when it’s under load.
And you’re going to be putting it under load, because there’s nothing that we managed to find that the GT72 2QE Dominator Pro was unable to play. At all. The GTX 980M included here made short work of the games that we lobbed in its direction, chewing them up and spitting out as many frames as you’d like. It’ll take some doing to get this GPU to dip below 30fps and getting it to single frames is just about impossible. We’re sure there’s a way but it involves wrapping this notebook in damp towels or something to get it to overheat.
Running all of this on a notebook battery, even one as large as the GT72’s power-source, means that you’re looking at a couple of hours at most before you have to go sprinting for a wall-socket. It’s not ideal but it’s also not surprising, we’re going to have to wait for portable nuclear fuels cells or something before truly portable high-end gaming becomes viable.
The MSI GT72 2QE Dominator Pro arrived with a whole lot of software installed. Much of it was standard Windows stuff, along with Norton Antivirus which we detest and which just won’t… shut… up… but there’s also the Dragon Gaming Center from MSI, which acts as your one-stop shop for all of your rig’s vital stats. Everything from usage for each component (CPU, GPU, battery, storage, RAM…) to fan speeds and internal temperatures are available here, you can switch between various power modes and also launch component-specific programs from one place. It’s a small, but nice, touch.
At the end of the day though, you’re going to have to ask yourself whether it’s worth dropping around R40k on a portable, powerful gaming machine that will replace your desktop. If you’re only after the gameplay, the answer could very well be ‘yes’ but if you like to tinker with your components as well, then going portable might not be for you. Forty grand can buy an awful lot of stuff for a moddable desktop machine, after all.