Our approach to reviewing the MSI GE72 7RE gaming laptop has been more drawn-out than normally, as we’ve individually run tests for FPS performance and for the impact of pre-installed software on the machine. Today, we’re combining all of those numbers into our final review of the MSI GE72 7RE notebook and its 1050 Ti & i7-7700HQ hardware, coming to an ultimatum on the product as a whole.
The MSI GE72 7RE Apache Pro runs a 17.3” display, making for what is an abnormally large form factor for a 1050 Ti, and is able to accommodate a larger keyboard as a result. It’s not a perfect keyboard, as we’ll discuss in the video, but it does have a numpad and most standard keys. This larger form factor is also critical for the sprawling cooling solution, which makes use of the additional area to spread out its heatpipes and dual-fan cooling. It’s a trade-off, as always: A bigger laptop does mean better cooling, but a 1050 Ti does sort of seem the perfect fit for a 14-15.6” machine. From experience, we can say that you won’t be opening this display in an economy seat on an airplane – but if that’s not how the laptop is being used, you end up with what is still a slim, fairly light option.
Our model included a 128GB SSD from Toshiba (but supply changes, so that’s not a guaranteed supplier), 1TB HDD, 2x8GB DIMMs, the 1050 Ti, and an i7-7700HQ. The price for this unit, which we had on loan, would run around $1200-$1300.
We posted a content piece pertaining to MSI’s pre-installed software – which we called “bloatware” – prior to the start of Computex. The company had responded at first with silence to emails, but then responded mid-week (in emails) with an overall neutral tone that suggested a wish to improve. There wasn’t much said in the emails, though, and certainly nothing official – so we sought out MSI’s US laptop representative at Computex, then asked for comment.
MSI’s Clifford Chun joined us, Product Manager of Laptops at MSI (US HQ), and discussed the company’s intermediary solution to the excessive pre-installed software. As Chun states in the video below, MSI will begin including an uninstaller package with their new laptops in 2H17. This utility will provide check boxes to each of the pre-installed applications and, upon launching it, will allow users to check and delete software. There is some irony to the idea of including more software to remove software, of course, but it’s a first step. It’d also be ideal to opt-in, not out, but marketing agreements do not generally permit this (as we said in the first video).
We’ll talk more below about why MSI is stuck in a difficult position, but first, the interview:
Most manufacturers have invited us to some sort of notebook press conference or briefing for this show, and there are a few reasons why: For one, nVidia is now pushing a new initiative to tighten requirements on manufacturers to build quieter laptops, and two, AMD R7 notebooks are now beginning to enter the channel. We’ll focus on MSI’s new notebooks here, alongside some additional coverage of nVidia’s new “Max-Q” initiative, named in true Bond-like fashion.
MSI’s new laptops use existing product lines from Intel and nVidia, so there’s no new silicon, but the company has revamped its chassis and cooling solution for the new GT75VR Titan, GE63VR Raider, and GE73VR Raider. Unfortunately, the company did not take questions during its press conference, so we’ll have to save our recent criticisms for a second booth visit later in the show. Regardless, we’ve got information on the hardware, and that’s something for which we’ve previously praised MSI. Based on upgrades to cooling, MSI boasted heavily in the press conference that the new notebooks would produce “30% higher performance,” though we do not know what they will be 30% higher than, or in what measurement.
Anyway, let’s cut through the marketing and talk hardware.
We attended EVGA’s Press Day in Taipei before the start of Computex, where we tore down the new Kingpin 1080 Ti card and spoke with engineering staff about power design. EVGA showcased a number of other items too, including the DG-70 line of cases, a new mechanical keyboard, and EVGA’s new SC15 laptop.
The new ATX mid-tower cases are the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76, all of which use the same tooling (from what we’ve seen thus far), meaning the differences are largely cosmetic. The DG-73 will be the most budget-focused and features an acrylic side panel window, while the DG-75/76 have tempered glass panels. All three have a tempered glass front panel that is slightly offset, which could allow for front airflow intake through side ventilation, something we’ve seen before. Cable routing could prove to be difficult as there are no dedicated pass-throughs or grommets; instead, the DG-73, DG-75, and DG-76 use an open plate style design for cable management.
One of the most frustrating aspects of the hardware industry is when a company made a perfectly viable product, but somehow flummoxed execution. The consumer doesn’t see the architecture or the engineering – at least, not outside of reviews – they see the full picture. In this capacity, consumers get a view of a product that is similar to a product manager’s: The big picture as it comes together, seeing past all the smaller details along the way.
A GPU might, for instance, be a powerhouse when analyzed under an SEM or in a vacuum, but could prove hamstrung in adverse thermal conditions resultant of an inadequate cooler. More appropriately, a laptop could host the best mobile hardware available, but prove devalued when flooded with unneeded software. The fastest SSD in the business, as bogged down with bloatware, will still be slower than a clean Windows install on a fresh HDD.
This big picture is sometimes lost to the chaos of marketing development efforts, particularly when MDF starts exchanging hands, and lost in the need to turn a profit in an industry with small margins. That’s what happened with MSI’s laptops: These are completely capable, highly competitive laptops that demand attention – but they’re plagued with an ineffable concoction of applications, responsible for doubling time required to boot. That’s not all, either – we have measured an impact to noise output as the CPU boosts sporadically, an unpredictable and spurious impact to frametimes, an impact to battery life, and an overall reduction in product quality.
All because of bloatware.
Laptop reviewing and benchmarking comes with a unique challenge: We don’t typically get to hang onto review samples once the cycle is complete, unlike other review products, which limits regression testing for content like today’s. This means that we need to rely on some of our older testing and methodology, but we can still judge scaling based on old games – that should be mostly linear, with some exceptions (which we’ve accounted for in our summary of tests).
Fortunately, the upshot of revisiting older titles for comparative analysis is that those titles do not change. They don’t get updates to game code and they don’t get driver updates, so results should largely exist in a hermetically sealed state.
Regardless, today’s goal is to benchmark the GTX 1050 Ti notebook GPU. We still have a lot of work to do on notebooks as we work to rebuild our bench, but this will start us off. The GTX 1070 is next. We’re starting with an MSI GE72 7RE Apache Pro with GTX 1050 Ti and i7-7700HQ CPU. This isn’t a review of the GE72 – that’s upcoming – but just a GPU benchmark to help determine scaling and placement of the 1050 Ti against other notebook GPUs.
Our review of the notebook is forthcoming, as are a few feature benchmark pieces. It’ll be interesting stuff, as we’ve got some key things to point out with this one. Be sure to follow or subscribe to catch that. For today, let’s get into the 1050 Ti notebook benchmarks.
MSI’s new-ish GS43 Phantom Pro laptop made an appearance at PAX East this weekend, where we’re presently RNG-ing some tear-downs and live benchmark demonstrations. Our first content piece discussed keyboard input latency testing, and our second piece – this one – will open up the Phantom Pro for a closer look.
As a quick side note, MSI does have “new” camo finish GTX 1060s, Z270 motherboards, and GE62 laptops. We show those briefly in the video, though it’s really not a focal point for today.
At CES 2016, Razer introduced what they touted as the long-awaited solution for laptop users that wanted desktop power gaming: the Razer Blade Stealth and the Razer Core. Razer promised UltraBook lightweight portability combined with PNP conversion to desktop GPU performance; however, like many products at CES, only part of the solution was ready. The UltraBook and external GPU enclosure combination was demonstrated at that CES and, to Razer’s credit, PNP worked … mostly.
While on the show floor, we were permitted to disconnect and reconnect the Core from the Stealth multiple times to watch the PNP in action. During the process, the engineers that we worked with explained the many difficulties involved with making real-time driver switching across Thunderbolt 3 (brand new, at that point) work. Asking a Microsoft OS to disconnect and reconnect display drivers from 3 different vendors (AMD, Intel, nVidia) was challenging. So, as we watched Windows change the display drivers in real time through Device Manager, we were impressed to see it working even if it wasn’t the fully polished end product. Soon after the show, Razer began delivering Stealths with 6th generation Core i7 CPUs, 2560x1440 QHD or 4K touch screens, 8GB of DDR3 DRAM, and up to 512GB PCIe based SSDs. The only slightly disappointing specification was the 45 WHr battery which provided around 9 hours of use.
Following suit with our CES coverage, which is sure to remain incessant throughout the next few days, we have Acer’s prize announcements. Acer pulled the curtain back on several products, but the showcase is undoubtedly the expansion of the Predator product family. Both highly sought (and priced), the Predator series is the zenith of Acer’s gaming offerings.
Below we have a few SKUs to overview. The Predator line up will see the inclusion of three new displays: the flagship Z301CT, the XB252Q, and XB272. Also announced were two gaming notebooks, the Predator 21X and 17X.
NVidia has added to our pile of pre-CES hardware news with the announcement of GTX 1050 and 1050 Ti-equipped laptops. 30+ models from various OEMs will be arriving in Q1 2017, including several using Intel’s new Kaby Lake CPUs this week at CES. Confirmed manufacturers include Acer, Alienware/Dell, ASUS, HP, Lenovo, and MSI.
As mentioned in our laptop 1060/1070/1080 benchmark, improvements to power management mean that nVidia’s 10-series notebook GPUs are the real deal, rather than the neutered “-M” versions that laptops have gotten in the past. The specs listed for the notebook GPUs confirm this, with the only major difference being higher core clock speeds in the notebook 1050 and 1050 Ti. This doesn’t indicate a change in the physical hardware, it mostly seems that nVidia has increased the clock-rate given the high thermal headroom (room to increase heat) as a result of the efficient 1050/Ti GPUs. Like other 10-series laptops, OEMs will probably be allowed an additional +/-10% for overclocking their GPUs.