- Attractive chassis design
- Powerful specs
- Great ventilation (with fan speed controls)
- Responsive keyboard
- Dim display with poor color accuracy
- Weak battery life
The MSI GT72 Dominator Pro boasts an attractive design, excellent graphics performance and lightning-fast transfer speeds. It’s nearly the perfect package, the only thing holding it back is the machine’s sub-par display.
MSI’s Dominator line has consistently been one of the best deals in gaming. Previous iterations weren’t always the best to look at, but having ditched the old boxy design in favor of a more aggressive aesthetic, the MSI GT72 Dominator Pro looks to offer a more complete package.
Boasting an NVidia GeForce GTX 980M and four lightning-fast SSDs, the desktop replacement offers top of the line performance capable of tackling the latest games. It’s an impressive combination that justifies the device’s steep $2,900 price tag (starting at $1,800), but the lackluster display may turn some users away.
Build and Design
Implementing a number of design elements from its portable gaming line, MSI has spiced up the look of the GT72 Dominator Pro over its blander predecessors. Both the lid and the deck are slightly curved along the front edge, while the chassis slants inward towards the base of the laptop. The brushed aluminum lid is slightly elevated in the middle, with two indentations running along the edges of the display hinge towards its center. MSI’s chrome lettering adorns the top of the display lid, while the company’s red gaming logo crest sits directly beneath. Running along the front curved edge of the lid is a thin red strip that helps to further accentuates the gaming logo on top the display.
Similar to recent Alienware designs, the GT72 Dominator Pro houses two LED light strips on the front face of the chassis. In typical MSI fashion, you can customize the color of these lights along with the backlit keyboard.
A red-black speaker grill sits at the top of the black aluminum deck. The touchpad — which also offers customizable LED backlighting along its edges — is lightly elevated form the rest of the deck, but offers plenty of room making it comfortable to use while playing games. To left of the keyboard are a number of shortcut buttons including a power button, GPU controls, fan controls and a SteelSeries button that lets you instantly switch between the different macro layers on the keyboard.
At 8.4 pounds and measuring in at 16.85 x 11.57 x 1.89-inches the MSI GT72 isn’t really all that mobile, but that’s typically what you expect from a desktop replacement. The Aorus X7 Pro is considerably lighter at 6.9 pounds, but the GT72 Dominator is nearly a full pound lighter than the competing Alienware 17, which weighs a whopping 9.2 pounds.
Ports and Features
The MSI GT72 Dominator may have the girth of a desktop replacement, but it also offers the insane level of connectivity expected of one as well. The left side of the chassis features four USB 3.0 ports, a 2-in-1 card reader, and four gold plated jacks including audio-in, S/P-DIF, headphones, and microphones. The right side of the device houses two additional USB 3.0 ports, and a Blu-ray reader. Finally the rear portion of the chassis offers an Ethernet connector, two mini Display Port connectors, and an HDMI connector.
The GT72 employs many of the same features the Dominator series has become known for, including 4K video output via the Display Port and HDMI connectors. The GT72 Dominator allows you to expand a single image across three monitors via NVidia’s Surround View support. The laptop features Killer Doubleshot networking, which provides consistent low-latency on both wired and wireless connections for optimal online performance.
Display and Sound
Likely one of the weaker aspects of the MSI GT72 Dominator is its 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare LCD display. It’s by no means a bad display, but it falls short when compared against competing desktop replacements. With a brightness of 256 nits the panel doesn’t offer the same luminosity as both the 268 nits Alienware 17 and 320 nits Aorus X7 Pro. The display offers mediocre black levels and with an 84 percent SRGB gamut, the display is not ideal for professionals that need accurate color reproduction.
While the display may not be ideal for professionals, it’s still more than suitable for multimedia use. The screen’s vibrant color contrast makes it great for playing games or watching Netflix. We were impressed with the panel’s ability to depict the wide away of greens and browns as we traversed the lush scenery in Dragon Age Inquisition.
Despite its limited brightness, the panel offers generous viewing angles. A group of friends can easy look on as you play, with images holding up well over 90 degrees. Unfortunately the dim screen doesn’t fare as well in direct light, as there are noticeable reflections and colors appear washed out.
The Dynaudio speakers are housed near the rear of the chassis with the speaker grill running along the top end of the speaker deck. The laptop is quite boisterous as it’s able to fill a modest size room with audio with ease. The MSI GT72 Dominator also offers excellent audio quality. We were impressed by the speaker’s ability to accurately depict a complex orchestral piece. The speakers also offer a healthy level of bass making them perfect for capturing in-game sound effects.
Keyboard and Touchpad
As with other notebooks in the Dominator line, the GT72 features a SteelSeries island-style keyboard complete with customizable backlighting and a full number pad. The squared keys offer a raised texture and curve inward providing an easy to grip surface. The keyboard offers excellent spacing and key travel, even for a desktop replacement. Tactile feedback is also consistent, ensuring responsive and accurate controls. Similar to the GT70, the “Windows Key” has been moved onto the right side of the spacebar (between the “ALTGR” and “Ctrl” keys) to ensure that you don’t accidently strike it while playing games.
SteelSeries Engine makes a welcomed return providing users with customization tools to control the backlighting and macro key commands. Setting up macros proves easy and quick thanks to the drag and drop interface. You can save their key bindings to profiles and can even switch between multiple setups (called layers) within a profile on the fly. While normally all these different macro setups could get confusing to keep track of, the SteelSeries Engine makes it easy by pairing it with the LED backlights.
Located directly below the spacebar is a Synaptics touchpad complete with two mouse buttons at the bottom of the pad. The generously sized rubber pad is smooth to touch and allows for easy travel, offering a great deal of sensitivity and control. The pad performs well with swipes clicks and multi-finger gesturers all registering accurately without lag.