The common reaction to seeing a gaming laptop used to be "why would you have that", whereas these days people are more apt to ask "where did you get that?" As components continue to increase in power and decrease in price, the trade-offs in gaming on a laptop over a dedicated desktop rig are vanishing.
The MSI GE72 Apache Pro has a 6th-generation Intel i7-6700HQ and GeForce GTX 960M GPU, along with 16GB of RAM, giving it ample power for modern games. It can't compete with a comparably-equipped custom desktop when it comes to price, but the premium buys you a portable machine with a quality screen and excellent keyboard.
But there's more than just the allure of (albeit hefty) portability. The Apache Pro includes a 1TB hard drive (HDD) and a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), along with a host of other appealing features for gamers. The laptop has a lot going for it, given its $1,299 (about £1,029, AU$1,999) price tag.
As seems to be the trend in modern gaming laptops, the GE72 takes its design cues from modern sports cars. The angular design looks aggressive, as though the laptop would be right at home tearing around the Nurburgring Ring in Germany.
The MSI gaming badge on the lid adds to the sports car theme. In fact, when closed, the whole laptop looks like it could be the hood of some unannounced European sports car.
The laptop case is made of an attractive black, brushed aluminum, which does an adequate job repelling smudges and fingerprints; as long as electronics come in either black or some shade of metallic grey, though, smudges and stains come part and parcel with the experience.
However, the plastic trackpad feels off, especially taken with the rest of the laptop. The plastic is designed to mimic the look of the brushed aluminum, but it has a cheap feel to it.
The SteelSeries, chiclet-style keyboard looks and feels excellent. Since it's a 17-inch laptop, the full-sized keyboard has plenty of room to breathe, and my fingers never trip over the keys as I type or play games.
An advantage of the computer's large size is the ample space for my palms to rest while typing, which makes using the keyboard super comfortable. The keys feel responsive, and have just the right amount of travel and spacing. For someone with large hands like me, the GE72 is a real pleasure to use.
The keyboard is also backlit, a feature no respectable gamer would be without, and the included SteelSeries software opens up endless possibilities for customizing colors and displays.
I lost more time than I care to admit changing the keyboard backlight configuration, adjusting sliders and experimenting with colors and fades until I got something I liked – only to change it again 30 minutes later, just because I could.
As far as cooling, the MSI GE72 does an excellent job of managing heat, even while under load. I play a lot of Fallout 4 with the laptop resting on my lap, and it never becomes so warm that I worry it's on the cusp of a shut-down.
There's an option to turn the fans on manually to help push heat away from the sensitive electronics. However, the only time I've turned it on was when I was playing around with it, not because it needed the cooling boost.
A 17-inch computer means there's plenty of room for all the ports you'd expect to find on a desktop gaming rig. The GE72 has an SD reader, two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port, headphone and mic combo jack, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, and even a USB-C.
But perhaps the most wonderful (and increasingly rare) for a gamer is an honest-to-goodness ethernet port.