MSI GT72S Dominator Pro review

A very expensive laptop with a surprisingly cheap feel

MSI GT72S Dominator Pro

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Nothing about the GT72S is small. At 8.4 pounds, it's not the heaviest laptop, but it certainly starts to feel like it is after is sits on your lap for a while. It's not quite as beastly as the Origin EON17-SLX, which comes in at 10.5 pounds, and it beats the PC Specialist Octane II by a mere 0.09 pound. Make no mistake, even as the lightest of the three, it's still a heavy computer.

It may be heavy, but to its credit, there's a lot to jam in there. A desktop-grade graphics chip packed in a laptop is impressive, even if it's becoming commonplace among these big rigs. The GT72S measures 16.8 x 11.6 x 1.9 inches (W x Dx H) comparable to the EON17-SLX and the Octane II. In other words, it's huge.

MSI GT72S Dominator Pro review

Here are the specs of the MSI GT72S Dominator Pro sent to us for review:

  • CPU: 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-6820HK (quad-core, 8M Cache, up to 3.60 GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 (8GB GDDR5 VRAM), Intel HD Graphics 530
  • RAM: 16GB DDR4 (2,133MHz, 4 x 4GB)
  • Screen: 17.3-inch UHD IPS Screen (3840 x 2160)
  • Storage: 256GB SSD (PCIe, m.2 SATA); 1TB HDD (7,200 rpm)
  • Ports: 6 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, HDMI 1.4, 1 x mini DisplayPort, SD card reader, Ethernet, headphone jack, microphone jack, Line-in jack, S/PDIF
  • Connectivity: Bigfoot Killer Wireless AC N1535, E2400 Gaming Network LAN, Bluetooth 4.1
  • Camera: Built-in 1080p webcam
  • Weight: 8.4 pounds
  • Size: 16.8 x 11.6 x 1.9 inches (W x D x H) 428 mm x 294 mm x 48 mm

Priced at $3,099 (£1,689, AU$5,299), the MSI GT72S is one exorbitantly expensive gaming laptop even for an high-end machine. Thanks to its heady price tag and desktop graphics, it's batting in a ballpark fielded by the $3,305 (about £2,341, AU$4,114) Origin EON17-SLX and £1,899 (about $2,648, or AU$3,669) PC Specialist Octane II.

Unlike the Origin EON17-SLX and the PC Specialist Octane II, the GT72S has a Blu-ray drive built in. Technically it's a BD-RE, so you can store files on rewritable Blu-rays, if you're into that sort of thing. I was really excited to watch some of my Blu-rays on the 4K screen, but sadly the CyberLink PowerDVD 12 included with the pack-in software simply didn't work.

I tried to go the VLC route to watch Blu-rays, following online instructions to add the proper files in the proper places, but I eventually gave up. My personal desktop has a Blu-ray drive as well, one I was able to make play nice with VLC, so this isn't my first rodeo. It was frustrating and disappointing.

MSI GT72S Dominator Pro review

The GT72S has plenty of storage space, with a 1TB hard drive similar to both the Octane II and the EON17-SLX. However, the version I tested only has a 256GB solid-state drive, and installing Shadow of Mordor, Grand Theft Auto 5, and Dragon's Dogma triggered the MSI's low-storage pop-up.

Sure, 1 TB of hard drive space seems great, but if you're serious enough to buy a computer of this caliber, running games off a hard drive is probably not something you're interested in. The Octane II has twice the solid-state storage of either the EON17-SLX or the GT72S, putting it in a more comfortable place for holding today's enormous game files.


In spite of its problems with fit and finish, the GT72S performs well. Really well. In 3DMark tests, the GT72S easily beat out the PC Specialist Octane II and gave the Origin EON17-SLX a good run for its money.

Here's how the MSI GT72S Dominator Pro performed in our suite of benchmark tests.

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 24,512; Sky Diver: 21,622; Fire Strike: 10,913
  • Cinebench CPU: 699 points; Graphics: 102.3 fps
  • GeekBench: 3,726 (single-core); 13,850 (multi-core)
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 3,350
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 1 hour and 40 minutes
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: (1080p, Ultra) 102 fps; (1080p, Low) 163 fps
  • Grand Theft Auto V: (1080p, Ultra) 36 fps; (1080p, Low) 157 fps

MSI GT72S Dominator Pro review

Both the Octane II and EON17-SLX have the significantly faster i7-6700K CPUs, with a clock speed of 4.0GHz. The GT72S has an i7-6820HK, which is a great mobile CPU, but in our benchmark tests, it can't compete with with its faster sibling. The Cinebench CPU score for the Octane II and EON17-SLX are 878 points, compared to the GT72S' 699.

Where the GT72S really pulls ahead of the Octane II is the suite of 3DMark benchmarks. When you add in the 4K screen, the GT72S is the clear winner when it comes to graphics. However, it still falls short of the insanity that is the EON17-SLX, but not by much.

All that power means games run well, even in 4K. I wasn't able to turn everything to Ultra in GTA 5 and still maintain a decent framerate in 4K, but with everything on Low, the game hit an astonishing average 117 fps. 8GB of video RAM certainly makes a difference.

With Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor at Ultra, running in 4K, I managed to pull off a respectable 35 fps. If you're a framerate elitist, that number is probably unacceptable. But just the notion of running a game on Ultra at 4K and having a framerate above 30 fps is insanity. It just looks so good.

Normally I heed to GeForce Experience's guidance for the optimal settings for games, as I find it does a good job with getting the settings just right. However, I ended up forging my own route when the software insisted on a 1366 x 768 resolution for GTA V. It assigned a similarly low resolution to Shadow of Mordor, something I've never encountered before.

I did a little experimenting and ended up with middle-to-high settings at 1920 x 1080 in Grand Theft Auto V, and it looks and plays fantastic. Graphical fidelity in GTA is incredible, and I couldn't resist hooking it to my HDTV to experience it all on the big screen. It almost makes me wish I had a 4K set… almost.

Even at its highest settings, fan noise is never a problem. The cooling system does its job nicely, and while it isn't totally silent, it's quiet enough. The GT72S' quiet-running fans are maybe the biggest surprise I encountered.

MSI GT72S Dominator Pro review

Assaulted Battery

Neither the PC Specialist Octane II nor the Origin EON17-SLX are strong in battery life, but they beat out the GT72S by a lot. The GT72S has the worst battery life I've ever seen. The Octane II manages to eke out 2 hours, 17 minutes in the PCMark 8 Battery Test, and the EON17-SLX got a minute more at 2 hours, 18 minutes.

The GT72S couldn't crack the 2 hour mark. In fact, it fell short significantly, coming in at 1 hour, 40 minutes. Watching Guardians of the Galaxy on loop at 50% screen brightness and 50% volume, exhausted the battery in just 1 hour, 43 minutes. I didn't even make it through a full viewing.

Just wow.

Simply using the GT72S for my normal use, with about a dozen tabs running in Chrome, and switching between retro-gaming YouTube videos and Amazon Prime digital music streaming, I got almost an extra hour of use before the computer was begging me to plug it in.