Input, Display Performance, and Internals
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keyboard on the GT72 Dominator Pro G is a SteelSeries design, and it is, in a word, excellent. At first glance it might look like the typical island style chiclet keyboard (well, besides the very colorful lighting which is enabled by default), but there is a solid feel and satisfying key travel that makes typing very pleasant. Key presses have a distinct feel that is slightly soft, but not mushy. The size of the laptop allows for an uncramped keyboard layout, and there is a comfortable space between keys. In short, this is one of the better keyboards I've used on any notebook, and while there are gaming laptops with full mechanical keyboards out there this is a strong contender for a more traditional notebook alternative.
The trackpad is large and has a smooth surface, tracking far better than I would have expected given the seamless integration into the plastic palm rest. There was minimal friction from the mousing surface itself, allowing finger movements to be very accurate, and overall I really liked it. The buttons below the touch surface had a good 'clicky' feel, though I've grown accustomed to always tapping the trackpad on laptops. Multi-finger gestures are supported (customizable through the Synaptics driver software), but my most-often used gesture – the two-finger scroll – didn't work quite the way I would have hoped. This was possibly a function of the way the touch sensitivity is tuned by default, but a two-finger scroll required about twice the amount of force needed to register a tap, which made navigating web pages a little irritating until I got the hang of pressing down with more force to scroll. I'm sure many gamers will be using a dedicated mouse with a large desktop-replacement laptop like this, but (two-finger scrolling aside) the trackpad provided a very good experience overall.
Big gaming laptops have big screens, and while this is just 1920×1080 running on a 17+ inch panel, gaming laptops don't typically offer the QHD and higher displays found on many touchscreen ultrabooks these days. The reason is the gaming focus of these designs, but there is enough headroom with the GTX 980M found in this laptop to provide a good experience with an external 1440p monitor as well (I wouldn't try any 4K gaming with this). A GTX 980M is very close to a desktop GTX 770 on paper, a GPU that I used extensively for my quad-core roundup article recently, and it provided very good performance at high detail settings with all of the games tested.
So how does the display look? There are multiple color modes available using the MSI software, but for my testing I left it at the standard "sRGB" setting to test the color accuracy of the panel.
Measuring the color response first using hcfr with my Spyder 4 Pro colorimeter I found that the screen was a little outside of the proper color triangle for sRGB out of the box, with a noticable shift toward yellow that gave the display a warmer look. Curious to see how much better it would perform after a calibration I ran the Spyder software which reported a 92% sRGB result, which is not bad.
The calibrated result was much more natural looking, and while not up to professional display standards the results were far better than your typical Windows laptop thanks to the 92% sRGB coverage and wide viewing angles from the IPS panel.
Brightness and contrast results at various backlight levels
While brightness was diminished with more extreme off-angle viewing, color didn't shift significantly at all – ideal for a notebook screen where the angle of view is more variable than a desktop monitor.
Brightness was greatly diminished off-angle, but color shift was minimal
Under the Hood
I only went as far as taking the bottom panel off for a couple of quick photos, and this process was very simple as the panel is secured with philips screws (removal does void the warranty according to the sticker blocking the center screw, so bear that in mind). MSI mentions that upgrades are easy with these laptops, and this is absolutely the case.
Up top we see a pair of large heatsink/heatpipe assemblies (connected by one of the heatpipes), one each for the NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU (left) and Intel Core i7-5700HQ CPU (right), with a pair of large cooling fans to move hot air out towards the back. The size of the fans and their slower relative speed certainly contributes to the lower frequency fan noise (this is a very quiet laptop!). In the middle there is an empty pair of SoDIMM slots for standard DDR3L notebook memory (the factory RAM is located on the other side of the motherboard).
On the bottom left we see the laptop's storage array.
A single Toshiba M.2 SSD is installed in our review sample, with space for a second on the mounting bracket. The rotating storage duties are performed by a 1 TB 7200 RPM HGST hard drive, and there is space for a second 2.5-inch drive next door (though there is no included connector for another drive).
The two free RAM slots (the installed 2x 8GB 1600MHz DDR3L is on the underside)
Next we'll see how the GT72 Dominator Pro G performed with some game benchmarks.