Battery Life, Thermals, Wi-Fi, and Conclusion
After such impressive performance in every aspect to this point, battery life is where I fully expected things to sort of fall down a bit. Granted, gaming laptops generally don't last very long on a single charge as they have larger screens and much more demanding hardware, but I was hopeful that the Broadwell CPU would at least help in this area. The results were actually a little surprising: using our demanding PC Per battery test with the screen set to a bright 180 lux, the GT72 Dominator Pro G lasted an impressive 2 hours and 45 minutes. For a gaming laptop this is actually pretty good, especially considering the high-end CPU/GPU combo and dual storage drives.
Forget about gaming on the battery, however, and not just because of battery life. Sure, gaming will drain the machine very fast, but you'll experience better GPU performance when connected to a power source as well (more on this in a moment). Still, if you're spending over $2000 on a notebook it's nice to know you could actually use it as a portable device if desired – even if you'd always want an outlet nearby.
Temperatures and Noise
I tested load temps on the CPU using the x265 benchmark (which takes full advantage of all available threads). I performed these tests with/without the laptop plugged in, and the CPU performance was not affected by battery power vs. AC.
There's a lot going on in this screenshot, but you might notice that even at 72 C (ambient temps were a warm ~24 C in the room) on the hottest cores I was still at full turbo on the i7-5700HQ throughout the test with the video encode benchmark fully loading all cores. Surprisingly the fans were inaudible over the room noise (about 36 dB) throughout this test, and while I could have manually set the fans to high speed using the dedicated button thermals were steady at 72 C.
For GPU testing I created simulated load temps using the Unigine Valley benchmark for 15 minutes on the Extreme HD preset. Temps were a bit different on the GPU depending on power source as the turbo is less aggressive running on battery, and I also noted that graphics memory ran much faster on AC power. Here's a look at the logs from GPU-Z, running the Unigine Valley test on both AC and battery:
GPU benchmark on AC power (L to R: Date/Time, GPU clock, Memory clock, Temps)
Same benchmark on battery power (L to R: Date/Time, GPU clock, Memory clock, Temps)
That's a pretty big difference, and look at the graphics memory (the 3rd column on the right), which was limited to about 800 MHz on battery power. GPU temps were a full 11 C lower on battery thanks to these lower numbers as well.
What about noise levels? Well, for the most part I didn't give this aspect of the laptop's performance any attention for a very simple reason: I couldn't hear it. At idle the fans are so quiet that you'd have to be in a silent environment (or place your ear next to the back vents) to hear anything. By default the fan profile is very conservative, and I only heard a soft "whooshing" air noise when the laptop was running at full load. If desired there is a manual high-speed fan setting, but I didn't feel the need to use this. I never found the laptop to get anywhere near an annoying (or even noticeable) level at the default setting, and what sound there was had a pleasantly low pitch.
The GT72 Dominator Pro G is equipped with a Killer Wireless N1525 Combo 2×2 802.11ac card, which promises superior Wi-Fi performance. The 2×2 MIMO capability is interesting, and would warrant a closer look with a compatible router. During my time with the laptop it was connected to a standard dual-band ac router (Linksys model EA6350), and subjectively it felt extremely fast. To test out what was actually happening I tried a simple download of the most recent Ubuntu version:
To put what you see in this screenshot in perspective, my full cable internet bandwidth is ~60 Mbps, and I get this with a standard Gigabit Ethernet connection on my PC. Here you see the Killer Wireless card pulling nearly 70 Mbps from this Charter cable connection, and doing it consistently. I only recorded this one download, but it was like this with everything I downloaded. Speeds of a full 8 MB/sec like this is a new record with my router. Very impressive!
The 17-inch MSI GT72 G-Sync laptop is a well constructed gaming powerhouse with really impressive specs. It features an Intel 5th-generation (Broadwell) Core i7 processor in a market filled with the older Haswell CPUs, and it ships with the powerful high-end NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB graphics card and 16GB of 1600 MHz DDR3 memory. Our review unit shipped with 16GB of 1600MHz memory and a 128GB SSD/1TB HDD storage combo to round things out, and overall this is a very formidable gaming system, portable or not. And it's not just the internals that shine here, as beyond the attractively designed exterior there is a fantastic 17.3-inch matte-finish IPS screen with a native 75 Hz refresh and NVIDIA G-SYNC integration. A great keyboard a solid trackpad are just icing on the cake.
In my testing I found that the GT72 Dominator Pro G provided a gaming experience rivaling a midrange desktop gaming rig, and while you certainly pay for a laptop of this caliber it's actually priced very competitively as equipped. It seems that MSI is eager to take some of the gaming notebook market share from Dell/Alienware and ASUS ROG. Comparing similarly equipped laptops from those two rivals was interesting, as the MSI was actually $200 less than the similarly equipped ASUS ROG G-SYNC laptop ($2300 on Amazon) – though the ASUS does come with 24GB or RAM as a minimum for whatever reason. The Alienware 17 with a Core i7 (Haswell) and GTX 980M is the same price as this MSI, but doesn't offer G-SYNC support.
Overall this was a very impressive performer with a great design and plenty of attention to detail (things like the built-in sound – excellent, by the way – that I didn't even cover here). I found the value to be very high considering what you get for your $2099 investment compared to what's out there in the high-end gaming laptop market, and the outstanding keyboard and excellent screen are reason enough for me to recommend the MSI at this price. Laptops like this aren't for everyone, and far less portable than the classification indicates. Still, 2 hours and 45 minutes of battery life from our demanding PC Per Wi-Fi battery test is actually really good for a gaming laptop, and demonstrates some of the power savings from the Intel Broadwell processor.
Bottom line, if you're looking for a powerful gaming laptop with NVIDIA's fastest mobile GPU and one of the latest 5th-Gen Intel Core i7 processors, the GT72 Dominator Pro G is a fantastic choice. And if you want to experience NVIDIA G-SYNC and the benefits of a 75 Hz IPS display at the same time, then it's an even better one.