Design and Compute Performance

The MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G sports a Skylake quad-core processor and a full performance GTX 980. WAT.

I'm going to be honest with you right off the bat: there isn't much more I can say about the MSI GT72S notebook that hasn't already been said either on this website or on the PC Perspective Podcast. Though there are many iterations of this machine, the version we are looking at today is known as the "GT72S Dominator Pro G Dragon-004" and it includes some impressive hardware and design choices. Perhaps you've heard of this processor called "Skylake" and a GPU known as the "GTX 980"? 

The GT72S is a gaming notebook in the truest sense of the term. It is big, heavy and bulky, not meant for daily travel or walking around campus for very long distances. It has a 17-in screen, more USB 3.0 ports than most desktop computers and also more gaming horsepower than we've ever seen crammed into that kind of space. That doesn't make it perfect for everyone of course: battery life is poor and you may have to sell one of your kids to be able to afford it. But then, you might be able to afford A LOT if you sold the kids, amiright?

Let's dive into what makes the new MSI GT72S so impressive and why every PC gamer that has a hankering for moving their rig will be drooling.

In most ways, the MSI GT72S is nearly identical to many of the recent gaming notebooks that MSI has released. That includes the design of the chassis, the keyboard, the screen configuration and more. 

  MSI GT72S Dominator Pro G
Processor Intel Core i7-6820HK (Unlocked)
Chipset Intel CM236
Memory 32GB DDR4-2133
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 8GB
Storage 2 x Samsung M.2 NVMe PCIe 128GB SSD (RAID 0)
Screen 17.3-in 1920×1080 IPS G-Sync Enabled
Networking Killer E2400 Gigabit Ethernet
Killer N1535 802.11ac 2×2
Display Connections Mini DisplayPort
SuperPort (USB 3.1)
Connectivity 6 x USB 3.0
SD Card Reader
OS Windows 10 64-bit
Dimensions 16.85" x 11.57"x 1.89"
Weight 8.4 lbs
MSRP $3099

Clearly the hardware in here speaks for itself, though that price tag of $3099 is extremely high – $500 more than the exact same hardware with the GTX 980M integrated. That's a sharp increase for what we measure to be 20-30% additional performance but for those gamers that want nothing but the best, you'll find nothing better (unless you jump in to the world of multi-GPU). 

This generation adds some new hardware in the mix though, most of which improves performance in critical ways. First, MSI has included the new Intel Core i7-6820HK, a true quad-core Skylake processor with HyperThreading support giving users access to 8 processing threads. Compared to smaller notebooks that use a dual-core HyperThreaded CPU, this should give you more than twice the improvement in theoretical computer performance as the "true" cores are more valuable than the multi-threading capability.

By far the most dramatic change in this notebook is the move to the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU; not the GTX 980M, a FULL GTX 980 GPU. Yes, as we first showed you back in September, this is the full GM204 GPU on the desktop GTX 980 graphics cards running at slightly lower clock speeds (on average). This means the GT72S offers nearly unparalleled gaming capability in a mobile form factor and proves that NVIDIA's work on improving the power efficiency of Maxwell has paid off.

Other important specification changes include the addition of a G-Sync capable 75Hz 17-in 1920×1080 IPS screen. With G-Sync added into the mix you will never have to worry about visual glitches from V-Sync like stutter or horizontal tearing. (And of course you can connect an external display with G-Sync support to extend that technology outside of the notebook itself.) MSI has installed a pair of NVMe SSDs running in a RAID-0 array for insane storage performance. Killer Networking (for both wired and wireless connections) along with 32GB of DDR4 memory really round out a machine to impress your friends.

Excuse me now as I recount some of my thoughts on the MSI GT72S from the outside…

This machine is something to behold – though it looks very similar to previous GT72 versions, this machine hides hardware unlike anything we have been able to carry in a backpack before. And the sexy red exterior with MSI Dragon Army logo blazoned across the back definitely help it to stand out in a crowd. If you happen to be in a crowd of notebooks.

A quick spin around the GT72S reveals a sizeable collection of hardware and connections. On the left you'll find four USB 3.0 ports as well as four audio inputs/outputs and an SD card reader.

On the opposite side there are two more USB 3.0 ports (totalling six) and the optical / Blu-ray burner. With that many USB 3.0 ports you should never struggle with accessories availability – headset, mouse, keyboard, hard drive and portable fan? Check.

Finally, on the back side, we have a mini DisplayPort connection, USB 3.1 port (no Thunderbolt 3 though), full-size HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet and power input.

That Intel Core i7-6820HK is a quad-core HyperThreaded beast of a mobile processor scaling up to 3.6 GHz in Turbo mode. The processor is also multiplier unlocked so those that want to can try to stretch performance on the CPU side of things with a little overclocking. It's a unique trait for gaming notebooks with the release of Skylake K-series parts!

Interestingly, compared to the previous generation of the MSI GT72 with the Broadwell-based Core i7-5700HQ, the Core i7-6820HK scores slightly lower in both single threaded and multi-threaded results in our CineBench scores. It's not by much, and would be imperceptible to anyone using the hardware in real time, but there it is. If you compare the results to a machine like my Dell XPS 13 using a dual-core Broadwell processor though, the multi-threaded result of the GT72S is 3.3x faster! Clearly if you are doing rendering, encoding, photo editing en mass, etc. then the power of a gaming system like this will net huge gains.

If the CPU and GPU weren't enough to impress you, the pair of NVMe enabled Samsung M.2 SSDs might do the trick, pulling more than 3.0 GB/s of primary storage bandwidth! Is this overkill for a notebook? Yes; heck it's really overkill for ANY consumer product but isn't that what we are after in a machine like this to begin with?

But what about GAMING? That's what we're really all here for.

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