MSI GT72 Dominator Pro Gaming Performance

We’ve already covered the GT72’s gaming performance with our preview article, so this is mostly a rehash. Simply put: the GTX 980M is screaming fast. I also find it a bit ironic that the notebook GTX 980M has 8GB VRAM while the desktop GTX 980 is currently still a 4GB part, even though you’re less likely to need the extra RAM on a notebook (especially one equipped with a 1080p display).

Depending on your desired FPS, the GT72 is either fast enough to handle just about everything at maximum detail (30+ FPS at 1080p), or you might need to drop a few extras like SSAA on titles like Metro: Last Light to get closer to 60FPS. Oh, and if you happen to use the GT72 with an external display that supports G-SYNC, that’s also supported. Here are the gaming results at our Enthusiast settings; Mainstream and Value are mostly not worth discussing as the GTX 980M makes short work of those, but you can view additional performance results in Notebook Bench.

Bioshock Infinite - Enthusiast

GRID 2 - Enthusiast

Metro: Last Light - Enthusiast

Sleeping Dogs - Enthusiast

Tomb Raider - Enthusiast

Our current suite of gaming tests for notebooks consists of just five titles, but I’ve run benchmarks on quite a few other games just for good measure. Metro: Last Light is the one game where the GTX 980M struggles at times, but it still manages to break 30FPS, which is the first time we’ve had a notebook with a single GPU accomplish that feat. There are other games where performance also struggles, but generally it’s with games that use SSAA, and if you turn off SSAA performance is usually much higher.

A noteworthy point of comparison is the Alienware 18, which has SLI 780M. While it's technically faster in most of the games, the single GTX 980M often comes dangerously close, and in at least one title it actually scores a win. In fact, the only game where the SLI configuration proved to be noticeably faster is BioShock Infinite, and considering we're well above 60FPS with maxed out settings the only reason you'd need SLI for BioShock is if you were using a higher resolution external LCD.

To help put performance of NVIDIA's latest GPUs in perspective, I’ve run a larger collection of 15 gaming benchmarks on the GT72 and GTX 980M. I’ve also run the same tests on the GT70, GS60, and GE60. Using maximum quality settings at 1080p, here’s what the performance breakdown looks like:

Average Performance - 15 Games

Some games easily break 60FPS and others are closer to 30FPS, but none of the games I tested had average frame rates fall below 30FPS on the GT72 and the average FPS sits at 70. In comparison, the previous generation GT70 with GTX 880M – and it has the benefit of a slightly faster CPU – averages 55 FPS, so the GTX 980M ends up being nearly 30% faster on average. The GTX 870M comes in at 46 FPS while the GTX 860M comes in at just 36 FPS, so all told the GTX 980M is a solid doubling of performance from the GTX 860M. Perhaps more telling is that the GTX 860M falls below 30FPS average in half of the games I tested (though dropping AA and reducing the graphical detail to High is usually enough to get it back above 30).

Simply put, if you’re looking for a gaming notebook that can run everything currently out there at maximum (or nearly maximum) quality without the need to pack around a 12 pound behemoth like the various SLI notebooks, the GT72 – and more importantly the GTX 980M – is the first notebook we’ve tested in quite some time that meets that requirement. It’s a gamers dream notebook, with performance that’s typically equal to (and perhaps a bit faster than) the desktop GTX 770. While that’s no longer the fastest desktop GPU, it’s still more than sufficient for most users, especially for 1080p gaming.

MSI GT72 Dominator Pro: Subjective Evaluation MSI GT72 Dominator Pro General Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Sadly, we haven't had a high-end AMD mobile GPU in for testing since the 7970M a couple years back, which was tested on an older gaming suite. You can check results in Bench, though:
  • Spigsy - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the link Jarred! I logged just in time to see you'd already done the work for me. Truly appreciated.

    From what I can see the 980m would offer me anywhere from a 30% to over 100% boost in gaming, which is seriously impressive. I've always been a fan of bang for buck (thus the 7970m) but I have to say I'm seriously impressed with what Nvidia have achieved this generation, particularly considering we're still on 28nm here.
  • DILLIGAFF - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    good review, this part is not right:
    "Second, the RAM has two SO-DIMM slots in the main area under the laptop, but there are two more that are accessed after removing the keyboard and top portion of the chassis; I didn't want to hassle with that as it's not really necessary for the review"

    i have the 211 sku, and you cant remove the lid and the keyboard from the top on the gt72. To get to those ram slots you have to disassemble most of the laptop through the back cover on this model. should not be a big deal- the cheapest sku they offer comes with 16gb already populated into those slots. so the only people who will deal with those slots are people who want lower cas ram or people doing repairs if the ram goes bad.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Text edited, thanks. As noted, I didn't actually disassemble the system to check the battery and other RAM slots, so all I could say for certain was that they were on the opposite side of the motherboard.
  • DILLIGAFF - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Thanks dude!

    as far as that second unused 2.5" bay- there is a sku (non usa sku as of today afaik) that comes with no SSD, so instead of a bracket to hold m.2 drives, there is a bracket that has connectors for both 2.5" bays- at least one is sata 6. this is sort of relevant because in the sku's that come with the m.2 bracket/ssd, there is no sata 3 port for a 2.5" drive.
  • RaistlinZ - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Unfortunately, these things become expensive paper weights after 2 years. They just don't hold much of their value over time. You can probably get 80% of the performance of this laptop while spending only $1,500.00 or so.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Yes and no. A desktop with similar performance will cost between $1400 and $1500 (with 32GB RAM and a 512GB SSD), but that doesn't include the display, speakers, or keyboard/mouse... and what it really doesn't include is portability. No matter how much people want to try and say otherwise, there are users that want a portable gaming system like this. And in two years, while there will be faster GPUs available, that hardly makes an older system obsolete -- a three year old gaming notebook can easily handle most games today, just not at maximum settings.
  • CrazyElf - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    One advantage that this laptop has is that the GPU is upgradeable.

    Asus G series is not. Alienware, some models are. Many of the Clevo models are.

    CPUs don't seem to improve much every year, so it's not as big a deal.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Have MxM cards actually become available at sane prices? The last time I looked the premium on them was so large it was cheaper to dump the old laptop on ebay and buy a new one.

    Also, is cooling still a concern with MxM swapping? IIRC something about early generation ones had problems with the heatsink connectors changing between generations making the upgrades nearly impossible in practice.
  • CrazyElf - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Pretty good gaming laptop all things considered. For the money, you get better hardware than what a comparable Alienware offers.

    The only thing I wish for is that the battery was user replaceable. Gaming laptops don't have good battery life times, and this one is decent with the integrated, but still I'd like to be able to hot-swap on the go.

    The are already IPS GT72s coming in, which should fix the only real flaw of this laptop, which is the poor color accuracy of the TN display. You will no doubt have to pay extra though for the IPS display.

    I believe that the GPU can also be upgraded, leaving future potential upgrades available. Unfortunately, the CPU has been soldered, which has become standard among all gaming laptops.

    Otherwise a solid laptop.

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