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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  • frodbonzi - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Alienware gives you the same's only the 980m that is different...and I'm sure it will be offered soon. Someone on the Alienware 18 owner's thread on a different forum has said it was late November...

    Anyways, as I posted earlier, once you are going the gaming laptop route, I don't see the reason for going "half way"... Yes, the 18" laptops are heavier - but it's not like you're going to be taking this one with your everywhere either... they're both "portable desktops".

    The Alienware 18, even with "only" dual 880m, will beat this laptop (and any other single GPU laptop) handily... the benchmarks Jarred included were from dual 780m... and they STILL beat the 980m! Alienware can give you an IPS screen and 4 SSDs (although I prefer 3 SSDs and a blu-ray drive myself) for just a bit more cash...

    Lastly, I have to say that once you are in this price range, cost ceases to be a large factor. Yes, when buying a $500 laptop, an extra $200 is a big deal... But when buying a $3000+ laptop, a few hundred dollars no longer really matters...
  • CrazyElf - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    We're not talking about a small difference in price here though. The Alienware 18 is a couple of thousand dollars more if you max it out. Price I'd argue still matters.

    I have no doubt that the top end Alienware and Clevo laptops will beat this thing, especially if they are running 980M SLI (when that comes out). The top end Clevo probably will run a desktop grade CPU, so it's even more potent in this regard. I believe Clevo P570WM3 is the 6 core Ivy Bridge E model. Not sure if they are coming with a Haswell E laptop that can support 8 core Haswell though.

    The only other benefit I can see is this thing can support 4x M.2. Not sure how many the Alienware 18 can support, although they are probably using 2.5" SATA 3 drives. It's not a huge advantage though, as M.2 is faster, but not something you'd notice for gaming.

    Agree on the Blu-Ray drive.

    @Jarred Walton
    Would it be possible to get the IPS GT72 tested out when it comes out? It should have a better quality screen overall.
  • frodbonzi - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    If you don't mind refurbished, we're only talking about $200-$300.... and Alienware 18s have 1 M.2, and 3 SATA slots (some models give u 3 hard drives and an optical drive, others give all 4 hard drives).

    As a point of pricing:

    My Alienware 18 (purchased 2 months ago) has 32GB of RAM, dual 880m, and the i7 4940mx. I'm not a fan of RAID 0, so the "fast" M.2 is my boot drive (256gb) and the other 2 drives are 256gb sata SDDs... I replaced the DVD drive with a $50 Blu-Ray writer off of ebay (Panasonic UJ265)...

    Cost: $3200 --> I've seen the same on ebay ranging from $3000 to $4000...
  • Aikouka - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    I ended up picking up one of these a few weeks ago, and it's a nice laptop. I went with the "budget" 980M version that only has a single SSD, and I purchased a separate 512GB SSD to use in non-RAID. It works great as I leave the original SSD for the OS and use the other one for more important games/applications. That's the same approach that I take on my desktop as well.

    I also had the same problem with the bottom of the laptop. Honestly, I was afraid that I was going to break it! MSI uses a *ton* of tabs in addition to the screws to hold the bottom panel on, and it requires a bit of yanking to get it off. I also found it to be a bit more difficult than desired to put it back on.

    I'm not the biggest fan of the trackpad though. I find that even at higher sensitivity, it just isn't all that sensitive and requires a lot more movement than some of my other laptops. The problem is that when making scrolling gestures and such, I really have to push down on it or else it doesn't register the gesture.

    I was also pleasantly surprised by the Killer Wi-Fi card. I use Intel 7260-AC cards in my two NUCs, and honestly... they're downright awful. If they do connect, it will only last for a few days until it drops to unusable levels of performance, and I've never had one connect at full AC speed. My laptop connects to my router at full 2x AC speed.

    As for the noise, I do wish that the laptop was a bit quieter during low usage, but I'm also the type that builds very quiet PCs. I highly doubt that any normal user would mind the noise.
  • jabber - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Nice hardware...shame it looks like a tacky toy.
  • utferris - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    I am a computer scientist, I just do not understand the design.
    4x128GB RAID 0, seriously? The failure rate will be incredibly high with RAID0 of four storages of any kind, though they can get some speed up.
    I can understand gamers buy monsters, but I donot understand why they will pay for such stupid design.
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    Agree, 1st thing I'd do would be to RAID10 it; but every time someone at Anandtech or elsewhere sends a "RAID0, WTF!" email to a gaming laptop representative, the answer they get back is some version of "Our customers are demanding RAID0." Assuming their market research is valid, there're a lot of idiots buying gaming laptops with no clue beyond benchmark numbers. I'm somewhat skeptical though because you don't see the same thing in pre built gaming desktops. I suspect that what happened was that they went RAID0 in the HDD era to try and compensate for the crapitude of 2.5" HDDs; and haven't checked to see if it's still a valid customer requirement.

    What surprises me is that they don't offer an alternative model with a single 2.5" SSD. The price premium on M.2 drives is high enough that they could still charge a large markup on it while being substantially less than the M.2 RAID0 model.
  • jabber - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    I know a few friends that have bought such machines in the past. The truth is they spend more time going back for repairs/fixes than actually on the users desk. More trouble than they are worth in the long run.
  • IgenIgen - Tuesday, November 11, 2014 - link

    The new ASUS G751JT/JY actually use a redesigned chassis compared to the G750. It also comes with an IPS display as standard (at least in Europe).
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Is it a radical overhaul of the design, or just incremental tweaks of the previous iterations of the G7xx series? Judging by images, it's the latter:

    Compared that with the GT70 vs. GT72 and it's a massive change. That's what I'm trying to get at.

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