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MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider – Review

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider – Review

Not all hardware manufacturers concentrate on slimmer, lighter and smaller gaming notebooks – companies like MSI still recognise the market for more traditional products, especially with LAN gaming and esports proving popular.

The MSI GE73VR 7RG Raider is one such laptop. It’s got top-notch components behind its 17.3in screen, but it also costs a mighty £1,799.

Design

This notebook has many of the visual cues that we’ve previously seen on machines like the GE72 7RE Apache Pro. The lid has red slashes, a shining MSI logo and the crimson Dragon Gaming shield, and the machine is built from glossy, black, brushed aluminium.

The trackpad is ringed with red, the keyboard has RGB LEDs, and there’s a shining MSI logo on the inside.

The black-and-red design isn’t just reminiscent of other MSI machines. It’s similar to the HP Omen 17, which mixed the two colours in a design that also featured carbon-fibre pattern.

The two machines may look similar, but the MSI quickly impresses when compared to the HP. The MSI is 29mm thick and weighs 2.8kg, which makes it more svelte than the 34mm, 3.35kg Omen.

It’s more accessible, too. The entire base can be removed – rather than just a tiny portion of the plastic underside – which gives access to both memory slots, the storage, the cooling hardware and the battery. There’s a free M.2 socket, and the MSI’s borders serve up USB 3.1 Type-C ports, a card reader, a mini-DisplayPort connector and a trio of illuminated USB ports.

Build quality is only average. The wrist-rest flexes, and there’s clear air between the components and the base panel – so pushing the plastic causes movement. It means we’d slip the MSI into a sleeve when taking this machine out, but it’s no worse than the HP.

Ergonomics

The MSI’s 17.3in design means there’s plenty of room for a numberpad, but this machine still falls foul of the same issues that afflicted the HP. The cursor keys are still cramped, for instance, and the Return button is still just a single-height unit.

It’s a Scrabble-tile unit, too, although the MSI does manage to improve on the HP. Its keys have more travel, and they hammer down with speed and consistency. They’ve got a tad more weight than the HP’s buttons, too.

The heavier, faster buttons have a solid base, and it means that they’re more suitable for gaming than the HP. They’re still not as good as a traditional laptop keyboard or even a discrete mechanical unit, but this machine is one of the best Scrabble-tile designs we’ve used.

It also has the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which can edit macros, save gaming profiles and alter the RGB LEDs. That’s better than the HP – it had no software and a plain red backlight.

The trackpad is underwhelming. The buttons feel flimsy and wobbly, and push down too far – especially nearer the middle. They’re better at their edges, but we’d connect a third-party rodent for proper gaming.

Components

The GTX 1070 is a powerful and familiar GPU. It’s got 2,048 stream processors and 8GB of GDDR5 memory, and it wields Nvidia’s Pascal architecture, which means this mobile card achieves parity with desktop products.

By default its core runs with base and boost speeds of 1,442MHz and 1,645MHz, but MSI likes to overclock. The Dragon Center app has an option called Turbo that can boost the core and memory clocks by 200MHz and 350MHz for extra gaming grunt.

That’s not the only option offered by Dragon Center. It’s got a Comfort mode that reigns the GPU in to its stock speed, and an Eco mode that clocks the core down to about 1,300MHz.

Dragon Center is a solid piece of software that also has fan controls and a system monitor to handle GPU and GPU speeds, component temperatures and networking traffic.

The Core i7-7700HQ is a quad-core, Hyper-Threaded processor with a stock speed of 2.8GHz and a theoretical boost peak of 3.8GHz. It’s plenty powerful enough for a machine like this, and it’s handled with a relatively light touch by Dragon Center – the chip tops out at 3.5GHz during stress-tests no matter which performance mode is selected.

Those two core components are shared with the HP, but the Omen didn’t have any overclocking or extra software.

Elsewhere, the MSI has 16GB of memory, a 256GB Toshiba SSD and a 1TB hard disk – all entirely normal, and on a par with the HP.

Full Specification

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB
Sound: On-board
Screen size: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD
Hard disk: 256GB Toshiba HG6z SSD, 1TB hard disk
Weight: 2.8kg
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x Mini-Displayport, 1 x HDMI 2.0, 2 x audio, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x SDXC
Dimensions: (W x D x H): 419 x 285 x 29mm
Extras: Windows 10 Pro 64-bit, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi
Warranty: 1yr RTB

Performance

The GTX 1070 is fast, but at the MSI’s stock settings it was a little slower than the HP. Its Battlefield 1 average of 117fps is great, for instance, but it’s four frames behind the Omen, and its 100fps score in Witcher 3 is a single frame slower.

The MSI’s Fallout 4 and Shadow of Mordor minimums of 74fps and 66fps were ahead of the HP, but the MSI fell behind in average framerate tests.

That’s a little disappointing, but a difference of one or two frames is hardly going to slow gaming down on the 1080p panel.

The tables can be turned by using the MSI’s overclocking settings. The MSI’s original 3D Mark Fire Strike score of 7,310 was already ahead, and upgrading to Turbo mode boosted that result to 7,814.

Using Turbo mode improved the MSI’s Shadow of Mordor minimum and average to 71fps and 126fps, with the former figure nine frames ahead of the HP and the latter figure exactly the same.

Dragon Center’s performance modes don’t just give gaming a boost – they can cut back the power levels to improve battery life. We’ve explored the impact of the Comfort and Eco modes on longevity later, but be reassured that choosing those lesser modes don’t have a huge impact on gameplay.

The Comfort mode reduced the MSI’s Fire Strike Extreme score to 6,920 but barely touched its Shadow of Mordor result. The Eco option dropped 3D Mark result to 6,023 – but the MSI still managed an average of 111fps in Shadow of Mordor.

The Core i7 processor, meanwhile, was no slouch. Both of its Geekbench scores beat the HP, and the MSI also proved faster in Cinebench’s CPU test. Dragon Center’s adjustments didn’t make an impact here, but the quad-core silicon will cope with almost any task.

The Toshiba SSD was an unexpected disappointment. Its read and write speeds of 539MB/s and 487MB/s are middle-of-the-road SATA 3 results – twice as slow as the HP, which used an NVMe drive. That’ll impact on boot times and game loading speeds, which will be better on the Omen.

By default the MSI uses its Turbo clock mode and automatic fan speeds, and we didn’t encounter any issues. With a games test running the CPU and GPU topped out at 75°C and 69°C and the machine churned out quiet, consistent noise. Only a little heat made its way to the keyboard and underside.

Activating a CPU stress-test alongside the gaming test saw the CPU and GPU peak at 91°C and 71°C. The former figure is better than the HP Omen 17, which hit 97°C. The noise remained reasonable – quieter than the HP, too – and the exterior stayed warm rather than worryingly hot.

Usintg Turbo mode and adding 200MHz to the GPU core didn’t make any difference to the machine’s noise outputs or peak temperatures.

With Comfort and Eco modes, the temperatures and noise outputs reduced. In gaming tests with those modes selected the GPU never got beyond 63°C, while in full-system stress-tests the GPU peaked at 65°C. The processor never rose beyond 84°C in these tests.

Those modes saw the noise reduced when compared to the MSI’s default settings, and the machine’s exterior never became too warm.

This is consistently good performance – in gaming tests it’s cooler and quieter than the HP, and it remains better in tougher stress-tests. It also has more versatility, because the HP doesn’t have any software to alter clock speeds or fan performance.

The only area where the MSI disappoints is in battery benchmarks, although that’s no surprise: this machine’s 51Wh battery is tiny compared to the 96Wh power-pack inside the HP.

In our default application test the MSI only lasted for one hour and 14 minutes – not even half the lifespan of the HP. Using Eco mode and dropping the screen brightness only saw that figure improve by ten minutes.

That’s poor, and it means that you’ll need to keep the MSI plugged in if you want to enjoy gaming, movies or anything else.

Screen and Speakers

MSI’s 1080p panel isn’t a touchscreen and it doesn’t have any branded syncing, but it does have a top refresh rate of 120Hz – that’s something, at least, and it means the extra GPU power can still be used to deliver smoother refresh rates.

It’s a trade-off that is felt on the HP. That machine did have Nvidia G-Sync, but only up to 75Hz.

The MSI uses its sRGB mode by default, and here it offered a 326cd/m2 brightness level and a 0.24cd/m2 black point – the former is poorer than the HP, but the latter is better.

The MSI delivered a contrast ratio of 1,358:1. That’s better than the HP, and it means that black levels will be deeper and colours will be more vibrant and precise across the whole range. The MSI also renders 100% of the sRGB colour gamut, which is fantastic – better than the 87.7% of the HP.

With the sRGB mode selected the MSI’s colour temperature of 7,130K and average Delta E of 2.56 are both good, rather than great. The HP’s colour temperature is a little better, but its Delta E is a tad poorer.

MSI’s machine has solid screen benchmarks, but its uniformity was weak – its backlight lost 18% of its strength along the top edge and 12% along the bottom. HP’s machine was a better here, and it meant that the MSI’s screen was noticeably brighter in the middle than along its top edge.

Its various screen modes aren’t much cop, either. The gamer mode made the Delta E worse and gave the panel a noticeable blue tint, and the movie and designer options just made the colours cooler and less accurate. That’s not good, but at least these options can all be explored and edited in the MSI True Colour app – you can’t do that on the HP.

The MSI’s screen is far from perfect, but it has great contrast, black levels and colour rendering – in those key tests it always beats the HP. It’s got a better refresh rate, too, and none of the MSI’s issues are going to cause problems. It’s not good enough for colour-sensitive work, but it’s definitely better than the Omen.

The MSI has two speakers and two 3W subwoofers, and they perform well in the MSI’s default Music mode: the bass is solid and voices are well-defined, and there’s ample volume. It’s a tiny bit tinny, which leaves the mid-range a little lost, but that’s a minor complaint. At default settings the HP is better, but only just.

Numerous adjustment options are available in MSI’s Nahimic tool, although few of the audio modes are worthwhile: the FPS option is tinny, the strategy and racing modes are bassy and the movie mode is swimming in reverb. Still, these speakers are good, and the software offers more adjustment than the HP’s equivalent tool.

Conclusion

MSI’s GTX 1070 might be a little slower than the same chip in the HP, but those basic benchmark scores don’t tell the whole story.

The GPU is still quick enough for the 1080p screen, even with its high 120Hz refresh rate, and it’s powerful enough for VR. The MSI’s overclocking helps the GPU match or surpass the HP, and the MSI’s Core i7 processor beat the HP machine in most tests.

It’s slimmer and lighter than the HP, with a slightly better keyboard, and it has more software versatility and better interior access. The battery is poor, but the MSI and the HP aren’t really designed for time away from the mains.

The MSI is a couple of hundred quid more expensive than the HP, but the extra cash results in a notebook that’s more versatile in every key department and better in many important areas. If you’re in the market for a 17.3in gaming notebook, the MSI is a better choice.

Recommended Award

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider

About Author

Mike Jennings

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