When companies continually try to shoehorn features like curved displays or modular add-ons into devices where they don't necessarily belong, I often find myself wondering why they're working so hard to include features of such dubious value. But perhaps the best example of this are all the manufacturers trying to install mechanical keyboards on gaming laptops. Every laptop with a mechanical keyboard seems to also feature a long list of compromises that include gargantuan chasis, excessive price tags, or awkward layouts that leave the system with a scrunched up touchpads. But then the MSI GT75VR Titan Pro came along and showed that it was really poor execution, and not a bad idea, that has made laptops with mechanical keyboards so frustrating. The set on the GT75VR is different; this thing is legit.
All images: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo
AU Editor's Note: The MSI GT75VR has a starting price of $3799 in Australia, but this variant tested comes in at around the $5199 mark. — Cam
Before we get to that keyboard, we've got to talk about the GT75VR Titan Pro's specs, because without the horsepower to crank through all your favourite games, a nice keyboard doesn't matter. And with an as reviewed price of $5199, our fully loaded GT75VR has pretty much everything you could ever want in a gaming notebook: Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU, 64GB of RAM, dual 512GB SSDs in RAID 0 (plus another 1TB HDD for even more storage), 4K display and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU.
Now that sounds like a lot, and it is, but that price isn't as big of a deal as it seems like because the model you really want is the base $3799 model, which comes sometime in October. At that price, the GT75VR compares favourably with other big rigs from Alienware or Lenovo — and you still get a GTX 1080 GPU, along with a Core i7-7700HQ CPU, 16GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and 1TB HDD. What's even better is that the base model sports a 17-inch 1920x1080 120Hz screen instead of the 4K display that comes on the pricier models. This is important because even with a GTX 1080, the GT75VR still has a hard time hitting 60 frames per second at 4K. On high settings, our review unit averaged 55 fps in Rise of the Tomb Raider at 4K, while it hovered between 40 and 50 fps on medium settings in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds at the same resolution.
But with the 120Hz full HD screen, not only will you almost always stay above 60 fps even on max settings, things will look even smoother when you go above that threshold thanks to the high refresh rate. This can make tracking and following the action in shooters even easier, and while it won't turn you into Seagull overnight, there's a reason why competitive FPS players in games like CS:GO and Overwatch shoot for 120 fps instead of 60.
The backlighting is downright mesmerising
But back to that keyboard. Because instead of cramming full-height mechanical keys like MSI has done on previous models, the company partnered up with SteelSeries to create a low-profile setup more befitting of a laptop. And the result is simply fantastic. What the Lenovo Legion Y920 teased with its competing mechanical keyboard-equipped machine, the GT75VR actually delivers.
This is the system that changed my mind about laptops with mechanical keyboards.
The key feel is sublime, there's more than enough travel distance and critically, there's a deep satisfying click at the bottom of a stroke that's super smooth every time. Then you add in some of the brightest, most colourful RGB lighting on any gaming laptop (and the ability to customise those lights pretty much any way you want), and I finally get why people fought so hard to make a laptop with a mechanical keyboard a real thing.
Putting power, display and Ethernet ports on the back is a smart move for a system that probably won't be moving around much
On top of that, the GT75VR also comes with a nice sounding sound system consisting of a two 3-watt speakers and a 5-watt sub, Killer wi-fi that will help prioritise your gaming network traffic and more ports than you probably need. Really, the biggest downside to the GT75VR is just how thick it is. Even compared to other 17-inch gaming laptops, the 5cm thick GT75VR is big. It's almost a full inch bigger than the 3cm thick Y920. And I'd also be remiss not to mention the fan noise, which can go from whisper quiet when the system is idling, to being loud enough to make other people in the room want to put headphones on. You probably also won't be surprised to know that the GT75VR lasted just 2:15 minutes on our battery rundown test either. But such is the life of a big, power-hungry, gaming laptop.
Even though they are both 17-inch laptops, the GT75VR (bottom) absolutely dwarfs Lenovo's Legion Y920 (top).
The GT75VR still can't really answer why you'd spend this much money on a gaming laptop instead of buying a equally powerful desktop (or even better, building one) for way less money. Hell, I don't know, maybe you are a VR software dev who needs a powerful system for demoing your work at tradeshows, or maybe you just have a real premium on space and money to burn. Whatever the reason you feel the need to go with a laptop know that this beastly MSi does nearly everything right. After years of wondering why people kept trying to put mechanical keyboards on laptops, the GT75VR made me a believer. Now I just want to have that keyboard on a laptop I can actually carry around.
Even though I think red-and-black colour schemes on gaming machines are a bit played out, I'll give MSI a break because it has been around longer than pretty much any other gaming laptop maker.
- The GT75VR's keyboard was built in partnership with SteelSeries, and it's the best mechanical keyboard on a laptop yet.
- Comes with your choice of an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 GPU, GTX 1080 GPU, or dual 1070's in SLI.
- The optional 4K display is super sharp, but even with a GTX 1080 GPU, you're still going to have to turn the graphics down in most games to hit 60 fps.
- This thing is big, weighing in at 5kg and 5cm thick.
- Skip our $5199 review config, the base $3799 model is the one you want.