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TECHNOLOGY

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

What makes a good gaming laptop in 2018? MSI has a clue

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BY Rahil Bhagat - 06 Feb 2018

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

Let me begin this review with a disclaimer: I’ve always been on the fence with MSI laptops. When it comes to aesthetics, I’ve always felt the company had a fleeting relationship with the word “subtlety.” The red dragon logo is always larger than it needs to be, and don’t get me started on the “gamer” accents all over the chassis.

The market segment is changing, however. The latest mobile offerings from Intel and Nvidia have reshaped what gamers look for in laptops. “Beasts” are no longer in fashion. Bulky purpose-built gaming laptops are rendered increasingly obsolete by lighter and more versatile releases with efficient desktop-class graphics.

MSI needed an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, and thus the GE73VR 7RF Raider, released in 2017, was born. At first glance, it appears to be relatively tame compared to the MSI’s older 17-inch lineup.

Has the beast lost its claws? Read on to find out.

Performance

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

In terms of performance, MSI has unleashed a more sophisticated animal.

You cannot go wrong with an Intel Core i7-7700HQ paired with Nvidia GTX 1070, and at this price point you should expect no less. While many of the GE73VR’s rivals go for the same combo, few have done so as successfully.

As mentioned before, the Nvidia GTX 1060 is the literal sweet spot for 1080P gaming. The trade-offs for the extra power of the GTX 1070 in terms of thermal management and power consumption isn’t worth it in my book. But the GE73VR manages to justify it.

Obviously the specs can handle literally anything you throw at it, but the ideal 2017 laptop needs to do so coolly and quietly. The GE73VR stays comfortably cool under all but the most demanding (usually synthetic) loads without throttling. I still won’t recommend putting it on your lap, but I could say the same about literally any 17-inch gaming machine.

In terms of noise, you will only hear the hard drive while idling or on light loads. The fans don’t get too loud on heavy loads and hide themselves well beneath audio from the GE73VR’s impressive speakers, but more on that later.

Overall, while the GE73VR suffers slightly on benchmarks against its main competitors, it makes up for the difference by making the GTX 1070 a lot easier to live with. Stepping up from the GTX 1060 also lets you take full advantage of its 120Hz screen, as well as making external 4K displays and VR a viable option.

Design

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

This tiger has not lost its stripes – literally.

MSI’s signature illuminated red logo and stripes are here to stay, but have been dialed down a couple notches. It hints of gamer, but doesn’t scream it at your face. The only red stripes you get are two on the brushed aluminum cover, one lining the rear exhaust, and one lining the trackpad. They don’t stand out too much against the primarily sleek black design. I have no qualms bringing this into the office.

The GE73VR is among the lightest 17-inch gaming laptops I’ve ever handled. When you take into account the solid cooling and acoustic performance of its GTX 1070, it is mind boggling how this thing weighs barely 3 kg. At less than 30mm in thickness, the GE73VR is pretty compact as well.    

In terms of build quality, the MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider gets the standard treatment of brushed aluminum and plastics. There are no visible structural weaknesses or quality control issues, and it flexes tolerably. My only gripes are that the hinges are a little on the stiff side, and upgrading RAM and storage can get a little tedious.

Screen

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

No 4K? No problem.

While many high-end gaming laptops today ship with high end IPS panels at 2K or 4K, MSI has chosen a different route with the GE73VR.  

A 17.3-inch 1080P TN panel might not sound impressive, but recent strides in technology may make this one of the best gaming displays to ever be available on a mobile device. The GE73VR takes full advantage of the GTX 1070 with a screen that boasts 120 Hz refresh rate and less than 5ms response time. Fast paced gaming at higher than 60fps has never looked better on a laptop.

Color accuracy is impressive as well, covering 100% of sRGB and 75% of AdobeRGB and is somewhat easy to calibrate. The combination of an outstanding display and solid specs make the GE73VR ideal not just for gaming, but image processing as well.

Aside from its lower resolution, the TN panel comes with some other drawbacks as well. Viewing angles and brightness are subpar. I do not recommend using the GE73VR outdoors.

Inputs

Port selection on the GE73VR is somewhat par for the course. You get one USB-C 3.1, three USB-A 3.0, a SD card reader, one HDMI port, and a Mini-Display port. As a bonus, you get dedicated 3.5mm jacks for both headphones and mic-in. Thunderbolt 3 support is a noteworthy omission, but you won’t really need external graphics with a full GTX 1070 at your disposal.

You can’t ask for much better than the SteelSeries keyboard on the GE73VR. This is an area where MSI has traditionally done well on their laptops, and this one is no different. The layout and keystrokes are great for both typing and gaming. The RGB backlighting behind each individual key is awesome and easy to customize with baked in software and a hardware toggle. There are literally more lighting options than you will ever need.

The GE73VR comes with a run-of-the-mill trackpad with no outstanding strengths or weaknesses. Dedicated hardware buttons are always good to have.

Audio

This is another area where the GE73VR performs well. It comes with really chunky “Giant Speakers” beneath the chassis that are touted to be five times larger than its competitors. True enough, they produce great clarity across the spectrum at max volume.

I appreciate how MSI has made this a priority on the GE73VR. The built in audio system does well to drown out fan noise and take Netflix sessions to the next level. The twin 3.5mm jacks, as mentioned, work well with just about any gaming headphone set-up without the need for dongles or adaptors.

Battery

With a paltry 51 Wh battery, the GE73VR trails behind literally all its rivals in terms of battery life. You can get up to 3 hours of moderate use, but I would not attempt to game in any measure without being close to a power socket. To make matters worse, the charging brick weighs a whole kilogram. This negates whatever benefit you get from the GE73VR’s relatively lightweight build while lugging it around. This is the price you pay for an otherwise solid laptop in other aspects. For a gaming laptop, however, you cannot expect much better.

Should you buy it?

MSI GE73VR 7RF Raider Review: Lightweight Powerhouse

PHOTO CREDIT: Company Courtesy

I’m surprised at how impressed I am with the GE73VR. What I like most is how it was engineered with a clear focus on truly portable gaming. It obviously has many good things going for it, but where it truly excels is the synergy of all its parts towards that singular purpose.

Sure the battery life, and aesthetics to a lesser degree, still harken back to more dated gaming laptops. But I can say without a doubt that with the GE73VR 7RF Raider, MSI has produced a strong contender that meets the needs of contemporary gamers very well.

For the price of entry, around SG$2800, it is not the cheapest device on the market and it may be a bit too “Jack of all trades” to please everyone, but if you want a fuss-free gaming device that looks good and is built well, you could do worse than the Raider.

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