MSI’s portable gaming station could replace your desktop – if you can afford it
- The MSI GT73VR Titan Pro crams top-of-the-line tech and a gorgeous 120Hz display into one sleek design – but top-tier power demands an equally top-tier price tag.
- As powerful as they come
- Silky smooth 120Hz display
- Blazing fast
- As expensive as they come
- Painfully short charging cable
- Not portable
Back when MSI announced its lineup of GTX 10-powered laptops this summer, the Taiwanese computer maker boldly claimed its upcoming portable computers will be on par in power with a desktop gaming rig.
Following the release of the MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro, it’s clear that MSI wasn’t messing around. Next in the line of MSI’s portable powerhouses is the MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro, which confirms that desktop-level performance can really come in a laptop form factor.
The Dominator Pro may have been a proof of concept, but The Titan Pro is the refinement of that concept, sporting obscene amounts of memory, a full-on GTX 1080 graphics card, and what MSI claims is the first laptop with a 120Hz display.
MSI may have made good on squeezing desktop performance into a small package, but at an astronomical asking price of $3,599 (about £2,840, AU$4,810), should one laptop have all that power?
The first thing we noticed opening up the Titan Pro was that it seemed to have learned from the Dominator Pro.
Rather than the plastic-y outer shell of its predecessor, the Titan Pro is sturdily constructed with a brushed metal body to keep smudging and micro-abrasions to a minimum.
This sleek look – topped off with an automobile-esque insignia – helps the Titan Pro avoid that gaudy light-up toy look that so often tarnishes gaming rigs. Instead, the Titan Pro actually looks like the top-shelf luxury electronic that it is, and that’s not lost on this reviewer.
120 Hertz…so good
In addition to being the embodiment of “phenomenal cosmic power – itty bitty living space” MSI’s other claim to fame with the Titan Pro is its 120Hz display, which also comes complete with nice anti-glare matte finish.
Quick recap for the the uninitiated: 120Hz refers to the screen’s refresh rate, or the number of times it can change the picture on display in a single second. The average TV or laptop screen is 60Hz, meaning it can display 60 frames per second. 120Hz screens are effectively double that, allowing for smoother animation.
120Hz screens generally don’t do much for movies since they are filmed at a capped framerate, but those extra frames can really lend themselves to gaming. In practice, the 120Hz refresh rate looks great on the Titan Pro, allowing subtle movements in animation-heavy games like Overwatch to really ‘pop.’
Details like Genji’s fingers fiddling with shuriken or Lúcio’s slightest bobbing to the rhythm in his headphones are more fluid at 120 fps, and it’s honestly a little hard to go back to my old monitor after that.
While the premium features like the high refresh rate set the Titan Pro apart for the hardcore gaming crowd, it’s when we look at the laptop from a more mass-audience standpoint that we start to see some frayed ends in the seams.
Though gaming laptop owners care more about performance over how well it treks to the coffee shop, the fact of the matter remains that the Titan Pro is not a desktop, and needs to be judged on its portable merits.
Unfortunately, this is where the Titan Pro falls hardest. There are three particular design choices that hurt this laptop’s portability. Most of these will come off as nitpicking to those intending to keep their Titan Pro locked in one place, but it’s still worth bringing up.
The first issue is speaker position. The Titan Pro features two 3W speakers alongside a 5W speaker that can bring the ‘oomph.’ However, the audio setup shot itself in the foot by placing its 3W speakers underneath the laptop.
It’s not uncommon to see gaming laptops like the Alienware 17 put speakers in the front rather than near the keyboard or on the screen bezel, but the Titan Pro’s tapered front ends up pointing its speakers at the ground rather than the player.
This isn’t a problem when playing on a table, but a soft surface like our lap or a bed smothers the audio. Our bedside Netflix required propping up the bottom of the laptop like an old-timey animal trap or finding a box to rest it on so the speakers wouldn’t be obstructed by the blanket.
Considering how excited we were to play AAA games like Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain while kicking back in bed, this was a bummer. Workarounds like headphones and Bluetooth speakers solve this issue, sure, but for a product as thought-out (and expensive) as the Titan Pro, the oversight stands out to us.
Another frustrating issue was the charger cable. The Titan is powered by a 8 x 4 x 1.75 inch power brick that seems appropriately sized given the Titan’s considerable power demands, but is connected to the Titan Pro by a bafflingly short cable.
Only four feet of wire separate the power brick from the charging port, which is about a third less lead than most laptop cables we’ve grown accustomed to. This length makes more sense on an Xbox One, where the console is likely to be kept low to the ground, but less so on a computer intended to be played at table-height.
The cable is so short that the 2.5-pound power brick hangs awkwardly off the ground when plugged into the Titan Pro from our desk – which then usually results in the cord being yanked out of the computer under the power supply’s own weight. Also, the plug requires a three-prong outlet, ensuring that you probably won’t be bringing a Titan Pro out into the wild anytime soon.
Finally, let’s talk maneuverability. The Titan Pro weighs in at just over nine pounds – approximately the weight of three 13-inch MacBook Pros stacked on each other. While that figure is only juuuust slightly above average for gaming laptops, it’s still something to consider if you’re the type to take your computer to campus or work regularly.
If you do plan on lugging a laptop around on the daily, you may want to consider the Razer Blade or Aorus X5 v6, which pack serious gaming power in much lighter frames.
The unit given to us to review is a more typical baseline model, with MSI also offering variants of the GT73VR depending on your priorities (and budget.)
For example, you can swap out the anti-glare 120Hz display for an IPS-level 4K screen for about $300 extra, or save half a grand and more by trimming storage and lowering the RAM. Even then, the cheapest models in the range still start at $2,799 (about £2,210/AU$3,725), so don’t expect to get out of high roller territory just because you made a few cuts.
We also have to note that our configuration is an older Skylake model and MSI just announced newer Kaby Lake models at CES 2017.
When it comes time to work (or rather, play) the Titan Pro is beyond capable. Grossly capable, even. Startup times were speedy, transferring RAW image files was a breeze, pairing Bluetooth headphones took an instant, and popping in peripherals was a snap.
Portability problems and price aside, raw performance is where the Titan Pro truly shines above the rest. The only real technical disappointment was the battery life. In our practical test – which entails watching Guardians of the Galaxy on loop until the laptop gives out – we barely got through one complete screening of the movie.
If battery life does matter to you in a gaming laptop, we got decent output from the Razer Blade Pro, but let it be said that the Titan Pro simply can’t survive for long unplugged.
Though impressive numbers all around, Titan Pro especially killed it in the graphical department. Games like The Division and GTA V managed to keep above 60 frames per second, even on the most demanding settings, and the 3DMark scores are top of the class.
MSI meant it when it said it would make laptops on the same plane as desktops. By the numbers, the Titan Pro is one of most powerful laptops we’ve benchmarked to date, truly offering desktop-level performance.
The MSI GT62VR and Asus ROG Strix GL502 have some impressingly comparable stats, but if you’ve come for bragging rights look no further than the Titan Pro.
Shortcomings with the speakers and charging cable aside, the rest of the Titan Pro is stuffed with all the right bells and whistles in the all the right places.
Everything you’d want standard on a laptop, from ample USB 3.0 ports on each side to a Kensington lock slot, is present and accounted for.
There isn’t an optical drive for CDs, which may be a bummer for video production types or amateur mixtape creators, but the SD reader and ports ranging from USB-C with Thunderbolt to 4K-primed HDMI to even a line-in/line-out ensure the Titan Pro can handle just about any accessory you toss its way.
The Type-C and HDMI deserve special mention, as the inclusion of both allow you to easily port out 4K media to a compatible monitor. At the end of the day, the ultra-fast speeds of Type-C and ubiquity of HDMI (on top of how ridiculously fast this thing is) means the Titan Pro could also have some extra legs as a media hub.
The built-in SteelSeries keyboard is also rife for customization, featuring four backlit zones – including the trackpad – with a multitude of chromatic hues and multiple presets to choose from using the pre-installed SteelSeries Engine 3 software. (Seen above)
The keyboard is familiar ground for those used to MSI’s last few gaming laptops, but what ain’t broke rarely needs fixing. The evenly spaced keys give just enough resistance to make typing tactile without a cacophonous clickety-clack, and the smart function shortcuts are easy to locate and figure out.
Sadly, we can’t say the same about the cursor trackpad. While we liked the healthy heaping of space, the pad doesn’t have tap-to-click functionality. Combine that with the giant paddles it calls buttons at the bottom, and the trackpad wound up being difficult to use without using two hands.
The Titan Pro is a responsive, solid piece of tech with a gorgeous screen that brought out a little extra somethin’ from the games we played. It also felt like a premium device inside and out, from its quality keyboard and smartly placed ports, to the sheer number of ports themselves.
Ultimately, though, the reason you would care about the Titan Pro is because it’s a behemoth in the graphical department. This things plays demanding AAA video games on the highest settings with ease, and was cemented itself as the one to beat in the performance laptop world.
Also, this top-tier gaming machine doesn’t look like a Monster energy drink commercial, and that goes a long way for us.
While the Titan Pro makes gameplay smooth like rich creamery butter, it stutters when it comes to portability. Though sharp-looking and sleek, this 17-inch rig has a heavy body, a dinky two-hour battery, easily muffled speakers, and criminally short charging cable.
Admittedly, most – if not all – these issues don’t apply if you intend to keep your Titan Pro in one place all the time, but this is a lot of money we’re talking about here. It may be a desktop replacement, but it shouldn’t have all the qualities of a gaming PC, like immobility and reliance on a wall socket.
At the end of the day, the MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro is the SUV of laptops. It emphasizes power and luxury, and backs it up with some of the best performance in its field. However, just like how a SUV isn’t the most practical choice for every driver, the Titan Pro isn’t the most practical choice for every customer.
The Titan Pro is plain ol’ overkill for the fairweather gamer, dorm-bound student, part-time video editor, or budgeted buyer. For more wallet-friendly performance, the Asus ROG Strix GL502 and Razer Blade keep up with today’s games at reasonable settings, and do so at a half the price (and weight) of the Titan Pro.
We also mentioned the MSI’s own GT62VR being a close second in terms of VR-readiness and ability to play The Division on Ultra at over 60fps. The base model for that laptop is about $2,000 (about £1,575/AU$2,670) less than the Titan Pro, leaving us to let you decide how much you’re really willing to pay for the best of the best.
If you’re looking to go all-in on a luxury laptop that can do just about anything a desktop can, the Titan Pro will not disappoint. However, if the ‘laptop’ part of ‘gaming laptop’ matters to you – or you just don’t have multiple months’ worth of rent burning a hole in your pocket – you may want to consider other avenues.