MSI recently expanded its GX gaming series of laptops with the introduction of the aggressively priced 15-inch GX640 and the 17-inch GX740, with the latter available for less than £900 - not bad for a serious gaming model. But, is it any good?
The gargantuan GX740 is certainly reassuringly heavy, weighing in at a hefty 3.2kg, and that's not even taking the meaty power adaptor into account. The chassis is also understandably spacious in order to house that big 17.3-inch screen.
Looking like a textbook gaming laptop, the GX70 is coloured black with red accents around the hinges and around the keyboard. The brushed aluminium finish on the lid adds a premium touch to the product although our review sample was covered in so many fingerprints that the CSI team would have a field day.
The full-size keyboard sports a cool, Transformers-like font that's sure to get the games fans' pulses racing, and includes red accents on the most important keys for gamers, including the WASD buttons, and the cursors. A few of the buttons (such as the Enter key) are slightly smaller than we would have liked, and a couple are not in the place where we would have expected to see them, but it didn't take long to get used to the layout. Although this laptop is primarily geared up for gaming, rather than word processing, we found the keyboard really comfortable to use with the keys offering a sturdy and satisfying response to our frenzied typing.
Above the keyboard you'll find a touch sensitive control panel with icons for various multimedia and connectivity functions. The modestly sized power button is to be found hiding in a quiet spot to the left of the keyboard, and we have to admit that it did take us a minute or so to locate it.
The left-hand edge of the laptop is home to an Ethernet connection, DVD drive and two USB ports, while the right-hand side reveals a multi-format card slot, another USB, an eSATA/USB port, a FireWire connection and four 3.5mm connections for hooking up your headphones and mic. Round the back, you'll find the power input, along with HDMI and VGA ports while the obligatory webcam can be found in the usual spot, above the screen.
The enormous 17.3-inch screen really is a joy to behold, particularly if you're used to a smaller screen size on your regular laptop. Like the lid, the display is something of a fingerprint magnet, but a decent screen cleaner should sort that out pretty quickly. As well as being extremely bright and clear, the screen is packed with punchy colours and even makes fairly light work (pardon the pun) of dark scenes. Any high-def content looks eye-poppingly realistic, whether that's games, movies or YouTube videos. The viewing angle is fairly wide, so there's enough scope for one or two fellow gamers to squash in next to you, but you wouldn't want to venture too far from a central position.
The slightly unusual 1680 x 1050-pixel resolution means that the screen is slightly more square than most, which could put some punters off. It has to be said, though, that this really doesn't make the mammoth-sized screen any less impressive.
The GX740 is powered by the dual-core Intel i5 processor, helped along by 4GB of DDR3 RAM and also boasts an impressive 640GB of built-in memory which should be enough to handle all your storage needs, and then some.
However, the real draw here is the high-end ATi Radeon HD5870 graphics card with 1GB of GDDR5 memory, which is more than enough to cope with even the most complex gaming graphics and will also be able to handle 3D games with ease. The combination of a hardcore graphics card and powerful processor along with plenty of memory, means that games run extremely well.
We were fairly impressed by the overall cooling performance - the machine itself didn't seem to get uncomfortably hot, even after extended periods. However, the fan on the right-hand underside of the laptop pumps out a fair bit of hot air, which got slightly annoying as it's exactly the spot where most right-handed users would have the mouse.
As is common with all gaming laptops, the GX740 guzzles battery power fairly rapidly when disconnected from the mains, but this is nothing out of the ordinary on this kind of product.
The GX740 also benefits from Cinema Pro technology which, at the touch of a button, optimises the laptop for viewing films. This includes five SRS Premium Sound speakers and the subwoofer that's embedded in the base of the unit, you can also make use of the dedicated play, stop and skip touch-controls on the panel above the keyboard.
Although this chunky laptop may seem like a power hungry devil, it's actually got some fairly decent tree-hugging credentials. The ECO Engine power management system enables you to switch between five different usage modes - word processing, gaming, movie viewing, presentations, and Turbo Battery. The idea is that the technical wizardry will automatically switch to the optimum settings for screen brightness and sleep, automatic system sleep activation, and processor performance so that you only use as much power as is needed for the task in hand.
The laptop is also pre-loaded with Windows 7 Home Premium and is equipped with 802.11 b/g/n wireless connectivity, as well as Bluetooth for hooking up with compatible devices.
The GX740 is certainly a premium machine that is likely to please any gamer that gets their mitts on it. While it's true that the laptop isn't equipped with the most powerful processor available, the i5 has obviously been used in order to keep the price down and packs enough of a punch to cope with whatever you can throw at it. Likewise, the impressive HD5870 graphics card can deal with pretty much anything, including 3D.
It's by no means a feather-light device, but then that's hardly unusual - you're not likely to find a serious gaming laptop that doesn't make your shoulders hurt after a short time being ferried around in a rucksack. Along with awesome graphics skills and a relatively affordable price, the GX740 gets extra points for its slick design and slightly futuristic keyboard layout.