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January 16, 2012

MSI GX780R Review


MSI is well known for their motherboards and graphics cards. Although the brand has been dabbling across almost all consumer technology segments, they have been concentrating quite a bit on the notebook segment with offerings across all price ranges. Their high-end gaming notebooks in the past offered good competition for Dell and Asus, but they have always lacked the finesse and build quality of the other two, and that’s just a fact. Today, we have another high-end graphics muncher on our hands, the GX780R. Styled very similarly to the new GT783 that the company unveiled at CES 2012, let’s see if any of their earlier shortcomings have been rectified in this new model.

Design and Build
MSI have gone with an aggressive look for the GX780R, but mercifully have skipped the hideous orange LED lights on the sides from their earlier models. However, we are once again subjected to flimsy plastic for the lid and the body, which isn’t something you expect when you’re paying more than a lac. The lid itself is sturdy, though, and doesn’t cause any smearing of the pixels on the panel when pressed. The area near the hinge, however feels flimsy and there’s a lot of flex in the plastic.
Anti-glare screen keeps the reflections away
Anti-glare screen keeps the reflections away


The main chassis is designed with a slight incline, similar to the Asus gaming notebooks, making it more ergonomic to type on. We have no dearth of connectors starting with two USB 3.0 ports and three USB 2.0 ports, giving you a total of five USB ports, which is the highest we’ve come across. You also get multi-channel audio out up to 7.1 channels, which again is not something you see everyday, so props to MSI on that. The other connectors, include a DVD drive (no Blu-ray), powered ESATA port, HDMI and VGA.
Plenty of connectivity options
Plenty of connectivity options


MSI have chosen SteelSeries to design the chiclet keyboard for the GX780R, which is a big upgrade, compared to their earlier attempts. While the feedback of the keys are certainly better than before, they still feel a bit too tiny and you’ll often find yourself hitting the Caps Lock button more often. They could have easily made it larger, given that there’s ample of wasted space around the keyboard. Another minor niggle is the ‘Windows’ key, which is on the right and not the left (which only has the ‘Fn’ key). There are a bunch of shortcut buttons placed above for toggling Wi-Fi, Turbo, etc. The keyboard is backlit this time around and just like Alienware, you can customize the lighting for various colours and patterns. On the whole, the design is good and the build is certainly better, but it’s not quite up to the mark.

Features
The GX780R packs in similar horsepower as the Dell XPS 17, we recently reviewed. The notebook is powered by an Intel Core i7-2630QM and the graphics is handled by the same Nvidia GT 555M. MSI have beefed up the rest of the specifications though, as the GX780R packs in a whopping 16GB of RAM and comes with two 640GB hard drives in RAID 0 configuration.
Funky lighting effects
Funky lighting effects


The 17.3-inch screen is Full HD, so you get plenty of screen real estate and it’s anti-glare as well, so reflections should not be a problem. Along with this, you also get some exclusive features from MSI, like Turbo Drive Engine, which bumps up the clock speeds dynamically at the touch of a button, Dynadio speakers with THX sound enhancements, i-Charger program, which helps charge USB devices quicker, among others.
Performance
We’ve compared the performance of the GX780R to the Dell XPS 17, since they both have very similar specifications. The Dell, however is quite a bit cheaper, so let’s see if the extra helping of RAM and RAID configuration have any real world benefits. For the most part, the performance is very similar, except for the video encoding and gaming tests, where MSI is just a tiny bit ahead. As it turns out, despite being a 64-bit OS, 16GB of RAM makes barely any difference in day-to-day activities.
Not a bad performer
Not a bad performer


The audio quality is pretty good as the speakers are placed facing up. There's also a sub-woofer placed underneath, which makes the sound more wholesome. The backlighting for the keys have a gaming mode, which only illuminates the left hand side of the keyboard where the WSAD keys are.
Keys could have been bigger
Keys could have been bigger


While gaming, the notebook does get a little warm, but not overly hot which is good. Engaging the Turbo mode boosts the frequency of the graphics card and CPU dynamically and this also engages one of the exhaust fans, which is needed to clear out the excess hot air. It does get a little noisy, though, while in this mode.

Battery Life
Since there is no Optimus technology, the discrete card runs all the time, so don’t expect great battery life. Even with a 86Wh battery, we managed only 1hr in Battery Eater Pro. Under normal usage, you should get about 3hrs of battery life, tops, with Wi-Fi usage.

Verdict
The GX780R is a definite improvement over MSI’s earlier gaming notebooks, but it’s not quite there, yet. At Rs.1,20,000, it’s still very expensive and the fact is, it doesn't look or feel like a premium notebook. It has some good things going for it like good audio quality, multi-coloured backlit keyboard, good set of hardware components and multi-channel audio out. Having said that, the build quality is still questionable, as the plastics feel too flimsy and weak. Also, for this price, you don’t get a Blu-ray drive. The battery life is below average and the keyboard feels a bit cramped. The Dell XPS 17 will give you the same features and performance for a lot less, plus you get 3DVision support as well and the build quality and design is miles ahead.

COSTS:RS.1,20,000

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