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MSI GX740 Gaming Laptop Review

by Ryan MatthewsMarch 14, 2011

Gaming is all about performance and design. The latter is often more important; no matter how decked out a machine’s hardware, a good design can make or break the whole set. Most gaming machines will be set up with the latest hardware but if there are any major problems with the keyboard or chassis, gamers will quickly find fault. If you’re a hardcore gamer, you know it takes time to get used to a new machine, and that is certainly the case with the MSI GX740. This workhorse has a lot to offer in terms of power and performance, but a few design choices leave it wanting. Is there anything that makes it stand out? Maybe. It’s sleek, modern, and will get the job done without too much complaint.

Specifications

This MSI has an impressive 17” diagonal screen, which is right at that magic size: portable while still feeling like a large screen. In fact, the whole computer strikes that balance, weighing in at 7 pounds and boasting just an inch and a half thickness. At 1650×1050, the resolution is killer—essential for any gamer. Four onboard speakers and a subwoofer ensure crisp audio, though obviously limited by their portable size. The battery life can reach up to 9 hours, though it will be undoubtedly shortened by hardcore gaming.

What’s on the inside? The GX740 is a powerhouse. It’s got a blistering 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM and a whopping 4GB of DDR3 RAM, all sitting on top of a 500GB 7200rpm hard drive. The graphics card is a top-notch ATI Radeon Mobility HD5870, itself a reviewable product and a top of the line card. The laptop boots with Windows 7 Home Premium and sports Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity. It also supports HDMI connectivity and a gigabyte Ethernet connection.

Hardware and Aesthetics

The GX740 is a gaming laptop, so it’s going to be sleek and pleasing to the eye. The first thing I noticed were the nifty red accents over an brushed aluminum case, and the portability feel of the device is significant. The keyboard gets some complaints; for a gaming keyboard it’s a bit limited and the function key on the left can get frustrating (I still can’t figure out why laptop designers don’t understand that that key should be reserved for the control key only). The rest of the layout is a little bizarre; it forgoes convention for some strange design choices that I felt were a little clunky at first. Over time, a seasoned gamer will get acclimated to it, but expect a period of adjustment. Otherwise, it is functional, feels nice, and supports everything you’ll want to do as a gamer. The speakers pump great sound for a laptop, though many gamers may find themselves reverting to headphones.

Three USB ports are essential for gaming peripherals like a mouse or a separate keyboard. The screen itself is anti-glare, which is one of those features that are easy to forget until you don’t have it. The battery sticks out in the back a bit, but this saves space overall in the chassis so you’ll find no complaints here. There are no outstanding complaints about the placement of the ports or buttons save for an off-center power button (found on the left of the keyboard) that I could easy see someone pressing accidently. With that being said, the battery and Wifi LED indicators near the front of the laptop are well-lit and easy to read at a glance, which is a step up from other laptops I have test driven.

Performance

The GX740 has all the functionality of a gaming laptop with plenty of power to back it up. It will get hot when you load up graphics-intensive programs (and you are going to, as this is a laptop intended for gaming purposes). As you are most likely aware, you need to make sure the vents are clear. Thankfully, the GX740 has heat sinks on the right and back sides of the chassis, ensuring optimum cooling without dumping all of the heat onto one side of the laptop. This also means that you will feel some heat being vented on your hand if you use a peripheral mouse (not included) and tend to keep your hand closer to your machine. A strange design choice, considering the number of right-handed computer users on the market.

Whatever resolution you run you games in, the GX740’s powerful LED screen will give you a great spectrum of true color. The Radeon graphics card supports Directx 11 graphics, essential on today’s market. The GX740 also features a built-in webcam, fairly standard in laptops today but still important.

Gaming will always fall a bit short on laptops, since they can’t handle the hardware, particularly the cooling systems, that desktops can. However, for a mid-priced gaming laptop, the GX740 blazes along. You need to be careful about overclocking the Radeon graphics card, but with 4 GB of RAM and a 1.6 Ghz Intel processor, you should get peak performance on all but the most graphics-intensive games. This means that you’ll be able to jack up the highest details on most of your programs.

Conclusion

The MSI GX740 is a decent buy as a mid-range gaming laptop. Ideal for gamers who travel to tournaments but don’t want to drop a lot of cash on a laptop, the GX740 comes in at $1,399. You could certainly spend a lot more than that, but you’d probably be getting into desktop range. If you can deal with a few oddities on the keyboard, you’ll be impressed by the machine’s power. It’s stacked with all the latest equipment, but your satisfaction definitely depends on what you’re looking for in a gaming laptop. Expect it to run the latest games for at least a year or two, but it won’t necessarily future-proof you for the really heavy stuff. All in all, the MSI GX740 is a good value and an easy choice for many gamers.

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