The MSI GT75 Titan 8RG is one of the biggest,
The base-model GT75 comes standard with an Intel Core i7-8750H “Coffee Lake” six-core processor, but our review unit has Intel’s flagship mobile CPU, the Core i9-8950HK, which can turbo-boost at times up to 4.8GHz. (MSI includes software that enables you to overclock it even higher.) Coupled with a known-quantity Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 8GB graphics chip, a brutish 32GB of dual-channel DDR4-2666 memory, and a twin-drive storage combo (a 512GB solid-state drive, and a 1TB hard drive), there’s no game or task too demanding for the GT75.
That’s a veritable 1927 Yankees “Murderer’s Row” component lineup, but it needs plenty of room to swing the bats. In terms of the chassis, the GT75 is the polar opposite of the new-for-2018, 15.6-inch Razer Blade. To put its 2.2-inch thickness in perspective, I had to raise my chair to maintain my normal typing position, versus using my everyday notebook. It’s that high.
Visually, the GT75 is hard to miss—really, it’s impossible to miss. The all-black 16.9×12.4-inch exterior looks intimidating, especially from the rear. The angular, red-outlined cooling vents are massive in scale. Large copper heatpipes are plainly visible through equally large vents on the sides of the unit. MSI’s Dragon shield logo in the lid is backlit, and it’s even covered by a slip of Corning Gorilla Glass, which is some serious attention to detail.
The brushed aluminum that covers most of the visible surfaces tends to attract fingerprints, but it feels solid, and the chassis is well-braced from the inside, underneath the skin. The base of the notebook is rigid, too, with no flex I could detect anywhere.
Ports abound around the GT75’s edges. Besides the cooling vent, the left edge holds a trio of USB Type-A 3.1 ports and a quartet of audio jacks: line-in, line-out, microphone, and headphone…
A dedicated microphone jack, as opposed to an ever-more-popular but less flexible combo-style jack, is always welcome on a gaming notebook.
The right edge, meanwhile, is home to another two USB Type-A 3.1 ports, bringing the total to five, plus a full-size SD card reader…
Finally, on the back of the unit, you’ll find an Ethernet jack, a mini-DisplayPort video-out, Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), an HDMI video-out, and an imposing four-prong power jack, through which the twin power supplies connect through an adapter box. You can also see here the gigantic outlets for the cooling system…
With this Core i9 model, the whole power-adapter apparatus adds up to a lot of gear to lug around. Take a look at the whole loadout, with the laptop, the twin adapters, and the cabling and adapter box all laid out here…
If you mean to transport this machine, a rolling suitcase is likely in your future.
So much for the external connectivity. Inside, the GT75 houses the new Killer 1550 802.11ac wireless card, as well as support for Bluetooth 5.0.
Keyboard and Screen: Twin Treats
One feature, apart from the gigantic size, that sets the GT75 apart is its SteelSeries-designed mechanical keyboard. The keys have a direct tactile feel that will make you think you’re using a desktop keyboard.
Don’t expect to type stealth-style, however. Everyone within earshot will hear the clicks and clacks of the mechanical key action. The raised palm rest helps keep your arms and hands in typing position.
The board is also backlit, programmable on a per-key basis with RGB lighting. It looks fantastic day and night. It’s fully customizable using the pre-installed SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which allows you to save an unlimited number of profiles.
From a layout perspective, I admire the full-size function-key row (F1 to F12) keys and the divorced-out arrow-key cluster, but the three-column number pad leaves me scratching my head, as does the lack of properly placed Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys. None of those layout complaints should bother gamers, but they might find it hard to overlook the lack of dedicated gaming macro keys. This is a huge rig, and there’s plenty of room on the deck for at least a few. This was a missed opportunity by MSI.
The touch pad, for as often as gamers will use it, is a practical and comfortable design, thanks to its large, smooth surface. The two buttons, which have customizable RGB light strips above each of them, deliver good feedback and make minimal noise.
Then there’s the display panel. The expansive 17.3-inch screen on our GT75 is designed for fast-paced gaming. Its full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution allows the GeForce GTX 1080 graphics chip to push into triple-digit frame rates in today’s titles. The display can show more of those frames than a typical panel, too, thanks to its high 120Hz refresh rate.
The twisted nematic (TN) panel doesn’t offer unlimited off-sides viewing angles, but it does have an exceptionally low 3ms response time, making it better suited for solo gaming than an IPS-type panel. Combine all of that with Nvidia G-Sync technology, which will eliminate tearing by adapting the refresh rate of the panel to the GeForce chip’s output, and this is the smoothest gaming experience in town. The picture quality is also stellar; MSI claims an outstanding 94 percent coverage of the NTSC color space. It’s definitely more vivid than the average notebook display.
The webcam above the display delivers better video quality for chatting and streaming than most. Its 1080p resolution is a welcome improvement over the 720p webcams I’m used to seeing on gaming notebooks.
At the Core: Near-Desktop-Grade Parts
Our top-shelf configuration is powered, as we mentioned, by the Intel Core i9-8950HK processor. This hexa-core chip runs at a 2.9GHz base clock but can accelerate individual cores up to 4.8GHz. This is by far the fastest mainstream mobile CPU that Intel has produced to date; there’s no task it can’t handle.
The Core i9 chip, however, is the tipping point that saddles this GT75 configuration with its twin 230-watt power adapters, as MSI’s Core i7-8750H-powered GT75 configurations, even with the GeForce GTX 1080 GPU, can get away with a single larger 330-watt brick.
The Core i9’s formidable entry fee gets you unlocked multipliers for overclocking support. The pre-installed MSI Dragon Center software has a Turbo mode with automatic CPU overclocking, or you can manage the multipliers for all six cores on your own.
The GeForce GTX 1080, meanwhile, is still the king of mobile GPUs. It’s a much-tested chip, having been introduced back in mid-2016. There’s still not a game it can’t handle with maximum detail settings at a 1080p screen resolution. The GT75 is also offered with a 4K panel, but even the GTX 1080 would have trouble with today’s most demanding games at that resolution without dialing down in-game details. I’ll take a 1080p resolution, maxed-out settings, and high frame rates any day of the week.
The 32GB of DDR4-2666 memory in our GT75 is overkill for gaming, but I won’t complain at this price point. The notebook supports up to 64GB of RAM should you feel the need to add more. Storage is another area that’s readily expandable. This model has a 512GB PCI Express SSD in one of the three available M.2 Type-2280 slots, and a 1TB hard drive in the 2.5-inch bay.
Huge cooling fans sit in the base of the GT75. Quiet at idle, they’re hard to miss when running full-tilt. There’s no fan whine or motor noise, but the overall volume level is significant. I was obligated to don a pair of headphones to hear the quieter sounds in games, as even the excellent speakers on this notebook couldn’t make them audible.
Based on the amount of heat coming out of the vents, though, it would be hard to imagine being able to keep the GT75’s components cool in a slimmer package. I recorded the GPU running at 85 degrees C in my gaming benchmarks. This notebook is thick for a reason.
The top of the chassis didn’t seem to have any hotspots. You certainly wouldn’t want to game with this notebook in your lap, though, as you’d block the cooling-fan intakes.
Letting the Beast Run Wild…
The very high level of equipment in our GT75 tester churned out some chart-topping performance numbers throughout our benchmarks. First, a look at our productivity and media-test numbers…
Although the general system benchmark PCMark 8 isn’t much of a workload at its Work Conventional preset for a machine like this, the MSI’s 4,000-plus score is highly impressive. Its six-core prowess, though, is more plainly dominant in the CPU-dependent Cinebench R15 and Handbrake benchmark tests, where its extra cores help it swab the deck with the last-generation Core i7-7820HK quad-core chips in the Aorus X9 and the Alienware 17 R4. The Core i7-7820HK was the fastest mobile CPU you could get prior to the Core i9’s introduction in early 2018, which itself was just a bit slower than the desktop-class Core i7-7700K quad-core in the Origin EON17-X.
As for the battery runtime, an under-three-hour unplugged life is short by today’s standards, but the GT75’s time isn’t bad for a gaming notebook of this extreme big-bore caliber. It handily outpaces the Aorus X9 and gets close to the HP Omen 17 (2017), a much less powerful machine.
The GT75 does the best of its GTX 1080-equipped competition in our 3D tests. (The Core i9-8950HK certainly gets the most out of that GPU.) The MSI’s overall level of performance is topped here in spots by the Aorus X9 and its twin-GPU GeForce GTX 1070 SLI setup, but I’d recommend a single powerful graphics chip any day over two less-powerful ones for gaming.
Why is that? SLI support in games these days is far from universal; indeed, with Nvidia’s limiting of SLI to certain of its current-generation GPUs and to only two of them at a time, SLI has been marginalized in recent years. So, in some situations, you could be faced with being able to leverage the performance of just one of your GPUs in a given game. That’s definitely not cool when you paid for two GPUs.
Let’s Play Games With the Monster…
Beyond the synthetic tests above, I also benchmarked the GT75 at its native 1080p screen resolution in a pair of demanding modern titles.
It rang up 136 frames per second (fps) in
In addition, with lofty frame rates like these, you’ll actually be able to leverage the high refresh rates of the 120Hz panel. Even with the natural sway between
Unstoppable, But Mind the Price
MSI’s flagship 17.3-inch gaming notebook is a brute, no matter which way you look at it. Performance-wise, it’s the fastest GTX 1080-equipped notebook we’ve tested to date, and, size-wise, it’s also one of the largest. We can’t give it any points for portability, except perhaps in contrast to a tower desktop and a monitor; even with its twin power supplies, it’s admittedly still easier to transport than a desktop setup like that. If not by much.
But size aside, when it comes down to economics, the $3,999 model tested here is several hundred bucks more than a comparably equipped Alienware 17 R4, which remains our top pick. That