There was always talk that Intel’s Broadwell architecture would be a short-lived one, and indeed, barely a year after the first Broadwell-based mobile Core M processor dropped, we now have notebook powered by Skylake processors in our midst.
As mentioned in our preview of Aftershock’s Skylake-powered S-15 notebook, Skylake represents the “tock” in Intel’s “tick-tock” cadence. This means an architectural update to Intel’s now mature 14nm manufacturing process. You can get more in-depth details about the architectural updates here, but in a brief nutshell, Intel claims that its new Skylake processors are its most powerful and efficient ones yet.
The MSI GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G (a veritable mouthful and henceforth will be referred to simply as the "MSI GT72S") is of course MSI’s 17-inch gaming machine and has it been appropriately updated with Intel’s Skylake processors. GT72 refers to MSI’s collection of 17-inch performance oriented gaming notebooks. It's interesting to note that MSI actually updated the GT72 range earlier this year with Broadwell parts, so this is the second update in a year. We feel quite sorry for those who went out and got a Broadwell variant of the GT72, but on the upside, we're glad MSI followed up with an update as soon an Intel refreshed their processor offerings.
On the outside, the new and updated MSI GT72S is mostly unchanged. That means that the GT72S is still a big hulking notebook, weighing in at 3.8kg and measuring 48mm thick at its chunkiest point. Few notebooks are as big and heavy. The input and output ports as well connectivity options are also unchanged, so we won’t repeat them here as we've got those covered in our older review of the GT72 Dominator Pro running on an Intel Haswell processor platform. But to put it briefly, this notebook has enough ports to satisfy all but the fussiest of users. What we will focus on, however, are the changes to this updated model, of which there are quite a few.
So what’s new?
The headline changes are to the hardware and the MSI GT72S is now powered by the quad-core Intel Core i7-6820HK processor (2.7GHz, 8MB smart cache). Eagle-eyed readers will probably notice the “K” suffix, and yes, this is Intel’s first unlocked mobile processor. In other words, users would be able to tweak the multiplier to achieve higher clock speeds. This can be done using Intel’s own Extreme Tuning Utility, which is straightforward enough to use.
Complementing the new processor is also a generous 16GB of DDR4 RAM running at a heady 2133MHz. The switch to DDR4 RAM allows for higher clock speeds which translates to better performance, but more importantly, DDR4 runs at 20% lower voltages, which means it consumes less power. And even though it does not sound like much, every bit counts if you are trying to squeeze out more battery life from a notebook. Additionally, the GT72S will support up to 64GB of RAM, though that's really overkill in our books. Besides, you'd be hard pressed to find available 64GB kits for use.
The display has also been improved, but again, you'd have to squint to tell the difference. The size of the display is the same at 17.3 inches and the resolution is also unchanged at 1920 x 1080 pixels, which is a little low by today's standards. There's no shortage of Ultrabooks today sporting QHD displays and above. What's noteworthy here is that the MSI GT72S now has a G-Sync capable display. If are new to G-Sync, we encourage you to read this first. But to put it very briefly, it helps reduce lag, stutter and tearing, buy aligning the refresh rate of the monitor to the draw rate of the GPU. Powering the display is NVIDIA’s GeForce GTX 980M (8GB VRAM) mobile GPU - NVIDIA's most powerful mobile GPU.
With their latest notebooks, MSI is also debuting its new MSI Super RAID 4 technology, which simply refers to two PCIe 3.0 x4 SSDs supporting the new NVMe (non-volatile memory express) protocol in a RAID 0 configuration. MSI claims sequential read speeds in excess of 3GB/s, and we have no reasons to disbelief that given that a single SSD of the same class can reach over 2GB/s. However, note that this feature is an optional extra, and will cost extra should you decide to spec it with your unit. Our unit came with a single 128GB SSD, but it’s an NVMe one. A quick peek into device manager tells us that it is in fact Samsung’s excellent SM-951 SSD. There’s also an additional 1TB mechanical HDD.
Another major update to the MSI GT72S comes in the form of MSI’s Super Port. As of now, it is really a USB Type-C port that supports USB 3.1 standards. This means a transfer bandwidth of up to 10Gbps and the ability to stream 4K video and also charge devices faster thanks to 3A power delivery. According to MSI, the port will be upgraded to support Thunderbolt 3 through a BIOS update in the near future. Thunderbolt 3 will offer a whopping 40Gbps of bandwidth, sufficient to output video to dual 4K displays or a single 5K display.
Yet another major hardware update pertains to audio. For starts, the MSI GT72S features an onboard DAC and amplifier sourced from ESS Sabre - the same guys behind ASUS’ new Strix PCIe sound cards. Support for 24bit/192kHz high-resolution audio comes as standard and the GT72S’s audio jack will be able to drive headphones of up to as high as 600 ohms.
It doesn’t stop there, the MSI GT72S also features Nahimic Audio Enhancer, a digital signal processing software that can simulate 7.1-channel surround sound, increase bass, and even remove noise from your in-game communications. However, the benefits of all these can be best appreciated only with a pair of decent computer speakers or headphones. The built-in Dynaudio speakers are certainly a cut above most notebook speakers - more powerful and punchy - but they are very far from audiophile quality.
Finally, and we suppose most users won’t be able to notice this, is that the MSI GT72S features keys with what MSI calls “silver lining print”. According to them at least, it allows more of the backlight to shine through while reducing glare. Honestly, we can’t really tell the difference ourselves, but the backlights do seem to be really bright especially in the dark.
That about sums the key changes to the updated MSI GT72S series of notebooks. If you're keen to know more about the GT72 class of notebooks, our previous review covers more about the design, build, keyboard, trackpad usability, and other features that are common to the latest models. If you're an avid follower of MSI's products, you're probably ready to find out if the Skylake powered GT72S 6QE Dominator Pro G can best its older counterparts, so head on to the next page to find out!