A Closer Look
The MSI GE72VR 6RF Apache Pro has a gorgeous brushed aluminium finish which looks astounding and resists fingerprints surprisingly well. Not only that, the product’s sublime red and black colour scheme is the perfect match for the core gaming demographic and should appeal to most users considering a high-end gaming laptop. Additionally, the sleek contoured lines positioned near the edges blend into the matte surface rather nicely and greatly enhances the laptop’s aesthetic appeal. This combination has a certain level of finesse and makes it a suitable fit for an office environment. On another note, the MSI gaming badge injects some colour without overpowering the understated design. I particularly enjoyed the way the dragon logo lights up in a glorious white shade.
Here we can see the underneath section contains four rubber feet with a large surface area which prevents the laptop from sliding around. These feet are made to a high standard and can withstand a good amount of force. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t dislodge the feet or cause the adhesive to slacken. The feet’s durability is impressive and some of the strongest I’ve encountered. As you might expect, the laptop contains a number of ventilation grills to improve airflow and reduce thermal loads in a fairly constricted chassis. The ventilation helps to direct the airflow and ensure heat is transferred at key points around the laptop. From the image below, you can also make out the integrated subwoofer and large speakers.
Removing the bottom cover to access the core components is relatively simple and I’m pleased to see MSI using standard Philips screws. Unlike models like the Vortex, the product can be opened without owning a set of Torx screwdrivers and this makes the dismantling process slightly less daunting. Saying that, there is a screw hidden below a warranty void sticker but the viability of this notice is debatable. I’d argue that the warranty remains valid even if you pierce a hole through the sticker. Whatever the case, all you have to do is remove all the 18 visible screws and the one under the warranty sticker. In contrast to the GE62, there aren’t any screws hidden in the optical bay tray. Once removed, gently pry between the laptop’s housing and the rear cover and apply pressure at specific points. This will take some time and the key to success is patience. Overall, it’s a painless task but it does require a gentle approach and the use of a plectrum.
The cover piece is constructed from hard plastic which doesn’t flex too much and holds its structural integrity under stress. As you can see, there’s some industrial shielding tape and various cut-outs for the hard drive, battery and cooling apparatus.
MSI’s Cooler Boost 4 technology is an engineering marvel and designed to perfectly balance the thermal output of both the CPU and GPU. The laptop’s cooling hardware consists of six thick copper heat pipes, two compact fans and two aluminium heatsinks with a dense fin array. The heat pipes are able to manage system temperatures without suffering too much from major throttling which is impressive given the form factor. MSI’s ability to fit so many heat pipes without negatively impacting on the PCB design deserves praise and it’s certainly one of the most comprehensive cooling setups I’ve witnessed.
From this angle, we can see the two DIMM slots are populated with 2133MHz modules which employ Hynix memory. Also, the massive subwoofer positioned to the left of the PCB is astonishing and really enhances the user-experience when playing games featuring sudden explosions. Even though it’s not entirely clear, the large unused space is where the optical drive slides into place. On another note, the battery isn’t overly large and the size seems constricted by the mammoth cooling solution. Sadly, this means the battery life isn’t brilliant and has a lower capacity than you might see from some competing laptops. This situation is almost unavoidable and I wouldn’t begrudge MSI for compiling a PCB layout with a smaller battery.
When it comes to storage, the boot M.2 drive neatly slots into the appropriate connector and can easily be replaced with a higher-end NVMe solution like the Samsung SM951. Also, the secondary SATA drive doesn’t rely on a flex cable which makes the PCB design look much neater. Additionally, it shouldn’t be too tricky to remove the drive and upgrade it with a higher capacity model.
The laptop utilises two large vents at the rear to effectively manage temperatures under load and eject hot air outside of the housing. On a less practical note, the Apache logo and stunning red lines have a superb synergy and upholds a great level of colour coordination.
Connectivity-wise, the GE72VR 6RF Apache Pro includes a USB 2.0 port, SD card reader, DC in and optical drive.
The laptop also houses a Kensington lock, Gigabit Ethernet, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI 1.4 port, Mini-DisplayPort, USB 3.1 Type-C and gold-plated audio jacks. This is a very solid selection of ports although I would have liked Thunderbolt 3 support to be added because GPU enclosures employ this protocol. Even though Thunderbolt 3 enclosures are clunky and ruin the portability factor, it’s a nice option to have and allows games in the future to run better when the GTX 1060 becomes outdated.
I’m perplexed by MSI’s decision to employ an HDMI connector which has limited bandwidth and can only connect to a 4K display at 30Hz. It’s frustrating because videographers are beginning to adopt 60 frames-per-second footage much more and it’s likely that streaming services will have content at this frame-rate while running a high-resolution.
By default, the laptop features a 17.3-inch 1920×1080 display running at a 60Hz refresh rate. Interestingly, the panel isn’t classified as IPS, but according to MSI, offers an equivalent colour reproduction and viewing angles. From my own testing, I’d agree with this and couldn’t tell the difference from traditional IPS or PLS panels. The display is capable of a very rich, vivid colour gamut which doesn’t have a noticeable shift when viewing from extreme angles. Also, the panel’s input latency remains fairly low and I couldn’t detect any backlight bleed. MSI’s True Colour technology involves an extensive factory calibration process which ensures each panel is extremely close to achieving 100% sRGB coverage.
Furthermore, you can select from an array of presets such as sRGB, Office and Gamer which alters the contrast, brightness and sharpness depending on the usage scenario. The panel has an anti-glare coating which eliminates reflections and manages to achieve this without the colours lacking definition. Additionally, the screen doesn’t wobble thanks to the strong bezels and sturdy hinges. Overall, the display is marvellous and the only real glaring flaw is the lack of G-Sync.
The laptop’s speaker system created by Dynaudio revolves around four 2-watt speakers and a 3-watt subwoofer. These elements combine to create a stellar listening experience characterised by a rich tonal range. Unlike most laptop speakers, the balance doesn’t overemphasise the mid-range to make up for a lack of bass. Not only that, the speakers are able to output a surprisingly loud volume without compromising on audio fidelity. In my opinion, these are some of the best sounding speakers you can find on a gaming laptop and they continue to impress during gaming, streaming and other forms of entertainment.
This laptop contains a power button which is self-explanatory, a Steelseries keyboard button and fan profile button. The SteelSeries button allows you to quickly cycle between different lighting options such as breathing, colour shift and more. This is quite useful when you’re playing a game and want to modify the lighting without having to pause the action. The fan profile button can be deployed to prioritise silent running or utilise a fan curve which focuses on performance. All of the buttons cannot be pressed accidently and remain within arms reach.
The keyboard is based on a chiclet design which aids comfort while typing and encourages you to adopt a more ergonomic posture. The keys have a good amount of travel and a soft, tactile feel which should improve your typing speed. During my time with the review sample, I adjusted to the keyboard really quickly although the USA enter key did pose some problems. Saying that, this isn’t an issue with the keyboard itself and down to my own personal preference.
MSI has used a silver lining print for each key which reduces light leakage and allows you to gaze at the full colour spectrum. Essentially, this means the backlighting can pierce through the lettering without any light being stuck under the keys. Also, the silver lining print shouldn’t fade over time in a similar way to laser etching. As previously mentioned, the lighting is fully customisable using the SteelSeries Engine 3 software and looks fantastic. Unfortunately, pictures struggle to do the illumination the justice it deserves.
The GE72VR 6RF Apache Pro’s touchpad has a brushed aluminium surface which makes your fingers less prone to slippage than a perfectly smooth coating. In theory, this could have affected the tracking accuracy as you hover over the brushed lines. Thankfully, this isn’t the case and the tracking is absolutely flawless. Furthermore, the left and right click respond in a really satisfying manner even if you press near the edges.
Included with the laptop is a software package entitled MSI Dragon Center which neatly stores a host of essential utilities. On the first page, the end-user is greeted with a screen to quickly access a wide range of applications. Of course, it’s possible to add other programs yourself such as Steam and MSI Afterburner.
The System Monitor tab displays key statistics regarding your laptop’s health and helps you to diagnose the source of any strange performance problems. While the amount of information is fairly brief, it’s presented in a wonderful way which keeps things simple.
Next up is the LED Wizard which can be deployed to alter the keyboard’s illumination and configure numerous scenarios. Personally, I didn’t find this very useful and would recommend SteelSeries’ software instead because there’s greater functionality.
In the System Tuner, the software can automatically optimise the laptop to create the best possible VR experience, although I couldn’t test what this entailed because there wasn’t any VR equipment in the office. The Shift sub-menu contains different modes which change the laptop’s behaviour. For example, the Sport profile offers maximum performance while the ECO option reduces the screen brightness and other aspects to improve battery life. As you can see, it’s possible to create a custom profile and manually adjust each setting.
Another great feature is the ability to modify the fan speed based on your own requirements. As its name suggests, the Auto mode detects system loads and finds a good balance between temperatures and the noise output. The basic option sticks to a particular fan setting and doesn’t dynamically adjust values too much. Initially, I was perplexed by the difference between the Auto and Cooler Boost profiles since both appeared to serve similar functions. Apparently, the Cooler Boost has the potential to run at a more aggressive curve for maximum performance. The True Colour section is really straightforward and allows you to modify the colour hue based on different scenarios.
The Mobile Center is a fairly intriguing creation and allows you to control the laptop with any Android mobile device once the Dragon Center application has been installed. This isn’t something I’d use and struggle to understand why anyone would want to access their PC via a smartphone. However, it may be a decent tool for some people.
On the final page, you can burn recovery media from an ISO, ask directly for technical help. calibrate the battery, access the user manual and register your purchase. This is a great selection of options for beginners who require some assistance and haven’t got the expertise to know where to find technical answers.