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MSI GL73 8SE Review

MSI GL73 8SE Review

It’s getting more and more unusual to find powerful, 17.3in gaming laptops that don’t cost more than $2,000 or £2,000, but the MSI GL73 8SE does fit that brief thanks to prices of $1,699 and £1,699. The big concern, of course, is that too much of this machine has been sacrificed in order to meet the budget – and so it won’t provide a satisfying gaming experience. Delve into our MSI GL73 8SE review to see if this machine is a tempting bargain – or if it’s destined for the bargain bin.

MSI GL73 8SE Review – Design

The MSI GL73 8SE has a lower price than most Turing-based gaming laptops with 17.3in screens – and so that means this laptop’s physical design has taken a necessary back seat.

It does not look like a particularly exciting or ground-breaking machine. The bulk of the rig is made from thin aluminium, and the panels are joined together by highly visible seams – you don’t get the clean lines that are seen on pricier portables.

MSI GL73 8SE 05The screen bezels are thick, and the glossy metal is paired with red accents around the edges and on the lid. All in all, the MSI GL73 8S3 does look a little dated.

The MSI GL73 8SE isn’t slim or light, either. It weighs 2.9kg, and it’s 33mm thick. That’s about half a kilo heavier than more svelte and expensive gaming notebooks. It’s also not uncommon to find 17.3in machines that are a centimetre slimmer. You’re going to want a decent backpack when you take this rig out of the house to LAN parties and gaming events.

Sadly, the MSI’s heft doesn’t translate to good build quality. The metal used to build the wrist-rest is flimsy – there’s noticeable give even when only modest pressure is applied. Pressing the rear of the screen causes the desktop to distort. It’s no surprise that build quality is middling, but it does mean we’d be careful when taking this machine out of the house.

The port selection is reasonable. There’s one full-size USB 3.1 port and a USB 3.1 Type-C connector, but the other two full-size USB ports use the slower 3.0 standard. There’s a full-size SD card reader, and display outputs are handled by an HDMI port and a mini-DisplayPort connector.

It’s also pretty easy to get the base panel off this machine. Once that’s done, you get access to all of the major components and cooling hardware and a spare M.2 slot.

The MSI has design flaws, but that’s to be expected when a 17.3in machine arrives with such a relatively low price. It’s not a particularly slim or light laptop, and build quality is mediocre.

Connectivity is good, though, and those practical issues are easily solved: just make sure you’ve got a decent backpack and get a sleep if you want to protect the exterior.

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MSI GL73 8SE Review – Specification

The MSI’s relatively low price means that it makes do with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 graphics core.

It’s Nvidia’s most affordable full-power Turing core – if you go any cheaper you’ll have to settle for the half-way house situation of the GTX 1660 Ti or the GTX 1650, which both have weaker versions of the Turing architecture and no ray-tracing or DLSS.

The RTX 2060 is only really suitable for 1080p gaming, and its specification reflects that. The mobile version of the core is included the MSI, which means base and boost clocks of 1,110MHz and 1,335MHz. Both of those are understandably lower than the desktop RTX 2060.

MSI GL73 8SE 01Elsewhere, the RTX 2060 has the full Turing architecture with 1,920 stream processors and 30 RT cores, and a reasonable 6GB of GDDR6 memory.

It’s a solid chip, but the RTX 2070 and the RTX 2070 Max-Q both offer more power. Both of those parts have 8GB of memory, and both use 2,304 stream processors and 36 RT cores. Only their clock speeds differ.

The familiar Core i7-8750H joins the RTX 2060. It’s still one of the most popular chips for high-end gaming laptops. It’s got six cores that can address twelve threads, which means tough games and multi-tasking won’t be a problem. Its base and boost clocks of 2.2GHz and 4.1GHz are fine.

MSI has slotted 16GB of DDR4 memory in this machine, and we’re happy to see it installed in a dual-channel configuration. Too often, companies cut corners and reduce performance by using single-channel RAM.

Connectivity in the MSI GL73 8SE is handled by the normal Gigabit Ethernet and dual-band 802.11ac wireless chips. There’s Bluetooth, too.

The MSI’s biggest specification mis-step comes in the storage department. Windows 10 sits on a Kingston SSD with a capacity of just 128GB – so you’ll run out of space after installing a game or two. You get a 1TB hard disk too, but it’s more common now for notebooks to have 2TB disks.

If you want to take a significant step up then you’ll have to spend around $2,000 or £2,000. A machine like the Aorus 15 X9 upgrades to the RTX 2070 GPU, and it also has a far faster and larger SSD alongside a bigger hard disk.

Click here for all of our in-depth graphics card reviews – including the RTX 2080 Ti, RTX 2080, RTX 2070 and RTX 2060!

MSI GL73 8SE Review – Ergonomics

MSI GL73 8SE 02The MSI GL73 8SE has a conventional chiclet keyboard without no layout problems – it has a numberpad, large cursor keys and a single-height return key that will quickly become familiar. It doesn’t have RGB LEDs, but its red backlight does have three adjustable brightness levels.

The buttons have reasonable travel, and they hammer down with speed and consistency. It also helps that the metal beneath the keyboard is stronger than the material on the wrist-rest.

The MSI’s keyboard is no worse than anything else you’ll find on a more expensive laptop, and it’s got enough speed and ability to handle mainstream gaming and esports. As ever, if you want anything sturdier then you’ll have to shell out for a rarer machine with mechanical hardware – and that will also involve paying more.

The trackpad is not good. The metal on the wrist-rest is weaker than the metal beneath the keyboard, and it means the pad feels too bouncy. The buttons are slow and push down too far, and the pad is positioned on the left-hand side of the unit, so it’s too easy for palms to catch it when you’re using the keyboard.

If you’re playing a slow-paced game or aren’t using the pad too much then you can get away with using the trackpad on this machine, but the vast majority of people will be far happier connecting even a cheap USB rodent to the MSI.

Head here for the latest information on the status of ray-tracing on the entire Nvidia range of GPUs!

MSI GL73 8SE Review – Gaming Performance

The RTX 2060 has plenty of power. In six different games its minimum got beyond 60fps, which means you’ll get butter-smooth framerates. It handled particularly tough games like Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Metro Exodus with framerates beyond 30fps.

It’s enough performance to handle any current game, from esports titles to the most demanding single-player releases.

Impressively, many of the RTX 2060’s scores compete well with the RTX 2070 Max-Q, which we last saw in the Razer Blade 15 Advanced – those two machines traded blows. However, it’s worth noting that the Razer was usually faster in trickier tests where its extra two gigabytes of memory comes to the fore.

There’s also no competition between the RTX 2060 and the full-power RTX 2070, as seen in the Aorus 15 X9. That machine was far quicker in every benchmark, with enough pace to handle 144Hz screens – something that RTX 2060 can’t quite manage.

Theoretical tests show the positioning of the three popular laptop GPUs. In 3D Mark Fire Strike the MSI and its RTX 2060 scored 14,806 points. The Razer Blade and its RTX 2070 Max-Q scored 15,365. The Aorus 15 X9 and the full-power mobile RTX 2070 led the way with a result of 16,612.

The relative gaps were more obvious in the trickier Fire Strike Extreme test. The MSI scored 7,411 – only about 500 points behind the Razer. However, the Aorus led the way by a significant margin with a score of 9,076.

The RTX 2060 is a great 1080p gaming GPU, then, but it does have limits. If you want to output to VR headsets, high refresh-rate screens or panels with higher resolutions, then you’ll need to upgrade to an RTX 2070 at the very least.

The RTX 2060 returned mixed results in ray-tracing, too, so be careful about how you use this demanding feature. With ray-tracing activated it ran Battlefield V with a playable minimum of 40fps, but it slumped to 22fps in Metro: Exodus.

Want to know more about AMD Ryzen processors? Check out our in-depth guide right here.

Application and Thermal Performance

The Core i7-8750H is a known quantity that performed well in benchmarks. Its Cinebench result of 995cb is actually a little better than the Aorus machine, which also had that chip. The MSI scored 4,848 points and 20,361 points in Geekbench’s single- and multi-core benchmarks. Both results are marginally ahead of the Aorus.

We have no concerns about the CPU. It’s easily fast enough to avoid games bottlenecks. It’ll handle most work and Office tasks, too, and multi-tasking and browser-based applications will never be a problem using this CPU.

The SSD returned read and write speeds of 1,501MB/s and 473MB/s. The former score is average, but the latter result is poor. The MSI does feel snappy during use and when booting, and load times aren’t awful – the GL73 still feels far more responsive than systems that rely on hard disks. However, there are far faster drives available in more expensive machines.

The MSI GL72 8SE has no significant thermal issues. The processor and graphics core reached peak temperatures of 89°C and 72°C – both fine figures that don’t cause problems.

The metal exterior was cool throughout our tests. Noise was fine: during gaming the MSI pumped out noticeable but modest fan noise, and it was only a little louder in a full-system stress-test.

The noise is certainly there, but it’s easy to mask with a headset. It’s also quieter than virtually any machine that has an RTX 2070 inside.

And then, finally, don’t expect much longevity out of this machine. We made the MSI last for just over an hour when gaming, and about three hours during an application test. You’ll have to stay close to the power source if you want a proper gaming session on this machine.

Click here for our huge guide on 4K monitors – from finding the best features to picking the right panel!

Screen and Sound

MSI GL73 8SE 04We have no issues with MSI including a 1080p screen in this laptop – that’s ample for the RTX 2060 and it’s entirely normal for virtually all gaming laptops aside from a few expensive outliers. The 17.3in diagonal makes things more immersive when compared to 15.6in screens, too.

However, the MSI’s panel only has a 60Hz refresh rate in the UK, and that makes the MSI unusual – even among machines with similar prices. It’s more and more common to see affordable gaming laptops with 144Hz screens now. Systems with that higher refresh rate will deliver smoother gaming as long as games can run at high enough frame rates to support it.

We can cope with a 60Hz refresh rate, though – games will certainly not be unplayable by any means. And, happily, US models of this machine routinely come with 120Hz panels instead.

The bigger problems come in benchmarks. The brightness level of 290cd/m2 is totally fine, but the black level of 0.32cd/m2 is too high – and that’s the first problem. It doesn’t just mean that darker shades don’t have much depth or nuance.

The high black level also contributes to a contrast ratio 906:1. The poor contrast ratio means that colours lack depth all over the range – they’re never particularly subtle or vibrant.

MSI GL73 8SE 06Colour accuracy is another area where the MSI couldn’t compete. Its average Delta E of 8.17 is very poor, and the colour temperature of 8,326K is far too cool. The screen also only displays 77% of the sRGB colour gamut, falling short when tasked with displaying red, pink and purple shades.

The terrible Delta E, chilly colour temperature and poor sRGB results mean that the MSI’s screen has a permanent blue tinge. It makes the whole screen look cold and pallid.

If you buy this affordable gaming laptop then you’ll undoubtedly get used to the screen, and you can still play games using this panel. Just be aware that games won’t look particularly good, especially when compared to screens with more vibrancy and more life-like colours.

The speakers aren’t good, either. They’re loud enough, but there’s no bass, and higher-pitched noises are tinny and underwhelming. We’d definitely switch to a headset.

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MSI GL73 8SE 07Our MSI GL73 8SE review illustrates that the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 is this machine’s key component. The mid-range GPU can play anything at 1080p, with plenty of games averaging beyond 100fps. It’ll handle some ray-tracing, too, although it won’t run everything smoothly here. It also won’t output to VR headsets and high refresh-rate screens.

Elsewhere, the MSI GL73 8SE impresses with a solid processor and a surprisingly good keyboard.

However, this machine is underwhelming in several key departments. The SSD is small and slow, and the screen is poor. Battery life is short, and the speakers will need replacing with a headset. It’s a thick, heavy laptop, too, which will impact how it’s used.

Still, none of that is a surprise when the MSI arrives at a relatively low price of $1,699 or £1,699. It’s affordable for a 17.3in machine with a full-power Turing GPU, and it’s a good option if you want Nvidia’s latest tech without breaking the bank. Just be aware that you get more all-round quality if you save up for a pricier alternative with fewer compromises.

The machine in our MSI GL73 8SE review costs £1,699 in the UK and $1,699 in the US. Discuss our MSI GL73 8SE review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our MSI GL73 8SE review, check out our guide to our favourite laptops or go deep with our ultimate guide to 4K monitors – covering the technology, the terms and our top recommendations!

The Good

  • Relatively affordable price
  • RTX 2060 is great at 1080p
  • Solid CPU and memory
  • Surprisingly good keyboard

The Bad

  • Disappointing storage
  • Underwhelming, pallid screen
  • Middling build quality and chunky exterior
  • Fiddly trackpad and poor speakers

The Specs

CPU: 2.2GHz Intel Core i7-8750H
Memory: 16GB 2,666MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 6GB
Screen: 17.3in 1,920 x 1,080 TN 60Hz
Dimensions: 419 x 287 x 33mm (WxDxH)
Weight: 2.9kg
Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.1
Ports 1 x USB 3.1, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x audio jack, 1 x SD card reader, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini-DisplayPort
Hard disk: 128GB Kingston RBUSNS8154P3128GJ SSD, 1TB Seagate Barracuda hard disk
Warranty: 2yr RTB

Review Date
Reviewed Item

About Author

Mark Reed

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