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MSI GS43VR – Laptop Review

MSI GS43VR – Laptop Review

msi gs43vr phantom proMost gaming laptops tend to be larger, heavier and more expensive than conventional notebooks, but that’s not the case with the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro.

The MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro relies on a tiny 14in screen to display the latest games – and it’ll cost you just £1,499 in the UK and $1,356 in America.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Design

The GS43VR Phantom Pro might be smaller than other machines, but it still has many of MSI’s familiar design touches – the kind we’ve seen before on the GV62 7RC. It has the eye-catching Dragon Gaming logo on the lid, and a line of red metal across the top panel.

The keyboard has a red backlight and the trackpad is surrounded by a ring of red metal, and there’s brushed aluminium throughout. The two air vents at the rear are coated with red paint, too.

msi gs43vr phantom proThe MSI pairs its solid looks with impressive dimensions. It weighs just 1.8kg and its body is 23mm thick. That’s half as heavy as some gaming laptops, and twice as slim – so you’ll barely notice the GS43VR when it’s in a bag. That makes it ideal for carrying to LAN parties, or even for commuting.

The closest machine we’ve seen to the MSI is the Dell XPS 15. That laptop has 15.6in panel crammed into a chassis designed for a 14in screen. The Dell and MSI both weigh the same, but the XPS is even slimmer – its body is just 18mm thick. There’s little between the price of the two: the Dell costs £1,449 in the UK and $1,599 in the US.

MSI’s machine might be slim and light, but its build quality can be suspect. The wrist-rest metal moves when it’s pushed down, and the screen distorts when the rear of the panel is pressured. We’d definitely protect this laptop with a sleeve.

This is another area where the Dell is better. The XPS 15 has barely any flex in any of its surfaces. It arguably looks better, too, with an understated design of aluminium and carbon fibre.

The MSI takes back some ground when it comes to connectivity. It has two USB ports and a Type-C connection, and it has both HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs. It’s got a card reader, too. The Dell only included sole USB and Thunderbolt connectors.

It’s solid on the inside – the MSI has Killer-branded 802.11ac wireless and Gigabit Ethernet.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Ergonomics

It’s no surprise that the MSI has a chiclet-style keyboard – there’s no room on this small machine for any kind of mechanical innovation.

msi gs43vr phantom proThere’s no room for a numberpad, either, and the rest of the layout is only middling. The Return key is single-height, and the cursor keys are tiny.

The keyboard’s typing action is mostly fine. The keys have a reasonable amount of travel, and their base is firm enough. They’re comfortable and consistent. That’s great for typing, but the keys wobble a little, and the buttons are light – and neither of those attributes are good for gaming.

The MSI’s keyboard is fine for work and for casual gaming, then, but as ever this chiclet unit isn’t quite robust enough for playing frantic, fast-paced games at a high competitive level.

The trackpad is in a similar position. Its buttons are fine and its surface is smooth, but the buttons push down a little too far. That means they can’t quite match the speed of a proper USB mouse.

Dell’s machine also had a chiclet keyboard, and it had the same issues as the MSI’s typing unit. The XPS 15 is great for typing, but less reliable for button-mashing games.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Components

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 is a high-quality mainstream graphics chip. It’s got 1,280 stream processors and 6GB of dedicated memory. Its core is clocked to 1,404MHz and reaches a Boost peak of 1,607MHz.

msi gs43vr phantom proThose figures compare well to the Dell, which relied on a GTX 1050. That part had half as many stream processors and 4GB of memory.

The solid graphics chip is paired with a Core i7-7700HQ. It’s the same processor that Dell used, and it’s easy to see why it keeps appearing in powerful laptops. It’s got four cores with Hyper-Threading, so we can’t argue with its multi-tasking credentials, and its 2.8GHz stock speed can use Turbo to rise to 3.8GHz.

The processor uses last year’s Kaby Lake architecture rather than this year’s Coffee Lake update, but that’s fine. The gap between the two generations isn’t huge, and the MSI’s Core i7 won’t have trouble with any game or conventional work task.

The MSI has 16GB of memory, which is double the amount included in the Dell. The MSI has better storage, too: both machines have 256GB SSDs, but the GS43VR also has a 1TB hard disk.

The GS43VR is managed by MSI’s Dragon Centre software. This dominant utility has system monitoring options and overclocking settings, and fan speed tweaking tools. It’s possible to add 200MHz and 350MHz to the GPU’s core and memory clocks, and speeds can also be toned down if you’d like to reduce fan noise or improve battery life.

There’s a TrueColour module to pick screen modes and a Nahimic utility to alter the speakers with modes for different types of game.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Performance

The compact MSI is designed for playing games at 1080p – and the GS43VR didn’t disappoint.

msi gs43vr phantom proIts Fallout 4 result of 58fps is around twice as quick as the Dell, and it’s near to 60fps – so you’ll get smooth and consistent gameplay. Its weakest average was a great 49fps in Witcher 3, and that was still 21fps ahead of the Dell. The MSI’s best result came in Battlefield 1, where it reached an average of 83fps.

The GTX 1060’s pace means that any current game will run on this machine’s Full HD screen. It’ll have no problem outputting to a larger 1080p panel, and it’ll also output to a 1440p screen.

The MSI will handle VR headsets, too, although graphics settings will have to be toned down to get smooth results in that scenario. In fact, the only mainstream gaming scenario that the MSI won’t handle is 4K.

The GS43VR’s theoretical results further demonstrate its dominance over the Dell. The MSI scored 9,455 in the 3D Mark Fire Strike test – while the pricier Dell only scored 5,568.

The Core i7 processor is a fast and familiar chip. Its 680cb Cinebench score is only a little behind the Dell XPS 15, and its Geekbench single-core result of 4,576 is a couple of points ahead. The MSI scored a solid 13,779 in the multi-core benchmark.

msi gs43vr phantom proThe i7-7700HQ will handle any game and any conventional productivity tool – only high-end work applications will require more CPU power. We have no problems with the SSD, which returned read and write speeds of 2,150MB/s and 1,178MB/s – a little behind the Dell, but not bad enough to slow this machine down.

The MSI has more gaming power than the Dell, but that extra grunt leads to poorer thermal performance.

During a gaming test the MSI’s CPU and GPU peaked at 95°C and 85°C. The former result is toasty, and the base panel became a little warm. Adding a CPU stress-test saw the processor and graphics temperatures jump by two and three degrees respectively.

In this tougher test the exterior panels remained a little warm, and the fans spun up to produce a modest but noticeable whirr. It’ll be easily drowned out by a headset or speakers.

None of the MSI’s thermal results are worrying, but we wouldn’t want any of the components to get hotter. It’s not as good as the Dell in this department, either: that machine had quieter fans and lower temperatures in every scenario.

There are no surprises in battery tests, either. The MSI lasted for 90 minutes in an application test and under an hour when gaming – miles behind the consumer-friendly Dell machine.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Screen and Speakers

The MSI’s 1080p screen is easily good enough for games and work, but it does fall behind the Dell when it comes to quality.

msi gs43vr phantom proFor starters, its contrast ratio of 1,041:1 is fine – more than good enough for work and play, and with enough breadth to ensure solid dark shades and good variation elsewhere. But the Dell served up 1,552:1 thanks to a far higher maximum brightness and a marginally better black point.

The MSI’s average Delta E of 0.24 is a bit better than the Dell, but its colour temperature of 7,271K is a little cool, and a little worse. And the MSI rendered 86.6% of the sRGB colour gamut, but the XPS 15 managed 93%.

The MSI machined delivered decent uniformity results and fine viewing angles. And don’t rely on anything other than its sRGB screen mode – its genre-specific options are no good.

The MSI’s good colour results and solid contrast mean this is a good panel for gaming: dark areas will look suitably imposing, colours will pop accurately, and the matte coating makes the screen easy to see under strong lights. The Dell’s screen is a little bit better, but that’s hardly a surprise.

The screen is good, but the speakers are not. Treble noises are underwhelming and the high-end is tinny. Bass, when it can be found, is indistinct and overwhelms the rest of the range. We’d always used a headset or external speakers.

MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro Laptop Review – Conclusion

msi gs43vr phantom proThe MSI GS43VR is an impressive and refreshing antidote to the rest of the gaming market. Other machines tend to be larger and heavier, or promise slim and light operation and don’t deliver due to thermal and noise issues.

Instead of pushing too hard or proving too large, the MSI is smaller than most of its rivals while including enough power to handle 1080p gaming – and without getting too hot or loud.

MSI’s machine also includes a good screen, fine ergonomics and a good-looking, slim frame. The Dell XPS 15 is the MSI’s key rival, and it’s better in all of these departments – but never by far.

The MSI is faster in games, so if you want a small, powerful gaming laptop, it’s an excellent choice. Only look to the XPS 15 if you’re willing to sacrifice gaming pace for a bit more all-round quality.

The MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro costs £1,499 in the UK and $1,356 in the US. Do you like the idea of a slim and light gaming laptop? Join the discussion on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

The GoodRecommended Award

  • Slim, light design
  • Solid 1080p gaming power
  • Good specification elsewhere
  • Decent screen quality

The Bad

  • Build quality a little underwhelming
  • Speakers are tinny and disappointing
  • Screen can’t quite match rivals

The Specs

CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7700HQ
Memory: 16GB 2,400MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
Screen: 14in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS
Dimensions: 345 x 245 x 23mm
Weight: 1.8kg
Connectivity: 2 x USB 3, 1 x Mini DisplayPort, 1 x HDMI, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x SDXC, 2 x audio
Hard disk: 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD, 1TB hard disk
Warranty: 2yr RTB

Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro

About Author

Mike Jennings

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