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Thursday | June 4, 2020
MSI GT76 Titan review

MSI GT76 Titan review

MSI GT76 01The MSI GT76 Titan is a monster laptop in every sense – it weighs 4kg and it costs $4,300 for US buyers and £4,000 for gamers in the UK. The huge size and price are the result of a load of desktop components, including an eight-core Intel CPU and the full-power version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 graphics core. So, should you buy this desktop replacement or is it too heavy and expensive? Find out in our MSI GT76 Titan review.

MSI GT76 Titan Review – Design

The MSI GT76 is huge, and its design undeniably marks it out as a gaming laptop. There are bands of RGB LEDs at the front of the machine and on the sides. There are more RGB LEDs on top of the massive air vents at the rear of the machine.

The keyboard has per-key RGB LED lighting, and the machine is hewn from a mix of black and gunmetal grey aluminium. The front and back have loads of dramatic angles, and there’s a bold MSI Dragon Gaming logo on the lid.

The MSI GT76 Titan’s biggest rival is the Alienware m17, which costs $2,699 in the US and £3,009 in the UK. That machine is undoubtedly sleeker and more mature when it comes to aesthetics: it has fewer RGB LEDs, subtler lines and angles and smart honeycomb patterns.

MSI GT76 06The MSI GT76 looks like a classic gaming notebook, and its dimensions and size are certainly divisive. The 4kg laptop isn’t the only weight you’ll have to deal with here – the desktop components inside the GT76 mean that there are two power bricks, and they add an extra 1.8kg.

The GT76 isn’t slim, either. It’s 397mm wide and 42mm thick.

The rival Alienware m17 is still a large 17.3in machine, but it’s a lot smaller and easier to handle than the MSI GT76 Titan. The Alienware weighs 2.6kg and was just 21mm thick.

The huge size of the GT76 does mean that this machine has superb connectivity. It has four full-size USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports. There are two USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C connectors, and one of those supports Thunderbolt 3. The GT76 has HDMI and mini-DisplayPort outputs. It’s got two audio jacks and even a microSD slot.

The good connectivity continues to the underside, where the base panel is easy to remove. Almost all of the major components are accessible. The memory is underneath the motherboard, but MSI handles this by included two empty SO-DIMM slots on the accessible side of the board.

MSI GT76 05The Alienware can’t compete here – it has fewer USB ports, no card reader and trickier internals.

The MSI GT76 Titan is robust, which is to be expected with a laptop at this price and this sort of size. However, it’s not perfect. There is a tiny bit of movement in the wrist-rest and the screen. The underside panel is a little weaker, and it’s largely made of mesh – so it’s open to the elements.

We don’t have any qualms about the MSI GT76 Titan handling life on the road – it’s still extremely strong. However, the Alienware m17 is a little stronger throughout, especially on the underside.

The MSI GT76 Titan’s sheer size means that it’s not the sort of laptop you’ll use for your commute. Indeed, this desktop replacement device is far more suited to smaller homes and bedrooms – or for taking on the road to LAN parties, gaming events and other places.

Of course, it’s still a lot of weight to carry – but remember that this large laptop is still significantly lighter and more portable than the desktop and monitor setups that it’s designed to replace.

Click here to read our verdict on the best laptops in 2020 for gaming, work and home use!

Components

MSI GT76 10The MSI GT76 Titan uses the desktop version of the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080. It’s a monster GPU: it has 2,944 stream processors. 46 Ray-Tracing cores and 8GB of memory.

By default, the MSI GT76 Titan uses its Comfort performance mode, which means the GPU runs with base and boost clocks of 1,575MHz and 1,755MHz. Both of those figures are slightly overclocked when compared to the desktop GPU’s original speeds of 1,515MHz and 1,710MHz.

The desktop GPU is joined by a Core i9-9900K. It’s one of Intel’s beefiest consumer desktop chips. It has eight cores with multi-threading alongside base and boost speeds of 3.6GHz and 5GHz.

It’s formidable hardware. The admittedly cheaper Alienware machine relied on an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q. That core compromised with slower clock speeds in order to improve thermal performance – that GPU only peaks at 1,095MHz. The Alienware’s processing grunt came from the familiar Core i7-9750H, which has six cores and slower speeds.

The rest of the MSI’s specification is just as bold. The GT76 Titan has a whopping 64GB of 2,666MHz memory, for instance. The boot drive is a 1TB RAID 0 array constructed from two 512GB Samsung PM981 SSDs, which delivers comparable speed to today’s top NVMe PCI-E 3.0 drives – so expect rapid boot and loading times. There’s a secondary 1TB hard disk. Dual-band 802.11ax wireless and 2.5Gbps Ethernet handle connectivity.

MSI GT76 09The MSI GT76 Titan has a mighty specification. It’s easily good enough for any gaming task, but the CPU and memory allocations are overkill for gaming. Indeed, the eight-core CPU and 64GB of memory mean that this machine has the power to handle tough workloads, from photo- and video-editing applications to CAD design tools and huge spreadsheets.

The MSI GT76 Titan costs $4,300 and £4,000, with that price comparable to the most expensive Alienware machines. It’s also far more than the Alienware m17 we reviewed, which arrived at $2,699 in the US and £3,009 in the UK.

Even at the top end, the Alienware m17 still relies on mobile Core i9-9980HK processors that won’t be as fast as high-end desktop chips – alongside the cut-back RTX 2080 Max-Q GPU.

However, people on slimmer budgets will be pleased to know that the Alienware is available in loads of cheaper options. If you want to save money or fine-tune your specification, the Alienware m17 is better here.

Also be aware that the MSI GT76 Titan’s huge price is partly caused by the cost of shoving all of this hardware into a laptop. If you’d rather get this level of power in a desktop, you’ll save money, with these performance levels attainable for less than $3,000 or £3,000.

Of course, those desktop prices don’t factor in a 4K screen, keyboard or mouse, so any buying decision will have to be based on the overall cost of a setup and then traded off against the MSI’s relative portability.

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Keyboard and Trackpad

As usual, this MSI notebook has a SteelSeries keyboard. The GT76 Titan has a keyboard with a separate numberpad, per-key RGB LED backlighting and all of the usual shortcuts.

The buttons are decent. They have reasonable travel considering this is a chiclet device, and the buttons are consistent and quiet. The machine’s robust base means the keyboard has a solid surface for the buttons to hammer into. They’re pretty quick, too – just as good as anything else out there.

The MSI’s buttons are easily good enough for mainstream gaming. They’re also just as effective as the chiclet keys on the Alienware when it comes to performance.

However, the MSI GT76 Titan’s keyboard still doesn’t have the extra travel and speed found on mechanical units – there’s still a gulf in class and performance here.

It’s also a little disappointing that the large, expensive MSI machine has slimmed-down numberpad keys and no dedicated macro buttons – with the latter something that the Alienware does include.

The trackpad itself is fine – large, smooth and accurate. However, the buttons are poor. They’re hinged at the front and centre, which means that they’re shallow at this point, but far too deep and spongy everywhere else.

The buttons here are downright poor. They’re only just good enough for casual and mainstream gaming. If you’re at all serious about getting a good experience, plug in a USB mouse.

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

MSI GT76 Titan Review – Gaming Performance

The MSI GT76 Titan deploys the desktop RTX 2080 to deliver playable framerates at its native 4K resolution.

In Ghost Recon: Wildlands, Shadow of Mordor, Total War: Warhammer II and Shadow of the Tomb Raider its minimum framerates ranged between 30fps and 58fps. In those four games its averages ran between 32fps and 77fps.

The vast majority of single-player games will run smoothly at 4K on this panel. Most of them will run well at their top graphics settings, too. You’ll only have to dial things back if you’re running the trickiest of titles, and even then, the compromises will be small.

Happily, there’s enough power here to run Ray-Traced games too. The MSI handled Battlefield V with minimum and average framerates of 34fps and 39fps.

The huge performance levels mean that the MSI GT76 Titan can also output to VR headsets and widescreen panels without struggling.

We also tested the MSI GT76 Titan at 1080p in order compare this laptop to its main rival from Alienware. There was no competition: the MSI GT76 Titan returned minimums and averages that were often ten frames or more beyond the Alienware.

Theoretical tests illustrate the gulf in performance. In 3D Mark Fire Strike Extreme, for instance, the MSI scored 11,901 points – more than 2,000 points beyond the Alienware m17. The MSI’s Time Spy Extreme and Port Royal scores were almost 1,000 points ahead.

By default, the MSI GT76 Titan uses its Comfort performance mode. However, MSI’s Dragon Center app also has Sport and Turbo modes, where the CPU and GPU are overclocked in order to deliver more performance.

The Sport mode is a worthwhile option for a bit of extra grunt. With this mode activated its initial Fire Strike result of 19,808 jumped to 20,957. It’s enough of a boost to deliver a couple of extra frames in games – its Tomb Raider minimum of 34fps jumped to 37fps here.

The Turbo option is not worth using. It pushes the GPU too hard, and as a result performance declines. In Turbo mode, the MSI’s Fire Strike result dropped to 19,414, and it was a couple of frames slower in games.

Head right here for a primer on Ray-Tracing!

Application Performance

It’s no surprise that the MSI GT76 Titan, with its desktop CPU, is far quicker than the mobile-powered Alienware device.

In the MSI’s default Comfort mode, the CPU ran at around 4GHz in our application benchmarks.

When tasked with Cinebench R20 the MSI GT76 Titan scored 4,132 points – around 1,500 points better than the Alienware. In PC Mark 10 the MSI’s result of 5,776 was three hundred points better.

In Geekbench 5’s multi-core test the MSI scored 7,893, which is almost 2,000 points beyond the Alienware chip.

The MSI GT76 Titan has two more cores and far greater clock speeds than the chip in the Alienware. It won’t have any gaming bottlenecks, even at 4K. The MSI machine is also far more capable with productivity tasks. That makes it a great option if you need power for tough work on the road.

Conversely, bear in mind that the eight-core, desktop CPU and 64GB of memory are not needed for gaming, even at 4K. If you’re just after a gaming machine, these components are overkill.

As before, the MSI’s Sport and Turbo modes are a mixed bag. Sport mode is good. With this option selected the CPU ran at around 4.4GHz and saw its Cinebench result improve to 4,463 points. However, Turbo mode saw the CPU throttle to 3.6GHz and that result decline to 3,357.

The CPU’s peak temperature of 97°C is dangerously high, and it indicates that the CPU can’t do much more – so no wonder it throttles in Turbo mode.

However, the good news is that those high temperatures were only recorded in Turbo mode and when the CPU was stressed. So, if you use the other performance modes, whether they’re for work or gaming, the GT76 is much cooler.

Most of the hot air from this machine is ejected through the vents at the rear, but there is another vent on the right-hand side of this machine where more hot air is removed. It’s not dangerous, but it’s noticeable if you’re right-handed and using a USB mouse. The area above the keyboard also becomes hot.

The noise levels are reasonable throughout. In Comfort and Sport modes the fan noise is noticeable and consistent, but it’s no worse than the Alienware – a headset will comfortably deal with it. In Turbo mode the noise levels are awful, but benchmarks dictate that no-one should use Turbo mode anyway.

And, as ever, don’t expect much in terms of battery life. The MSI GT76 Titan lasted for barely an hour during a gaming benchmark. The Alienware returned similar results.

Head here for our full guide to AMD Ryzen 3000 and AMD X570 motherboards

Screen and Sound

The MSI GT76 Titan has a 4K IPS screen with a peak refresh rate of 60Hz and no syncing technology. That display specification is a double-edged sword.

For single-player games, it’s superb. The density level of 255ppi is stratospheric – high enough to make games look incredibly crisp and detailed. The 60Hz refresh rate is reasonable, and it’s good enough for smooth gaming at 4K – the GPU here won’t play many 4K games beyond 60fps anyway, so anything more would have been a waste.

However, the 60Hz refresh rate and lack of syncing means that this display isn’t suitable for competitive esports titles. Even if you dial the resolution back to 1080p and run games at more than 200fps, the screen won’t be able to keep up and you’ll have a little tearing and ghosting. For mainstream esports and casual gameplay that won’t be a huge issue, but it’s not good enough for competition.

The MSI GT76 Titan has good screen quality. The brightness level of 407cd/m2 is huge – high enough for any indoor or outdoor situation. The black level of 0.35cd/m2 is reasonable, and means that darker areas have a decent amount of depth and variety. Those initial figures create a contrast ratio of 1,163:1, which is very good – it means solid vibrancy and punch across all games.

The average Delta E of 3.33 could be a little better, but it’s easily good enough for gaming. The colour temperature of 6,672K is excellent. The MSI’s display rendered 99.8% of the sRGB colour gamut, which means it can produce any shade of colour required by mainstream games – although this display is not suited to HDR.

The Alienware m17 had a 1080p display with a 144Hz refresh rate, which makes it good for single-player games and far better for esports when compared to the MSI GT76 Titan’s panel. In terms of quality, it’s just as good. So, really, it comes down to the refresh rate and resolution you need for gameplay.

The MSI GT76 Titan only has mediocre speakers. They’re loud and they have loads of bass, but the high-end is muddy and isn’t very distinct. The treble range dominates, but it doesn’t have enough detail or clarity. They’re fine for casual gaming, but a headset will be miles better.

Click here to read all of our latest reviews – including graphics cards, PCs and laptops!

MSI GT76 Titan Review – Conclusion

MSI GT76 03Our MSI GT76 Titan review illustrates that this is an impressive laptop that is still a divisive, niche product.

It delivers desktop-level performance in games and applications that easily outstrips rivals – so if you want a portable machine for 4K gaming or tough work, the GT76 will handle it. It also has great screen, excellent connectivity and accessible internals. Build quality isn’t bad either.

That’s all well and good, but the MSI GT76 Titan is expensive, huge and heavy. The keyboard is middling, there’s no battery life here, and the GT76 is sometimes hot, with some misfiring performance modes.

The price and specification mean that this machine is overkill if you just want a high-end gaming notebook – if that’s you, then something like the Alienware m17 is more realistic and well-balanced. The GT76’s size means that it’s not ideal for frequent movement – it’s more suited to smaller homes and irregular LAN party trips. And, while it is huge, it’s still smaller than a desktop rig with a 4K screen.

It’s certainly not for everyone, then, but the MSI GT76 Titan is a good example of a monster laptop that delivers maximum power inside a smaller space than a PC. Just remember that it’s still huge and expensive – so if you don’t need 4K performance and a top-tier work specification then you can save plenty of cash elsewhere.

The machine in our MSI GT76 Titan review costs $4,300 in the US and £4,000 in the UKDiscuss our MSI GT76 Titan review on our Facebook and Twitter pages. And, if you need some more inspiration after reading our MSI GT76 Titan 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

  • Spectacular game and application performance
  • Impressive 4K screen
  • Robust, accessible design
  • Decent chiclet keyboard

The Bad

  • Incredibly expensive
  • Very heavy and bulky, with two hefty power pricks
  • Poor trackpad and no real battery life
  • Overkill for many scenarios

The Specs

CPU: 3.6GHz Intel Core i9-9900K
Memory: 64GB 2,666MHz DDR4
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 8GB
Screen: 17.3in 3,840 x 2,160 IPS 60Hz
Dimensions: 397 x 330 x 42mm
Weight: 4kg
Connectivity: Dual-band 802.11ax WiFi, 2.5Gbps Ethernet, Bluetooth 5
Ports: 4 x USB 3.2 Gen 2, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C/Thunderbolt 3, 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 1 x HDMI, 1 x mini-DisplayPort, 1 x microSD, 2 x audio
Storage: 2 x 512GB Samsung PM981 M.2 SSDs in RAID 0, 1TB hard disk
Warranty: 2yr RTB

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
MSI GT76 Titan

About Author

Darren Roberts

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