MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the supposed VR-era is the increase in affordable high-performance technology for gaming. This being the case, the 17-inch MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro packs plenty of gaming power for a mid-range gaming PC. The notebook represents a significant value even if you have little interest in taking advantage of its VR capabilities. 

However, it sports a suite of name brand components inside, such as a SteelSeries gaming keyboard, 4-position surround sound powered by Dynaudio, and a Killer Gaming Networks Ethernet card to reduce latency during online games. All of it is topped with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 GPU backing a 120Hz, 1,920 x 1,080 FHD display for liquid smooth graphical performance. Other components include a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB NVMe SSD.

You might not always be able to push your game settings to ultra, but you can enjoy all the still-beautiful mid-to-high settings most games currently have to offer.

Pricing and availability

You can pick up an MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro for around $1,399 (about £1,090, AU$1,880) depending on the configuration, which represents a significant value when compared to some similar systems.

For example, the Gigabyte Aero 15 goes for around $1,899 (about £1,471 and AU $2,541) with very similar hardware, including the memory, SSD storage and GPU. 

The Gigabyte’s smaller 15-inch screen supports a higher QHD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution, but that might not be enough to balance out the significant price difference. 

Neither system can match the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming’s maximum $1,099 (£1,299, AU $1,999) price tag, and you can get a well-configured version for the bargain cost of $849 (£1,099, AU$1,999). 

However, this 15-inch gaming notebook would have an Intel i5 processor, an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti video card, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD. In other words, the savings get you quite a downgrade.

Design

At a glance, the GP72VR Leopard Pro doesn’t stand out among other MSI gaming notebooks. It sports MSI’s signature minimalistic black aluminum chassis, shaped to look like the hood of a sports car, decorated with a backlit dragon shield logo. However, the understated appearance works well for MSI, because it’s what’s under the hood that counts.

Players are greeted with the multicolored backlighting of the SteelSeries-designed gaming keyboard, accented by a rather large wrist rest area underneath, and two hard buttons below the touchpad. Although the keyboard is ideal for first-person shooters, like Overwatch, the entire top row of keys are half-sized, and all the keys are positioned very closely together.

It can take some getting used to unless you’re already familiar with SteelSeries’ design because the layout could lead to higher typo rates when talking in chat or performing other everyday tasks, like web browsing or email.

Everything from the keyboard lighting to overclocking and fan speeds can be easily managed using the MSI Dragon Center, an application that can be launched at the push of a dedicated key on the upper right side. Next to it is a separate key that forces the cooling fans to run at max speed indefinitely. 

Although they aren’t the loudest fans we’ve ever heard, the noise is very noticeable even on automatic mode. They kick in very quickly during gaming sessions, and their sound may interfere with the enjoyment of the otherwise superb 4-point surround sound system. Even with the fans going at full blast, we can feel a small amount of warmth coming through the keyboard.

Perils of weight loss

Generally speaking, the mid-range notebook weighs almost 6 pounds (2.7kg), which is about expected for a notebook of its size, but we hardly feel it when carrying it around. The configuration we tested is lighter than others because it doesn’t include a spinning drive, thereby reducing its weight to 5.5 pounds (2.49 kg) with a DVD-ROM drive. 

That’s surprisingly lighter than the Dell Inspiron 15’s 5.76 pounds (2.61kg), but not by much, and heavier than the Gigabyte Aero 15’s 4.62 pounds (2.1kg). 

However, the weight reduction comes with a big trade-off. A single 512GB SSD means lower weight and lightning fast boot and load times, but it also means that you can’t install more than a handful of high-end games onto the system. Together, Overwatch, Mass Effect: Andromeda and Grand Theft Auto V ate up about 126GB, which is about one-quarter of the SSD. That doesn’t even account for for the space needed for Windows 10, other apps, and downloading game installers and updates. 

This issue is compounded by how the SSD comes partitioned into two halves, further limiting what you can install without tweaking the settings.  

A need for speed

Given its hardware and features, it’s clear that the MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro is designed with gaming specifically in mind, especially first-person shooters. Although it does have the power to support virtual reality headsets, such as the Oculus Rift of HTC Vive, it seems like an incidental effect of the system’s overall capabilities. 

What’s more impressive to those of us who decide to stay in actual reality is the 120Hz screen, which has excellent left and right viewing angles. 

The colors start to look washed out when the display is tilted back too far, which is a problem that presents itself when watching videos while the notebook is on your lap, but it is an otherwise slick and quite bright screen. 

Graphics are liquid smooth during gaming sessions, making the Leopard Pro’s multi-monitor capabilities (where you can attach two external displays) seem either completely superfluous or completely appetizing. 

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 deserves credit for offering VR-capable performance for a relatively low price. The GPU showed “great” performance in the VRMark Orange Room benchmark test with a score of 5,492. 

Outside of VR, most of the games we played performed exceptionally well, but you shouldn’t expect to push every game to its max settings. 

Overwatch consistently produces between 60-70 frames per second (fps) at Ultra graphics, with similar results in Titanfall 2 at its highest settings, which is excellent performance without treading into the extreme category, given the 17.3-inch screen’s maximum resolution. 

In our tests, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided becomes unplayable with all its settings pushed to the max. Although GTA V has a respectable performance at high settings, we were limited by the GTX 1060’s 3GB of memory, making it impossible to crank everything up.

Still, this kind of performance on a 120Hz screen shouldn’t be overlooked. You might not be able to get the best graphics every game has to offer, but you will be able to play basically all PC games at decent frame rates, notched down settings or not. Unsurprisingly, the MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro performs about the same as the Gigabyte Aero 15 when it comes to the benchmark tests, given how the configurations between the two systems are nearly identical. 

However, Gigabyte showed some better performance in Deus Ex, by about 10 extra fps. Also unsurprising is how the Leopard Pro, with its higher hardware configuration, outperformed the Dell Inspiron 15 Gaming in just about every test.

Battery life

But one area where MSI doesn’t come close to measuring up against the other two systems is in battery life. Both 15-inch notebooks lasted over 5 hours in their battery tests while 3DMark estimated the Leopard Pro’s battery life at an hour-and-a-half — a result that is backed by how the system lasted for almost the same amount of time with our looping movie test before dropping down to 10% power. 

One shouldn’t expect too much battery life from a gaming notebook, but that is especially so with this system. With the Leopard, you’ll have just enough time to watch a 90-minute movie before having to recharge, whereas the Gigabyte notebook lasted for over 6 hours, and Dell wins the battery prize with over 7 hours of video viewing.

We liked

The MSI GP72VR Leopard Pro packs a considerable amount of performance into a relatively affordable package. The system won’t necessarily bring you to the heights of graphical performance, but it will almost certainly take you to the higher settings. It more than fits the bill when it comes to competitive shooters like Overwatch, especially given the smooth performance of the 17.3-inch, 120Hz screen.

We disliked

The fans are noticeably loud, they become white noise in the background and ultimately become a small nuisance when you’re busy scoring kills (or getting killed). Apart from the short battery life, perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the configuration we received was its awkwardly-partitioned 512GB SSD, which severely limits what games we can install. 

Final verdict

All told, it’s well worth considering this MSI monster if you’re looking for a larger gaming notebook to play first-person shooters. Features, like the SteelSeries gaming keyboard, the 4-position surround sound, and VR capabilities are just icing on the cake, and a 1TB spinning drive can be configured to shore up storage problems.

The GP72VR Leopard Pro is by no means the most powerful gaming notebook on the market, but it could be just enough to help you score big during a match. If not, then at least your failures will look spectacular.

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