Tech

REVIEW | The Flagship Beast: MSI’s GT83VR 7RF Titan SLI

I am not a hardcore gamer. I play some FPS games like Overwatch and CS:GO, but that’s about it. I do love tech and gadgets, though, and am always up to date with the latest in the IT and gaming hardware industry. Which is why when MSI Philippines so generously sent our team to CES 2017 in Las Vegas at the start of the year, I felt like a kid in a VR candy store.

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So big, it can’t fit in the frame.

Microstar International launched its flagship gaming laptop, the GT83VR TITAN SLI, at the CES 2017. We saw the display model at the MSI booth. Right off the bat, without having extensive testing time on the unit, the first thing I noticed about the rig was that it was freakin’ massive! This wasn’t a dinky laptop pretending to be a gaming rig. This was a gaming rig built like a laptop.

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iPhone 6S for size comparison.

The laptop followed us on the return trip back to the Philippines, and discussed the unit briefly on the pilot episode of GG Blitz (watch out for our GG Blitz Facebook Live episodes throughout the year), and now we will talk about this beast of a machine extensively.

Upon receipt of the rig, the first thing that came to my mind was “WOW, THIS THING’S HEAVY!” Weighing in at a little over 5 kilos, we received the unit in a heavy duty backpack that one can easily mistake for a camping bag. For a laptop, one would think that this was a huge drawback. But after a week and a half of using the GT83VR, I can tell you – this wasn’t meant to be used like a typical laptop.

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Ready for take-off!

Taking the gaming rig out of the bag was like opening a gift Santa Claus left for you on Christmas morning. I could barely contain my excitement over such a beast. The rig reminded me of a powerful sports car – those huge air vents at the back looking like engine exhaust vents, while the lines and curves of the monitor looked like a sleek design of a sports car’s hood. Even the logo looked premium! I later found out that it was made of Corning Gorilla glass – the same scratch-proof material used on most of today’s mobile phones.

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Mechanical. RGB. Glorious.

What also caught my eye was the mechanical keyboard. Having been used to the usual chiclet keyboards of most of today’s laptops, using the Cherry MX powered mechanical keyboard felt a bit weird at first. But you get used to it fast. Aside from the RGB color, the keyboard brought a retro feel to it – as the “clickety-clack” sounds made it feel a lot like the earlier non-chiclet keyboards. A friend tested how many keys you can use at the same time and found that it maxes out at 20 keys – a whopping number, especially since some games require you to use multiple keys at the same time (think WASD + shift + ctrl + other keys) in certain situations.

Start up was BLAZING FAST. I counted 5 seconds from complete shutdown. Opening it from sleep was even faster, clocking in at under 3 seconds from sleep mode. Having been used to 5400rpm hard drives, I felt spoiled by the PCI-E Gen.3 SSD the GT83VR had on board. Of course it helped that the unit was powered by the latest in Intel processors – the 7th Generation Kaby Lake H (i7 7820HK) and 32GB of DDR4 RAM (upgradeable to 64GB).

I immediately installed three of the most played games today – DOTA2, Overwatch, and CS:GO. I repeat, I am not a hardcore gamer, so those games that showcase higher detail like Fallout 4 and GTA V? I didn’t know how to play them so I never installed them.

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Customization is a cinch thanks to Dragon Center.

While waiting for the install, I went over the features of the MSI GT83VR TITAN SLI. The Dragon Center was right on the cover, so I played around with it a little bit. It’s a one-stop shop for everything you want to customize on the GT83VR’s system settings. Want to overclock the processor? Right there. Change color schemes? Ditto. VR customization? Definitely.

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It comes with TWO massive power bricks: one to power the laptop, the other to power just the video cards!

Installation and download of the games went quickly due to the Killer LAN and PLDT Fibr (shameless plug). And so I went right ahead and launched Overwatch.

Having been used to 30fps all my life, it was a bit jarring to see such detail all of a sudden. Overwatch on Ultra settings was possible given the dual GTX 1080 SLI (7RF) graphics cards. After a few minutes of playing on it, my eyes finally got used to the difference.

And it. Was. Glorious.

Even my three year old son just had to say “Daddy, that looks amazing!”

I wasn’t playing using a headset, though, and it was at that point that I felt weirded out by what seemed like the sound of engines powering up: the Cooler Boost TITAN. Using three 29mm fans and 15 thermal heatpipes, it was bound to make noise. But one has to remember – a gaming rig is meant to be played with a proper headset on. And let me tell you – despite the “noise,” the Cooler Boost TITAN does its job – not once did I feel the surface of the rig heat up.

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The touchpad doubles as your number pad.

I tried playing on battery mode and only got less than 2 hours out of it. This isn’t necessarily bad – what do you expect with all the power requirements of the rig? Of course you wouldn’t be able to maximize battery power – because it’s not meant for that. One only has to look at the huge 330W power bricks that come along with it.

The next day, we featured the GT83VR on GG Blitz. People kept asking how much it cost, and then get shocked by its price. It’s not cheap, after all – what with it carrying the latest technology in gaming hardware. What I can say is that technology such as this will always have cost trade-offs.

Overall, the MSI GT83VR 7RF TITAN SLI is still a beast of a machine. It has its drawbacks (weight and cost are at the forefront), but you have to put those cons within the proper context. You cannot look at this as a laptop. You have to treat it like a semi-portable gaming rig. You also have to look at its features, and maximize its specs. Immerse yourself in the VR capabilities. Only then would you understand the beauty inside this beast of a machine.

00-GG_Badge_-01Specs:
Processor: 7th Generation Intel i7 7820HK
Graphics: 2x Nvidia GTX 1080SLI
Display: 18.4” FHD Wide View
Memory: 32GB DDR4 (Max 64GB)
Storage: 2x M.2 PCIe/SATA combo SSD + 1TB 7200rpm 2.5” HDD
IO: 5x USB 3.0, 1x Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C), 1x SD Card Reader, 1x HDMI v1.4, 1x mini DP,
1x Mic In, 1x HiFi Headphone Out, 1x SPDIF Out, 1x Line In, 1x Line Out
Battery: 8-cell Li-Ion (75WHr)
Power: 2x 330W adapter