​MSI GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro full review

Is MSI's jack-of-all-trades portable gaming laptop worth buying?

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MSI GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro
  • MSI GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro
  • MSI GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro
  • MSI GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro
  • Expert Rating

    3.75 / 5

Pros

  • Decent combo of size and power

Cons

  • An expensive compromise

Bottom Line

This gaming laptop from MSI is much smaller than most of the range's other models, but it's still a jack of all trades and master of none.

Would you buy this?

We've seen a great many MSI Gaming laptops over the past months. There's a flavour for everyone, whether it’s a 120Hz screen, a desktop-style mechanical keyboard, a water-cooled chassis or SLI graphics. Some of them are the size of a briefcase.

So we're happy to see the GS43VR 7RE Phantom Pro appear with far more-portable size. But does the compromise in bulk equate to a a compromise in performance?

Key Specs

14-inch 1080 x 1920 IPS non-touchscreen LCD, 2.8-3.8GHz Intel Core i7 7700HQ, 256GB NvME hard drive, 1TB mechanical hard disk, 16GB RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060; 802.11AC WiFi; 61Wh battery. 1.8KG

Ports

Left: Gigabit LAN, USB 3.1 SD Card slot, 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks.
Rear: Micro HDMI
Right: USB-C, USB 3.1 VR-read HDMI port

Design

The plastic lid and chassis are reasonably sturdy and have an effective brushed-metal-like black finish. There are some nice, contoured design flourishes on the lid and this with the dragon logo and MSI brand name all look rather classy.

Once open the red-back-lit keyboard and trackpad greet you (you can switch the intensity to two levels or off) and the triangular power button adds another design flourish.

It all looks very good and classy although, for some reason, the status lights at the front remind us of the chunky old laptops of yesteryear and spoil the lines a bit. Also note that it's quite a fingerprint magnet.

The 14-inch screen is Full HD instead of UHD. This is probably sensible considering the built-in GTX 1060 graphics which would struggle to play most new games at higher resolutions. We didn’t miss not having a high-res screen.

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However, the Steel Series Scrabble Tile keyboard is very comfortable to type on and we found it ourselves making few mistakes – save for accidentally clipping the Caps Lock key. The weight is just right for lengthy typing sessions and gaming alike. We’d have liked to seen full-size arrow keys though – there’s certainly enough space. The mouse pad is very smooth and has a nicely-weighted click – it's not too much effort to click.

The Dragon Centre software allows you to turn the Windows Key off so you don't hit it accidentally when gaming. However, we couldn't find a quick setting to do the same to the mousepad, which would be even more useful.

Other features

The Dragon Centre app provides quick access to various specialist apps and settings. Included are Nahimic Audio settings and the ability to turn on VR using the HDMI ports. More interestingly there are settings that instantly overclock or underclock the system and provide different amounts of fan cooling. Fans rarely span up but under massive loads and in a hot environment they can get noisy - but that will rarely be an issue. Most of the time it's silent.

Performance

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The processor is a top-of-the-line, 7th Generation, Intel mobile Core i7 7700HQ which has a base frequency of 2.8GHz and a Turbo speed of 3.8GHz. In Eco Mode the laptop clocked down to around the 800-1,100MHz range but in Turbo it was constantly around the 3.8GHz mark. You can push things further with Dragon Centre if you're willing to suffer fan noise.

We ran PC Mark at Turbo settings and achieved a score of 3,512. That’s a respectable score and not light years behind the PC World Test Rig’s 4,040. However, it’s not quite up there with the MSI GT72RE 7RE Dominator Pro which has much beefier graphics power (and much bulkier chassis) which scored 4,174.

In 3D Mark Time Spy it scored 3,713 at default settings and 3,781 in Turbo mode. That’s a long way behind both our test rig and SLI-enabled siblings but the difficult test still ran smoothly – there’s gaming potential here. The lack of 4K screen mean it will be able to breeze through most games at Full HD.

Next: Battery Life and Conclusion

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