MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro ReviewManufacturer: MSI
UK price (as reviewed): £1,499.99 (inc VAT)
US price (as reviewed): $1,499.00 (ex Tax)
There was something of a revelation when we first heard about the latest laptops sporting Nvidia's Pascal architecture. In short, there are no M-series GPUs this time around for the simple reason that even Nvidia's top-end mainstream card - the GTX 1080, only had a TDP of 180W, falling to 150W for the GTX 1070 and a paltry 120W for the still respectfully powerful GTX 1060 (the Titan X leaps up to 250W but at $1,200, it's hardly considered mainstream).
What you will be seeing, then, are fully-fledged desktop Nvidia GPUs in the latest range of laptops, and that's rather exciting. Previously, if you went for a GTX 970M-based laptop, you could expect something in the region of GTX 960 (desktop) performance - in essence, just drop a level lower to convert from laptop to desktop performance, as the GPUs were cut back in terms of frequency or other features to reduce power.
Now, though, laptop manufacturers feel confident that their latest cooling tech can handle full-on desktop GPUs, even in laptops as small as the 14in MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro we're looking at today. Clearly, then, the hope is that at last, you'll see desktop performance in laptops. That might not quite materialise in the way we hope, though, for the simple reason that some small cutbacks have had to be made to reduce power consumption, even given Pascal's power efficiency. For instance, the GTX 1060 in the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro is clocked 100MHz lower than its desktop counterpart, with a noticeably slower boost clock too.
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With that out the way, let's take a look at the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro - a £1,500 pocket rocket that weighs just 1.6kg - that's about the same as one of Dell's super-light magnesium 7000-series Latitude business laptops. Despite this, a 61Wh battery is included that should mean a decent life away from the mains. With a depth of less than 25mm at its deepest point, the GS43VR Phantom Pro is extremely portable, and the 14in screen is still very useable - much more so than its 13in and 12in cousins, but it's less of a dead weight than a 15in model, albeit with less screen real estate.
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There's not too much pizazz in terms of lights and stickers - in fact it's a fairly minimalist chassis with a few red-tinged edges with a mix of brushed aluminium and plastic. The touchpad is large and responsive although if you're not a fan of the rocker-type pad and prefer physical buttons for your mouse controls, it's probably not for you. The surface has very low friction and it felt very solid too - no complaints here. The keyboard is typically small, as are all 14in laptop keyboards but the enter, space and shift keys are large enough not to cause typing headaches. In fact, typing for long periods was fairly pleasant, and while the chiclet keys are responsive with a fair amount of travel, they are a tad noisy. The keyboard sports red backlighting, although it's fairly subtle and not very visible outside of dimly lit rooms.
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It's certainly an attractive laptop, with cooling vents at the rear and sides as well as intakes underneath. The lid and hinges feel sturdy with only small amounts of flex, although the screen does have a fairly hefty bezel with an integrated HD webcam. There's no USB 3.1 support - instead, a USB 3-powered Type-C port is included along with a smattering of USB 3.0 and USB 2.0 ports, plus HDMI and mini-DisplayPort sockets, the latter being the only port on the rear of the device. The power, USB, SD card and audio ports are all located on the sides - probably due to the packed interior here catering for the cooling system, which you can see over the page.
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The specification, of course, includes a GTX 1060 with the full 6GB of GDDR5, plus an Intel Skylake Core i7-6700HQ quad-core, hyper-threaded CPU offering eight threads and 16GB of 2,400MHz DDR4. MSI has opted for a PCI-E M.2 interface and includes a 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD along with a 1TB hard disk. The screen is a 14in affair, with a non-glossy coating (there's no touch-enabling here). It's an IPS panel and our particular model offers a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, which is a sensible choice for gaming seeing as the GTX 1060 should offer silky smooth frame rates in all games. There are 4K versions available, though, but you'd likely have to dial down the settings to get playable frame rates in a number of games.
- CPU Intel Core i7-6700HQ (2.6GHz/ 3.5GHz turbo-boost)
- CPU cores Four physical (quad core) + Hyper-threading
- Memory 16GB (2 x 8GB) Kingston 2,400MHz DDR4
- Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB
- Storage 1 x 256GB Samsung SM951 SSD (OS), 1 x 1TB hard disk
- Chipset Intel H170
- Screen 14in non-glossy IPS, 1,920 x 1080
- Dimensions (mm) 345 x 245 x 23 (W x D x H)
- Networking 1 x Killer Gigabit LAN, Killer N1535 Combo
- Audio 8-channel ESS SABRE HiFi audio DAC, microphone, headphone, 2 x 2W speakers
- Keyboard backlighting Yes (red)
- Battery Li-Po 61Wh
- Webcam HD
- Weight 1.6kg (with battery)
- Operating system Windows 10 64-bit
- Ports 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, headphone, microphone
- Warranty 2 Year Collect & Return (1 Year Global)