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MSI GT725-212US review: MSI GT725-212US

MSI GT725-212US

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR | Gaming | Metaverse technologies | Wearable tech | Tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
6 min read

To game well on a laptop isn't always a cheap endeavor--some might even call it a fool's way to part with his wallet. It can often seem like price is no issue for enthusiasts, but thankfully, some manufacturers are looking out for more affordable ways to get a superior gaming experience on the go. MSI's GT725-212us, the model at the top of the company's notebook gaming line, has a remarkably good feature package for its $1,699 price. A quad-core CPU, 512MB ATI graphics card, and a Blu-ray drive add up to, on paper, a machine that's a worthy alternative to our other favorite budget quad-core gaming system, Gateway's FX P-7805u.


MSI GT725-212US

The Good

Great gaming performance for the price; size and weight much lighter than comparable gaming laptops

The Bad

Built-in Turbo overclocking had no real impact on gameplay; Dolby 4.1 speakers a little underwhelming.

The Bottom Line

For a price below that of ultra hard-core machines, the MSI GT725-212us provides considerable gaming power, a 1080p 17-inch screen, and Blu-ray in a package that's relatively portable.

The GT-725 series has a stylish low-key design on the outside, highlighted by a black brushed-aluminum lid. Inside, the design gets a bit more garish: Ferrari-red trim and a shiny silver speaker grille above the keyboard make for a slightly dated red-black-and-silver look, but it's not terrible. The lid hinge is smooth and solid, and with the lid closed, the notebook feels beefy but not overweight, especially for a gaming laptop. A black-and-red touch control pad above the keyboard lights up when its media playback, Bluetooth, Webcam, and wireless modes are toggled.

The weight of this system was relatively light for a 17-inch gaming notebook at 7.68 pounds, especially when compared with gaming notebooks such as the Asus W90Vp-X1, which breaks the scales at over 13 pounds, or the Gateway FX P-7805u, which weighs 9.1 pounds. That's a real advantage if you plan to move this around regularly. At $1,699, our configuration, which included 4GB of DDR2 RAM and a 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive, compares very well with the Asus W90Vp-X1 at $2,199, or the Gateway FX P-7805u, which cost $1,499 but didn't include Blu-ray or 1080p resolution.

One of the GT-725's chief advertised features is Turbo overclocking, a one-button way to automatically accelerate the CPU speed by up to 15 percent. In addition to Turbo, an Eco touch-button above the keyboard switches between various energy-use modes, including Gaming, Movie, Presentation, Office, and a battery-saving option (called, confusingly, Turbo Battery). You could go through the various power menus in Windows and set these yourself, but it's handy to have some presets at your fingertips.

The 17-inch-wide LCD screen has a 1,920x1,200 native resolution, which is full HD compatible, perfect for Blu-ray Discs. Even better, a matte antiglare coating looks great when playing back movies and games. Because the resolution runs extremely fine at 1,920x1,200, you may want to adjust to a lower res to surf the Web or use office apps at more readable sizes. Unfortunately, Blu-ray playback took a while for us to set up on our unit, and Blu-ray software also requires updates in order to play more recently released films--the experience as of this moment isn't as pick-up-and-play as we'd like.

The built-in four speakers plus subwoofer are Dolby Home certified, but they don't pack quite as much boom or crispness for the size. Still, if you're serious about playing games or Blu-rays on this, you're probably going to invest in external speakers anyway.

We found nothing missing from the ports and connections, with everything from HDMI to mini-FireWire and eSATA all arrayed in easy access. The sound output runs 7.1 Dolby surround, and can be configured using all four audio input/output jacks. HDMI and VGA are in the back, and USB ports are arranged on both sides of the keyboard.

Intel's Q9000 Core 2 Quad processor is an impressive inclusion on this MSI, but not essential for gaming. Multicore processing is usually shown off most in multimedia multitasking. The 2.0GHz Q9000 performed in the middle of the pack in our multitasking test. In our Photoshop CS3 image-processing test the GT725-212us fell behind similar recent high-end laptops, but it's still more processing power than you'd need for most common tasks, such as Web-surfing, media playback, and editing video and images.

So, the burning question remained of how the GT725-212us, loaded with the ATI Mobility Radeon 4850, held up against powerhouses like our recent favorite, the Asus W90Vp-X1, when it came to gaming. Unreal Tournament 3 played at 1,280x768 at 159.2 fps, an extremely impressive feat. Only the Asus W90Vp-X1 performed better (and only by a hair), at 161.2 fps in overclocked mode--and that was a new high for CNET laptop performance. The Turbo Drive overclocking feature, which a variable acceleration of performance, only runs when plugged into AC power. Using Turbo, however, added no noticeable advantage in our benchmark gaming tests. While this came as a surprise, especially since the Asus W90Vp-X1 had a slight speed bump, 159.2 fps is still incredible performance--in fact, it's our chart-topper for nonoverclocked performance. We anecdotally tried a build of the upcoming Street Fighter 4 for PC, as well as Crysis and F.E.A.R.2, and all performed well enough to recommend this to any gamer.

The GT725-212us ran for 2 hours and 1 minute on our video playback battery drain test, using the included nine-cell battery. That's not a bad number at all for a desktop replacement with this much horsepower, and we wouldn't expect much more.

MSI backs the GT725-212us with a three-year parts-and-labor limited warranty for everything except the screen and battery, which are one year. An extended warranty for one or two more years can be purchased for $199 or $299, respectively, and that adds an expedited 5-business-day repair time instead of the standard 6-10. The user manual and driver downloads can be found on MSI's global Web site, along with a helpful glossary of tech terms. Calls to tech support require a toll call; lines are open Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT.

Find out more about how we test Windows laptops.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Unreal Tournament
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
1,280x800, 4X AA, 8X AF*  
1,440x900, 4X AA, 8X AF*  

Video playback battery-drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

System configurations:

MSI GT725-212US
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000; 4096MB DDR2 SDRAM 1066MHz; 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4850; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm

Toshiba Qosmio X305-Q725
Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 667MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTX; HDD #1: 64GB Toshiba SSD/ HDD #2: 320GB Hitachi 7,200rpm

Gateway P-7805u FX
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8400; 4,096MB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS; 320GB Western Digital 7,200rpm

Gateway P-7808u
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9000; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 9800M GTS; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm

Asus W90VP-X1
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9600; 6144MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz; 512MB Dual ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 X2; 320GB Seagate 7,200rpm


MSI GT725-212US

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 9Battery 7Support 6