Remember the 15.4-inch MSI Turbobook GX600 gaming laptop with the 'turbo' overclocking button? Well, the MSI GT725 is its faster, more intimidating relative. It too packs a turbo button, which can, according to MSI, make its already powerful quad-core CPU up to 20 per cent faster than it would be in a standard laptop. It's also very well-suited to gaming and has Blu-ray playback capability, meaning it could be the ideal desktop replacement.
The GT725 is available to buy now from Amazon.co.uk for around £1,200.
The GT725 is seriously ugly. MSI has taken what is a fairly inoffensive-looking laptop and ruined it by spraying its edges in red paint, creating an effect which, at best, is reminiscent of cheap red nail varnish. We presume MSI's logic is that buyers of powerful gaming hardware are drawn to bright colours. Perhaps nobody in its design team has noticed that the PlayStation 3 is black and the Xbox 360 is white.
Looks aside, MSI's done a fairly good job with the GT725's design. Its 395 by 35 by 278mm chassis is about as compact as 17-inch machines get, and it weighs just 3.2kg, so it's fairly easy to carry around. MSI tries to ram this point home by bundling the GT725 with a 'free' gaming rucksack. This, ironically, is more attractive than the laptop itself, so you needn't worry about beat-downs from the fashion police on your way to LAN parties.
Large gaming laptops tend to have great input-output connectivity, and the GT725 is no different. The left side is home to modem and Ethernet ports, two USB ports and a Blu-ray optical drive. The front edge has an infrared receiver, which lets you use third-party remote controls with the laptop. The right side gets the most loving, however. It packs two additional USBs (one of which doubles as an eSATA port), four-pin FireWire, ExpressCard/34, a four-in-one memory-card reader, and four separate audio jacks.
It's pretty hard to get the keyboard and mouse wrong on laptops of this kind, but MSI has tried its best to do just that. The keyboard itself is fine, and even includes a dedicated numerical keypad. However, the selector buttons aren't up to par. They're cut directly from the chassis in a sideways 'S' shape, where the semicircle sections of the S represent the buttons. It's a clever, and somewhat attractive, design, but each press causes your thumb to sink into the cut-away lines, which is quite an odd sensation. It's almost as if you're placing your digits directly into the chassis with each press, and that's unnerving. Thankfully, MSI has chucked in a 'free' 3200dpi USB gaming mouse.
Just above the keyboard, you'll find the GT725's crown jewel -- the turbo button. Hit this and the machine will, we're promised, get a 20 per cent boost in performance. To the left of this is the 'eco' button. Press this and the machine will cycle between five different operational modes: gaming, movie, presentation, office and turbo battery modes, each of which uses progressively less power. On either side of these, you'll find yet more touch-sensitive buttons for controlling playback of multimedia files; activating or deactivating the webcam, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi; or launching an application of your choice.
Much as unattractive people are forced to compensate for their facial shortcomings by having great personalities, the GT725 makes up for its horrid looks with some exciting components. Underneath its hideous facade is an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 quad-core CPU running at 2GHz. This works alongside a hugely generous 4GB of DDR2 memory, both of which provide the foundation for a machine that won't turn its nose up at any task -- big or small.
Games are the GT725's forte, so it's no surprise to find an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4850 graphics card nestling inside. It's by no means top of the graphics-card food chain -- that honour currently belongs to the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4870 X2, which packs twin graphics-processing units -- but the 4850 is no slouch. Although it's a single-GPU system, it'll more than hold its own against desktop gaming systems, whether it's gaming or high-definition video playback you desire.
The GT725's 17-inch screen is pretty well suited to just about anything. Not only does it have a matte finish, which dramatically reduces distracting reflections, but it also offers good image quality and a high 1,920x1,200-pixel resolution. This means there's plenty of real estate for positioning application windows, icons and so on, and also for watching movies in 1080p 'Full HD'. The only drawback is the fact that it has a 16:10 aspect ratio, so most movies have black bars at the top and bottom of the picture.
Storage is handled by an ample 500GB Western Digital Scorpio Blue hard drive. This provides plenty of room to stash your assorted files, and is also relatively quiet -- an ideal trait for a laptop. It also has Western Digital's ShockGuard technology. This parks the recording heads off the surface of the disk during spin up, spin down, and when the drive is switched off, ensuring improved long-term reliability and better shock tolerance when the laptop is in transit.
One of the GT725's most interesting features is an Optiarc BD-Rom BC-5500S Blu-ray drive. This allows you to watch Blu-ray movies directly on the laptop, but you can also pipe the video -- and audio -- over the machine's HDMI port to an external display. The drive will also burn DVD and CD discs, but be warned -- it's not able to write content to blank Blu-ray media.
The GT725 sports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networking, Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet. MSI also throws in a copy of Windows Vista Home Premium and a two-year collect-and-return warranty.
The GT725 refused to run our full PCMark05 and 3DMark06 benchmark tests, but we were able to test the speed of the CPU in isolation. In the CPU suite component of PCMark05, the Q9000 quad-core CPU romped its way to a score of 6,077 -- an impressive tally. We were, understandably, expecting big things with the turbo button pressed, but were disappointed to see a clock speed improvement of just 80MHz, which translated to a CPU suite test result of 6,313. That's certainly slightly faster, but to use the word 'turbo' is to overstate the case.
The GT725 isn't any good away from the mains. It lasted a paltry 38 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, which is designed to run the battery down as quickly as possible. It should last just over an hour with more sedate use, but we recommend keeping the power brick nearby just in case.
The MSI GT725 is a fast and well-equipped laptop, with a relatively low price tag. It's definitely worth considering if gaming or media playback is a priority, but there's no getting away from the fact its closest rivals, such as the Alienware M17, are more aesthetically pleasing.
Edited by Charles Kloet