The GX723 uses the same chassis as the gaudy GT725, but it's nowhere near as unattractive as its sibling. Whereas the GT725 uses cheap-looking splashes of red to complement the brushed-metal wrist rest and the metallic, cheese-grater-like area above the keyboard, the GX723 relies on a less garish blue finish. As a result, it's easier on the eye.
The blue area above the keyboard frames a variety of media shortcut buttons, as well as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and webcam toggle switches. You also get a pair of buttons labelled 'eco' and 'turbo' in the centre. The first of these cycles through various display modes, optimising the brightness for watching films, showing presentations and so on, while the latter overclocks the CPU.
The GX723 is ostensibly a desktop-replacement laptop, so you'll need to be a regular in the gym if you intend to carry its 3.2kg, 395 by 27 by 278mm chassis for long distances. Should you need to ferry it to and fro, MSI bundles a fetching red rucksack that will make you the envy of the LAN party fraternity.
Once you get to your location, you'll find the GX723 easy to connect to surrounding devices. The HDMI port -- sensibly positioned at the rear, adjacent to a D-Sub VGA video output -- allows you to connect the laptop to a television, monitor or projector, while the four USB ports, memory card reader, mini-FireWire, and quad audio jacks cement its status as a machine that can replace your bulky home computer.
One stumbling point is the GX723's odd keyboard. MSI has shoehorned a dedicated numerical keypad into the right-hand side, and some of the major keys, including return, the cursor keys and the right shift key, have been made smaller to accommodate this. As we found with the keys on the GT725, these buttons are a constant cause of typographical errors -- an almost unforgivable trait in a desktop-replacement laptop.
The GX723 trades the quad-core Intel chip in the GT725 for a slightly more sedate, but still potent, Core 2 Duo P8600, alongside 4GB of RAM. The GX723's aforementioned turbo button can overclock the Intel chip by a fairly significant amount, although the actual figure will vary from machine to machine.
The GX723 ships with a gaming-capable, although ultimately middle-of-the-road, Nvidia GeForce GT 130M GPU, packing 512MB of DDR3 memory. The 17-inch display, to which it is attached, is fairly average, too. The general picture quality is good, but it's slightly too reflective and not quite bright enough in our opinion, meaning you may struggle to see what's going on in brightly lit rooms or outdoors. By the same token, its 1,680x1,050-pixel resolution is adequate, although media tarts will mourn the absence of a 1,920x1,080-pixel (or higher) panel.
Should the GX723's resolution prove inadequate, it's possible to output the video signal to an external display via the HDMI or D-Sub VGA ports at the rear. The HDMI port proves particularly convenient, as it feeds video and audio signals simultaneously over a single cable, eliminating the need to use the 7.1-channel audio ports at the right side of the laptop. The front-mounted infrared port means you can make use of a remote control, although you'll need to buy one from a third party.
We can't particularly recommend using the speakers built into the laptop. It has five separate speakers, including a so-called subwoofer underneath, but these are no substitute for a set of even very basic external speakers.
The 500GB hard drive in the GX723 is the bare minimum we'd expect from a laptop of this ilk. The drive is sensibly split across two sections -- a 44GB partition containing the Windows Vista Home operating system, and a second, larger partition designed to house your assorted applications and data files.
The GX723's CPU is no slouch. We've used the 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo P8600 countless times and it has served us well in a variety of machines, scoring in excess of 5,000 in the PCMark05 benchmark test. In the GX723, however, the CPU ran at an inexplicably low 1.6GHz. As a result, it scored a rubbish 2,784 in standard mode, and just 3,228 with the turbo feature enabled.
Graphics performance was lacklustre, too. With the turbo feature disabled, the laptop recorded a 3DMark06 score of 3,724. With turbo enabled, it scored 4,216. Games are certainly playable, particularly in turbo mode, but calling the GX723 a gaming laptop would be an overstatement.
Battery life wasn't particularly impressive. The GX723 lasted just 1 hour and 13 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test, but that's hardly surprising, given that the laptop isn't intended to stray too far from a power supply.
The MSI GX725 is a pretty average piece of kit. It has run-of-the-mill looks, mediocre performance and so-so features. Its instant overclocking feature is a good idea in principle, but, in reality, you'll be better off with rivals such as the Dell Studio XPS 16.
Edited by Charles Kloet