What on Earth is going on here? A gaming laptop available for under £900? My, how times change. This is the MSI GX740, a 17.3-inch behemoth that wants to be our gaming buddy. But will we be granting this metal monolith a ticket aboard our friend ship?
Rad or bad?
Visually, this laptop couldn't look more like a gaming machine. By this we mean it either looks totally awesome, or utterly hideous, depending on how you feel about things like macros, cooldowns and twitch responses. This is an extremely similar body to the earlier , mind you, so it's hardly a cutting-edge chassis.
A sultry, brushed aluminium effect on the lid belies the bright scarlet trim that adorns this laptop's chassis. On the wrist rest, you'll find more black and red brushed aluminium styling, and above the keyboard a metallic grille, with an island of touch-sensitive icons. The interior of the laptop doesn't pick up too many fingerprints, but the same can't be said for the lid -- perfect for bored forensic investigators, not so great for anyone else.
Around the edges of this laptop you'll find an Ethernet port, DVD optical drive, three USB ports, an eSATA/USB port, VGA and HDMI outputs, an ExpressCard slot, a modem port, multi-format card reader, four 3.5mm audio ports for headphones and a mic, and finally, a firewire port. Sitting pretty atop the GX740's display, you'll also find a 2-megapixel webcam. So it's tidy connectivity all round, then.
Even the keyboard is designed to pandeer to gamers, with a futuristic angular font adorning each key, and red highlights over the WASD keys, just in case you weren't clear which ones were most important.
Hip to be square
Your eyes won't linger too long on the keyboard, because they'll quickly be drawn to the GX740's display. This is a 17-inch affair with a 1680x1050-pixel resolution. That's quite unusual, and makes for a taller, more squarish display than we're used to seeing. We're not complaining, though -- we think it makes for a really immersive display, especially for gaming. If you're watching widescreen movies, be prepared for some black letterbox action above and below the picture.
The display is extremely bright and vivid, with deep blues and bright colours rendered with a very pleasing intensity. This makes it perfect for watching movies or getting down to some eye-scorching gaming.
A final note on the display -- both the horizontal and vertical viewing angles are decently wide, so you'll be able to crowd a gang of your friends around to admire your n00b-pwning abilities.
We don't normally expect much from laptop speakers in terms of sound quality. However, MSI is clearly keen to deliver something a little special in terms of this laptop's noise-making nous. There are four speakers in total, plus a subwoofer on the laptop's underside. After cranking up some tunes, we don't think these speakers are any sort of substitute for a decent set of headphones or laptop speakers, but they're a darn sight better than the usual tinny rubbish.
Before we get into the GX740's performance, there are a few design issues that jump out at us straight away. Firstly, MSI has placed a 'Fn' function key in the very bottom-left of the keyboard. That's normally where you'd find the Ctrl key, which is pretty crucial in most PC games. Our hardened, strong-muscle-memory gamer fingers kept jumping instinctively to this spot. Buy this laptop, and you'll have to adjust to stretching your pinky finger to a different location on the keyboard.