Review MSI GT725 Gaming Notebook
MSI has recently lined up comparatively well in the mobile gaming sector. There are hardly any other manufacturers that offer such an extensive range of models, like MSI's GX- and GT-series. The GT725 thereby belongs to the best-performing laptops on offer. In the 17-inch format, equipped with ATI HD 4850 graphics and an Intel P9500 CPU overclockable up to almost 3 GHz, it makes the hearts of the gaming community beat faster.
MSI identifies the especially powerful laptop of its gaming class with the abbreviation GT. First and foremost graphics cards of class 1 of our comparison of mobile graphics cards come into play. We have already tested the GT 627 from this series, a compact 15.4" gamer with a Geforce 9800M GS graphics card.
The GX models are placed one performance class lower, yet they prove to be more compact and also cheaper than the stronger models. We've already reviewed the following: MSI GX600, GX620, GX400.
The appearance of the MSI GT 725 is without a doubt very evocative of the other models of the gaming sector of the Chinese laptop manufacturer. Above all responsible for this are the red lacquered elements on the base unit as well as the metal inserts above the keyboard behind which the loudspeakers are situated. Also the "touch control panel" placed here, illuminated by blue LEDs is also to be found in other models of the gaming series.
On the whole the design proves to be rather simple because of the successful surface design so the use of different materials and designs appears in no way boring and successfully conveys its designated intended use - computer games.
The workmanship is to be basically considered acceptable. Indeed, on closer inspection there are selective weaknesses to be found regarding dimensions of gaps and the paintwork. Considering the position of the laptop in price between 1100 and 1500 Euro however, the level of quality is okay. For a DTR the wobbly battery is rather hard to swallow, yet as long as the laptop is used in a stationary position, it shouldn't be annoying.
The upper side of the base unit performs well under pressure and hardly or respectively only minimally gives way. However the underside didn't perform quite so well, which actually allows partly clear distortions. The display lid offers excellent stability, as well as meeting the requirements of a stationary desktop replacement laptop. The hinges of the device don't really match the proportions of the laptop. They clearly seem too small and can clearly not prevent a seesawing of the display after an adjustment of the opening angle.
On the left lateral edge in the rear area you'll find two USB ports as well as connections for LAN and modem. In the front area the optical drive is placed. Left-handed people may be glad about this, but it could be reason for criticism for many right-handed people.
The right lateral edge offers USB, eSATA and the whole range of audio interfaces in the front area. Lastly, you may be happy especially in the cold seasons about the placement of the fan opening on this side.
Finally, on the rear you'll find an HDMI and a VGA port as well as the power connector for the power supply of the laptop. The battery in our test sample doesn't seem particularly elegant, which clearly projects from the rear.
The choice of interfaces is to be described as extensive on the whole, as there's everything you need on the laptop for comprehensive gaming use.
For gamers, apart from the "modestly" interesting 56k modem, the MSI GT 725 also offers a rather promising Gigabit Ethernet connection from Realtek as well as a wireless LAN module from Intel (WiFi Link 5100). Bluetooth also belongs to the basic equipment of the laptop.
Regarding guarantee MSI offers a basic 24 months. However MSI expressly points out that the possibility of a shorter or longer guarantee exists through the respective retailer. Also possible guarantee claims must be put in via "your trusted retailer".
To our disappointment the deployed keyboard also turned out again "typically MSI". This is caused by a layout that needs some getting used to with an FN key placed on the far left. Also the <> keys on the left alongside the keyboard were at first more than confusing.
The highlight of these anomalies is the single-spaced enter key (German layout!) as well as its overall small size. A blind touch with the little finger of the right hand on the supposed position of the enter key at the beginning mostly ends up on the key next to it and writing texts from time to time is destined to be very exhausting .
Luckily the GT725 is less interesting for those who write a lot. Also the single red button leaves no doubt about the main application of the laptop: gaming. Nevertheless, the position of the FN key could only be a certain adjustment for gamers.
The typing feel can be described as rather soft with a short stroke. Furthermore a clearly possible bending in the central keyboard area stood out in the test, which leads to a springy typing feel from energetic typing.
The offered touchpad shows pleasant surfaces and is a good size overall. Also both of the appropriate keys can be used flawlessly. On the whole the combination leaves hardly any cause for criticism.
This is indeed only partly the case for the touch-sensitive extra keys. Particular keys performed well in the test, whereas others needed some patience to achieve the desired effect. Luckily we set the volume switch to the most standard FN-Fx combination, which also presents a thoroughly good visualisation on the display.
Whatever model variant of the MSI GT725 you finally choose, the 17-inch WSXGA+ display with reflective glare surfaces is common to all systems. HD fans will eventually be rather disappointed, however the offered resolution should be okay for gamers, yet the powerful hardware components give in at an even higher resolution and higher detail levels.
Our measurements of display brightness reveal only barely pleasing values. The maximum display brightness can be made out in the middle lower measuring squares. At 167.4 cd/m² this is average at best. However it gets really bad when it comes to the illumination of the display. In both of the upper corners the maximum brightness falls to 113.3 cd/m². For this reason the illumination of the display (SEC4A47) reaches only 67.7%.
The image produced seems subjectively rather cool and blue-heavy. With a light background the overall lukewarm brightness of the display as well as the not fully homogeneous brightness distribution can be discerned.
Indeed the panel scores points when it comes to maximum possible contrast. With a particularly low black value of just 0.21 cd/m² the laptop reaches a maximum contrast ratio of 700:1, believe it or not.
The viewing angle stability can be described as sufficient in the horizontal field and rather short along the vertical field. Here colour changes and contrast loss are visible from minor departures from the ideal perpendicular viewing angle. We felt that the appearing reflections are particularly annoying. Even indoors with normal surrounding brightness and especially with dark picture content you may have to reckon with unpleasant reflections. In one or the other shooters we had to shade the room during the day in order to really stay competitive…
Currently a range of models are to be found with the MSI GT 725 identification, which almost exclusively differentiate themselves through the deployed CPU. In the current European region of available models there are three processors to choose from: an Intel P8600 CPU as the cheapest variant, a P9500 for a higher performance standard, as well as a current Q9000 quad-core CPU from Intel in the most expensive models. The price difference can already add up to several hundred Euro.
One would anticipate that expensive doesn't necessarily mean more powerful. In particular this concerns the current quad-core chips from Intel, specifically the Q9000 CPU available for the GT 725. Whilst the chip has four cores and can therefore execute four tasks at the same time without any delay, indeed the programming must be implemented to take advantage of this. Unfortunately most current programs, in particular games, only inadequately support quad-cores, so that this stays behind the higher-clocked dual-cores in terms of performance. Of course this is bad for the Q9000 CPU at 2GHz, which already gets proper competition from the P8600 CPU at 2.4 GHz. You can read more about this in our special test of mobile quad-core CPUs.
With the P9500 CPU in our test sample it was also probably an interesting solution for gamers. With a clock speed of 2x 2.53 GHz and 6MB L2 cache with a TDP value of just 25W the chip seems optimal for use in powerful laptops. MSI takes advantage of the fact that Megahertz are still currently responsible for good performance and offers, just like in the other gaming models, a turbo function which overclocks the CPU at the push of a button. The P9500 CPU is in the respect particularly generous and can therefore be raised to an outstanding 2.93 GHz, thus in the region of Intel Extreme CPUs, which are indeed much more expensive than the P9500. When it comes to the guarantee you shouldn't be scared, as it is actually a feature that's officially provided by the manufacturer and is therefore fully subject to warranty claims.
MSI has also made an interesting choice when it comes to graphics card. In all of the models available an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4850 graphics card with 512MB GDDR3 memory comes into play. According to our comparison of mobile graphics cards the graphics chip is positioned in class 1 along with other high-performance graphics cards and is ranked on the level of a Nvidia 9800M GTX or respectively a GTX 260M graphics card, where the performance in individual benchmarks and games deviates strongly.
In the 3DMark 2006 benchmark test carried out, our test configuration reached approximately 9784 points and is positioned just behind the mySN XMG5 with Geforce 260M GTX graphics, indeed still clearly ahead of the 9800M GS graphics card in the in-house MSI GT627.
Whether this is indeed not necessarily a reference value for the practical performance in individual games, read in the following chapter: gaming performance.
All models are the same when it comes to the configuration of hard drive and main memory. 4GB of DDR2 memory are always built-in, split up between two sticks of memory (2x 2048GB). As Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit is deployed on all models, in the end only around 3GB of RAM is available.
With a gross capacity of 500 GB you will obviously above all pay attention to the capacity. Anyhow the hard disk had good results in the HDTune benchmark test with transfer rates of around 61 MB/sec as well as an access time of 17.2 milliseconds. The burst rate of the HDD turned out strikingly high.
|3DMark 05 Standard||16496 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||9784 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||5500 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||7328 points|
|PCMark Vantage Result||4670 points|
Now to a particularly interesting chapter, it's about checking the gaming capability of the GT 725 at hand and assessing the laptop compared with other gaming laptops. All benchmarks were carried out with the turbo function on, except those specifically mentioned. The results from the turbo mode deactivated mostly stayed just below those of the overclocked CPU.
Call of Duty 4
The shooter Call of Duty - Modern Warfare wasn't really a challenge. Even at default high graphic details (1280x1024, 4xAA, high details) the MSI GT 725 achieved an average of 64.5 fps. Subjectively the laptop remained in a constantly fluid area. In direct comparison to the mySN XMG5 laptop, equipped with GTX 260M graphics from Nvidia, the GT 725 keeps up very well. On average the achieved fps values turned out almost identically.
Also GRID didn't cause any major problems for our test configuration. The observed frame rate always stayed around 60 fps at high details (1280x1024, 2xXMSAA, all on/high). The results for the system with GTX 260M graphics were almost identical.
The fps progression was rather inconsistent for the current horror-shooter FEAR2. At high graphic details (1280x1024, 4xAA, all on/high) the refresh rate consistently fell momentarily under 30 fps, which made short dropouts noticeable. Indeed it's interesting that the GT 725 can actually just overtake the mySN XMG5 here on average.
World in Conflict
The real-time strategy game provided a good average frame rate of 46 fps just like its predecessors even at high graphics details (1024x768, DX10, high, 2xAA, 2xAF). Indeed it was striking that on WiC, quite differently to further tested games, deactivating the turbo function really seriously affected the results. With the normally clocked P9500 CPU the laptop only provided 28 fps at the same settings.
With the integrated benchmarks we also checked the performance of the MSI GT725 on the especially resource-heavy GTA IV. On middle presets the laptop even reached a good 47.07 fps on average. Also subjectively the game was nicely playable at these settings.
Increasing to high texture quality indeed didn't work, as GTA doesn't allow these settings with just 512MB of video memory available.
Also this current title was played with ease by the GT725. At high graphic details (1024x768, DX10, high settings) the benchmark test integrated into the game provided a good result of an average of 50.08 fps.
We observed good results with the MSI GT725 with regard to system noise. When idle or with low office load respectively the powerful gamer stayed pleasantly quiet with a system noise of around 32.5 dB(A). The device in this state can be described as audible but not disturbing.
Under load of all components and with the turbo function on we could elicit a maximum of 44.6 dB(A). In practical gaming use this is indeed reduced to an audible 39.6 dB(A). Given the available power reserves, this is an extremely positive result.
32.5 / 32.5 / 32.5 dB(A)
||36.8 / dB(A)|
||39.6 / 44.6 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
In the stress test, so the load of all components for several hours, the notebook warmed up on its upper side and underside thoroughly remarkably. In the area of the keyboard it got up to a maximum of 46.1 °C. On the underside the infrared thermometer went quite a bit higher. Here the recorded peak reached a proud 56.7 °C.
The heating up of the graphics chip turned out surprisingly high. In the Furmark benchmark test the ATI HD4850 graphics card reached peak values of up to 98°C. For this reason this indeed lies inside the specifications, yet the cooling system certainly doesn't have excessively large reserves to offer…
For use on a fixed surface this is no problem. You really shouldn't fulfil the idea of using the laptop on the thighs for gaming, all the more so as the overall weight of around 3.5 Kg doesn't make it any more pleasant.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 46.1 °C / 115 F, compared to the average of 39.6 °C / 103 F, ranging from 21.6 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 56.7 °C / 134 F, compared to the average of 42.2 °C / 108 F
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are reaching skin temperature as a maximum (33.3 °C / 91.9 F) and are therefore not hot.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.8 °C / 83.8 F (-4.5 °C / -8.1 F).
The 4.1 channel speaker system as advertised by MSI with Dolby certification had a basically acceptable tone. Certainly this seemed not quite well-balanced subjectively and not 100% clean at maximum volume. Thanks to the successful positioning of the individual speakers the tone can be described as very present and provided a particularly good atmosphere in games.
Our test sample was equipped with a large 84 WH lithium-ion battery. This projected outwards from the rear of the case as already described. With an overall weight of around 3.5 Kg the MSI GT 725 is indeed already considerably heavier than the 15-inch multimedia class, compared to other 17-inch models the laptop isn't bad. For this reason we can envisage limited mobile use of the gaming laptop.
The calculation of the maximum battery life in the BatteryEater Readers Test (min. brightness, energy-saving profile, WLAN & BT off) was 188 minutes. Under load with maximum brightness and WLAN/BT on the battery only rushed through 70 minutes.
Certainly the practical tests turned out acceptably, for example the WLAN surfing mode in energy-saving mode. At maximum display brightness the MSI GT 725 rushed through a good 170 minutes, so short of three hours.
The battery capacity should suffice also for DVD playback. At maximum display brightness we recorded a battery life of 130 minutes.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0.3 Watt|
|Idle|| 31.4 / 37.2 / 39.6 Watt|
90.3 / 111.9 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max:
Just like the already tested GT 627 we could also deliver an overall good image of the larger GT 725. Regarding the case the cost pressure is indeed sometimes clearly noticeable, but in a rather less mobile DTR laptop this should lead to no major problems.
The positioning of the individual connections is more likely a point of criticism, which a large number of users could relate to, above all if they plan comprehensive occupation of the offered ports.
We don't understand the offered keyboard as much. The layout makes it tiresome to find one's way on the keys, especially writing up texts which proves to be rather problematic. Gamers will rather turn a blind eye at the strongly downsized enter key, than for example the placement of the FN key in the usual position of the CTRL key.
Regarding resolution you should find the offered WSXGA+ format to suffice. Indeed it's a shame that the maximum brightness of the display turns out to be rather below average. Thus also indoors it leads to intensified, unpleasant reflections.
The price/performance ratio of the GT 725 from MSI can be considered confidently as very good. The overclockable P9500 CPU from Intel (2.9 GHz!) brings downright good performance data in combination with the Mobility Radeon HD 4850 from ATI, which also allows for playing current titles at high graphic details.
Whilst MSI has achieved making the laptop pleasantly quiet when idle and in office use, the performance capacity can be thoroughly seen in the observed surface heating. Peak temperatures of up to 57°C are to be put up with on the GT725.
Finally the laptop, equipped with a battery life of just short of 3 hours in WLAN use, has a somewhat limited mobile use. Also the weight of around 3.5 kg should allow this to a certain degree.
Regarding the attractive price and the good gaming performance the MSI GT 725 can thoroughly be treated as a tip for gamers.