If you're after a gaming laptop, MSI is usually a good company to check out, as its machines tend to offer a lot for the money. Unfortunately this wasn't so much the case with the GT740, which was let down by garish looks and underpowered graphics, so let's see how the new GX740-061UK fares.
Sadly, the chassis hasn't changed at all for this latest 17in model, so it remains a somewhat unattractive machine (unless you're a fan of Fisher Price, in which case a gaming laptop probably isn't the right toy for you). Connectivity also remains identical while the processor is now a Core i5 instead of the previous model's Core i7. So why is this machine significantly better than its predecessor? In one word: graphics. Rather than the underpowered and heavily outdated Nvidia 200-series that new gaming laptops still occasionally come out with, it has an AMD Radeon HD5870 with 1GB of dedicated DDR5 RAM. While this mobile GPU doesn't come close to the performance of its desktop counterpart, it is still one of the best-performing cards for gaming on the go, supporting DX11 and even giving playable frame rates in Crysis at high detail (if you go easy on the resolution).
Nor is the CPU too much of a compromise. Compared to its predecessor's quad core Core i7 720QM (which could run at a turbo-boosted maximum of 2.8GHz), the dual core Core i5 430M, with its maximum 2.53GHz speed, might seem a little inadequate. But keeping in mind that most games don't use more than two cores and the graphics card is more likely to be the bottleneck, MSI has made a sensible choice here. This is especially true when you consider the GX740's price: at well under £900, it's the cheapest laptop we've looked at that's still truly worthy of the title of 'gaming machine'.
The rest of the specifications are also well up to a competent supporting cast. 4GB of DDR3 RAM is pretty much standard and you get a generous 500GB hard drive, though it's of the slower 5,400rpm variety (unless you're lucky enough to live in the US, where you'll get a 7,200rpm drive).
As already mentioned, connectivity is identical to the GT470, so you get a comprehensive selection. Along the right you'll find a memory card reader that handles SD/HC, xD and MMC, a 54mm ExpressCard slot, one mini FireWire port and two USB 2.0 ports, one of which doubles as an eSATA connector. Here you'll also find the rather rare option of analogue 8-channel surround sound outputs courtesy of no less than four 3.5mm jacks. This is a great feature for those wanting to hook up compatible headphones or external 7.1 speakers that don't have a dedicated decoder.
Around the back we have VGA and HDMI for video, while the left houses a DVD-rewriter (another price concession compared to its predecessor, which had a Blu-ray drive) and further two USB 2.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port and one for an old-fashioned V92 modem. The only absentee here is unsurprisingly USB 3.0, but it can be added using the GX470's ExpressCard slot.