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As already mentioned, thanks to its high clock speed the MSI GX740's Core i5 puts in quite an impressive performance, constantly nipping at the heels of the Asus G73Jh which is equipped with a Core i7 and 8GB of RAM.
Though the GT740 is similarly equipped in the CPU department, its 32-bit OS doesn't let it use its full 4GB of memory. Combined with its weaker graphics this means it lags the other machines significantly.
In terms of gaming, the G73Jh already showed off what the Mobility Radeon HD5870 can do, and this MSI confirms it as one of the performance leaders in its sector. Aside from Crysis which we run at 720p, we don't give you comparative graphs as the GX470's lower 1,680 x 1,050 screen resolution (compared to the 1,920 x 1,080 of rivals like the G73Jh) would skew things in its favour. DirectX 11 title Stalker: Call of Pripyat presented no problem, returning a smooth 46.35 frames per second (fps) average at Ultra detail. Classic favourite Call of Duty 4 also ran very smoothly at 84fps with everything turned up to maximum and 2xAA enabled.
Crysis is rather getting on these days, which makes it all the more embarrassing that we haven't had a gaming laptop through the office yet that can handle it at full tilt. However, at least the 5870 will let you play it, and knocking the resolution down to 1,280 x 720 on High Detail resulted in a silky 33.3fps average, with minimum frame rate at 25fps. Again the Asus edges ahead as Crysis will happily utilize a third processor core and likes its RAM, but considering the GX740 is half the G73Jh's price, that they perform almost at the same level in graphically intense titles is very impressive indeed.
However, one area where this MSI does not succeed is with battery life. Utilizing a smaller battery than its GT740 predecessor yet with a more power hungry graphics card doesn't do the machine any favours away from a socket, and it failed the Productivity test altogether. During DVD playback it managed just over 64 minutes, meaning you can't even watch your average film on this laptop. In this regard it's practically a 'portable desktop'. One other issue caused by the more powerful graphics is that the GX is noisier than the GT, with its cooling kicking into overdrive at regular intervals. It's not particularly annoying while gaming, but does get on the nerves during quieter activities.
MSI has simply focused on spending the money where it's most needed in a gaming laptop: graphics. In going for a mainstream, dual-core CPU and not including a Blu-ray drive, MSI has made sensible compromises to make this Radeon 5870-equipped laptop one of the best value portable gaming machines on the market – in fact, we wish we could give it an 11 for value.
Just to put into perspective what a steal this £875 machine is, consider that the Alienware M17x with nearly equivalent specs (you get a faster hard drive but lower resolution screen) costs a whopping £1,700! A backlit keyboard/touchpad, attractive and nicely-lit chassis, better support and some decent extras certainly aren't worth a price difference of more than £800.
A fairer comparison is to the £1,650 Asus G73Jh, which is quieter and far better-looking. But though it's good value, you do pay for the 8GB of RAM, twin hard drives and other high-end touches – which don't have a huge impact on the majority of games.
MSI provides an awesome specification at an awesome price in an outdated chassis. If you're willing to put up with its somewhat garish looks, terrible battery life and a few other foibles, nothing for even close to the same money can touch this GX740 laptop when it comes to sheer gaming performance.