So far we’re impressed by both the specifications and connectivity of the GX740, but a lot of our goodwill is lost due to the frankly cheap-looking design that MSI has employed on its gaming laptops for a while now. The largely black machine sports bright red plastic accents, which really don’t do its overall image any favours. Nor is it helped by a blue-backlit power button that’s constantly lit and clashes badly with all that red.
It’s a real pity as there are some stylish touches, including a brushed black aluminium lid and palm-rest, which make the GX740 far more durable and fingerprint proof than your average glossy plastic affair. Build quality is also generally good, though with some exceptions as the keyboard and speaker grill above it feel cheap and relatively fragile. Again, it detracts from what is otherwise a rock-solid machine.
A range of touch-sensitive, blue-backlit controls can be found in the speaker grill, and while they might look cheap they work well. Media playback controls, a webcam app launcher, and separate Bluetooth and Wi-Fi switches are joined by a handy user-defined button that can launch any application or game you wish.
Unfortunately the keyboard layout is yet another thing that remains unchanged from the GT740. This means it suffers from a Function key that’s to the outside of Ctrl, making shortcuts a pain, and a small Enter key. On the positives side, key feedback is still really good, with a decent amount of travel and positive click, though we didn’t find them quite as firm as on the GT470. Also, one annoyance we didn’t note before was that when typing, hitting the space-bar can be difficult due to its pressed state being ever so slightly lower than the palm-rest, with very little space in between.
Though it doesn’t support multi-touch, in every other regard the touchpad is great. It’s a decent size, clearly delineated, and features a surface that’s smooth and pleasant. Its buttons are etched out of the metal of the palm-rest – one of this laptop’s nicer design touches.
Getting onto the screen, it’s the same sharp, 1,680 x 1,050, 17in display that impressed us previously. It’s not Full HD so 1080p material won’t be shown off in every pixel of detail, but on a screen this size you’re unlikely to notice the difference. You do lose our in terms of desktop real estate but again it still feels adequate. Also the lower resolution means games will run faster at the display’s native resolution.
Tell-tale signs of inferior displays, such as backlight bleed, uneven light distribution and banding, are mostly absent here. Horizontal viewing angles are good, though as usual vertical ones leave a lot to be desired. The screen’s glossy coating does cause annoying reflections when ambient lighting is present, but it also enhances perceived contrast and makes colours look punchier.
Speaking of contrast, you get a fair amount of dark detailing, albeit (inevitably on a TN-based panel) at the cost of white differentiation. All-in it’s a decent gaming panel, especially as there are no problems such as ghosting.
It’s matched by speakers that are above average, one area where MSI seems to have made a bit of an upgrade. While not quite as roomy as its four speakers and built-in sub would suggest, the sound-stage is nonetheless wider than all but its best competitors, with relatively rich bass and detailed if not always crisp highs. Our only other complaint is some very slight distortion at their highest volume. It can’t match up to the likes of the Toshiba Qosmio X500-10T, but headphones are not essential.