MSI GE73 7RF VR Raider Gaming Laptop: Full, in-depth review

Back in black (and red)

MSI are a brand that’s been playing in the gaming and high-end enthusiast space for decades and one that doesn’t really need all that much of an introduction. The formula here isn't just about red neon aesthetics - it's also about top-of-the-line specs and feature sets that reflect the needs of their core audience. And if a savvy partnership is what it takes to achieve that, so be it.

They’re MSI. You may have heard of them.

The Pitch

Products like MSI’s new GE73 VR Raider gaming laptop build on that legacy nicely. By MSI’s reckoning, the GE73 VR Raider is more than just another gaming laptop. It’s “the” gaming laptop, promising a best-in-class experience on all the fronts.

What’s behind that promise? All the big names. An Intel CPU. An Nvidia graphics card. A SteelSeries mechanical keyboard. A Dynaudio speaker. Lastly, MSI’s own cooling solution and unique sense of sporty style to bring it all together.

The result: a gaming laptop that looks to leverage both superior specs and ferocious features, putting rivals to shame. The GE73 VR Raider might not be the most monstrous gaming notebook in MSI’s catalog but it’s a beastly one nevertheless.

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Specs

In terms of specs, the MSI GE73 VR Raider comes with a 17.3-inch FullHD Display (upgradable to UHD) with a 120Hz/3ms refresh-rate, a 7th-generation Intel Core i7 7700HQ processor, Nvidia GTX 1070 8GB GDDR5 graphics card, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and both 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD to keep things fresh.

In terms of ports, the GE73 VR Raider has two 3.5mm audio jacks, three USB ports and a single ethernet,  USB-C, DisplayPort and HDMI outputs. It’s also packing a SteelSeries per-key-RGB mechanical gaming keyboard and integrated Dynaudio speakers with support for Hi-Res audio - both of which can be customized using the various firmware tools that come preloaded on the PC.

Last but not least, you’ve got MSI’s own Cooler Boost 5 to keep things chugging along without a sweat.This too, can be customized to allow for some degree of under or overclocking.

Design

MSI have gone all on on a pretty angular design with the GE73. The marketing around the product tries to evoking the idea, or the least the imagery, of a high-end racing car. However, it feels like the resonance of this endeavor might vary from person to person. Still, squint and you can kind-of see it for yourself.

Even if racing cars aren’t your thing, it’s refreshing to have a gaming laptop draw from influences outside of the usual generic “glowy-metal-sci-fi-death-machine”.

Credit: MSI

The size of the screen takes an inevitable toll on the portability of the GE73, but it feels about as light as something with a screen this big could be. It isn’t as bulky as most gaming laptops, but it is wide enough to present some challenges when storing it away in a bag. Regardless, the form-factor feels pretty secondary to the performance here.

Not that that’s something worth holding against the GE73 VR Raider. With the specs in mind, it doesn’t feel any heavier than it needs to be. It’s not quite the kind of laptop you’d want to carry around everyday but more like one you’d want to bring with you for a weekend LAN party or keep at home as an alternative to a desktop.

Credit: MSI

It helps that the product’s exterior specs live up to their potential. In action, the 120Hz display looks as crisp as you’d expect (though sometimes a little dim) and the Dynaudio speakers do a great job of giving gaming experiences that extra “oomph”. The support for Hi-Res audio (and potentially 4K, if you pay for that UHD display) is also a nice bonus too.

The keyboard could stand to be a little more click-y but it's tactile enough for the most part. It doesn't quite match what you'll get out of a full-blown mechanicals but it's better than the mesh-based inputs you'll find in other gaming laptops.

Some laptops are often clearly designed as complementary products. They aren’t quite pitched as products that replace your existing home PC but instead ones that fit into the parts of your life that desktop can’t service. For better or worse, the MSI GE73 VR Raider is not one of those kinds of laptops.

It’s the kind of gaming laptop you buy if you want to do away with the hassle of setting up a big PC and monitor. Sometimes you just want a gaming computer that lets you set up and go in minutes. The GE73 VR Raider fits the mold nicely.

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Performance

In terms of performance, we can’t say we were disappointed with what the MSI GE73 VR Raider delivered. Again, it lived up to its specs. Modern games like Overwatch and Total Warhammer ran without a hitch pretty much no matter how high we cranked the settings.

Perhaps more importantly, this performance rarely - if ever - came with a cost when it came to heating. MSI’s Cooler Master 5 fan system did a fantastic job of dissipating pretty much any build up and rarely stole the show, sound-wise, from the laptop’s booming speaker set-up.

Credit: Ninja Theory

We actually used this PC for both our recent Absolver and Hellblade reviews - and both looked incredible with the grunt of the MSI GE73VR Raider behind them.

Compared to both the EVGA SC17 (which is a little more expensive) and the new Alienware 13 (which is a little less), the GE73 claimed the top spot in more than a few of our benchmarking tests.

Credit: Fergus Halliday | IDG

In practice, as well as theory, the idea that this laptop is ‘VR-Ready’ holds water. The performance you get out of the GE73 is exactly where it needs to be for what you’re paying. Like any laptop, that might diminish a little over time. However, for the now, there’s a lot to like about it.

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Battery

When it comes to battery life, the GE73 doesn't quite escape the gravity of the usual pitfalls found in gaming laptops. Without a nearby power source, you’ll only really get between 1 and 2 hours of use. As a rule of thumb, this is usually last just long enough for you to play a quick game of Overwatch but not long enough to really sink any significant amount of time into anything.

Credit: MSI

The Bottom Line

MSI GE73 VR Raider is a solid package, particularly if you’re behind the curve and looking to catch up. It’s got great specs and all the bells and whistles you want out of a gaming laptop. All told, it can run pretty much everything out at the moment without breaking too much of a sweat.

The GE73 VR Raider doesn’t really break away from the usual MSI formula but when the results are as good as they are, it’s hard to complain.