• Justin-Rey

Long-term Review: Intel 7700HQ and GTX 1060, featuring the MSI GS43VR 7RE

TLDR: This CPU/GPU duo will provide plenty of performance for years to come!

Laptops have always been a compromise between portability and performance. Gaming laptops are usually larger and heavier to accommodate more powerful parts while productivity laptops are smaller and lighter but aren’t as capable to do more intensive tasks such as video production and gaming. We’re now at a point where we don’t have to choose between power and portability. The latest laptops are both thin, light, and powerful. You can have your cake and eat it too.


I’m a firm believer in paying a bit more for a product that will last longer. Most buyers look at the price of a laptop and base their purchase on that number. While that may satisfy the buyer for the immediate future, those laptops would quickly become obsolete and may not perform as well for future applications or games. In this review, we’ll be taking a look at the MSI GS43VR 7RE with a focus on how its components perform over a year later and give my opinion on last generations laptops for future use.


Without further ado, here’s my long-term review of the MSI GS43VR 7RE.


Stock specs

  • 14-Inch 60Hz IPS-Level Screen

  • Intel i7 7700HQ

  • Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB

  • 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM (Dual Channel)

  • 128GB SSD

  • 1TB 7200RPM HDD

As of this writing, the new specs are:

  • 14-Inch 60Hz IPS-Level Screen (Custom Calibrated via XRite ColorMunki @30% brightness)

  • Intel i7 7700HQ (Repasted with Kryonaut, and undervolted)

  • Nvidia GTX 1060 6GB (Repasted with Kryonaut, undervolted, and overclocked)

  • 16GB DDR4 2400MHz RAM (Dual Channel)

  • 1TB Samsung 960 Evo NVME

  • 1TB Samsung 850 Evo SSD


Build

Laptop build quality has improved with each generation and this laptop is no exception. The laptop has held up well through the past year and a half, looking almost as if I just unboxed it. The entire shell is made of plastic but does have a brushed aluminum finished to give it a polished look. Although it’s been moved and packed constantly, it still feels fairly sturdy with a few very faint scratches on the shell which are only noticeable under certain lighting conditions. The screen is still fairly bright with no issues to the backlighting.


The keyboard still looks and feels brand new but that could be from the keyboard skin I installed within the first month (highly recommend them BTW, they reduce noise and wear/tear). The only item that is showing signs of wear is the touchpad. The red accents are nice and shiny but the matte finish is gone at the center of the touchpad, replaced by a glass-like shine with minor scratches. My finger tends to grip more than glide when using it now, but it’s honestly not a big deal.

Ports on the laptop were enough more the majority of my use. They include the following:

  • 2x USB 3.0

  • HDMI

  • Display Port

  • Thunderbolt 3/USB-C

  • Full-size SD card reader

  • Headphone and mic jack

While on the go, I only need 2 USB ports for an external mouse and headset. At home, I required 3 USB ports for mouse, keyboard, and headset so I purchased a USB hub. I rarely used the Ethernet, HDMI, and DP ports but they came in handy when they were needed. The SD reader is VERY SLOW when transferring large files, such as 4k video. It did come in handy when I didn’t have a USB SD card reader available.


The headphone and mic jacks were surprisingly good. Using Sennheiser HD598’s (50-Ohm cans) and the Antlion Modmic, they provided enough power at a high enough volume (70%) without any white noise or static. Rounding off audio, I thought the built in speakers were OK. They lacked bass but are honestly good enough for general media use. They were loud enough to fill a bedroom with music and I still use them when I watch videos online.

For a 14 inch thin and light gaming notebook, it comes packed with features and ports that many laptops at this size and price point do not offer. My only gripe is the lack of a 3rd USB port but that’s why hubs were created. Overall, excellent job by MSI.



Setup

I hate bloatware. As soon as I turned on the laptop, I immediately started removing anything I deemed as bloatware. Some exclusive software that MSI preinstalls in the laptop include Dragon Center, Nahimic Audio, and True Color. Dragon Center is actually a useful software that controls many aspects of the laptop including fan speeds, color calibration from true Color, audio adjustments from Nahimic, and overclocking.


Nahimic 2 is the audio suite that was included with the laptop. Within the software, you can change EQ settings and turn on or off 3D surround sound. After utilizing the software for a couple days, I felt that it didn’t improve my sound experience and ultimately uninstalled it. Using the Realtek drivers at 24-bit 96 KHz settings provided a great experience with headphones.


True Color is a program that provides different color profiles to enhance you viewing experience. You can switch between sRGB, movie, and other profiles to get the exact color you’re looking for. Compared to my custom calibration, MSI True Color actually does a really good job at displaying accurate colors.

Although Dragon Center controls many of the systems capabilities, I felt it was more of a handholding software and ultimately decided to uninstall it along with the other MSI software. They aren’t bad and can be useful for new gamers, but I prefer more control over all aspects of my machines.


Once the laptop was free of software I didn’t need, I started testing and adjusting setting. This includes:

  • Undervolting the CPU with ThrottleStop

  • Undervolting and Overclocking the GPU with MSI Afterburner

  • Creating a custom fan curve with Silent Option

  • Raising the rear of the laptop by 1 inch


ThrottleStop Settings:


MSI Afterburner Settings:

My max boost clock is 1845MHz

Custom Fan Curve Settings:



Performance

*Stock is without the CPU and GPU repasted. – signifies no performance change

*Nvidia Driver – 398.46

While going through my suite of tests, the 7700HQ and GTX 1060 blazed through the applications easily, even with stock paste and voltages. While testing games, in-game benchmarks were used when possible. For everything else, the minimum FPS I saw while playing through the various levels is shown. The average FPS for those games were up to 35% higher that their minimum. For example, Destiny 2 was usually around 75 FPS but PUBG isn’t optimized and averaged around 50 FPS on Ultra. For competitive play, most gamers turn settings down to get as many FPS as possible.



Temps:

After I applied an undervolt to the CPU and a repaste with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut, I saw a reduction in temps with a minor improvement to benchmarking scores. Games remained the same. The GPU saw a slight reduction in temps because it shares a single heat pipe on the heatsink with the CPU. Now that the CPUs heatsink has to dissipate less heat, it can absorb some of the GPUs heat and help dissipate it. With the addition of a GPU overclock with MSI afterburner, temperatures remained the same but I gained a couple points for benchmarks and some FPS in games. The 7700HQ and GTX1060 really bring desktop performance in a small package and can handle all of these games with ease at maximum settings.


To further reduce temps, I created a custom curve with “Silent Option” from MSI. Using a custom fan curve instead of allows the cooling fans to react more quickly to temperature changes but you’ll notice an increase in noise. You can also purchase a laptop stand to raise the rear of the laptop by 1-inch. Raising the rear of the laptop allows the fans to breathe a bit better, the fans won’t have to spin as fast to dissipate the heat, and will show the greatest reduction in temperatures. Adding in the undervolt will further reduce temps a bit.


To improve battery life, I made the following modification in my custom power profile:

*All changes apply to “On Battery” settings.

Wireless Power Output – Maximum Power Savings

Max screen brightness – 30%

Min processor speed – 0%

Max processor speed – 25%

System cooling – Passive

Before changes – 3.5 hours of productivity

After Changes – Up to 7 hours of productivity



Needs work:

While this has been an excellent performer, there are some issues associated with this device.

  • The stock Wi-Fi card caused stuttering in some games and daily use. I’ve since replaced the Killer Wi-Fi card with an Intel card and haven’t had any issues since. Looking back, uninstalling the software suite probably would have done the trick as some users have found success in that action.

  • The touchpad and ELAN drivers are trash and contributed to the stuttering. Luckily, Dave2d (add his link here) found a solution by installing Microsoft drivers. For me, it completely resolved the issue but YMMV.

  • Finally, heat. This laptop generates a lot of heat because it packs a very powerful CPU and GPU in a small form factor. Out of the box, I didn’t have any throttling issues, but the heat made my bedroom very warm and the fans were screaming at me under high load. Repasting the components, undervolting the CPU, and raising the laptop by 1 inch greatly reduced heat and solved the issue.



Conclusion:

The Intel 7700HQ and GTX 1060 are very solid performers. The duo is able to play games at the highest quality settings smoothly. Many recent games that were released since the laptop was purchased could be played at maximum settings with no issues and the CPU and GPU are capable of reaching 120 FPS or more for competitive games with lower settings. When it comes to rendering videos in Adobe Premiere Pro, I was able to render 3-minutes of 1080P video up-scaled to 4K in under 10 minutes. In comparison, my desktop with an Intel 4790K overclocked to 4.6GHz took about 18 minutes to render the same video


Looking at the performance of this laptop, I believe it’s a smart move to purchase a laptop from last generation for a number of reasons.

  1. Reduced prices – With the launch of Intel’s new 8th gen mobile processors, the 7th gen units are being discounted. The previous generation always gets a discount to help sell the remaining units.

  2. Proven Performance – The 7700HQ and GTX 1060 are very powerful. There aren’t many games that can truly push these components to the brink. All of the popular games can be played at maximum settings with an average of at least 45 FPS.

  3. Refined CPU Generation – Intel follows a tick-tock schedule for CPUs. The 6th generation CPUs were the “tick” generation where they introduce a new architecture and technologies. The 7th generation is the “tock” phase where Intel refines the previous generation. For the 7th generation, these refinements include reduced heat and improved CPU speeds.

Regarding the GS43 VR 7RE, I don’t think you’ll find a better laptop available within the $1500 range that provides this level of portability and performance. The ability to do basic word processing and play resource intensive games is awesome. Plus, you get all of this for under 4 pounds. Looking at the 7700HQ and GTX 1060, I believe this combo will last for at least another 3 years before it’s unable to play future games at high settings or above. If you’re in the market for a laptop that can be used as a desktop replacement, I recommend you purchase one with an Intel 7700HQ and an Nvidia GTX 1060.


Have Fun!

-The Everyday Enthusiast



Where to buy

As of this writing, the GS43VR 7RE is no longer available at the $1500 price point when brand new but refurbished units are being sold on eBay from MSI. The list below are the laptop I recommend from the previous generation, including refurbished GS43s and equivalent. Since all of these laptops have the Core i7 7700HQ and Nvidia GTX 1060 so my above tweaks should give about the same performance. Keep in mind that YMMV when it comes to my undervolt and overclock settings.


Used GS43VR 7RE - Refurbished on EBay - $1300


MSI GS63VR 7RE - Amazon – $1391.61

Difference:

  • 15.6 inch screen

  • 3.96 lbs

Dell Inspiron 15 - Amazon- $1269

Difference:

  • 15.6 inch screen

  • 5.86 lbs

Acer Predator Helios 300 - Amazon - $1049

Difference:

  • 15.6 inch screen

  • 5.95 lbs

Read my original review on Amazon here.


*Note - I had different settings at the time which is why my temps and FPS are a bit different.

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