It’s been more than two months since we last reviewed an XOTIC PC system, and in that time we’ve seen the launch and growing availability of powerful graphical hardware. This summer has brought us AMD and NVIDIA’s Polaris and Pascal architectures, respectively. And with those new video cards comes another gaming laptop from XOTIC PC and MSI, the GE72VR Apache Pro. Built with a desktop-sized NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060, the GE72VR Apache Pro houses a lot of muscle inside its small frame, and we couldn’t be more excited to find out just how hard it hits.
Display: 17.3″ FHD (16:9) Super Clear Anti Glare-Type IPS Screen (1920×1080)
Processor: 6th Generation Intel Mobile Core i7-6700HQ Skylake Processor
Graphics: NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 (6.0GB) GDDR5 (Pascal) w/ Optimus™ Technology
Memory: 16,384MB (16GB) DDR4 2133MHz (Up to 32GB MAX)
Audio Features: 4x Built-in Dynaudio Speakers, 1x Built-in Dynaudio Woofer, S/PDIF Digital Output
Network: Bigfoot Killer E2400 Gaming Network LAN, Integrated Intel 3165 Bluetooth 4.0 [M.2 Type]
Storage: 256GB M.2 SSD + 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive (Upgradeable)
Optical Drive: 8x DVDRW/CDRW Super Multi Combo Drive (Upgradeable)
Slots / Interface: 3-in-1 Card Reader, 1x USB 2.0 Port, 2x USB 3.0 Ports, 1x USB 3.1 Port (Type C), 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x Mini Display Port v1.2, 1x Microphone, 1x Headphone Out Jack
Input Devices: Full-sized Chiclet Steelseries Full-color Backlit Keyboard, Integrated Touchpad with Scrolling Function, Built-in [email protected] Camera
Freebies: XSplit Gamecaster, free 1-year premium license
Size: 16.49″ (w) x 11.02″ (d) x 1.14″ (h)
Weight: 5.95 lbs with 6-cell Battery
Operating System: Windows 10
Our review model came equipped with additional upgrades and items. The memory was bumped up to the maximum of 32GB (2x 16GB). The 256GB SSD was replaced with a 512GB Samsung SM951 M.2 PCIe SSD drive. IC Diamond Thermal Compound was applied to both the GPU and CPU. OS Redline Boost provided a CPU overlock, and the GPU was slightly overclocked, as well. A custom graphic wrap was applied to the top surface of the laptop. Finally, an XOTIC PC binder with detailed system specifications and a certificate of ownership were included in the box. Those additions increased the price from $1,599 to $2,673.
A Closer Look
As with many of MSI’s gaming laptops, the GE72VR Apache Pro features a curved, sporty appearance. Its edges are smooth and gentle grooves wing the plain, raised emblem at the enclosure’s top. The custom graphic wrap busily places red, black, and gray lines and geometric patterns across its exterior. The base model is otherwise mostly black with the embossed emblem colored red and white.
The back of the laptop has roughly 3.5” exhaust vents at either edge. Numerous vents are also placed at the underside. Through them we can see the copper heat pipes of the GTX 1060 and two fans in the corners pushing air out the rear. A single subwoofer is visible toward the uppermost right side.
On the left side we find the Kensington Lock, Killer LAN port, two USB 3.0 ports, one HDMI 1.4, one Mini Display V1.2, one Thunderbolt 3 port, and the Mic In and Audio Out ports. The card reader, optical drive, and USB 2.0 port occupies the right side of the laptop.
Opening the lid, we’re presented with the full-sized, beautifully lit SteelSeries keyboard. The lettering and four sides of the chiclet keys are transparent, allowing for quite a dazzling light show. The installed SteelSeries Engine 3 software allows for easy customization of the six lighting effects, four of which can be toggled between at a given time. Another cool feature of the software is something called GameSense. It can deliver in-game status information through the keyboard’s lighting. For example, one section can be devoted to health and will drain from green to red. Three game profiles are currently included: Counter Strike: Global Offensive, DOTA 2, and Minecraft.
The surface surrounding the keyboard has the appearance of brushed, black metal. The large trackpad has a similar aesthetic, but is complimented with a ring of silver. Speaking of the trackpad, scrolling is quick and simple with light finger brushes along the right side.
Power, fan speed, and lighting profiles are accessible via buttons above the number pad keys.
The laptop is a fair degree lighter than the GT72S Dominator Pro 4K we previously reviewed. The slimmer profile, 1.14” (h) versus 1.89 (h), and lower capacity battery bring the weight down almost two and a half pounds. It’s still got a heft to it at 5.95 lbs, but it won’t make carrying it around or seating it on your lap feel cumbersome.
Thanks to the IPS panel, the GE72VR Apache Pro’s 17.3” screen is capable of appropriately rich visuals. A 120Hz upgrade is an option, though ours was limited to 60Hz. Backlight bleed was minimal to non-existent. Some IPS glow was visible at the corners, but it did not invade deep into the screen nor was it distracting.
The laptop’s hidden speakers are more than to pump out loud audio. The action and character voices were clear and easily discernible. Furthermore, the subwoofer provided an extra bit of welcome oomph. For all that, the quality is just decent. Laptop speakers can only do so much, and those in the GE72VR Apache Pro won’t replace a good pair of headphones or desktop speakers. Thankfully, the built-in headphone AMP and Naahimic 2 audio enhancements and virtual surround sound make for a great solid experience with a pair of cans on your head.
Thanks to the NVIDIA GTX 1060, the GE72VR Apache Pro did very well in our 1080p benchmarks. But before we go into more detail, let’s cover a few system specifications. The GTX 1060 has a default clock speed of 1405 MHz and a 1671 MHz boost. XOTIC PC applied a 60 MHz graphics and 180 MHz memory overclock. In addition to NVIDIA’s GPU Boost 3.0 feature, the Heaven 4.0 benchmark reported a 1961 MHz clock speed from the laptop’s GTX 1060. That’s an impressive height for a mid-range card, and in a laptop enclosure no less. That said, a 60 MHz overclock shouldn’t dramatically alter performance.
We first ran the Unigine Heaven 4.0 benchmark. Its graphical preset was set to Ultra, Tessellation to Extreme, and anti-aliasing to 4x. It scored 1695 with an average of 67.3 FPS.
Grand Theft Auto V was benchmarked with every setting on Very High. View distances were maxed. Soft Shadows were set to NVIDIA PCSS. The GE72VR Apache Pro and its GTX 1060 crushed the game, averaging 77.766 FPS. The minimum barely dropped below 60. Lowering a few settings that wouldn’t drastically alter the game’s visual quality – shadows, reflections, ambient occlusion, and tessellation – down to High rose the average to 89.9 FPS with a minimum of 64 FPS.
Not surprisingly, the heavily optimized DOOM (2016) ran beautifully. We used the Ultra preset and TSSAA anti-aliasing. It averaged 73.76 FPS. The minimum rarely dipped below 60 FPS, touching 56 frames at the lowest, and the maximum reached 95 FPS.
Total War: Warhammer has both a DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 (beta) client. The graphics preset was set to Ultra. Under DirectX 11, we averaged 64.4 FPS. DirectX 12 performance actually saw a drop of more than four frames.
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s DirectX 12 benchmarks closely mirrored the DirectX 11 results, so for our graph we’ve used the latter numbers. The High and Very High presets were tested. High gave an average of 74.8 FPS and 60.14 FPS on Very High. The minimums dropped to 37.6 and 27.1 FPS respectively, but for the most part that only occurred during scene transitions.
Star Wars: Battlefront may give us a taste at how the upcoming Battlefield 1 will perform. And there was no need to test multiple presets with Battlefront. The Ultra settings never dropped below 60, gave an average of 75.501 FPS, and a high of 105 FPS.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt generally maintained a 60 FPS average. Heavy combat caused the framerate to drop into the low 40s, but for the most part it stuck to the average. The High graphical preset was used. NVIDIA HairWorks was enabled for Geralt, the player’s character. The visual differences between the High and Ultra presets aren’t particularly dramatic, but as the latter can be brutally demanding, we were happy to stick to the former for our benchmarks.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was the only game to not average at least 60 FPS, but that didn’t come as a surprise. It’s a demanding game, even for a GTX 1080. We set it to the recommended High preset and saw an average of 45.4 FPS.
Noise & Temperature
Idle temperatures for the GE72VR Apache Pro stayed comfortably below or slightly above body temperature. We used an infrared thermometer to get our readings. The primary keys hovered amidst the low to mid 90s Fahrenheit. The rear vents and bottom of the laptop measured similar temperatures, between 90.8 and 99.2 degrees. Meanwhile, the GTX 1060 idled at 46.0 degrees. The laptop wasn’t inaudible, a low hum was present, but it was basically silent.
Under load, the GE72VR Apache Pro did push out a lot of hot air. Rear vent temperatures ranged from 115.5 to 123.4 degrees. The bottom of the laptop saw little heat variance. The keyboard’s temperature rose by around six degrees. The W key idled at 92.0 and increased to 98.7 degrees under load, for example. Warm but not hot to the touch. The GPU stayed at 71.0 degrees when stressed, nicely below the throttle limit. Noise did increase significantly, of course, and could be plainly heard across a large room. This is not a laptop to be playing games on in a library.
As with the GT72S Dominator Pro 4K, the GE72VR Apache Pro’s Achilles’ heel is its battery life. If you’re just browsing the web, typing in documents, and streaming videos, you can expect to get close to two hours of usage before a hard shutdown. It took us approximately an hour and 45 minutes before we had to plug in the power adapter, and that was with all the bells and whistles on. Disabling keyboard lighting, Bluetooth, and the webcam, along with lowering the brightness, can eek out more time.
Gaming sessions are likely to be a wired affair. The laptop lasted for 41 minutes running Heaven 4.0 with a 30 FPS cap. The length of time you can keep it going will depend on the program, game, and settings used. But we don’t expect more than an hour of play with most modern games. Performance suffered during battery operation, as well.
Value & Conclusion
The MSI GE72VR Apache Pro packs a punch. Its full-sized GTX 1060 is capable of achieving 60 FPS gaming with high to maxed settings in a majority of modern, demanding titles. And $1,599.00 isn’t an unreasonable price for the hardware, performance, and features it offers. We also appreciated the lack of any bloatware. Only the bare necessities were installed. We’re not convinced the upgrades are sample was given justified an additional $1,000, however, or even what’s increasing the price by that much. The extra memory, hard drive space, thermal compound, and light overclock (of which can be easily done yourself relatively stress free) should have a minimal impact on gaming performance. If you want an amazing gaming laptop, XOTIC PC and MSI deserve your attention, but you should be more than happy with just the base model of the GE72VR Apache Pro.