A Solid, Reasonably Compact Gaming Laptop
I really like what the MSI GS43VR 6RE Phantom Pro provides as a gaming laptop. This thing is fast, it’s reasonably compact, and it doesn’t pack ridiculous amounts of gamer flare. The design is important here, because way too many gaming laptops that have been released over the past five years include horrible builds filled with complicated, ugly angles and unnecessary LEDs.
MSI has pulled away from this trend with the GS43VR, which looks great thanks to a combination of brushed aluminium and subtle red highlights.
I wish MSI had taken care of a few more details on this iteration, like the screen's generous bezels which could have been trimmed down in favor of a larger display on the same footprint.
The SteelSeries keyboard is solid with good travel distance and an excellent layout, which makes gaming on this device a pleasure. The trackpad is still a garbage piece of ELAN hardware, although thankfully most gaming will be done with an external mouse.
The 14-inch 1080p LCD won’t set the world on fire, but it’s the perfect resolution for the hardware that’s found inside this laptop. The display performs reasonably well in color accuracy tests, even if it can’t produce the full sRGB spectrum, and it looks good during gaming sessions. My main wish would be the inclusion of G-Sync and perhaps a higher refresh display, although no 14-inch laptops on the market support either of these features just yet.
Performance is where MSI, with significant assistance from Nvidia, have hit a home run.
The GeForce GTX 1060 is the perfect discrete graphics core for gaming at 1080p, and it doesn’t require a larger or heavier cooling solution like its more powerful brothers. Providing 40 to 50 percent more performance than the GTX 970M at a similar power and heat cost elevates gaming laptops of this class from a poor desktop substitute, to a full blown replacement.
Across the variety of games I tested, the GTX 1060 more often than not delivered 60 FPS at 1080p with quality settings cranked up to the maximum. The most demanding titles of today do require some tweaks to the settings, but there’s no doubting that the GS43VR will provide a great gaming experience at a reasonable price point.
The downside to the GS43VR’s performance is mostly the cooling solution, which is loud and leaves absolutely no room for overclocking any component. It suffices at stock speeds, but even then you’ll need headphones to block the whine of the fans. On the flip side, the storage performance from the included PCIe SSD is excellent, although the 128 GB of space you get is limited.
Currently, the GS43VR is the only 14-inch gaming laptop on the market with a GTX 1060 inside. With an MSRP of $1,499, the laptop is actually reasonably priced. Considering the significant performance gains provided at a lower cost than before, I’d say this a big win for laptop gamers after something powerful and portable.
Pros: The GTX 1060 is perfect for 1080p, packing 50% more punch than the GTX 970M. Great brushed aluminium design. Thunderbolt 3 and a SteelSeries keyboard are decent inclusions.
Cons: The poor ELAN trackpad has been retained. Fans are loud under heavy load.