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Display, Keyboard and Trackpad
There are three display options available for the GT73VR: a basic 1080p 60Hz display, a 1080p 120Hz unit with G-Sync, and a 4K display. All are 17.3-inch LCDs, and all bar the 120Hz option are "IPS-level" (the 120Hz display is TN). MSI claims the 4K display also supports 100% of the Adobe RGB color space, while the others merely support sRGB.
My review unit was equipped with a 17.3-inch 1080p 120Hz G-Sync panel, which is perhaps the best option for gaming. At 1080p you will consistently achieve frame rates above 60 FPS with the GTX 1080, so the 120Hz refresh rate of this panel is ideally suited to the hardware in this laptop. G-Sync is a bonus, reducing tearing and stuttering across all frame rates by adaptively changing the display's refresh rate to match the GPU's render rate.
Opting for this high-refresh panel comes with a quality trade-off due to the shift from IPS to TN LCD technology. Viewing angles are mediocre, so you'll want to position yourself in the dead center of this display for the best experience. The contrast ratio of this display, approximately 1100:1, is average for an LCD, as are black levels and brightness (297 nits). Both black levels and contrast ratios are typically better with IPS displays.
The GT73VR comes with multiple display modes, changeable through the MSI True Color app, though it's good to see MSI sets this laptop in the best mode (sRGB) by default. While this mode is labelled sRGB, it's not strictly sRGB accurate; in fact my review unit produced 132% of the sRGB gamut when set into this mode, resulting in oversaturation across the board.
Color quality is okay in general, mostly due to a near-correct color temperature by default. The display produces a dE2000 level of less than 4.0 in both our saturation and custom color performance tests, which is better than some other 120Hz TN displays I've reviewed. It's not perfect, but this TN display produces decent enough colors for gaming and everyday applications; it's certainly not washed out or undersaturated.
It is possible to calibrate this display to a good level of accuracy. Using SpectraCal's CALMAN 5 software, I achieved a dE2000 value of less than 1.0 across our grayscale, saturation and custom color tests, which indicates excellent performance. Calibration reduced maximum brightness slightly, but this could be worth it for outstanding accuracy across the spectrum.
The SteelSeries keyboard included with this laptop is very similar to those found on other recent MSI laptops. The layout of this keyboard is good, with full-sized arrow keys, a numpad, and large essential gaming keys (like left shift and control) a highlight. System functions are mapped to both F keys and the arrow keys, and there's a good range of controls available in this regard.
It's a little disappointing that MSI didn't use the thickness of this laptop to include a keyboard with better travel distance. The tactile feedback of this keyboard is very similar to what MSI provided in their slim GS63VR, which has a lot less room for deep key travel. That's not to say this keyboard is bad, though; in fact I like the clicky feel of this rubber dome keyboard, and the chiclet design is perfectly fine.
The keyboard includes RGB backlighting in three zones, all of which are customizable via the MSI Dragon Center app. The zones blend together at the borders to create a pleasant gradient or rainbow effect, however you cannot customize the color of individual keys. MSI's software also supports active lighting effects like waves, pulsing and breathing, for a bit of extra flair. An additional RGB lighting zone is found around the edges of the trackpad.
To the right of the keyboard are four buttons that are used for additional system functions. The top button switches the GPU on and off, the second sets the fans to full blast, the third is a shortcut for XSplit, and the fourth modifies the keyboard backlight. These controls could come in handy, though I feel the space to either side of the keyboard could be better utilized either through macro keys, or top-firing speakers.
The trackpad is a piece of garbage from ELAN, which is disappointing to see in such an expensive laptop. This trackpad doesn't track finger movements particularly well, and required a massive increase in sensitivity to be even remotely usable. Gesture support is included, but doesn't work well. The only good aspect of the trackpad is the physical mouse buttons, and even they aren't particularly amazing.
For any sort of serious use, you'll want to pair the GT72VR with a good gaming mouse. The trackpad should only be used as a last resort.