Price Analysis And Conclusion
The MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro is the first laptop we’ve reviewed with a Kaby Lake processor, and perhaps our hopes were too high. The Phantom Pro doesn’t under-perform by any stretch, but it doesn’t exactly blow us away, either.
On the positive side, the Intel Core i7-7700HQ makes the Phantom Pro an excellent choice for a mobile editing machine. In particular, we saw a significant improvement during the CompuBench Video Processing test and an edge during the PCMark 8 benchmarks, particularly the Adobe Creative suite. However, the Phantom Pro would’ve benefited from an SSD with higher sequential read speeds. The 128GB SK Hynix SSD doesn’t quite cut it when dealing with larger files.
While Kaby Lake makes mobile editing easier, we hardly see a noticeable difference in gaming. In just four out of the 11 game titles we tested, the Phantom Pro manages to score higher than the systems with an i7-6700HQ CPU and GTX 1060 GPU. It exhibits convincing wins in GRID Autosport and Hitman, but in all other benchmarks the GTX 1060 still proves to be the bottleneck, and in some cases the difference in hitting 60 FPS. And yet, if gaming is your top priority, you’re not necessarily better off with the Gigabyte P57W or the MSI Stealth Pro.
The MSI Phantom Pro is thin and light, so it'll be great on the go. That's aided by fantastic battery life, at nearly two hours. We always worry about thermal dissipation in systems with tightly packed components, and this 0.87" system's idle temperatures were a bit warm, but during our stress tests these fears subsided, with better cooling than most laptops we've tested.
Solid build quality is a necessity in thin, light laptops as well, as it provides peace of mind while traveling. However, we found the MSI lacking in this regard. Although the brushed metal finish of the hood and the interior provide excellent rigidity, the bottom panel is constructed out of flimsy plastic. If the Phantom Pro were carried in a suitcase or messenger bag, frequent bumping could compromise its internals.
The Phantom Pro’s display is a mixed bag. For one, the contrast ratios are rather poor, suffering from a low white level at minimum brightness and high black level at maximum brightness. On the other hand, the Phantom Pro’s display offers balanced RGB levels at up to 70% brightness, which is unheard of in a gaming laptop screen (at least those we've tested so far). Additionally, the Phantom Pro’s display exhibits impressively low grayscale and average color errors.
The MSI Phantom Pro is priced at $1,500 at the time of this writing, making it cheaper than either the MSI Stealth Pro or the Gigabyte P57W v6. In gaming performance, the three laptops are about even, while the Phantom Pro sees some benefits in synthetic performance. Top that with an almost stellar display, decent thermals, and great battery life, this almost makes the Phantom Pro an easy buy.
However, we're torn about giving it an award. It should easily get at least an Approved award, or we might even bestow our Recommended award, given that this performs just as well, and is about $200 less expensive than the Stealth Pro and P57W v6, both of which received that award. But we just don't feel comfortable doing so. Our misgivings about build quality prevent it, and the low contrast ratio ices the deal further. Even at $1,500 we expect much better build quality, considering Asus Strix 15 and Strix 17 models offer outstanding build quality at this price point.
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