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MSI GT76 Titan Gaming Laptop Review – 9900K + RTX 2080 Power!

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MSI GT76 Titan Gaming Laptop Review – 9900K + RTX 2080 Power!

The MSI GT76 Titan is one of the most powerful gaming laptops currently available, with desktop i9-9900K CPU that MSI claim can run up to 5GHz and RTX 2080 graphics it should be able to run anything we throw at it, so let’s find out what compromises we’ve got to make for crazy levels of performance and who something like this is for in this detailed review.

I’ve got the 9SG configuration here, meaning it’s got Intel’s 8 core overclockable i9-9900K desktop CPU, 200w Nvidia RTX 2080 graphics, definitely no Max-Q here, and 32gb of memory in dual channel.

It’s got a 17.3” 1080p 4K screen, and for storage there are two 512GB NVMe M.2 SSDs in a RAID 0 array, along with a 1TB hard drive. For network connectivity it’s got 2.5 gigabit ethernet, WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.

There are a few different configurations available, such as with 1080p high refresh screen, RTX 2070 or i7 CPU, you can find prices for different specs linked in the description. The GT76 has a black and silver colour scheme, the lid and back section are silver while the interior is black plastic.

Despite this the build quality seemed decent and it’s built like a tank, I guess because it kind of is. The weight is listed as 4.2kg on the MSI website which was spot on with what I got. When you include the two 230 watt power bricks and call cables for charging the total weight rises to 6.

6kg, so it’s not exactly portable, however it would of course be easier to transport compared to a desktop PC, monitor, keyboard and mouse, so keep that in mind. The dimensions are 39.7cm in width, 33cm in depth, and 4.

2cm in height at the thickest point, not actually too much larger compared to other 17 inch laptops, the main difference is in the thickness. This smaller footprint allows for thin screen bezels, which I measured at around 8mm on the sizes.

The 17.3” 4K 60Hz IPS-level screen has a matte finish and good viewing angles, however there’s no G-Sync here and no option of disabling Optimus. It’s also available with a 1080p 144Hz or 240Hz option too, which is honestly probably a better match for these specs if you’re focus is gaming.

I’ve measured the colour gamut using the Spyder 5 Pro, and my results returned 99% of sRGB, 91% of NTSC and 96% of AdobeRGB. At 100% brightness in the center I measured 470 nits with an 1130:1 contrast ratio, so well above average in all regards, but expect different results from the 1080p panels.

When it came to backlight bleed there were some glow areas, mainly down the bottom, and I did occasionally notice this while viewing darker content, but the results will vary between laptop and panel.

There was a little screen flex as the lid is on the thinner side, however with the hinges being out towards the corners it felt quite stable. As you’d expect from such a heavy machine opening it up one finger is no problem, however despite the larger size it still felt well balanced on my lap, just a bit heavier than usual.

Although it’s got thinner bezels, the 720p camera is found above the display in the center. This is what the camera and microphone look and sound like on the MSI GT76. Here’s what typing sounds like, and this is what it sounds like when we set the fan to maximum speed, so you can still hear me over the fan even though it’s quite loud.

The keyboard has per key RGB backlighting which can be controlled through the included Steelseries software. It’s got 4 levels of brightness which can be adjusted with the function and plus or minus keys on the numpad.

Unlike the previous GT75, there’s no mechanical keyboard here, however I thought it was still offering a good typing experience. Here’s how it sounds to give you an idea of what to expect. There are plenty of lighting effects built into the software and there’s lots of room for customization.

Despite the overall thick and heavy build, there was still some keyboard flex in the plastic interior when pushing down hard, however this was never noticeable during normal everyday use. I found the letter keys to need 58 grams of force to actuate.

We’ve got the power button above the keyboard in the center, on the left there’s a shortcut to enable coolerboost mode which sets the fan to max speed, while the button to the right opens the MSI Dragon Center software, which is the control panel for the laptop.

The precision touchpad worked alright, it doesn’t actually press down as it’s got dedicated left and right click buttons underneath. The usual gestures are on offer and I thought it was of adequate size.

Fingerprints show up fairly easily on the matte interior, but as a smooth surface they were easy to clean. On the left from the back there’s an air exhaust, the rectangular power input, and it doesn’t matter which way you plug the cable in, 2.

5 gigabit ethernet port, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port with both DisplayPort and Thunderbolt 3, two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports, and 3.5mm headphone and mic jacks. On the right from the front there’s a micro SD card slot, not sure why they couldn’t fit a full size slot in such a big machine, two more USB 3.

2 Gen2 Type-A ports, USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-C port, mini DisplayPort and HDMI 2.0 outputs followed by another air exhaust vent. The back is just all air exhaust vents, however it does stick out quite a bit, as we’ll see later there’s a lot of cooling inside.

There’s also some subtle red lighting here which I wasn’t able to customize and could only turn off if I turn off the front light bar. Speaking of the front, there’s an RGB light bar that runs along the bottom and there’s some status LEDs in the middle.

There are also smaller RGB light bars on the left and right sides towards the front of the machine. The steel series software allows us to customize the lighting effects. The front bar is broken up into 24 separate zones so you can get quite granular, however the sides are just a single controllable zone each.

There are plenty of built in effects available, or you can turn all lighting off if you prefer. The lid is just smooth silver metal with a clean silver MSI logo near the top, no lighting here. Underneath there’s a lot of air ventilation space which is great to see, and the two two watt speakers are located towards the front left and right corners.

They sounded above average, there was some bass thanks to the 3 watt subwoofer, they got quite loud when playing music at maximum volume, and the Latencymon results were looking good. The bottom panel can be easily removed by taking out just 6 screws with a Phillips head screwdriver.

The whole back half is basically just cooling, there’s a single 2.5” drive bay down the front left, two empty memory slots in the middle, the other two which I’ve got populated are on the back of the board, so 4 in total for up to 128gb of memory.

The battery is down the bottom, WiFi 6 card towards the right just below the fan, and three M.2 slots on the bottom right. Only the top two drives come into contact with the metal heat spreader, two of the M.

2 slots support both NVMe PCIe or SATA storage, while the third is NVMe PCIe only. You’re probably wondering about upgradeability, like most laptops you can replace the storage and memory no problem.

The GPU is soldered to the board so no chance of an upgrade there, however the 9900K is a desktop CPU. This means the Z390 motherboard uses a standard desktop socket. In theory if you bought a 9700K model you could probably upgrade to 9900K later.

Considering that the 9900K is the best chip for the socket at the moment, the fact that it’s not clear whether or not Intel will offer newer CPUs for this socket in the future, and that we have no idea if MSI would offer support through BIOS update, I wouldn’t buy with an upgrade path in mind, but it could be possible depending on what Intel and MSI do.

The Z390 chipset only seems to be offered with the DT models of the GT76, it seems that it’s also available with a standard i7-9750H, so that’d likely soldered to the board as usual. The laptop is powered by an 8 cell 90 watt hour battery, it looks small physically but 90wh is still up there.

I’ve tested it with the screen brightness at 50%, background apps disabled, and all RGB lighting off. While just watching YouTube videos it lasted for 4 hour and 43 minutes, a fair result considering the specs due to Optimus.

While playing the Witcher 3 with medium settings and Nvidia’s battery boost set to 30 FPS the battery lasted for 1 hour and 20 minutes in total, however 49 minutes in with 28% charge left the frame rate dropped down to 13 FPS until the end.

The battery is on the larger side, but with desktop grade hardware don’t expect good battery life in gaming. Unfortunately we aren’t given the option of disabling Optimus for better performance in games at the expense of battery life.

For such a high end machine like this, I think allowing us the choice would have been better. I’m a little surprised they didn’t just use the Nvidia graphics only and maybe give us G-Sync, I don’t think anyone was expecting a beefy desktop replacement like this to have good battery life so it’s a little strange that they’re forcing Optimus.

It also appears that you don’t have the option of just taking one power brick with you for light use, as both bricks are connected to an adapter by cable. This then gets plugged into to an additional component that connects to the actual laptop, so you’ve got to take a lot of cables with you if you want to use wall power.

Let’s move onto the thermal testing, as you’d expect with this level of hardware we’ve got some pretty serious cooling with massive heatpipes, and the CPU and GPU each have their own separated sections.

There are 11 heatpipes and 4 fans, from the inside we can only see the larger of the two fans, however there are another two just below these air intake vents found above the keyboard, here’s what those look like from the other side, as shown off in a display at Computex in June.

MSI are also using CNC polished copper blocks, the smoother surface should help improve contact between the dies and the block. The MSI Dragon Center software allows us to swap between four modes, which from lowest to highest are ECO, Comfort, Sport and Turbo.

I’ve tested all modes, and I’ll note that when running on battery the top two, Sport and Turbo, are not available. In Turbo mode we’re also given the option to easily overclock the CPU and GPU, up to 5GHz on the CPU, and +150MHz on the GPU core and +250MHz on the GPU memory.

We can of course tweak these further with third party tools though, but these options are quickly available through MSI’s interface, so even if you don’t know what you’re doing you can easily boost performance.

In terms of fan speed I’ve tested either with the default automatic speed, or with coolerboost enabled which basically sets the fan speed to maximum for best cooling. Thermal testing was completed in an ambient room temperature of 21 degrees Celsius, so expect different results in different environments.

At idle the CPU was fine and the GPU was a fair bit warmer comparatively. The rest of the results are from combined CPU and GPU workloads, and are meant to represent worst case scenarios as I ran them for extended periods of time.

The gaming results towards the upper half of the graph were tested by playing Watch Dogs 2, as I find it to use a good combination of processor and graphics. The stress test results shown on the lower half of the graph are from running the Aida64 CPU stress test with only the stress CPU option checked, and the Heaven GPU benchmark at max settings at the same time to fully load the system.

In ECO and Comfort modes, whether gaming or under stress test, the GPU was thermal throttling at around 91 degrees Celsius. This is expected, as these modes are designed for quieter operation so the trade off is extra heat.

The main limitation for the CPU in the multicore stress test was thermals, we can see it was throttling at 97 degrees Celsius in most of these tests. The GPU gradually lowers in temperature as each mode increases the fan speed.

The gaming results on the other hand aren’t bad at all, in sport or turbo mode they’re within reason given the specs. These are the clock speeds for the same tests just shown. CPU performance was the lowest in ECO mode as this caps the power limit of the CPU to 55 watts, but it’s worth calling out that these speeds even in this worst performance mode are better than most 6 core i7-9750H laptops I test.

With comfort mode the CPU clock speed rises, however the GPU speeds stay the same, if you recall in the last graph it was still thermal throttling in comfort mode. The GPU speeds rise up in sport mode as this increases the fan speed, likewise CPU performance increases for the same reason, more fan speed helps reduce the thermal limitations.

Turbo mode improved upon this a little more, and then there were some extra CPU improvements with undervolting and adding a cooling pad as these also help address the thermal throttling. The GPU speed is the highest in these two modes as I’ve also got the GPU overclocks enabled through Dragon Center.

In this particular game we’re also hitting MSI’s 5GHz claim after some basic tweaks, the cooling pad wasn’t needed either though it helps, however this will of course vary by game. These are the average TDP values during these same tests.

We can see the RTX 2080 was approaching its 200 watt limit in turbo mode when under stress test, this particular game isn’t heavy enough on the GPU to demand more than 160 watts I guess. Anyway these are pretty crazy results, on average with the GPU sitting at 195 watts we’ve also got the CPU around the 120 mark, so that explains the temperatures.

I’ve got some Cinebench CPU benchmarks from the different available modes so we can get an idea of CPU only performance. it’s worth considering an i7-9750H best case scores around 3000 points in multicore, so we’re getting a nice boost from both higher clock speeds and those two additional cores.

Despite thermals being the limitation in this specific workload, the cooling pad and undervolt hardly made much extra improvement. Just for comparison, here’s how the best results compare against some other 8 core machines that I’ve recently tested.

I’ve also tested Shadow of the Tomb Raider with the game’s built in benchmark tool just to show average frame rates from each mode. The results were interesting, even in the lowest ECO mode we’re still getting exceptional performance from a laptop, and this was while the fans were on the quieter side, as you’ll hear shortly, so quieter gaming is definitely possible.

As for the external temperatures where you’ll actually be putting your hands, at idle in eco mode the keyboard was around 30 degrees Celsius, pretty normal stuff. With the combined CPU and GPU stress tests running and still in eco mode it’s now around 40 degrees, but as you’ll hear soon the fan is hardly going.

Moving up to comfort mode it’s about the same, no major changes. Sport mode increases the fan speed, so although we’re now getting higher performance the external temperatures are a bit better. Again in turbo despite now delivering higher levels of performance it’s even cooler due to the faster fans.

Here’s what it looks like playing an actual game for an hour with the same turbo mode and fans on auto, again no issues at all. Here’s how the fans sound with these different modes in these same tests.

At idle in the lowest eco mode the fans were still audible, though my noise floor is between 34 and 35, so it’s still quiet. I actually found when just browsing the Internet on battery it was even quieter.

In the stress tests with eco it’s still on the quieter side, and comfort mode was basically the same, which is honestly quite impressive when you consider that you can still play games with well above average levels of performance.

Quieter operation with good performance is a real possibility, at the expense of thermals of course. Sport mode rises the fans up quite a bit, it’s about 11 decibels higher now. In turbo mode with the fan on auto it’s quite loud, then with the fan at max speed in coolerboost it’s very loud, you’ll definitely want headphones for that.

The results from the Titan are quite impressive when you consider that it was possible to hit 5GHz on average sustained over 8 cores, at least in these workloads with some tweaks. Yes it does run hot if you stress it hard in turbo mode, and thermals were the main limitation even once undervolted and with a cooling pad in use, but honestly that’s always going to be expected when you stick a 9900K in a laptop – the fact is the performance is still there despite this.

The RTX 2080 also runs up to 200 watts, which is also fairly crazy. Let’s see how well it actually does in some games next. I’ve tested the games with all CPU cores overclocked to 4.9GHz, however as we saw in the thermal testing it will really depend on the workload as to whether or not this ever gets hit.

That said I had to drop down to this from 5GHz as some games were crashing. I’ve also got the graphics overclocked to the maximum the Dragon Center lets you easily set along with coolerboost enabled.

I’ve tested games at 1080p and 4K resolutions, 1440p wasn’t tested as it wasn’t a default resolution of the machine, and I couldn’t easily add it as a custom resolution. Battlefield 5 was tested in campaign mode.

I’ve got RTX on shown by the green bars, and RTX off shown by the purple bars. At 1080p it was still quite playable even with RTX on at ultra settings, where I was able to average above 60 FPS, however we could get much higher than this with RTX off.

At 4K it was still playable with RTX off, where almost 60 FPS averages were reached at ultra settings, however 4K RTX wasn’t going so well, to the point where my frame recording software kept failing to record 1% low data, and I’ve never seen that before.

Control was tested by running through the start of the game, and again I’ve tested both RTX on in green, and RTX off in purple. RTX was playable at 1080p and it actually looks good in this game, we’re just under 60 FPS with all settings maxed out, however as you can see much higher is possible with RTX off.

At 4K RTX is basically unusable, while low settings played ok, again near 60 FPS, however with medium and high presets at this resolution there were noticeable issues due to the lower frame rates. Wolfenstein Youngblood was also tested playing through the start of the game.

This game doesn’t yet have RTX available but it’s meant to be coming soon. This one uses Vulkan and the performance was nothing short of excellent at 1080p. I wasn’t really seeing any noteworthy differences between the different setting levels at this resolution, there was hardly any change between minimum and maximum, so might as well just max it out so that it looks its best.

This is definitely a title that would benefit more from the 1080p 144Hz or even 240Hz screen options. At 4K the results are honestly still excellent and much better than I was expecting. If you’re using the 4K screen like I’ve got here it’s limited to 60Hz, and I was seeing above this for the 1% low even at maximum settings, so not only is it looking great, but it’s playing perfectly smoothly while doing it.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint was tested with the game’s built in benchmark tool, and as expected due to the specs these are some of the best results I’ve seen with this title so far. At 1080p even ultimate settings was averaging well above 60 FPS, granted the 1% low was down quite a bit, ultra looks much better in that regard.

At 4K the results are hit hard, however 60 FPS was still possible with the very high setting preset, so still some fair results. Fortnite was tested using the replay feature, and the results were a bit lower than I was expecting, however this is my first time testing these specs with the new chapter 2 map so it could just be a bit more resource intensive.

In any case, there’s absolutely no problems playing with max settings. At 4K epic settings was still quite usable with 60 FPS averages, however we could more than double this just by dropping down to medium settings.

If you want to see the results from more games, check the dedicated gaming benchmark video in the top right corner where I’ve tested way more titles. Let’s also take a look at how this config of the MSI GT76 Titan compares with other laptops, use these results as a rough guide only as they were tested at different times with different drivers.

I’ve tested Battlefield 5 with ultra settings and I’ve got the GT76 highlighted in red near similarly specced machines. In this test it’s taking the lead in terms of average frame rate, although it was only just ahead of the ASUS Mothership, but it’s worth considering that costs more too.

The 1% low was lower though, and slightly behind the Alienware 51m, however it’s still higher than the average FPS from our 1660 Ti machines down the bottom, so an impressive result. Here are the results from Far Cry 5 with ultra settings in the built in benchmark.

This time the Titan was a little behind the other 2080 machines in average frame rate, however the 1% low is right up there with the best result from the ASUS Mothership, so again pretty crazy results compared to most others.

These are the results from Shadow of the Tomb raider with the built in benchmark at highest settings. The Titan was in between the Alienware 51m and ASUS Mothership, basically these machines are on a completely different level compared to the others due to the high end specs.

As we’ve seen MSI’s GT76 Titan is offering serious levels of performance, which is to be expected, it’s a thick machine with an overclocked 8 core desktop 9900K CPU and RTX 2080 graphics capable of running up to 200 watts.

1080p gaming was of course no problem at all, if you’re using it primarily for gaming you’d probably be better served by the 1080p 144Hz or even 240Hz option. With the 4K screen I’ve got here 1440p would also likely be fine with these specs based on my experience with other laptops that have similar hardware, while native 4K was hit or miss depending on the game and setting level, but for the most part I’d say these specs are 4K capable for a laptop.

Now for the benchmarking tools, I’ve tested Heaven, Valley, and Superposition from Unigine, as well as Firestrike, Timespy and Port Royal from 3DMark, just pause the video if you want a detailed look at these results.

I’ve used Crystal Disk Mark to test the storage, and the 1TB RAID 0 array which contains two 512GB M.2 NVMe SSDs was performing quite nicely. The 1TB 7,200 RPM hard drive was also performing well as far as spinning rust is concerned.

Unfortunately I don’t have a Micro SD card to test with so I haven’t been able to test the speed of the slot. For updated pricing check the links in the description, as prices will change over time.

At the time of recording in the US with the 9900K, RTX 2080, 4K screen, but double memory is about $4600 USD. Alternatively you could get it with 240Hz screen, same RTX 2080 graphics but 9700K CPU instead for $1100 less, and honestly in games the 9700K will give pretty similar performance anyway, so depends if you’re going to be running CPU heavy workloads.

You could even go 9700K and RTX 2070 for $2500, so quite a bit less still, there are a few options. Here in Australia with the same specs I’ve tested here we’re looking at $6900 AUD, which seems like a bargain compared to the ASUS Mothership I recently reviewed.

So who is MSI’s GT76 Titan for? Rather than your typical laptop it’s definitely more of a desktop replacement that also happens to be somewhat more portable, I know I’d prefer to do a trip with this than a mini ITX system.

For the high levels of power in this form factor the trade off is of course a higher price, a thicker machine, high temperatures and loud fan noise – assuming you want the best performance, as we saw it can still blow away other high end laptops while running much quieter in comfort or eco modes, but I digress.

You could of course build a mini ITX system with same specs for far less, and then even add on a mid range laptop, so it really depends how badly you want the one portable unit with battery, screen, keyboard and touchpad included.

For most people a more mid range laptop with decent GPU would be a lot cheaper, but if you want one of the best options available then it could be for you. It’s unfortunate that there doesn’t seem to be a planned upgrade path like the Alienware 51m, though as I mentioned in that review we don’t actually know how that will go yet.

So to conclude you’re getting desktop level performance in games from this desktop replacement machine, the high end specs put it far above most high end laptops. There was more screen bleed in my unit than I’d like at this price point, but that will vary by unit.

With this hardware it’s pretty much a given that the machine will be larger, heavier, hotter and have poor battery life while gaming, it is what it is. I’m a little disappointed that MSI didn’t give us the option of disabling Optimus for better performance, instead we’re stuck with it enabled which also prevents the possibility of G-Sync or fast sync.

I think people buying such a large machine like this aren’t planning on using it for the battery life, you’d be buying this for the high levels of performance which needs wall power, so at least having the option of using the discrete GPU with a MUX switch would have been nice.

The two power bricks need to both be brought along when you travel, unfortunately they’re connected by the cables so you don’t have the option of only taking one for lighter workloads which could have helped improve portability.

I wasn’t personally a fan of the 4K screen here, at least for gaming. Although it can definitely play many games well at 4K, 60Hz is a bit limiting. You could instead opt for the 1080p 144Hz or 240Hz option though, hopefully MSI update it once 4K 120Hz panels are more widely available.

The 4K panel was above average in terms of colour gamut, brightness and contrast, it looked great and I’d happily use it for tasks like photo or video editing. Otherwise the only other thing I didn’t personally like was the Micro SD card slot, it’s a huge laptop why not just give us a full sized slot? There’s lots of RGB lighting here if that’s your thing, all of which can be customized quite a bit with the software, though that will be subjective, but it does definitely make it stand out.

I’m very interested to hear what you think about MSI’s GT76 Titan gaming laptop slash desktop replacement down in the comments, based on the price it’s definitely more of a niche product, so is it something you’d consider getting? Let me know down in the comments, and if you’re new to the channel consider getting subscribed for future tech videos like this one.

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