MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 Gaming Laptop Review
The MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 is among the first gaming laptops with Nvidia’s Pascal graphics technology, with superb performance in addition to a ton of storage and some nice extras like USB-C and a keyboard with multiple customizations–all at a very fair price.
- Reasonably priced
- Superb gaming performance
- Excellent port collection for VR headsets
- Plentiful storage
- The physical design may be unappealing to some, but for gamers it’s OK
As new generations of components trickle into the market, they’re really helping evolve the PC landscape, and the recent launch of NVidia’s Pascal graphics technology isn’t exception. Amazingly, we’re now seeing laptop versions of the new graphics card line that are closely rivaling their desktop counterparts performance-wise, giving us a feel of the hidden potential for gaming laptops. The MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 is among the first Pascal notebooks to hit our labs, and it stands out as a top pick for midrange gaming laptops. We did test the ASUS ROG GL502VS-DB71 with its GTX 1070 GPU, and the now the Phantom Pro-006 comes with a Pascal GTX 1060 GPU.
The MSI Phantom Pro-006 packs plenty of storage and excellent port options, and this VR-ready system is perhaps most importantly the most reasonably priced Pascal graphics system in the market. Yes, the 14-inch isn’t the biggest in the market but it puts those visuals front and center, glitch-free. All this makes the MSI Computer GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 a safe bet for those who take gaming serious but don’t want to spend an arm and a leg to get their hands on a serious gaming laptop.
Design and Features
Looking at it, the GS43VR, isn’t the flashiest gaming system we’ve seen recently. Even at 14-inches, its big and boxy, measuring 1.9 by 16.85 by 11.57 inches (HWD) and weighs 8.3 pounds. This is far from an ultraportable gaming laptop like the Razor Blade (0.7 by 13.6 by 9.3 inches, 4.26 pounds), but it’s still a good deal smaller than another new Pascal-bearing laptop, the Asus ROG G752VS-XB78K (1.5 by 16.4 by 12.7 inches, 9.92 pounds). It stacks up well with gaming laptops with the same screen size.
On the GS43VR, the MSI maintains the same design we’ve always seen on its gaming lineup. Here we’re looking at a design that reminds us of a sports car, yeah…matte black dotted with red accents in addition to a prominent G-Series logo. The lid and keyboard deck are made of brushed aluminum, while the rest of the chassis is made of plastic.
The SteelSeries keyboard boasts fully backlit keys, with the lighting color and pattern being customizable across multiple zones. The good thing with SteelSeries technology is that it prevents logjams during vigorous gameplay, and, the keys are comfortable to type on; and we got some nice travel and feedback, though held back by the flexible surface beneath them.
However, we have an issue that MSI didn’t bother to update the keyboard keys with translucent white edges and RGB options as seen in systems on the higher-end GS/GT Gaming series. The touchpad is smooth, sturdy and responsive; it remains reliable even on the simple cursor movement and multi-touch inputs. If you prefer faster clicks, you might as well do with an external mouse.
The 14-inch matte display features full HD resolution and In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology for wider viewing angles. In fact, MSI didn’t update the 1080p IPS panel, as it is the same model on the outgoing MSI GS40. Not bad at all for a 14-incher, but we’d have liked to see 2K or 3K or at the very least 120HZ/5 ms options as seen in MSI’s 17-inch VR ready systems like the MSI VR Ready GT72VR Tobii-031. MSI does include NVidia’s G-Sync technology on its high-end gaming laptops, but for entry-level systems it does cause some strain. While G-Sync technology enables smoother frame rates while gaming, it remains a demanding feature. So, for a 14-incher, there will be an impact on performance if the system is struggling with a game.
On the MSI GS43VR, core components remain unchanged from the outgoing models safe for the GPU update from Maxwell to Pascal. Alongside the brand new 6GB GTX 1070 graphics card, the MSI GT62VR is equipped with a 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor (turbo up to 3.5GHz) and 32GB of memory. It’s worth noting that the MSI GS43VR does use the same Skylake CPU as most larger notebooks, so users aren’t necessarily sacrificing process or performance for the smaller form factor or the new GPU. Nonetheless, its performance is comfortably ahead of most smaller gaming laptops like the Razer Blade (2016), or even the Acer Predator 15, but it is clearly behind the larger Asus ROG G752VS-XB78K, both on gaming and multimedia tasks.
Given the new graphics system, though, it’s the 3D and gaming test that is of more interest. The new notebook cards are meant to be very similar to their desktop counterparts for the first time, and this can be reflected when playing the latest game titles. We’ve published a couple of gaming notebooks equipped with the new generation of Nvidia GPUs, and our praises for Pascal aren’t flickering anytime soon. On 3DMark benchmarks, the GTX 1060 sits comfortably in-between the GTX 980M and the notebook version of the GTX 980 in raw graphic performance.
For gamers upgrading from the previous generation GTX 960M, like the one in the Dell Inspiron i7559-763BLK, you’re in for a 150 to 200 percent jump in performance. This means that you now have the power in your hands to play even the latest game titles without a glitch. You can now play titles that a few months ago were reserved to the desktop category, and you can do that in Medium to Ultra settings. So pairing a GTX 1060, 1070 or 1080 with a 144 Hz HD display like the BenQ XL2730Z can be considered overkill for even the latest titles.
Even though the 1060 is not the top of the new graphics line, the jump to Pascal provides a clear boost over last generation’s cards in gaming performance. During testing the laptop was audible, but not overly loud, and heat stayed at normal levels thanks to the rear and bottom vent system.
Port options on the MSI GS43VR are varied and plentiful, which is especially admirable if you’re into VR gaming as most devices take-up a few of your USB ports all at once. On the left flank is a USB 3.0 port, an SD card slot and the mic, headset, and audio lines. The right side holds the all-important USB Type-C with Thunderbolt 3, but the inclusion of the thick HDMI1.4 port is quite close and will potentially take up valuable space alongside another USB 3.0 port. You also have one mini-Display port, that adds up to dual-screen support. We found all ports to be easily accessible and easy to reach.
We would like to see at least one more USB Type-A port in future as competing 14-inch gaming laptops tend to include a total of two or three. Thunderbolt3 port comes handy if you need to hook up to an external display, and you can take advantage of it as it supports 4K options and docking stations. Connectivity comes in way of Bluetooth 4.1 and dual-band Killer N1535 Combo (2×2 ac) and Killer Gaming Network E2400 for wired networks.
A lot of storage is on board in the form of a 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive and a 128GB M.2 SATA solid-state drive (SSD.) On the SSD side, this is half the MSI VR Ready GT62VR Dominator Pro-005 that comes with a 1TB hardrive, and a 256GB SSD, while the MSI VR Ready GT72VR Tobii-031 comes with the same 1TB HDD, but boasts of a massive 512GB SSD. The 16GB DDR4 RAM is quite sufficient, but if you need to do a few upgrades here-and-there, you can pump it up to 32GB by just replacing the existing (8GB*2) memory modules.
Finally, the GS43VR’s battery is more or less in the same ballpark as other 14-inch gaming notebooks under similar WLAN conditions. Thus, users can expect around 2.5-3hrs of real-world use out of the GS43VR’s 4-cell battery. The system can last for a surprisingly long time when in idle or when the display brightness is toned down. So, if you’re conservative with power settings, you can stretch out the battery for quite a bit.
Thanks to new Pascal graphics technology, the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 is among the top performers alongside the MSI VR Ready GT62VR Dominator Pro-005. These two machines go ahead to even beat high-end machines on 3D testing, for far much less. The physical design isn’t particularly elegant, but that’s not among the list of our worries, especially for a stay-home gaming system, though it is still smaller in size than many gaming systems. There’s more storage and memory that your usual gaming laptop, and though the screen is smaller, it’s hard to recommend anything else but the newest Pascal graphics card, especially at an affordable price.
As such, if you need a 14-inch gaming laptop with the latest GTX 1060, then the MSI GS43VR Phantom Pro-006 is a safe buy that offers real-value for the buck. That said, the 15-inch MSI GT62VR Dominator Pro-005 remains our Editors’ Choice midrange gaming laptop, as it demonstrates the power of NVidia’s new Pascal GTX 1070 notebook cards, affordably.