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Engineering Computing Resources
November 1, 2017
Taiwan-based MSI (Micro-Star International) recently sent us yet another well-appointed mobile workstation. However, unlike the thin, lightweight WS63 we recently reviewed (DE, September 2017), the mighty WT73VR system is quite large and meant to be a desktop replacement fully capable of running design, engineering and virtual reality applications.
The WT73VR measures 16.85x11.3x1.93-in. (WxDxH) and weighs a hefty 8.91 pounds. Its large (6.56x3.38x1.38-in.) 230-watt external power supply adds more than 2 pounds. The brushed black aluminum case looks great, with its glowing green MSI workstation logo centered between two glowing white decorative blades, and immediately sends the message that this system is fast.
Unlike many other original equipment manufacturers, MSI does not offer custom configurations. Instead, the company sells only preconfigured systems based on specific combinations of components. For example, the computer we received—the $4,699 7RM-648US—is based on a 2.90GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-7820HK CPU and a 1920x1080 display. MSI also offers the 7RM-687US ($4,999), powered by a 3.0GHz quad-core Intel Xeon E3-1505M processor and sporting a 4K (3840x2160) IPS display.
Although both of those Intel CPUs include integrated graphics, MSI also equips both versions of the WT73VR with a powerful NVIDIA Quadro P5000 graphics card. This discrete GPU includes 16GB of dedicated GDDR5 graphics memory and 2048 CUDA (compute unified device architecture) cores.
Both MSI WT73VR systems also come with 64GB of RAM, installed as four 16GB DIMMs (dual inline memory modules), although the Xeon-powered system uses ECC (error-correcting code) memory. And both versions of the WT73VR also include a fast SSD (solid-state drive) primary drive as well as a standard hard drive. Our evaluation unit came with a 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD and a 1TB Hitachi 7200rpm SATA drive.
Plenty of Ports
Lifting the lid reveals the 17.3-in. display and a very nice SteelSeries keyboard with 102 backlit keys, including a separate numeric keypad. MSI’s Dragon Center keyboard manager app lets you adjust the backlight color. A 1080p webcam is centered above the display with a single microphone to one side. An LED adjacent to the webcam glows white when the camera is active.
Price vs. Performance
A 4x2.75-in. touchpad with multitouch capabilities is centered below the spacebar and includes two dedicated buttons. To the right of the keyboard are five buttons, including a V-shaped power button that glows white when the system is powered on. The other buttons below this enable you to toggle between the discrete GPU (graphics processing unit) or integrated Intel graphics, toggle the cooling fan speed, access the keyboard manager app and launch a user-defined application. A pair of 3-watt stereo speakers is located above the keyboard, with a 5-watt woofer on the underside of the case.
The right side of the case provides a pair of USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a ventilation grille and a Kensington lock slot. The left side of the case includes three additional USB 3.0 ports, four audio jacks (headphone, microphone, line-in and line-out) and another ventilation grille. A panel on the rear of the case provides an RJ45 LAN connector, a mini-DisplayPort, a Thunderbolt/USB Type-C port, an HDMI video port and the connector for the external power supply, centered between two more ventilation grilles. Three small LEDs across the front of the case indicate Wi-Fi, battery and hard drive status. The bottom of the case is essentially one large ventilation grille.
As has become quite common, the battery is not removable and the manual does not address any user-serviceable components. During our test, the MSI WT73VR remained cool but was hardly quiet. Although its 35-decibel noise level was barely audible at rest, this climbed to 57dB when running our benchmarks, and 65dB (equivalent to vacuum cleaner) when the fan was switched to its high speed. The eight-cell 75Whr Li-ion battery kept the system running for just two hours and 55 minutes on our battery rundown test.
The MSI WT73 7RM-648US performed extremely well on all of our benchmark tests. Thanks to its Pascal-based NVIDIA GPU, it outperformed other mobile workstations we’ve reviewed recently on almost every dataset in the SPECviewperf test of graphics performance.
On the SPECapc SolidWorks 2015 benchmark—which is more of a real-world test—the MSI WT73VR also did very well, although it did lag the two mobile systems we previously tested that were equipped with much faster CPUs. On the demanding SPECwpc benchmark, the WT73VR also did extremely well, again garnering top results in almost every category. On our own AutoCAD rendering test, the 67-second average rendering time was respectable, but certainly didn’t break any records for mobile workstations.
MSI preloads Windows 10 Professional 64-bit and backs the system with a three-year limited warranty that includes a one-year global warranty. And unlike many other lesser-known brands, MSI mobile workstations are ISV (independent software vendor) certified for major CAD/CAM software from Autodesk, Siemens and SolidWorks.
The MSI WT73VR 7RM-648US definitely delivers great performance, but with its $4,699 price tag, it is likely to appeal to a more limited set of potential users.
MSI WT73 7RM-648US
- Price: $4,699 as tested
- Size: 16.85x11.3x1.93-in. (WxDxH) notebook
- Weight: 8.91 pounds as tested, plus 2.15-pound power supply
- CPU: 2.8GHz Intel Core i7-7820HK quad-core w/8MB cache
- Memory: 64GB 2400MHz DDR3
- Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro P5000 w/16GB memory and 2048 CUDA cores
- LCD: 17.3-in. diagonal (1920x1080), non-glare
- Hard Disk: 512GB M.2 PCIe SSD and 1TB 7200rpm SATA
- Optical: none
- Audio: line-in, line-out, microphone-in, headphone-out (with SPDIF); plus built-in microphone and speakers
- Network: integrated Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000 NIC) with one RJ-45 port, 802.11ac wireless LAN and Bluetooth 4.2
- Modem: none
- Other: five USB 3.0, one USB 3.1 (Type C) Thunderbolt port, mini-DisplayPort, HDMI-out, 1080p webcam, SD card reader
- Keyboard: integrated 102-key backlit keyboard with numeric keypad
- Pointing device: integrated touchpad
About the Author
David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Email at [email protected] or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.Follow DE