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By Andrew E. Freedman published 20 July 22
The MSI Titan GT77 wants to replace your desktop with powerful components, a ton of RGB lighting and some strong upgrade options. But you have to be willing to pay a lot of money to get the top configuration, and for that you should get a 1080p webcam.
Tons of storage and memory
1080p, 360 Hz display is washed out
Diehard PC builders will tell you that even the best gaming laptops will never replace a desktop rig. But the MSI Titan GT77 is here to challenge that assertion, packing up to an Intel Core i9-12900HX — Intel's most powerful mobile processor — with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti and a ton of storage. Desktop replacements are often big and bulky, and while this Titan is still a very big laptop, it has slimmed down from the last time we saw it.
And it has tons of other trimmings, including a mechanical keyboard, and, depending on your configuration, lots of opportunities to upgrade down the line. But starting at more than $2,500, it's expensive and only goes up from there, hitting about $5,000 on the configuration we tested. If you want to replace your desktop, you'll have to pay the price.
As far as massive desktop replacements go, the redesigned MSI Titan GT77 is sleek. Don't get me wrong. It's still huge. You won't want to carry this around from place to place without a car. But still, its sportscar aesthetic is eye-catching, and, if you've seen the old, 9.2-pound 2019 design, a bit more compact.
Closed, the Titan is somewhere between a spaceship and a Ferrari. The black, plastic lid is fairly plain, with the exception of MSI's dragon shield logo (which, of course, lights up in RGB because why not?). The other thing you'll notice before you even open this notebook is that the Titan has a bit of junk in the trunk with some lines for texture. Alienware has been doing this for years to add extra ports in the back of the machine, but on the Titan, that's all exhaust for hot hair. But hey, that has RGB lighting, too (and replaces the RGB light bar on the front that you can see on MSI's existing GE76 Raider).
LIfting the lid reveals a 17.3-inch display with moderate bezels (though particularly large along the bottom). The entire deck is black plastic, which is offset by the RGB mechanical keyboard (more on that below). Some of the same lines can be seen below the screen, bringing a bit of coherence to the different parts of the laptop. There's a small fingerprint reader next to the trackpad, which worked well when I was wearing a mask and couldn't use Windows Hello facial recognition.
The Titan weighs 7.28 pounds and is 15.63 x 12.99 x 0.91 inches, which is hefty, but fairly shrunken down from the old design. In fact, it's actually lighter than the MSI GE76 Raider, and, in some dimensions, smaller (8.8 pounds, 15.6 x 11.2 x 1 inches). Part of that may be because the Titan switched entirely to plastic.
The Alienware x17 R2 is 6.82 pounds and 15.72 x 11.79 x 0.84 inches, while the Asus ROG Strix Scar G733Q is 5.95 pounds is 15.55 x 11.11 x 1.08 inches.
At just under an inch thick, it's good to see MSI using that space to jam the Titan full of ports. On the left side, there's the power jack, two USB-A ports, a full-size SD card reader and a 3.5 mm headphone jack. The right side has a third USB-A port, a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports over USB Type-C, mini DisplayPort and HDMI for video and an Ethernet jack. I'm of the opinion that with Thunderbolt 4 on board, MSI could probably ditch mini DisplayPort here for another USB-C or USB-A port.
In our review configuration, the Titan came with Intel and Nvidia's most powerful mobile components: the Intel Core i9-12900HX and an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. These provided strong gaming performance, though the gap was rarely huge between the HX and Intel's existing HK-series chips. To test these out for myself, I played some Control, which is still deeply demanding a few years past its release. I pumped the settings as high as they can go, including ray tracing, at 1080p to match the screen. The game typically ran between 75 and 80 fps as I fought my way through past enemy Hiss in the Oldest House.
On Shadow of the Tomb Raider at its highest settings (1080p), the Titan played at 117 fps, beating the Raider and Alienware x17 (both with a Core i9-12900HK, RTX 3080 Ti) at 112 fps and 107 fps, respectively. The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17, with an AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080, hit 92 fps. We saw a similar pattern on Grand Theft Auto High (1080p, very high settings), where the Titan achieved an average of 142 frames per seconds, surpassing the Raider (139 fps), Alienware (129 fps) and Strix (109 fps). When we checked out Far Cry New Dawn (1080p, ultra), MSI's latest reached 125 fps. This time, the Alienware came closest at 117 fps, while the Raider hit 113 fps. The systems were most competitive on Red Dead Redemption 2 (medium, 1080p), where the Titan topped the list at 86 fps. The Raider (82 fps), Alienware (78 fps) and Scar ( 75 fps) followed in the closest delta among the games between first and last place.
On Borderlands 3, the Titan came in second place at 105 fps; the Raider was ahead by a single frame. Meanwhile, the Alienware reached 97 fps and the Strix hit 87 fps. We also stress tested the Titan by running Metro Exodus for 15 runs on the RTX preset, which takes about half an hour. The game ran at an average framerate of 89.41 frames per second, and it was largely consistent throughout.
During Metro, the Core i9-12900HX's performance cores ran at an average of 3.03 GHz while the efficiency cores averaged 2.68 GHz. The CPU package measured 59.19 degrees Celsius. The GPU ran at an average of 1,243 MHz and measured 59.33 degrees Celsius.
The MSI Titan GT77 marks the first time we're reviewing a laptop with one of Intel's 12th Gen HX series chips. Specifically, the Titan is rocking a top-of-the-line Intel Core i9-12900HK with 16 cores (eight performance cores and eight efficiency cores) and 24 threads, with a boost clock of 5 GHz. Our review unit also came with a whopping 64GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage.
On Geekbench 5, an overall performance benchmark that relies heavily on the CPU, the Titan reached a single-core score of 1,851 and notched a multi-core score of 15,999. While the MSI GE76 Raider and Alienware x17 R2, both armed with an Intel Core i9-12900HK, earned similar single-core performance scores, they weren't as powerful on multi-core (13,456 for the Raider, 13,710 on the Alienware). The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 G733Q, with its AMD Ryzen 9 5900HX, achieved a single-core score of 1,487 and multi-core score of 8,231. All of the laptops did well on our file transfer test, which copies 25GB of test files, but the Titan GT77 really blazed through the challenge. MSI's latest desktop replacement reached speeds of 2,639.03 MBps, handily surpassing the Alienware (2,268.18 MBPs), Raider (1,774.50 MBps) and Scar (1,449.66 MBps).
On Handbrake, in which we use laptops to transcode a 4K video to 1080p, the Titan finished our task in 3 minutes and 59 seconds. That's faster than both the Raider and the Alienware (4:44 and 4:45, respectively), and noticeably speedier than the Strix (6:11).
We don't usually run our Cinebench stress test on gaming notebooks, but this was our first look at the Core i9-12900HX, and we wanted to see what it could do. And let me say, it tore through the workload. It started off with a strong score of 22,112.12, and never dipped lower than 20,896.57. That's pretty stable, all things considered.
The CPU's performance cores hit an average of 3,732.71 GHz while the E-cores ran at 2,909 GHz. The Core i9-12900HX measured an average of 89.28 degrees Celsius.
We tested the MSI Titan GT77 with a 17.3-inch, 1080p, 360 Hz display. That's likely the ideal configuration for esports players, but it ends up that this particular screen isn't coming to the US. Still, since we have the tools, we put it under our light meter and colorimeter, as readers from elsewhere around the globe may still get some useful info from the numbers. To my eye, the 1080p display is a no-go, despite what the colorimeter told us. The screen appears washed out (and, oddly enough, it seemed worse in the middle of the screen). The Thor: Love and Thunder trailer is typically filled with color. But on the Titan, every one of those colors, while present, looked dull. In scenes where Thor and Jane Foster (also, technically, Thor) fight in the streets, only their red capes stood out at all. Everything else was just kind of dull.
Those same issues occurred while playing games. Control has a ton of red lighting, but it was so washed out as to occasionally appear pink. Even in normal lighting conditions, everything looked bland.
Despite that, the Titan's display put up decent, though not the best, numbers on our colorimeter covering 98% of the sRGB color gamut and 69.4% of the wider DCI-P3 gamut. The Alienware, Strix and Scar all surpassed 100% of the sRGB gamut, however, and had better showings on DCI-P3 (the Strix did the best at 77.3%).
At 318 nits, the Titan is decently bright, though the Alienware is slightly more luminous (325 nits). The Raider and Scar 17 were a bit dimmer at 259 nits and 261 nits, respectively.
MSI has outfitted the Titan with a mechanical keyboard using low-profile Cherry switches with a claimed 3.5 mm of key travel. I'm not sure it feels particularly deep to me, but I sure love the way it feels.
The Titan's keys are linear switches, which make sense considering that it's a gaming laptop. While I personally prefer tactiles for typing, the linear switches here have a decent thocky sound and feel. (For a laptop, anyway. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.) The only oddity about it is that the arrow keys and numpad feel like typical membrane switches, as do the right control and function keys. Those are a bit smaller and don't fit the switches. I wish MSI made the arrow keys in a way that fit the Cherry switches, as some games do use those.
On monkeytype, I hit 116 words per minute with 98% accuracy. While they're nice for typing, they’re really advantageous for quick-twitch gaming, because they pop up and can be pressed again very quickly.
The 5.2 x 3.3-inch touchpad is a nice size, especially when you consider that so many gaming laptops have small trackpads (after all, most gamers use external mice). But this trackpad is smooth and has plenty of room for gestures in Windows 11. It's a little shallow to click, but nothing I couldn't get used to.
The Titan's pair of top-firing speakers and pair of woofers do a fine job, but still don’t replace a solid pair of headphones.
When I listened to Matt Maeson's "Hallucinogenics," the vocals and guitars were nice and clear, and some hand claps, while a bit buried in the background, could be made out. The bass, like many laptops, was subpar. The song got nice and loud, filling a small room in our office. At its highest volumes, it got a bit distorted, but it's plenty loud long before you get to that point.
When I played Control, gunfire was punchy, and vocals, including Jesse's inner narration, were crisp and clear. Some of the ambient music was lost among the fighting, but could be heard more clearly elsewhere in the game.
The Nahimic app has a number of sound profiles and an EQ. They don't make huge differences, though I suspect some might like the surround sound for gaming and movies.
While the Titan GT77 we tested was packed to the gills (at this price, it should be), those who pick configurations with less storage space or memory still have opportunities to upgrade.
Opening the Titan involves removing 11Phillips head screws from the bottom of the laptop. They're all the same length, so you don't have to remember what goes where. From there, you need to use a pry tool (I found one shaped like a guitar pick to be invaluable) and separate the clips to remove the bottom. The only tricky part was getting off the rear grill, which required a bit of prying upside down.
Once you get over the massive heatsinks cooled by four fans, you'll see that there are four SSD slots, so if you don't get a top-of-the-line model, there's plenty of room for expansion. Underneath a small heat shield, there are four RAM slots. Ours came with four sticks (64GB in total) of DDR5, but again, those who don't have those slots filled can add more down the line.
You can also access the battery and the networking cards.
We rarely have high expectations of gaming laptops when it comes to battery life — especially for desktop replacements. But the Titan surprised us a little bit.
On our battery test, we have laptops browse the web, stream video and run OpenGL tests while connected to Wi-Fi with the screen at 150 nits. The Titan endured for six hours and five minutes. That's not a full work day, but it's better than the competitors we tested against. The Raider ran for 4:57, the Strix ran for 3:44, and the Alienware x17 R2 didn't even make it to three hours.
To see how hot the MSI Titan GT77 gets while gaming, we took skin temperature measurements while running our Metro Exodus stress test.
At the center of the keyboard, between the G and H keys, the laptop measured 37.1 degrees Celsius (98.78 degrees Fahrenheit), while the touchpad remained cooler at 29.2 degrees Celsius (84.56 degrees Fahrenheit).
The hottest spot on the underside of the notebook measured 44.1 degrees Celsius (111.38 degrees Fahrenheit). It's likely more comfortable to use this on a desk, but it probably wouldn't fit comfortably on your lap anyway.
Considering that everything else on the Titan is pushed to extremes, the fact that MSI has opted for a 720p camera here is a disappointment (especially considering MSI's own GE76 Raider uses a 1080p lens!).
Admittedly, resolution isn't everything, and at my well-lit desk near a window, my green shirt was color-accurate and I could even make out resolution in my hair. But still, this laptop, as configured, is $5,000, so you shouldn’t need to go shopping for one of the best webcams on top of this investment. There's also an IR camera for use with Windows Hello. Facial login was speedy and worked well throughout my testing.
MSI's main piece of preinstalled software is called MSI Center. Formerly Dragon Center, it has some hardware monitoring tools, as well a confusing version of its lighting software, Mystic Light. I kind of wish MSI would go back to the old Dragon Center, as months in, this still feels a bit barebones.
In fact, to get to some of the lighting options, I had to install the Steelseries GG app, which previous MSI laptops have had. Here, I was able to adjust the lighting on the back of the device and make per-key customizations to the keyboard.
Otherwise, the other MSI apps are less useful. There's MSI App Player, which lets you run some Android apps. This is far less useful now that Windows 11 allows some (albeit a limited number and not from the Google Play Store). MSI True Color lets you choose between different color profiles and reduce blue light.
There's still some filler. MSI adds apps like Music Maker Jam, which should be optional. Nahimic is on board for better control of the audio
MSI sells the Titan GT77 with a one-year warranty.
No matter how you configure the Titan, it is a very expensive notebook. We tested the Titan with an Intel Core i9-12900HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti, 64GB of RAM, 4TB of SSD storage and a 17.3-inch, 1080p display with a 360 Hz refresh rate. In the U.S., that screen won't be available (you'll have to get a 4K, 120 Hz screen), but Intel tells me that our laptop with the 4K screen should cost around $4,999. We haven't found this configuration for sale, though. Yeah, that hurts my wallet just thinking about it. I know people who have bought cars for less. I haven't seen that option on the market, but there are others. The cheapest I saw, as of this writing, was a $2,599 model with a Core i7-2800HX, RTX 3070 Ti, 16GB of RAM and 1TB SSD. For $3,199, you can get a Core i7-12800HX , RTX 3070 Ti, 32GB RAM and a 1TB SSD. MSI directly sells a model with our exact specs, with the excision of 2TB of storage and the 4K screen, for $4,949.99, though it is out of stock as of this writing. In between, there are a few different combinations of CPU, GPU, RAM and storage, but expect to unload a few grand if you buy one of these.
The MSI Titan GT77 is an extremely powerful, incredibly expensive gaming PC designed for the highest performance. In most cases, it succeeds, though whether the performance the HX delivers for the price difference over an HK, especially in gaming, will be up to what your bank account can tolerate.
I see the Titan for what I would call the "gaming professional." That’s someone who games, but also makes videos, edits photos, streams or does other creative work on the side that can help payback some of the cost. For those looking at the Titan or something like it, I suggest first checking out the MSI GE76 Raider. That notebook can also get extremely expensive, but it starts a lot cheaper (under $2,000 if you're willing to consider 11th Gen CPUs), giving you more options to stick your toe in the high-end gaming laptop waters. The HX is impressive, but there's a wide range out there if you want to spend a bit less.
Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Twitter: @FreedmanAE
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