The GX720 shares its design heritage with the EX720, essentially being a repainted chassis with a black interior and red racing stripes. The lid has been redone to mimic black brushed aluminium, while the panel underneath the monitor that houses the touch-sensitive buttons has been swapped out, with a car-dash inspired grille covering the speakers and a more edgy design for the buttons themselves. While the usual media buttons are here, as well as the power profile, webcam, Bluetooth and wireless on/off buttons, there's also a "Turbo" button, which overclocks the processor from 2.4GHz to 2.78GHz, by increasing the FSB by 30MHz.
MSI has been rather criminal with air vents again though, positioning it on the right, meaning any right hander with an external mouse may find their digits a little roasted. Considering MSI includes a gaming mouse as part of its bundle, this is an interesting oversight.
The gaming mouse itself is actually of decent quality for something not from Microsoft, Logitech or Razer. It's comfortable for right handers, has a custom weight system (allowing you to modify its heaviness by adding metal slugs one by one to the inside of the mouse), and as an added bonus, the retention mechanism is designed like a six-shooter gun chamber. It's the first time, despite all the gaming advertising otherwise, that we've actually thought of a mouse as a weapon.
There is a DPI switcher on the mouse under the multi-directional scroll wheel, and the buttons on the left can be customised to run macros, with three separate profiles available by pressing the "M" button on the mouse. The profile editor isn't the best, because while it allows recording macros, only delay between mouse and key presses can be edited, with mistakes needing to be deleted rather than edited. You also cannot create a macro manually within the software — you must record your actions. It's a definite step-up from the usual mouse inclusions, but from a software perspective won't be threatening the top three manufacturers any time soon.
Aside from this the only gripe is the keyboard, as the keys near the numpad are squashed to accommodate a strip on the left featuring the power button. This could have been placed anywhere else to allow for a full-sized keyboard. The surface is also not as high friction as we're used to, which may contribute to typing errors.
Where the GX720 sets itself apart from its more pedestrian cousin is its feature set. Aside from a welcome increase in resolution to 1680x1050, it includes a Core 2 Duo P8600 at 2.4GHz and an Nvidia 9600M GT. It's still equipped with a 320GB hard drive (although it would have been nice to see an increase from 5400rpm to 7200rpm), and also has 4GB RAM, although once again MSI has opted to supply Vista Home Premium 32-bit edition — meaning the machine can only access 3.07GB of it. We'd have loved to have seen 64-bit Vista here. The change is slowly coming, and we sincerely hope by Windows 7 nobody is selling the 32-bit version.
The sides of the GX720 are a mirror of the EX720, with the left featuring the DVD drive, 56Kbps modem, gigabit Ethernet and dual USB ports; the right configurable audio jacks supporting microphone and line-in input, headphones, or up to 7.1 speakers as well as an IEEE 1394 port, hybrid eSATA/USB port, dedicated USB port, ExpressCard 54 slot and SD card reader. The rear is reserved for video outputs and power, including VGA and HDMI.
Other than the mouse, included in the bundle is a remote for the built-in TV tuner, an aerial, a copy of ArcSoft's TotalMedia 3.5 and the year old Tom Clancy's Rainbox Six Vegas 2. Two blank DVD-Rs are included to burn system recovery discs to, and we suggest you do so as MSI does not include the Vista install disc in the package. Once again you'll need to locate and install your own trackpad drivers to get the most out of your laptop, and MSI really needs custom software to manage its power profiles, with the Windows tool not really being up to the task.
The GX720 gave a good showing, scoring 5203 in 3DMark 06 and 6043 in PCMark05, indicating it's reasonably well equipped for gaming, excellent for production work, and completely excessive for office use. With Turbo enabled, it pulled 5323 in 3DMark06 and 6832 in PCMark05, a good increase. On the practical gaming front, Crysis: Warhead was certainly playable in Turbo mode with everything set to minimum and the resolution set to 1280x800. Gameplay is possible at the native resolution, but a little ambitious for this title.
The GX720 does fine for a gaming laptop. While it doesn't pull the massive punch of its Dell XPS or Alienware competitors thanks to its lower spec graphics card, it comes in a lot cheaper and should cover most gaming needs.