There are thin-and-light “gaming lifestyle” laptops that can actually be carried around every day, and then there are “musclebook” models that are designed solely for power with no priority whatsoever given to weight or bulk. MSI's latest flagship model, the GT76 DT-9SG Titan, falls squarely and unapologetically into that latter category. It weighs over 4kg (not counting the two enormous power bricks) and uses a desktop Intel Core i9 CPU plus an Nvidia GeForce RTX series GPU with all the cooling apparatus that you'd imagine these components would require. Laptops like this are meant to be used only when plugged in, but they don't take up as much room as a full-sized gaming desktop PC, and they can be carried around when necessary.
If you don't have a lot of space at home, or if you think you might need a very powerful yet portable PC, the MSI GT76 DT-9SG Titan might be just the thing for you. But should it be on your shopping list? Let's find out.
According to MSI, the design of the GT76 DT-9SG Titan is inspired by modern sports cars, which is a common trope for gaming laptops. The exterior is all black plastic except for the silver aluminium lid. There's a carbon fibre pattern on the bottom and around some of the vents, which you might not see unless you look closely. While there are a few angular creases on the lid and rear hump, the overall look is surprisingly sedate. There are no red streaks or LEDs here.
As we've established, this laptop is very large and chunky. It measures up to 42mm thick, and is wide enough for a 17-inch screen and a full-sized keyboard with a number pad. The large hump behind the lid's hinge makes the GT76 DT-9SG Titan deeper than most ordinary laptops as well.
You can see banks of copper heatsink fins through the massive vents on the sides and rear. The bottom of this laptop has a huge mesh panel exposing the four cooling fans and a vast network of copper heatpipes. Hot air is sucked in from the bottom and exhausted from the rear and sides.
There are RGB LEDs on the rim of the bottom, casting a halo of light on your table around the unit. The lid lifts up to reveal a 17.3-inch screen with surprisingly slim borders on the top and sides. There's still space for a webcam, but overall this makes for a modern look. The panel is non-reflective, and we'll get to its specifications and performance in a bit.
MSI has gone with a standard keyboard rather than the mechanical ones we've seen on some previous Titan series models, but it's still designed by Steelseries. The keyboard has a lot of room to breathe, and the first things we noticed were the full-sized number pad and arrow key cluster. We'd have liked better spacing between these blocks of keys to make them easier to hit. The Windows key has been moved to the right of the space bar, which MSI says helps avoid interruptions while gaming due to accidental presses.
You get per-key RGB backlighting with several preset effects and levels of intensity. One touch that we really loved was that when you press the Fn key, all possible combination keys are illuminated in red, letting you quickly find shortcuts. This is so useful that we're going to miss it on all other laptops from now on.
There's a fairly large but non-clickable trackpad. The dedicated left and right-click buttons are a little hard to use because they're narrow and close to the laptop's rim. The trackpad is otherwise comfortable, and is centred perfectly to the keyboard's home row.
On the left of the laptop's lower half we have the power inlet, a Gigabit Ethernet socket, a Thunderbolt 3 Type-C port which supports DisplayPort video output, two USB 3.2 Gen2 Type-A ports, and individual 3.5mm headphones and mic sockets. On the right, there's a microSD card slot, two more USB 3.1 Gen2 Type-A ports as well as one Type-C port, and finally one Mini-DisplyPort and one HDMI video output. That's a very generous selection, but we wonder why MSI went with a microSD slot rather than a standard one.
As we mentioned earlier, the GT76 DT-9SG Titan requires two heavy and bulky 230W power bricks. These are packaged individually but their cords merge in a single junction box with two outputs, which means they're always attached to one another which makes wrapping them up a pain. For some reason the junction box plugs into a separate large dongle that then plugs into the laptop using a single small plug. That just means there's another unnecessary thing to carry around. We've seen far more elegant solutions from other companies, such as having both bricks packaged neatly in a single caddy.
Given its price and niche status, the MSI GT76 DT-9SG Titan will be imported only by order in India, with a lead time of several weeks before your unit is delivered. The benefit of this approach is that you can choose your specifications from a wide range of options. The base configuration with a mobile Core i7-9750H CPU is priced starting at Rs. 3,29,990.
The DT variant of the GT76 Titan that we're reviewing is priced starting at Rs. 3,79,990. The DT in its name tells us that it has a 95W desktop processor, in this case the top-end Core i9-9900K. MSI says that it has overclocked the CPU to run at 5GHz on all eight cores, and we hope that all the fans and heatpipes will be able to handle that kind of heat.
While the configurations on sale initially are all very high-end, MSI says buyers will be able to choose between an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2070 and GeForce RTX 2080, and get up to 128GB of RAM. There are three PCIe M.2 slots for SSDs, and an additional 2.5-inch bay for SATA hard drive or SSD. As for the screen, the choices are between a 4K 60Hz panel and a full-HD 144Hz panel, with a potential full-HD 240Hz option in the future. Sadly there's no option that supports Nvidia G-Sync and can take advantage of the powerful GPU.
The astronomical price of the DT variant gets you the Core i9-9900K, GeForce RTX 2080, 4K 60Hz screen, 16GB of DDR4 RAM in two channels, dual 512GB Samsung PCIe SSDs in RAID0 (striped) for extra speed, and a 1TB hard drive for additional storage. Our review unit came configured with 64GB of RAM, which will raise the price, but was otherwise just as described.
All configuration options get Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) and Gigabit Ethernet, both hooked up through a gaming-optimised Killer controller. Other specifications include Bluetooth 5, an 8-cell 90Whr battery, 720p 30fps webcam, and dual 2W speakers with a dedicated 3W woofer. The keyboard is developed by Steelseries, while the speakers have Dynaudio branding and sound itself is enhanced with Nahimic software.
Speaking of software, MSI's own Dragon Center lets you check system resource usage as well as control performance, fan speed, VoIP enhancements for in-game voice chats, and battery health. You can set up profiles, and triggering these will allow you to switch between the Turbo, Sport, Comfort, and Eco performance modes using hotkeys. The profiles can also be set to trigger actions such as changing the Nahimic audio profile and the screen DPI scaling, as well as automatically launching specific games or programs.
Unfortunately there are still several other apps for other functions. All the RGB LED controls, including for the ones on the chassis, are for some reason in the Steelseries keyboard app, and there are multiple other little utilities for things such as the Killer networking, updating drivers, configuring display colour profiles, making backups, and more.
Before we get to gaming, let's talk about general-purpose usage and what it's like to live with a laptop like the MSI GT76 DT-9SG Titan. First of all, the screen is a huge pleasure to work with. Being a non-glossy panel, colours are not overpronounced and the 4K resolution means that everything is sharp, even with 175 percent UI scaling in Windows 10. We found this great for getting work done on, and its height thanks to the thick laptop body made it even more comfortable.
They keyboard is good, but there's some flex towards the centre and you might find the action a bit mushy for typing. We have to make special mention of the speakers, which are not only loud but also very open and produce a rich sound. This makes the GT76 DT-9SG Titan superb for entertainment — we just wish there was an easy way to disable the distracting RGB LED light strips on the front and sides when settling in to watch a movie.
One thing that might prevent you from enjoying a movie or some music is this laptop's fan noise. It truly does sound like a jet engine, and it can be heard from halfway across a fairly crowded office floor. The noise can be a huge distraction, and there's no telling what can set the fans off — sometimes just downloading a file or clicking a link while browsing the Web would send them into a tizzy — and we haven't even gotten to gaming yet.
When anything truly stressful is happening, the fans spin up to their fullest, and hot air is ejected forcefully from the rear and upper sides of the GT76 DT-9SG Titan. The body, including the wrist rests and area around the keyboard, gets very hot, sometimes to the point that we didn't want to touch it. For very long gaming sessions, an external keyboard and mouse would be highly advisable (as well as a very well padded headset).
That brings us to general benchmark performance. Our tests were all performed with the GT76 DT-9SG plugged in, which allowed its components to run at full speed. We used the default Sport profile, not the overclocked Turbo profile, except to check how much of a difference it makes.
PCMark's standard and extended test runs produced scores of 6,085 and 8,136 respectively, which are astronomical for laptops. Cinebench R20 gave us single-core and multi-core scores of 485 and 4,462. POVRay's render benchmark ran in just 1 minute, 4 seconds, and the VRAY benchmark took 1 minute, 12 seconds. The extensive Blender benchmark ran through all its scenes in 17 minutes, 30 seconds. Compressing a 3.24GB folder of assorted files using 7zip took 2 minutes, 9 seconds. Transcoding a 1.36GB AVI video to H.265 took just 41 seconds.
These scores are just slightly lower than what the Core i9-9900K produced on our open desktop test rig when we first reviewed it, which is remarkable for a machine so compact by that standard.
We then shifted our attention to the overclocked Turbo mode, with the fans set to run constantly at full blast, and repeated a small subset of the same tests. The Cinebench R20 scores rose slightly to 490 and 4,534 for the single- and multi-core tests, but POVRay posted 1 minute, 7 seconds which was slightly worse than before.
Of course we had to put the RAID0 NVMe SSD array through its paces, and the result was very impressive. CrystalDiskMark showed sequential read and write speeds of 3255.7MBps and 2902.6MBps respectively, while more realistic random speeds were 610.4MBps and 520.3MBps respectively, which is still very good.
Moving on to graphics performance, 3DMark gave us 22,065, 11,975, and 6,228 points respectively in the Fire Strike standard, Extreme, and Ultra tests respectively. The DirectX 12 Time Spy standard and Extreme tests gave us 10,208 and 4,736 points, while the ray tracing-enabled Port Royal scene put up a score of 5,997. Unigine Valley ran at 1920x1080 using its Ultra preset at a respectable average of 128.2fps.
We ran all our game tests at the native 4K resolution, because if we were spending this much on a laptop, we'd expect the best possible experience. We tried Far Cry 5 at its Ultra preset and got an average of 54fps which is okay but not great. Metro: Last Light Redux ran at just 31.47fps when using its Very High preset with all effects on and AF set to 4X. We had to reduce our expectations with the quality settings in order to get above 60fps.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider also gave us 42fps at its Highest preset with ray tracing effects disabled. With the RTX shadow quality set to Medium, that dropped to 35fps. We tried to compensate using Nvidia's DLSS upscaling option which actually drops the resolution and tries to fill in the missing detail using deep learning algorithms. The average did in fact bounce up to 49fps. If you want to enjoy ray tracing effects, you'll have to reduce the resolution or use DLSS. It's situations like these that would benefit from the 144Hz full-HD option that MSI offers instead of a 4K panel.
Battlefield V is another game that can use Nvidia's RTX ray tracing hardware. We first played through a fight scene at 4K without ray tracing, and observed between 50 and 60fps on average using the Ultra preset. Enabling ray-traced reflections brought us down to around 40-45fps.
Finally, we come to battery life. We don't usually expect much from gaming machines, especially ones not designed to be used on the road, but the MSI GT76 DT-9SG managed to surprise us. When running on its battery the power-hungry discrete GPU is turned off and power is managed well. We got around four hours of casual usage which is decent. The intense Battery Eater Pro ran for 1 hour, 18 minutes, which also exceeded our expectations.
MSI has created a beast of a laptop, but you have to be willing to spend more than a small car would cost if you want the latest and greatest hardware. Laptops like the GT76 DT-9SG are meant for gaming, and gaming alone. The bulk and noise would make this a very difficult laptop to live with, and that sounds off-putting, you should instead consider a more versatile machine that can also handle games.
For this reason, we think the option of a 1920x1080 144Hz screen makes more sense than a 4K 60Hz screen — the higher resolution is great for everything other than gaming, which makes it a little bit of a mismatch here. We also can't see why MSI couldn't have gone with a G-sync capable panel. The rest of the hardware is pretty much perfect.
MSI has even done well with the design of this machine — except for the awkward power bricks. This is the kind of laptop you could buy if money is not an issue and you want something that's super powerful and doesn't take up much space. Of course you could buy a tremendously powerful gaming desktop for less money, but the GT76 DT-9SG can be carried around or tucked away when not required. You could even run a big monitor for a more immersive experience.
You won't find this laptop easily in shops, and you most likely won't be able to demo one hands-on. Given all these factors, the GT76 DT-9SG is a luxury and an indulgence for those who know exactly what they want.