Beautiful red chassis; Loud, rich audio; Comfortable, customizable keyboard; Excellent overall and graphics performance; Above-average battery life
Expensive; Heavy; Display dimmer than average
MSI's beast of a dragon-themed gaming notebook combines Intel's new Haswell CPU with Nvidia's most powerful GPU ever for a grand-slam of power.
MSI has undergone an "Extreme Makeover: Badass Edition." Its new $2,799 GT70 gaming rig is one of the first notebooks to debut with a fourth-generation, quad-core Intel Haswell CPU. It's also rocking a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M chip, which was recently declared the world's fastest notebook GPU. This new tag team is a force to be reckoned with, offering stronger graphics and overall performance with longer battery life. And did we mention the wicked limited edition dragon motif? Read on to learn why the GT70 might be the new titan of gaming notebooks.
The notebook's interior is classic MSI, using a mix of aluminum, matte and glossy plastics. A capacitive touch panel and a rather large silver button power button are positioned above the keyboard in between a pair of speakers. A red band of color running beneath the panel gives the console a Voltron-esque appearance. The keyboard deck is swathed in shiny black plastic, and the dragon-adorned red aluminum makes a return along the palm rest with a fairly large black touchpad centered below the G and H keys.
While we doubt you'll be lugging around the GT70, the 8.9-pound, 16.85 x 11.3 x 2.2-inch
notebook is lighter than the 9.8-pound, 16.1 x 11.9 x 1.75-inch Alienware M17x R4. However, the 16.5 x 10.7 x 1.2~1.7-inch Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390 is the lightest gaming behemoth on the block at 7.9 pounds.
On the other hand, the colors could be better on this panel, especially compared with the glossy screen on the Alienware M17x R4. For example, the orange from Mozilla Firefox start page was much brighter. However we could get better detail from the GT70, specifically among the shaded background images.
We attempted to adjust the color using the display brightness settings in the System Control Manager (Eco, Presentation, Office, Game and Movie), but the picture consistently appeared duller than high-gloss visuals offered by the Alienware M17x R4. The red shoulder accents of Katniss Everdeen's party dress in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" trailer were muted, as were her normally steel-blue eyes. However, we were able to see every frond on her bird-themed dress.
We were awash in color when we watched the same trailer on the M17x R4; Katniss' skin tone looked healthier. The red accents on her dress popped and her eyes sparkled. We also couldn't stop looking at the woman with the lilac-colored pompadour. Viewing angles on both notebooks were generous enough to fit three or four people comfortably.
When we measured the display with our light meter, the GT70 measured 240 lux, 10 points below the average. The M17x R4 fared better with 282 while the X875 scored a dazzling 305 lux.
The GT70's Dynaudio speakers deliver clear, full audio -- loud enough to bathe our medium-size test room. Dialogue was nice and crisp during "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," particularly Katniss' plaintiff screams of protest and Hoffman's dark brooding.
As we made our way out of a dark, dank cave in "Tomb Raider," the audio was immersive. The sounds of cave-in, including falling rock and splintering debris, had real weight. We cringed at the squishy sound of a man being crushed by a boulder and his last fading gurgles. We were also exhilarated by the almost quiet hum of pulling back a bowstring to make a stealth kill on a large buck.
The piano and guitar on "Get Lucky," the Daft Punk/Pharrell Williams collaboration, were lively, upbeat and balanced. Daft Punk's signature synthesizer was crisp and clear while Williams' soft tenor drove the track. Our only complaint was the lack of bass. However, that was quickly remedied by the SoundBlaster software that allowed us to adjust bass and toggle between four settings (Music, Games, Movies and Custom).
With its shiny black plastic border and red accents, the 3.3 x 1.5-inch Synaptics touchpad is big on style. The pad provided fast, fluid response when we performed two-finger scrolls, three-finger swipes and three-finger presses for launching. However, it felt a little cramped as we attempted to pinch-zoom or two-finger rotate. Kudos to MSI for including discrete mouse buttons with firm, springy feedback.
When we went poking around ancient ruins in "Tomb Raider," the GT70 stayed relatively cool thanks to the surprisingly quiet fans. The touchpad, space between the G and H and the underside of the notebook registered 85, 92 and 90 degrees respectively. That bottom back vent blew slightly above our comfort threshold at 99 degrees.
When we ran the 3DMark11 benchmark, the GT70 posted a massive score of 7,352. That's 3,118 points higher than the 4,234 desktop replacement average. The Alienware M17x R4 and its Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M GPU scored 6,158. The Toshiba Qosmio's X875 Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU notched 2,984.
On the "Bioshock Infinite" benchmark, the GT70 averaged 155 frames per second at 1366 x 768 and the effects on low. When we switched over to native resolution (1080p), the frame rate dropped to 70 fps. The M17 R4, by comparison, notched 132 fps and 59 fps at those respective settings, and the Qosmio delivered 86 fps and 52 fps.
After cranking the settings up to maximum, the GT70 delivered 43 fps at 768p and 44 fps at 1080p. On the M17 R4, we saw frame rates of 32 fps and 30 fps while the Qosmio posted 31 fps and 19 fps.
During the PCMark 7 benchmark, the notebook's fourth-generation, 2.4-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor with 32GB of RAM returned a beastly score of 6,025, easily smashing the 3,999 desktop replacement average. The Toshiba Qosmio X875-Q7390 and its third-gen Intel Core i7-3630QM CPU scored 4,724 while the Alienware M17x R4's 2.6-GHz Intel Core i7-3720QM CPU only notched 4,610.
When we ran the File Transfer Test, the GT70 duplicated 4.97GB of multimedia files in 11 seconds for a transfer rate of 462.7 MBps, shattering the 90.6 MBps desktop replacement average. The M17x R4 and X875 were nearly even at 23.6 and 21 MBps, respectively.
On the OpenOffice Spreadsheet Macro Test, the GT70 paired 20,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 4 minutes and 1 second, about 40 seconds faster than the average. The M17x R4 was hot on the GT70's heels at 4:10 while the X875 took 4:41.
Software and warranty
MSI continues to go against gaming rig conventions, loading their machines up with software. Luckily, programs such as MSI Hybrid Power, Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager and Nvidia's GeForce Experience are designed to promote optimal CPU and GPU performance.
Third-party apps include Skype, Cookbook by Slow Serve, Microsoft Office, Evernote Touch, MusicMaker Jam and TuMetro, a reader app that compiles stories using keyword semantics. The system also comes with a 30-day trial of Norton Security.
And if that's not enough to satisfy your app hunger, there's BlueStacks, which enables Android apps to run on Macs and PC and its large cache of apps, including Pulse and WeChat.
The MSI GT70 comes with a two-year limited warranty.
The regular edition of the GT70 loses the dragon chassis in favor of a more subdued black aluminum lid. Priced at $2,599 you'll get a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor with 24GB of RAM, a pair of 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 configuration with a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive, an Intel HD Graphics 4600 GPU and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M with 4GB of VRAM.
The $1,499 base model has a 2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB 7,200-rpm hard drive and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 770M GPU with 3GB of vRAM.
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|CPU||2.4-GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||Dual 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD|
|Hard Drive Speed||7,200rpm|
|Hard Drive Type||Dual SSD + SATA|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed||8X|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 780M|
|Wi-Fi Model||Killer N202 2x2|
|Touchpad Size||3.3 x 1.5 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Gigabit Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||DisplayPort|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 2.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Audio-out|
|Ports (excluding USB)||security lock slot|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Audio-in|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Card Slots||7-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||2 year Limited warranty (Include 1 Year Global)|
|Size||16.85 x 11.34 x 2.17 inches|