The top-end of the gaming notebook spectrum is home to the most exotic of products to ever grace the market and as with every processor generation, a refresh of existing products will always be the main order of business for the lot of manufacturers. In line with the launch of 4th generation of Intel Core processors and NVIDIA’s latest 7-series Geforce cards, MSI has refreshed their GT70 gaming notebook with the latest enthusiast specs and today we’ll be checking out the MSI GT70-2OD gaming notebook and hold on to your seats because all that horsepower will have you ponying up a 100K+ wad of cash. Is the 6-digit price tag worth it? Read on and find out and let’s make this extremely showy!
We’ve had a lot of MSI products hit our lab so I’ll be surprised if you aren’t already familiar with them but just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 3 years, MSI is a manufacturer of components for the desktop particularly motherboards and graphics cards as well as notebooks and tablet amongst other businesses. MSI ranks in the top leagues of manufacturers and have consistently rolled-out excellent products in recent years. One of those notable products is their gaming line of notebooks, which recently saw an expansion of the once exclusive Dragon line of gaming products which now branches out to desktops and graphics cards.
As stated, every new hardware generation is an impetus for refresh in the consumer computing landscape, most particularly the enthusiast scene. The now already month-old 4th generation Core processors from Intel codenamed Haswell have had their debut and NVIDIA’s GTX7xx series are already on its mid-range release schedule. With Intel targeting the mobile space much more than the desktop, manufacturers have the best of features on their side with the lower power consumption of the newer processor and improved graphics aiding in battery life. But alas, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s check out the specs on the MSI GT70-2OD:
Features at a glance:
The latest 4th generation IntelÂ® Coreâ„¢ i7 Processor
17.3″ Full HD (1920×1080) anti-glare LCD in LED backlight
Enthusiast level NVIDIAÂ® GeForce GTX 780M discrete graphics card provides great performance and ultra images quality
Exclusive Super RAID 2 with 3 SSD RAID gives over 1500MB/s reading speed! (option)
Exclusive Cooler Boost 2 technology improves 15% cooling performance with lower fan noise
Exclusive NOS design enhances 10% GPU performance
Matrix display with max 4 displays to expend the vision for extreme gaming experience or multi tasks
Killerâ„¢ DoubleShot combines high-performance Ethernet and Wi-Fi for superior speed and lower latency of online gaming and streaming
Keyboard by SteelSeries with full color LED back light and solid feedback design
Note: This is a pre-production model of the MSI GT70-2OD. Final product may vary.
First up we got the packaging. This is one gigantic box in terms of notebook packaging but its justified, you’ve got a hell of a package inside and you better back that up with something to match. In terms of styling, the MSI gaming theme is in full stride with the black box highlighted with the dragon logo theme. Everything is subtle with no bold marketing bursting in random places.
The MSI GT70-2OD is protected by a thin cloth to prevent scratches on the screen and top shell. Opening up the notebook, we see the large 17″ screen and wide keyboard on the base. With the full-length keyboard in place, the touch pad is aligned a bit to the left, though you’ll be wanting to use the GT70 with a mouse for most gaming uses so this is no biggie.
This is where we start seeing those subtle detail touches that MSI has poured on the design of the GT70. Starting off with the chassis, as seen on the images before we have a aluminum palm rest lining the top of the base half and now we see the upper shell of the screen backed with aluminum. This gives the GT70 a premium feel with the black, brushed finish but also adds some heft to the overall system.
MSI opted for a full-width keyboard on this notebook and not just any keyboard, the MSI GT70 is equipped with a SteelSeries co-developed keyboard for that premium gaming feel. The keys provide a subtle tactile feedback not normally found on low-profile membrane types found on laptops. As with all top-of-the-line modern laptop, the keyboard is illuminated and has a fully configurable lighting scheme.
The MSI GT70-2OD comes with a blu-ray/dvd combo drive making this beast capable of burning massive blu-ray discs as well as playing the latest films on them. The back of the unit has ports for VGA, mini-DisplayPort, and HDMI as well as a slot for a Kensington lock. The side with the disc drive (right) has 2 USB2.0 ports for optimal mouse placement. The left side is lined with USB3.0 ports, a card reader and 4 audio ports for multi-channel output.
We won’t be popping the hood on this sucker but we’d like to draw your attention on the subwoofer on the upper part of this image. When it comes to notebook audio, nobody is probably as meticulous about it as MSI. The DynaAudio solution backed and the 2.1 sound setup delivers a solid multimedia experience straight out of the box with no external peripherals needed.
SiSoft’s SANDRA is a benchmarking, testing and system information application which provides plenty of options in gaining information regarding your system. For this test, we gauge the raw computational power of the CPU with the Processor Arithmetic benchmark based on the Whetstone and Dhrystone test. Both tests run completely within the processor so it gives a good picture of how a processor performs.
Maxon offers a nice benchmark tool called Cinebench which really stresses your entire system to render a very complex scene. The output score is completely unique to Cinebench but allows us to have a rough idea of how the CPU works with 3D rendering tasks.
wPrime is a multi-threaded benchmarking application designed to measure the raw computational power of a CPU. It can be configured to run on a custom number of threads to accomodate multi-core CPUs.
SuperPI is another benchmarking tool that utilizes the pure computational power of a CPU. This test however is purely single-threaded and shows us the performance of a single core which gives us a good picture of how a processor performs on similar tasks.
At a glance:Â Nothing short of impressive as expected from new-generation hardware. The Intel i7-4930MX packs enough wallop to rival the desktop last-gen counterpart proving this notebook isn’t just gaming-friendly, its a desktop replacement for demanding professionals.
We use a 150MB 1080p MP4 video and convert it to standard iOS format using Xilisoft Video Converter for pure processor conversion and MediaEspresso for CUDA and QuickSync acceleration.
We convert a 73-minute album (D-Coy – Black Katipunero) into MP3 LAME 160Kbps CBR with dbPowerAmp Batch converter and note the time it takes to rip the disc.
We use WinRAR 4.0 on default settings to compress 3340 files of varying types including MP3s, various images and documents for a total of 2.40GB of data.
We resize 3,030 varying images of different formatsand sizes (a total of 883MB) to our standard 1200×900 resolution and note the time it takes to finish up the batch job.
At a glance:Â Again, everything is just fast. Curiously though, the video conversion seems a bit off even after multiple attempts. Seems like we need to update our software to utilize the cores better. We leave the data we gathered as is for reference only.
OVERCLOCKING & TEMPERATURES
Yes, you heard that right. Overclocking on a laptop. The MSI GT70-2OD is geared towards the high-end so it’s no surprise that it has some overclocking potential. On stock we can see the specs below:
Pushing the CPU proved a bit difficult with the thermal solution already on high-gear, it just couldn’t handle Haswell’s notorious heat output. Even on stock the temps easily soared to upper limits breaking past 90*C.
We held back on the CPU and proceeded to put a small bump on the GPU:
We managed to bump up the GPU to 856/1418 core/mem clocks from 771/1250. We’ll be using these settings for our gaming tests and see how much of a boost OC’ing our notebook provides.
We measure the subject’s game performance under different games using 1920×1080 resolution on maximum detail and a lower detail settings (indicated). We’ll be including the overclocked GPU results for comparative data also.
Battlefield 3 is one of the hottest titles of 2011 and continues to prove itself a worthy game. Based on DICE’s Frostbite Engine 2, this game’s lush details and visuals are just stunning but can really stress any modern GPU.
The latest installment in the Resident Evil franchise takes an all-star turn featuring multiple intertwining storylines. Powered by Capcom’s proprietary engine, the PC demands a considerably able setup for a smooth gameplay experience.
One of the greatest stories to have ever been told. Bioshock Infinite puts players in the shoes of Booker DeWitt as he takes on the world in this critically-acclaimed title delivered via Unreal Engine 3.
The most visually intense game to ever been made. Prophet is back to take on the Ceph and Cell after a long sleep and the world isn’t what it was when before he got frozen. CryEngine 3 is behind this beautiful beast that will put a lot of systems to their knees.
The reboot of the gaming phenomenon Tomb Raider puts players in Lara Croft’s hiking boots as she explores the ruin of Yamatai in this origins game. Powered by a modified Crystal Engine, the game features TressFX which creates beautifully rendered hair animation.
Torchlight II is an action-RPG with LAN and online multiplayer support. Represents a very similar load to that of MOBA games and similar titles.
Show the world your vision of an empire. Civilization V brings the world to the players fingertips featuring a whole new gameplay engine. Benchmark mode is used for this test which uses fixed settings.
At a glance:Â Excellent numbers across the board courtesy of the GTX780M. Modern are playable in maximum settings and are highly fluid when the details are scaled down. Tomb Raider and its TressFX seems to give the card a hard time, showing a massive jump in performance when details are toned down. Overall though, the frame rates are just excellent.
The MSI GT70-2OD features 3 mSSD under the hood for multiple RAID possibilities. For ultimate performance, MSI configures the disks in RAID0 or striped volume.
Here’s the Crystal DiskMark results from the striped mSSDs:
Aside from that, MSI and WD have partnered up bundling WD Blacks on the top-tier Gaming notebooks for bulk storage.
One of the main drag of top performance on notebooks is the power it requires. The result is quite predictable. Even with the new thermal management and lower power draw from Intel’s 4th generation processor, the GTX780M alone taxes the battery enough to support an hour of gaming.
Â The MSI GT70-2OD is certainly a performance beast. There’s simply nothing we can take away from it unless we start nitpicking. That said, let’s break down the scores for the MSI GT70:
Performance.Â With so much new technology packed under the hood, the MSI GT70-2OD just screams past our benchmarks proving it can game on max details and crunch tasks like a pro should. Nothing much to say except that performance is top-notch. A perfect score.
Build Quality. The GT70 is clad in aluminum for a premium feel and everything about it just oozes quality. MSI pulled out all the stops and stuffed a SteelSeries keyboard as well as a 2.1 audio setup on the GT70-2OD notebook that there’s simply nothing left to wish for.Â The GT70 is decked out in terms of specs and designing a notebook chassis to handle all the heat output is a challenge though. Heat proves to be one of the main turndowns of the GT70 as well as noise output as the fans sound like a jet taking off when they hit past 80% speed. This is to cope up with the vast heat output of the notebook and even though we’re aware this is a situation facing many manufacturers, they could’ve opted for a better cooling solution. Still, just a nick off the nearly perfect score for this category. An excellent 9.5 for this.
Functionality.Â We’ve mentioned it before: this is pretty much desktop replacement material right here.
Bundle.Â As this is a pre-production model, we do not know what comes with the final product. MSI’s official listing includes software bundles though but these may change. For now, we give it an average score.
Value.Â And this is where it all boils down to. Just in case you’ve missed it, this configuration of the MSI GT70-2OD retails forÂ â‚±139,000 at the time of writing. This puts it out of reach of most gamers and holds itself as a premium product. Lower specced SKUs are expected to come out with different configurations which should give potential buyers more options but the model we have right now is the best of the best and the price tag sure warrants that. If the price tag turned you off already, then this product is not for you. Comparing it to the likes of the Razer Blade Pro Â or a similarly-specced Alienware and going directly to a battle of price tag is a bit misleading as both said products aren’t locally available and taking into consideration importation costs or travel expense (should you choose to buy them in their target markets) as well as duties, importation taxes and other customary requirements then its pretty clear-cut that the MSI GT70 holds the price advantage. Again, we still do wish the price could be a bit lower.
In closing, the MSI GT70-2OD is a top-performing notebook delivering a gaming experience comparable to modern desktops all in a package that isn’t tied down to a desk. Although it has a hefty weight to it, its not tied down to one spot and that still scores for portability. Add to that the premium features like the SteelSeries keyboard and DynaAudio stereo setup amongst other things and you have a lot going on for you. All this though comes at a premium though with theÂ â‚±139,000 holding it high for many to reach but for those who are willing to spend that amount for unparalleled performance, then the amount is justified.
The MSI GT70-2OD is far from perfect but its performance and applications Â for this hardware generation is close to it. We’d hope to see MSI address the thermal issues in the production model and see a couple of games bundled with the GT70. We award the MSI GT70-2OD our Gold Award and Performance Award. The MSI GT70-2OD is backed by a 2-year warranty.