MSI GT70 Subjective Overview

We’ve already covered the core design, keyboard, touchpad, cooling, etc. several times so I’m not going to spend a long time rehashing that subject for this review. Aesthetically, I think the GT70 looks a bit dated, but at least this version isn’t quite so garish/gaudy as the Dragon Edition at the GTX 780M launch. The short summary is that the GT70 is a large and rather bulky gaming notebook, with the capacity to support three mSATA SSDs in RAID 0, or two 2.5” drives, an optical drive, and it has a moderate quality 1080p matte display. Cooling performance is similarly merely acceptable, as MSI uses a single large heatsink + fan to cool both the CPU, GPU, and chipset; the result is that under load (e.g. gaming) the GT70 can get a bit loud; that said, I didn’t see any indication of CPU or GPU throttling during testing.

Personally, some of the most important elements for me with any laptop are the user facing devices, and by that I mean the keyboard, touchpad (and potentially touchscreen), and display. Some people might be willing to overlook flaws in these areas, but if any of these areas fall short it greatly detracts from the overall functionality of a laptop. Let’s quickly cover each of these in turn.

The good news is that, outside of a minor complaint regarding MSI’s location of the FN and Windows keys, and the 10-key having a half-size “0” key, the keyboard works well. The backlighting is zoned RGB, and the SteelSeries software now allows you to remap/reprogram any key. So that bit about not liking the default location of the FN and Windows keys could be easily remedied…except you can’t remap the FN key [sigh]. Taking things a step further, the SteelSeries software also allows you to create and assign macros to every single key (except FN), and you can create four custom layers with different macros and ligting effects/colors on each – switching between them via the FN + 1…4 key combination. It’s really quite slick and can truly be a differentiating factor between gaming notebooks, especially if you’re the type of gamer that likes using/creating macros.

The touchpad story isn’t quite so good, as MSI continues to use an older touchpad – specifically Synaptics v7.2 hardware. Synaptics is generally a good choice and the tracking and multi-touch support work well enough, but the lack of a clickpad is a mistake in my opinion and the size of the touchpad is somewhat small in today’s market. However, for gaming I expect most people will use a dedicated mouse regardless, so the touchpad isn’t really a problem. Having it recessed slightly also looks a bit dated as far as designs go, but it does help to prevent inadvertent touchpad activation while typing/gaming.

As for the display, I’ve been a bit spoiled by the recent spate of IPS panels, and it’s sad that MSI hasn’t looked at upgrading that element. Maybe there just aren't many (any?) good 17.3" panels out yet, but I've seen so many IPS panels in Ultrabooks and other laptops that it's a bit disheartening to be back to a TN panel. Pre-calibration, the colors on the GT70 panel are very skewed with oversaturated blues (with undersaturated reds), and while the display hits a reasonable 350 nits maximum brightness, post-calibration (i.e. after correcting for the massively overblown blues) that drops to only 300 nits. In fact, in order to get the red levels close to where they’re supposed to be, I had to calibrate at 90% brightness, which means those who want good color accuracy will have to compromise a bit on battery life. But battery life isn’t a huge factor here, so it’s not the end of the world, and at least post-calibration the colors are quite good.

If I had one major thing other than the LCD panel that I’d like to see MSI change, it would be their cooling system. It gets the job done right now, but Clevo, Alienware, and ASUS are all using dual fans for their competing notebooks, and there’s a reason for that. GTX 780M and now 880M can use a lot of power, and even though MSI proves it’s possible to cool both the CPU and GPU with a single fan, a lot of the heat is concentrated in the back-left corner and the GT70 tends to run louder and hotter than other competing gaming notebooks.

When you look at newer designs like the Razer Blade Pro and MSI’s GS70, they look far more attractive and aren’t nearly as bulky. With such designs readily available, I’m not really convinced about the need for a large notebook with GTX 880M. You might have to turn down a few settings in games to hit 60+ FPS with a GTX 870M, but even High detail without anti-aliasing looks quite good (i.e. better than current consoles) and games will run well on a slightly slower but far more attractive notebook. However, large notebooks do offer more in the way of expansion options, so for example the GT70 supports up to three mSATA drives, two 2.5” drives, four SO-DIMM slots, and it still includes an optical drive. The sleeker GS70 on the other hand has a single mSATA slot, two SO-DIMM slots, and no optical drive. I prefer that over the size of the GT70, but not everyone will feel that way.

Ultimately, if you want maximum gaming performance in a notebook, right now GTX 880M is where it’s at. The only way to currently beat the GTX 880M for mobile gaming is by using two of them in SLI, which is a topic for another day. So let’s see what the NVIDIA’s latest mobile monster can do….

MSI’s GT70, GTX 880M Update MSI GT70 GTX 880M Gaming Performance
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  • Hrel - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I've always wondered why laptop GPU's include so much extra GPU RAM. I've never seen a GTX660 with 4GB of RAM, much less 8. Yet I saw GTX460M's configured with 4GB of RAM years ago. What gives?
  • Gunbuster - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    It's a check box feature. That RAM is not that expensive and makes the system sound more impressive. It's not like they can stick a huge gaudy yellow three fan MSI cooler on the prefab graphics module they buy from Nvidia...
  • ssiu - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    And I always thought the 4GB on mobile GPUs are typos, since even desktop cards like 780Ti doesn't have 4GB. So they really have 4GB (and 8GB for this one)?? *mind blown*
  • Batmeat - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I have the GE70. The machine is amazing. IMO save yourself the money and put your own SSD in. That's what I did.
  • emarston - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Same here, I popped in 2 SSDs in my GE70 and it's awesome.
  • Harmattan - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Let's call this like it is... this is a 3 year-old laptop using a 1 1/2 year-old GPU. The 880m is the same exact chip as last year's 780m (which provides the same or better performance when overclocked) -- it's as if, in the desktop space, NVDA was to increase the GTX 780's core speed a bit and call it a "GTX 880". Further, the 880m is same chip as a 680m albeit with another shader block enabled. My issue is not the performance the 880m/780m provides, which is very good -- it's the fact that NVDA is sitting on tech and dribbling it out -- with virtually no cost improvement -- since there is no competition whatsoever at the high end. We need a high-end Maxwell mobile solution toute suite.

    Also, just a note on the pricing points you make at several points: this GT70 as configured is actually $50-100 more expensive than an NP8278/P170SM (which actually had some cosmetic changes since the last version, and has much better cooling) with the same hardware depending on the reseller -- not sure where you're pricing these machines...
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Still has a much worse speaker setup and keyboard however.
  • godlyatheist - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Where can you buy the i7-4700MQ 3 years ago? Oh wait, you can't.

    It's not a crime to use existing design and update them. They are faster (even if marginally) and not more expensive compared to the release price of the old gen equivalent. I don't get the problem here. It's not like they marketed the 680M laptop for $1000 and 880M ones for $2000.

    "The 780m (which provides the same or better performance when overclocked)" That statement says the 880m improved because it is able to reach higher clock at same power envelope. You may think it's nothing, but you can't deny it's an improvement.

    You said it yourself, there is no competition at the high end. Is it Nvidia's fault that AMD can't compete? Why should they do anything when refreshing existing design let's them reign with ease?

    MSI has traditionally been weak in the cooling department, because they make budget gaming laptops. They are going to save the $$$ somewhere and cooling is what MSI chose. If you only care about specs, sure go with Sager/Clevo. All the other stuff surely aren't worth $50-100 right?

    I have the P150HM/NP8150 with 2nd gen i7 + 680M and it runs any game I need comfortably. It has a dual fan design yet the cooling is crap unless you mod the casing. The reason is thin heatpipe and lack of air intake. Clevo has improved since then but it's the same as any other company. Oh yea, the keyboard is junk on it.
  • danwat1234 - Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - link

    The MSI has a very high flow 12V cooling fan. If you crank the fan to full speed, temps will stay nice even at full load on all processors. Unless it's needs a repaste.
  • pmpysz - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    "ASUS is now using an IPS panel in their competing G750 series"

    What model? I've been looking at them all and haven't seen a single IPS panel in any of the G750s. Even the new ones with the 800 series GPUs.

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