MSI’s GT70, GTX 880M Update

For better or for worse, MSI has had the same core designs for several of their high-end laptops for at least a couple years now, specifically we’re talking about the GT60 and GT70 series (and with a few minor differences in features, the GX60/GX70 AMD APU variants). There have been updates and tweaks to the internal components, but the chassis remain largely the same as before. The latest updates bring NVIDIA’s new GTX 800M parts into the picture, and today we have the GT70 equipped with the top-of-the-line GTX 880M. Let’s quickly look at the specs for the system we’re testing/reviewing.

MSI GT70 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4800MQ
(4x2.7-3.7GHz + HTT, 22nm, 6MB L3, 47W)
Chipset Intel HM87
Memory 1x4GB + 1x8GB DDR3-1600 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 880M 8GB GDDR5 256-bit xxx
(1536 CUDA cores, 954MHz + Boost/5GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD 4600 Graphics
(20 EUs, up to 1.3GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) HGST 1TB 7200-RPM HDD (HTS721010A9E630)
Optical Drive TSSTCorp SN-506BB Blu-ray writer
Networking Killer Networks E2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Killer Wireless-N 1202 dual-band 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio (Sound Blaster Cinema)
2.1 speakers
4 x 1/8” audio jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side -
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Line-out, Line-in, Mic, and Headphone jacks
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-bit
Dimensions 16.9" x 11.3" x 2.2"
429.3mm x 287mm x 55.9mm
Weight 8.6 lbs.
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
SoundBlaster Cinema audio
Killer Networks WiFi and wired networking
RGB backlit keyboard
Keyboard macro support
Warranty 2-year parts and labor
Pricing $1,900

Other than the upgrade to the GTX 880M graphics card, the most noteworthy item in the above list is the lack of an SSD. That means general performance and responsiveness in many cases will be rather sluggish, but this is easily remedied by purchasing a model that includes some form of SSD storage (or adding your own). The impact on our performance benchmarks will be most apparent in PCMark, but for gaming purposes it won’t really matter. Otherwise all of the key items remain the same as the previous model GT70. There are a few other oddities with this configuration as well, like the inclusion of a Blu-ray burner and the 12GB RAM in two of the four SO-DIMM slots (why not just use 2x8GB; are the cost savings of using one 4GB SO-DIMM really that great?), but there are other GT70 models.

There’s a benefit to this particular configuration of course: the starting price is only $1900, so even after adding your own 256GB SSD you’re still looking at a price of less than $2100. As an alternative, there’s another GT70 that comes with a 1TB HDD with a 128GB SSD, Blu-ray reader, and drops the GPU to a GTX 870M for $1600, but obviously that’s going to be a pretty big hit to gaming performance. Step up to 16GB RAM and add a 128GB SSD and the price jumps to $2200, so it’s best to just stick with the base model and upgrade to an SSD on your own; just remember that the PCMark scores for our system are going to be lower than competing solutions. And one final interesting note is that the previous generation GT70 with a GTX 780M 4GB card is only $50 less than the new model; I’m not sure 8GB RAM on a GPU is really needed (and likely won’t be during the lifetime of the GT70), but $50 more to improve performance and gain additional VRAM is certainly a worthwhile upgrade.

MSI GT70 Subjective Overview
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  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Crap... I could have sworn it had an IPS panel. Edited text, as you're right -- still TN. Does any 17.3" gaming notebook with PLS/IPS/AHVA exist right now? I've seen good displays in stuff like the EliteBook series, but those are apparently very expensive.
  • pmpysz - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    There's some new MSI notebooks with 3K screens. I think those are all versions of the GS60 and GT60s. There's also a 13.3 or 14" Eurocom model with a 1080p and 3k option. Then I saw a couple Gigabyte models with 1080p IPS in both 13" and 15" models. I think the 13" (P34G maybe) has newer 800 series, while the 15" doesn't, but will come out with a 800 series version soon. This is all off the top of my head though, so it might not be perfectly accurate. I personally really wanted an IPS ans the response time isn't as important to me as the image quality. I looked at the G750 at Best Buy and the TN panels look like garbage compared with everything I own. I really like the notebook, but no IPS really kills it for me.
  • pmpysz - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    *just to clarify, the 3Ks are all IPS AFIAK.
  • rolla94 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    It is worth noting that the GT60 version uses what seems to be a Samsung PLS panel. I would be curious to see how the two panels compare. This is what I'm seeing on my GT60 Dominator 424 "SAMSUNG 156HL01-102"
  • pmpysz - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Do all the GT60s use PLS? I've been curious as to what eDP wide angle means on some of the model descriptions. A quick google wrote it off as the same as TN, but I don't see how they can call TN wide anything.
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    You guys going to get anything from a custom builder boutique based on the clevo w370ss chassis? That seems to hit a good price/performance point. Most boutique places are offering a free i7-4810 upgrade and I'm really wanting to see the 860m in some real world numbers.
  • Hrel - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I don't think SSD's are as dramatic of a difference as you guys like to keep stating. Everything at work still uses hard drives. You launch everything and then just leave the computer on, with everything open, for weeks at a time. Once the programs are launched there's little/no difference between mechanical disks and SSD's. It's really not that bad.

    With that said when I power on the machine Monday morning I go make coffee cause I know it won't be usable for a few minutes. I think it's important to make that distinction, SSD is still just the difference between a "premium" experience and a normal one. The way most people use computers it's not a big deal. For anyone on a budget it's certainly not worth giving up meals over.
  • purerice - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I agree with you in the case of desktops. For laptops, however, the extra speed "can" increase battery life as well, or at least improve that portion of battery life where you are actually working. SSDs also weigh minutely less. Is that worth decreased capacity and extra cost?

    For you and for me, no, not really. For enough other people out there, yes.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    I haven't really seen a major improvement in battery life thanks to SSDs (though it might happen in some cases). But the speed difference for launching apps, installing software, booting Windows, resuming from hibernate, etc. is very, VERY noticeable to me. Perhaps it's that I'm now used to having an SSD, so when I load Chrome and open my 30+ default tabs and it doesn't take a minute or two for everything to come up, I'm happy. Could I live without an SSD? Yes, but for the cost I'd much rather have a system with a good SSD and drop the CPU or GPU down a notch as opposed to having a maxed out CPU/GPU and no SSD.
  • emarston - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    I disagree, if you require encrypted drives as my job does and SSD makes all the difference. Believe me I notice it on my work machine everyday.

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