Conclusion: Green Dragon

Each time I've tested this chassis from MSI I've been a little less enamored with it. Finding a good gaming notebook isn't a trivial thing and there's a lot of room for innovation and improvement in this market segment, but it seems like only Alienware, Razer, and maybe ASUS are actually trying (although Toshiba's next-gen Qosmio is a pretty attractive alternative as well). This is basically the third generation of this chassis from MSI and improvements are incremental to non-existent.

To be sure, there are nice features in the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition. I like the red aluminum shell, and despite an awful layout for western consumers, the keyboard still has some of the best action you can find in a gaming portable. Killer wired and wireless networking is much appreciated, and there's at least a little bit of appeal in a notebook that has three mSATA ports. Finally, though it's the same 1080p panel we've tested three times now, it's still a perfectly good one.

Unfortunately MSI seems to have juggled the wrong design decisions with the GT70 Dragon Edition to court western consumers. The number one line item isn't performance or industrial design, it's always "features." You wind up with a gaudy shell instead of a clean design. Instead of fixing the cooling system or at least tweaking the fan profile, they simply add a toggle above the keyboard to set the fan to maximum. This is not a feature, this is deliberately sabotaging your own product to add another bullet point in your marketing material.

The keyboard could be amazing, but MSI opted to save a few bucks by just using the same bezel and key layout for every region; that's why you have a slash key next to the spacebar. And instead of using a sensible layout of document navigation keys about the keypad, they included the borderline useless Scroll Lock and Pause/Break keys. Which one do you use more? So why would Home and End be Fn combinations? It's a small thing but an incredible nuisance that again sabotages a potentially good product. The GT70 could at least have potentially my favorite keyboard, but there's no thought to it and no understanding of how westerners even type.

Here's a gaming notebook that has a mountain of bullet point features: backlit SteelSeries keyboard, Killer networking, 1080p display, fan toggle, "Super RAID 2" (just three mSATA SSDs in RAID 0), Sound Blaster Cinema...but the cooling system is a bust. It fails at the single job it's supposed to do best. I cannot in good conscience recommend the GT70 Dragon Edition until MSI fixes the keyboard layout, enlarges the touchpad, or at least, heaven forbid, produces a system that doesn't thermally throttle. In an ultrabook, throttling is a problem but can be forgivable. In a high performance system? Inexcusable.

Battery Life
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  • NA1NSXR - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Maybe some of us can't have a desktop, which is kind of the point of the segment. Not everyone is anchored down to a town, a state, or even a country. For me, someone who was accustomed to powerful desktops, resorting to a laptop for everything I need a computer to do was hard, but it had to be done after taking a job overseas. Thanks to this segment, I have preserved all of the functionality of my desktop with reasonable performance. The big chassis allows these machines to be overclocked to decent speeds. My Ivy Bridge is running at 3.8GHz on 4 cores and 4GHz on 1, and my 680M runs at 967MHz on load, all with excellent temperatures. I would say I salvaged a good 80% of my desktop performance after being forced on to a laptop and on a day to day basis this is quite acceptable. If this segment did not exist my situation would require a huge compromise in my computing experience, so these "back breakers" are far from ridiculous to me. Reply
  • wdfmph - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Yes, for people constantly on their way to somewhere and needs tons of computing power, it make sense. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Just because you don't understand a concept doesn't mean it intrinsically has no value. I don't personally like ultrabooks at all, but I recognize their appeal and purpose, and I recognize why they exist.

    What you need to understand is that the traditional notebook is effectively being put out to pasture. Entry-level computing is going to be done with tablets and convertibles in not too long, ultrabooks are going to be for actual portable computing, and for high performance mobile computing, gaming laptops and mobile workstations will persist. There are a million reasons to go with just a laptop; my M17x R3 goes with me to friends' houses frequently to game, and on trips it's a good substitute for a full on desktop.

    Also consider that PC gaming is enjoying a bit of a resurgence in popularity right now. We cover what we're sent, and the GTX 780M especially is worth covering.
    Reply
  • wdfmph - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I understand there's a niche market for gaming laptop and personally I liked the design of the already dead Voodoo PC. I like pay games on PC. I'm happy to see many AAA PC games coming out. With all due respect, gaming laptop is good for hardcore gamers like you to carry around. It better than carrying a huge computer case to attend a LAN party.

    I wish someday I could only take my phone and ipad to go to work. However, if I try that tomorrow, or someday next year, I am basically fooling around at office. A new Surface pro might be something close try, but with a price and weight like that, many might just opt for an "traditional" notebook such as Macbook air or slim ultrabook. Tablets and convertibles are making attempts to substitute notebooks in some way, but to be successful, serious efforts are needed from silicon to software.I don't see that will happen soon.
    Reply
  • RAWRscary - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Amazing how narrow of a view you have. Reply
  • Flunk - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I actually own both a "gaming" laptop and a desktop system. The laptop is useful when out and about and good enough for a game on the go, but I mostly bought it for software development because it was cheaper than a mobile workstation. The one I have is a little smaller (6.5lbs) but I don't find the weight or size unmanageable. As long as it fits in the backpack I'm good. Reply
  • BobBobson - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Yes wdfmph, that is right!

    And I dont understand those queer African types who walk 10 miles every morning just to fetch some water from the well. Why don't they just go to their kitchens and turn on the cold water tap!? Idiots!
    Reply
  • ickibar1234 - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    Gaming laptops now days aren't just for gamers, they are for Engineers and computer enthusiasts. GPUs can do so much more than just rendering these days. Also the ability to put in an Extreme CPU years down the road for cheap is a great deal. Reply
  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the review. Good to see people using the haswell quads. Too bad this one sucks.

    I really want a thin and light laptop with the 4900MQ or 4950HQ and no discrete graphics. Just a work laptop CPU powerhouse. Only 47W to dissipate with no graphics to worry about. Why doesn't anyone build this? I would buy it for work today!
    Reply
  • Flunk - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    There are actually a few options for a quad-core Haswell without discrete graphics. Look at business-class systems like Thinkpads, Dell Lattitude or maybe HP's Elitebooks. Reply

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