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
Exhaust
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Ethernet
D-SUB (VGA)
Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
Exhaust
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.
3.9kg
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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  • DanNeely - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    I have to disagree. The faster startup is nice; but it's the smoother response in ordinary use that's really sold me. Moving my OS/Apps to an SSD a few years ago did more to improve general system responsiveness than any upgrade I've made other than my initial move from a single to a dual core CPU. Reply
  • Notmyusualid - Monday, April 28, 2014 - link

    I get chest-pains waiting on mechanical hard disks when used as a boot disk...

    My mother, and two of my brothers have switched over to SSDs, (at great effort by me), and they say they could never go back / transformed their machine etc. The third brother is too cheap to do so.

    Now if you have the premium of time on your side, sure hitting the power button, and fetching coffee is fine.

    But as a network engineer under the gun, when you have strict site-access periods, and it takes 2 weeks to get your access, and during your line-up testing, your in-house application crashes, and you've got only 30 mins before your escorted access ends, it is a God-send to be able to reboot quickly, start the database, and get your application up again, and continue to work with the other end of the link... I've known Core 2 Duo laptops, with mechanical disks, take 8 to 10 mins to do that task I just described. One minute thereabouts (honestly) with SSD. Marvelous. Surprised me too.

    You can hear the deep breaths from the other end when you say 'sorry I have to reboot', but not a problem for me for a few years now...

    So sorry, cannot agree there is little difference.
    Reply
  • jak3676 - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Am I the only one that read the headline and was wondering why in the world someone would put an 8 year old 8800 GTX in a laptop? Reply
  • huaxshin - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    @JarredWalton:
    From the summary, you wrote GK110 instead of GK104.

    "As far as NVIDIA’s new GTX 880M, performance is pretty much what you’d expect from a slightly higher clocked GK110"

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Also did you notice that this particular model did much better than your previous GT70 review in terms of thermals? With the Dragon Edition you and me had a little discussion regarding the temperatures. You got 98C with that one while here you get 82C.

    Any thoughts to why?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Possibly just a difference in components -- some 780M may run hotter (and with higher voltages) than this 880M. I pushed the system as hard as I could, just to see if it would throttle. Anyway, Dustin tested the earlier Dragon, so I don't know if he just had a poor unit or what. And I'll go edit that GK110 error. LOL -- GK110 in a notebook, I wish! Reply
  • shatteredx - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    No 120hz display kills it for me. Does MSI even have any models with a 120hz display? Reply
  • Antronman - Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - link

    Why would they?
    It's not like an 880m will reach 120fps in any games.
    Reply
  • shatteredx - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Any FPS above 60 will be smoother on a 120hz display.

    Also, I play many older games that hit 120 fps even on my 680M.
    Reply
  • erple2 - Friday, April 18, 2014 - link

    You need a couple of qualifiers on that. If you play with vsync on, it won't be any smoother. If you play with triple buffering, it will. Personally, I play with vsync on as I dislike tearing more than frame drops (though with proper triple buffering, you don't get the integer scaling in fps with no lag like d3d buffering offers). Though this seems like a great case for the highly proprietary g-sync.. Reply
  • nathanddrews - Thursday, April 17, 2014 - link

    Maybe not with all eye-candy maxed out, but that's not really the point of 120fps gaming. Reply

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