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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  • 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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