Performance is where most gaming laptops (especially desktop replacements) shine, and the MSI GT70 Dominator is no different. Easily the most notable feature is laptop’s improved NVidia GeForce GTX 870M GPU. MSI has taken the stock 870M GPU, which normally offers 3GB of DDR5 visual memory and effectively doubled its potency, soldering an additional 3GB of DDR5 onto the GPU. The added memory makes the laptop far more competitive with devices sporting high-end graphics cards, and best of all it does so without placing a huge economic burden on the consumer.
Along with its shiny new GPU, the gaming giant offers a 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ CPU, 16GB of RAM and ample storage between its 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD. The entire package is currently offered on MSI’s website for $2,000, making the laptop an extremely attractive option for users who want to get the most performance for their dollar.
The unit NBR tested likely offers the best bang for your buck, but users who want optimal performance can opt for the pro variant of the GT70 Dominator series. The top-of-the-line model features an incredibly fast 3.7GHz Intel Core i7-4930MX CPU, along with a whopping 32GB of RAM and an NVidia GeForce GTX 880M GPU (with 8GB of DDR5). Users can expect to pay handsomely for those performance boosts though, as the high-end GT70 Dominator Pro more than doubles the cost of NBR’s test unit at $4,100 on MSI’s website.
Those looking to save some cash could also try the entry model of the MSI GT70 Dominator, but you will have to make a few concessions. The base laptop features only 8GB of RAM along with the same CPU and NVidia GeForce GTX 870M GPU as our test unit; but unlike the device NBR reviewed, the base model only comes equipped with the 3GB of DDR5 originally offered on NVidia’s GPU. The base model will still be capable of playing most games on the market today, but with its RAM and visual memory effectively cut in half, the device may not be able to offer the same performance when more demanding next-generation titles begin to hit the market.
As expected given the laptop’s impressive specs the MSI GT70 Dominator makes short work of most functions. While testing the device Notebook Review ran the laptop through a gauntlet of multitasking, including: 20 open web tabs, 4 HD video streams, word processing all while streaming music in the background. The device was able to handle the barrage of tasks with ease showing no signs of performance loss.
While the MSI GT70 is undoubtedly a decent option for power users and those looking to multi-task, the real kicker remains; can it play graphically intensive games? The short answer is a resounding yes. The MSI GT70 Dominator doesn’t quite match some of its competitors when it comes to raw benchmark scores (I’m looking at you Alienware 18), but the laptop still managed to handle every game we threw at it with excellent results.
To test the device Notebook Review played the popular free-to-play online shooter PlanetSide 2.With large sprawling environments, multiple combatants and loads of particle effects PlanetSide 2 proves to be a great evaluation for overall game performance. The game was running at the highest possible settings (including render distance) and a 1920 x 1080 resolution. Even with the settings complete maxed the experience was incredibly smooth averaging around 65fps (frame per second) and never dropping 44fps.
Considering how well the MSI GT70 Dominator faired with PlanetSide 2, users can rest assured that the laptop is capable of handling basically every game on the market and is capable of running a fair number of them at max settings while maintaining strong performance levels.
Our review unit of the MSI GT70 Dominator had the following specifications:
- Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
- 17.3” FHD (1920 x 1080) anti-glare LCD
- 2.7GHz Intel Core i7-4800MQ CPU
- NVidia GeForce GTX 870M (with 6GB GDDR5)
- 16GB DDR3
- 128GB SSD
- 1TB HDD (7200 RPM)
- 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Dimensions: 16.85” x 11.34” x 2.17”
- Weight: 8.6 pounds
- Base price: $1,500
- Price as configured: $2,000
wPrime processor comparisons (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark 7 is a newer benchmark and measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance test:
Heating and Noise
The MSI GT70 Dominator’s Cool Booster 2 technology uses a large single fan along with a thermal bridge to connect both the CPU cooling and GPU cooling systems. The system works by transferring heat from the hotter component to the cooler one in order to help accelerate cooling.
MSI boasts that this system also helps to reduce noise, but the device was still incredibly loud whenever NBR played a game. Within a few minutes of booting up PlanetSide 2 the device produced a constant loud steady hum that could be heard throughout our entire experience.
While the noise can be a bit distracting, it’s well worth it considering the device remains cool even when taxed. Hot streams of air can be felt getting out from either side of the device, but the deck of the notebook remained comfortably cool, even after running PlanetSide on max graphical settings for an hour.
To test battery life, we used our new PowerMark benchmark in balanced mode. The test consists of a combination of automated web browsing, word processing, gaming and video playback workloads. The test is far more strenuous than our previous test, measuring the machine under a litany of scenarios to better simulate real life use. With the test being far more demanding the scores are understandably lower than our previous benchmark.
Powermark battery life benchmark (higher score means longer battery life):
In our tests the MSI GT70 Dominator ran for 2 hours and 58 minutes before shutting downing. Falling just a few minutes short of 3 hours the MSI GT70 Dominator offers solid battery life for a high-powered gaming laptop. While the MSI GT70 Dominator’s battery life out performs previous models, it’s actually on par with most of its competitors. Likely the jump in battery life over older models is due to NVidia’s Battery Boost technology in its new line of 800M GPUs.