- Fantastic performance
- Impressive speakers
- Cool red dragon design
- Big, boxy, and heavy
- Average TN screen (IPS screen would have been better)
- Poor battery life
Quick TakeThe MSI GT70 delivers unique looks and high performance in a package that is slightly less expensive than the Alienware 17.
MSI might not be the first name that comes to mind for most notebook gamers, but MSI has been one of the leading component manufacturers for gaming desktops for years. The MSI GT70 (GT70 2OD-039US) is the latest 17-inch notebook targeting PC gamers who want maximum performance and are willing to sacrifice a little portability to get it. What makes the GT70 particularly interesting (apart from the dragons emblazened on the exterior) is that inside it packs both a quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M graphics for some absolutely stunning performance.
Build and Design
The MSI GT70 has a design that is … well … polarizing. You’re either going to love it or hate it the instant you see the red and black notebook with spiral dragons etched on the lid and palm rest.
If you can look beyond the aggressive styling that makes us think of Fast and Furious meets Game of Thrones, the GT70 is designed in much the same way you expect any premium gaming notebook to be built: a combination of metal and quality plastics combined with a thick chassis designed to fit (and cool) all the high-performance components inside.
MSI used brushed alluminum with a red finish and the previously-mentioned etched dragons on the lid and palm rest while the rest of the notebook is constructed of relatively thick plastics with a matte black finish. There’s also a strip of glossy black plastic surrounding the keyboard and speakers as well as another thin strip of glossy plastic surrounding the touchpad. The glossy plastic bits look nice when the GT70 is just sitting on a desk or a shelf, but those polished surfaces just pick up fingerprints and dust as soon as you start touching the notebook.
As previously mentioned, the GT70 is thicker and heavier than many average shoppers might expect; measuring 16.85 x 11.34 x 2.17 inches and weighing roughly 8.6 pounds without the power adapter. This isn’t as bad as some customized Clevo gaming notebooks, but it’s bigger and heavier than the similarly configured Alienware 17. It’s also worth mentioning we’re seeing more and more mid-range gaming notebooks with “reasonable” gaming performance that are considerably thinner, lighter, and cheaper. In short, the GT70 isn’t the ideal notebook for people who are looking for a thin and light laptop. This monster was built for serious gaming at a serious price (around $2,699 at most retailers at the time of this writing).
One benefit of the big and boxy design is that you’ve got plenty of room for upgrades. The GT70 has a single massive access panel located adjacent to the battery on the bottom of the chassis so you can replace storage drives, wireless cards, or even access the CPU and GPU if you’re a hardcore gamer who wants to apply a different thermal compound to these components.
Ports and Features
The GT70 takes advantage of all that extra space and includes an excellent array of ports. This notebook includes three USB 3.0 SuperSpeed ports, two additional USB 2.0 ports, full-size HDMI, mini DisplayPort and standard VGA out as well as Ethernet, a Blu-ray drive, multiple audio outputs and a memory card reader for editing the images from your digital camera. All image descriptions are listed from left to right.
Front: Activity lights, no ports
Back: Kensington lock slot, AC power jack, Ethernet, VGA, mini DisplayPort, HDMI
Left: 2x USB 3.0 ports, media card reader,
1x USB 3.0 port, Audio jacks
Right: Audio jacks, 2x USB 2.0, Blu-ray drive
Screen and Speakers
The MSI GT70’s 17.3-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) display is reasonably good for a gaming notebook thanks to a non-glare (matte) surface and accurate colors. Many modern gaming notebooks feature screens with a glossy surface that helps deliver good contrast and color saturation but also creates reflections/glare from nearby lights or bright sunlight. The non-glare screen on the GT70 means you don’t have to worry about annoying reflections and can focus on what is happening in your game. The LED backlight is reasonably bright for indoor use but not quite bright enough to adequately overpower the sun when you’re outdoors.
Viewing angles are typically narrow for a TN-type panel like this one; colors wash out quickly when viewed from above and appear inverted when viewed from below. We would love to see an IPS screen with wider viewing angles, but most IPS screens have a slower response time which makes them less ideal for gaming at extremely high frame rates. In short, the screen is a trade off: it has a nice resolution and matte surface for gaming but isn’t particularly bright and doesn’t have the best viewing angles.
The two Dynaudio stereo speakers are located above the keyboard and beneath the hinges deliver loud and clear sound and are better than what you get with most laptop speakers. There is also a built-in subwoofer located on the bottom of the notebook on the oposite side from the fan exhaust. The frequency range is good with vocals sounding clear and bass that is nice and rich even at higher volumes. We’re glad that MSI put the speakers on the top deck of the chassis so that sound is directed up and toward the user and, unlike the 15-inch MSI GX60, we felt like the audio was well balanced and not “weighted” more toward the rear of the notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The GT70 features a full-size “SteelSeries” keyboard with separate numeric keypad. This keyboard is a “Chiclet” or island-style keyboard which has added space between each key to help prevent typos. The keys are completely flat and have a matte surface which doesn’t show fingerprints or dust like the glossy plastic which surrounds the keys.
The keys have a light cushioned feel with quiet key action but key travel (the distance between pressed and un-pressed positions) is a little shallow for a gaming keyboard. The support frame under the keyboard is mostly firm but we did feel more flex under heavy typing pressure than what we expected from a “SteelSeries” keyboard. Additionally, the GT70’s keyboard features multicolored LED backlighting to help you see the keys in a dark room.
The GT70’s Synaptics touchpad is reasonably sized but nothing to write home about. The touchpad is larger than the one found on the MSI GX60 and provides greater surface area for multi-touch gestures like “pinch” or scroll. However, the simple reality is that this is a gaming notebook. While you “can” enjoy some serious game time with a touchpad “most” gamers will connect a wired or wireless mouse when gaming. In any case, the dedicated touchpad buttons worked well in games and the clear physical separation between the left and right buttons means you can feel the difference between a left click and a right click while focused on a game.