The beating heart of the GT80S 6QE configuration, and the main feature separating this notebook from earlier releases of the GT80, is the new Intel Core i7-6820HK processor. This quad-core CPU launched in September of 2015 and is part of Intel’s 6th generation “Skylake” processor offerings and features a dual-channel DDR4-2133/DDR3L-1600 memory controller (configured here with DDR4 RAM). On the surface, the Core i7-6820HK performs similarly to the older Core i7-4900MQ (Haswell) and Core i7-5700HQ Broadwell chips, but the main advantage that Skylake brings to the table is the 14 nm process that delivers improved energy efficiency and less throttling if you run the CPU at full load for extended periods of time (something serious gamers will do).
The perceived speediness of the processor is further enhanced by the main boot drive which MSI calls a “Super RAID 256GB SSD.” Technically the main (C) drive inside this notebook is a pair of 128GB M.2 SATA solid state drives in RAID 0. The bottom line is that the boot drive delivers insanely fast read and write speeds; so switching between applications is lightning quick and the launch time for opening apps or games installed on this drive is nearly instant.
All that speed was sometimes countered by an unusual problem with our review unit. We experienced repeated (although not consistent) problems getting our review unit of the GT80S 6QE to wake from sleep. From time to time the notebook would fail to wake from sleep and we would have to completely shut down the notebook and restart the PC. We might have dismissed this as a peculiar, anomalous issue with our review unit, but a quick Google search shows other GT80 owners have experienced similar wake from sleep problems. Ultimately, we didn’t mind restarting the notebook since the Windows 10 boot time is so fast, but we would prefer to see a problem-free wake from sleep.
Of course, the highlight hardware for gamers is still the dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M GPUs running in SLI, each with 8GB of dedicated GDDR5 video memory. One of the reasons that the GT80 Titan family of notebooks is so massive is because MSI uses MXM graphic cards (which can be replaced or upgraded later without replacing the PC’s main board) rather than soldering the GPU components directly to the main board.
We tested this gaming notebook with BioShock: Infinite, Battlefield 4, Thief, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, and Dragon Age: Inquisition all using the “Ultra” detail presets at 1920 x 1080 resolution. The GT80S managed a fairly consistent frame rate of more than 100 fps in all games except Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare and Dragon Age: Inquisition, where the frame rates were still an impressive 68 fps and 89 fps respectively. This notebook will certainly deliver even greater frame rates if you are willing to lower the detail presets from the maximum “Ultra” settings to “high” detail settings.
The team at NotebookReview.com tested the MSI GT80S 6QE with the following configuration:
- Windows 10 (64 bit)
- 18.4-inch Anti-glare wide view FHD display (1920 x 1080)
- Intel Core i7-6820HK quad-core processor (2.7 GHz, 8MB Cache, 3.6 GHz max Turbo frequency)
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M SLI (8GB GDDR5 x 2)
- 1TB HDD (7200 rpm) and 256GB SSD Super RAID (128GB M.2 SATA SSD x 2 in RAID 0)
- 24GB DDR4 RAM (8GB x 3)
- BD/DVD/CD writer
- 8-cell Li-Ion battery
- MSRP: $4,499
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
Heat and Noise
Both internal and external operating temperatures are kept in check thanks to the massive cooling system inside the GT80. The average external temperature of the chassis was of 26 °C (80°F) at idle, and never exceeded 41°C (108 °F) during stress testing, as measured along the top and bottom of the chassis using an IR thermometer. The fan exhaust vents peaked at just just below 150 °F after two hours of gaming on the maximum detail settings, but this shouldn’t be a concern unless you put your hand directly on the vent or block the vents with items on your desk.
The Core i7-6820HK never exceeded a temperature of 90 °C (195 °F) according to the internal temperature sensors and we didn’t notice significant throttling of the CPU. Both of the Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M cards reached temperatures around and 65 °C (15o °F).
Unfortunately, the massive cooling system for that hot hardware means that the GT80 gets pretty loud when the fans run at maximum speed. Yes, the fans inside gaming notebooks tend to be noisy but we measured the noise output from the fans at 54 decibels at full speed and roughly 35 db at idle. Just to clarify, casual conversation is usually measured between 50 and 60 db and a clearly audible whisper is between 20 and 30 decibels. In short, when these fans are running at full speed they sound like a hair dryer on low power and they will disrupt your ability to hear other people speaking or hear ambient room noises.
The team at Notebook Review uses Futuremark’s Powermark synthetic benchmark to measure battery life after a continuous mixture of automated web browsing, word processing, video playback and game rendering. Powermark shows that the 74.25 Wh battery inside the GT80 lasts for just over two and a half hours (153 minutes). If you plan to use the GT80 for unplugged gaming then you shouldn’t expect the battery to last more than about 45-50 minutes with a modern game on high detail settings. On the other hand, if you’re only using this notebook for web browsing then you can extend the battery life to about three hours.
At the end of the day the internal battery should be viewed more like an emergency power supply rather than a full-time alternative to a power adapter plugged into a wall outlet.