So far then, the GT680 has held up pretty well, with the loose keyboard being the only real issue. But specifications are where this MSI gets really interesting since, as already mentioned, it’s based on Intel’s brand-new, 32nm Sandy Bridge platform. This not only brings halfway-decent CPU-integrated graphics (though naturally these are not relevant here) but also more processing power than ever before, while not overly taxing your electricity bill.
Specifically, MSI has selected the Core i7 2630QM for its latest gaming laptop. This quad-core CPU features hyper-threading to support up to eight virtual cores, and though it runs at 2GHz by default, it will turbo-clock up to 2.9GHz when all of its cores aren’t in use and thermals allow.
To give a good indication of the increase in performance Sandy Bridge brings, just compare to the Asus G73Jh‘s 45nm Core i7 720QM in the above chart, which offers the same number of cores and a similar maximum frequency of 2.8GHz – though its standard clock is 1.6GHz, and the MSI’s raided hard drive array also has an impact. However, it’s undeniable that on the processing front, the GT680 is easily the fastest mobile machine we’ve seen.
Retail GT680 models will come with 8GB of DDR3 memory, which is upgradeable as the laptop supports four DIMM slots (unlike the standard Intel configuration which only supports two). When comparing results, do note that our review sample actually came with 16GB of memory. We’re glad MSI has toned this down though; most users won’t need more than four, and eight should be plenty for intensive usage and future games. In fact, with 8GB of RAM, a blistering quad-core CPU and CUDA-acceleration, we can’t think of a single task the GT680 wouldn’t tear through with contemptuous ease.
Despite not being nearly as gargantuan as other gaming laptop chassis we’ve seen, the GT680’s can house dual hard drives, and MSI’s “the World’s Fastest Notebook Ever” claim comes from filling both of these with SSDs in RAID. Though you’re always free to implement this setup yourself, for the GT680R model’s £1350 MSRP you can’t really expect an SSD boot drive. Instead, MSI has gone for the next best thing, and put two ‘traditional’ 7,200rpm, 500GB hard drives in RAID 0, still making for a very speedy and generous 1TB storage system. Just make sure to maintain regular backups, since it also means that failure in either drive may lose you all your data.
If you do want the extra speed out of the box, the aforementioned GT680H model not only adds a Blu-ray drive but also a 120GB Intel SSD for a £240 premium.
What’s perhaps most impressive about MSI’s gaming laptop is its incredible battery life. Thanks to a high-capacity 7800mAh/87Wh, 9-cell battery and the efficiency of Sandy Bridge, it managed an astounding three hours and 46 minutes in our light productivity test. Considering most portable ‘gaming’ machines fail this test altogether, it’s quite an achievement. The only contender to come close is the Acer Aspire 5745DG, and that machine offers considerably less power on the CPU and GPU fronts, as well as sporting only a single hard drive.
On the ‘proper’ gaming laptop front then, the GT680 rules supreme, and with nearly two and a half hours in the intensive DVD test, is the only one that will let you watch even the longest films on the go.