MSI GT70: Performance
MSI has deployed an Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M inside this machine. It’s the first chip we’ve seen from the firm’s new mobile range, and it’s a monster: 1,344 stream processors clocked to 941MHz with a GPU Boost peak of 967MHz, which is faster than every top-end mobile GPU from Nvidia’s last range. There’s also 6GB of GDDR5 RAM that runs at 1,250MHz, which is MSI’s doing – Nvidia only installs 3GB of memory on this chip.
That’s twice the amount of memory that Nvidia specifies for this part, and its clock speed is higher than every top-end mobile GPU from last year’s Nvidia stack.
It’s an impressive specification, but the GTX 870M made an inauspicious start in benchmarks. Its 3DMark Ice Storm score of 63,839 can’t match the Asus, and the GT70 scored 63,259 in Ice Storm – still behind the G750JX.
The MSI made up for this mid-range performance in trickier tests. Fire Storm is 3DMark’s toughest benchmark, and the GT70’s 4,286 score easily beat the 3,133 from the Asus and the Alienware’s 2,565. The MSI then scored 22.9fps in Unigine Heaven’s Extreme 1,920 x 1,080 test, which was better than the Asus’ 17.3fps.
Nvidia’s latest chipset further flexed its muscles in real-world tests. We ran Battlefield 4, BioShock Infinite and Batman: Arkham Origins at 1,920 x 1,080 and their highest quality levels, and the three games averaged 34fps, 86fps and 52fps – all easily playable.
The GTX 870M uses last year’s Kepler silicon rather than the new Maxwell architecture, which is currently reserved for mid-range cards, but it scarcely matters thanks to huge amounts of memory and increased clock speeds – at the business end of our benchmarks, this is the fastest gaming notebook we’ve seen.
The Core i7-4800MQ has four Hyper-Threaded cores, a standard speed of 2.7GHz and a Turbo peak that’s 1GHz higher, and it proved rapid. The MSI’s PCMark 7 result of 6,137 squeaked past the 6,009 points from the Alienware and easily best the Asus. It’s no surprise – it’s helped here by 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.
The CPU’s GeekBench result of 12,666 is in the lead, too – the Alienware was next-best, with 12,509.
That SSD is the only weak link. Its sequential read pace of 497MB/s is excellent, and it bodes for rapid loading times, but its write speed of 271MB/s is average.
MSI GT70: Heat and Noise
The powerful components are chilled by bulky heatsinks and one large fan, but that didn’t stop the processor and graphics card peaking just short of 90°C in stress tests. That’s not far off their thermal limits, which is the point at which the silicon begins to throttle its speed before it becomes unstable.
That fan isn’t exactly quiet, either. It stirred when we played games, and its low rumble was noticeable – we had to turn the volume up in order to drown it out, and its whir proved irritating during quiet moments in games and movies. We’d plug in some headphones.
MSI GT70: Battery Life
Gaming laptops aren’t renowned for their longevity, and the GT70 did nothing to change this perception. In our PowerMark test the MSI lasted for three hours and 5 minutes, which is about fifteen minutes short of its two rivals.
The situation worsened when we used Unigine Heaven to simulate gameplay. We looped this demanding benchmark and the MSI could only last a few minutes beyond one hour before it ran out of juice.
When the GT70’s battery was empty we plugged it back in for thirty minutes and the MSI regained 25% of its capacity. That’s one percent behind the Asus, and a pretty standard result. It’ll give you about 45 minutes of standard usage, but only twenty minutes of gaming.