From the decadence and blistering Super RAID 0 speed of MSI’s T70 Dragon Edition, we settle back into the realm of affordability with the MSI GX70, an AMD-powered gaming laptop with an outstanding price/performance ratio given its baseline MSRP of $1299.
MSI’s latest 17-incher boasts features which aren’t commonplace for gaming notebooks in the $1299 range, not least of which is the ability to drive three external displays via HDMI, VGA, and Mini-DisplayPort outputs — in addition to its built-in 1920×1080 matte panel.
The GX70 also includes AMD’s new Richland A10 APU (accelerated processing unit), the capable 2GB Radeon HD 8970M graphics card, and 8GB of DDR3L memory. Steelseries’ accessory expertise returns in the form of a fantastic, responsive backlit keyboard with gently concave key caps.
Rounding out the spec sheet is a Blu-Ray drive, a 750GB 7200RPM hard drive, Killer E2200 Wireless, and a pair of stereo speakers with ample volume and richness. (See the complete list of specifications near the bottom of this review.)
Following in the footsteps of the traditional gaming notebook form factor, the GX70 is about 2-inches thick and tips the scales at 8.9 pounds. An ultraslim this is not. Then again, it doesn’t compromise when it comes to cooling and graphics performance, posting benchmark scores twice as high as machines costing twice as much.
MSI GX70 3DMark Fire Strike score
Futuremark’s 3DMark software primarily measures the DirectX 11 performance of a system, and the GX70 excels here. Now, some food for thought: Every laptop in the above chart with the exception of the Lenovo Y500 costs at least $600 more. Of course I take into account everything from aesthetics to power to battery life when evaluating a product, but in terms of sheer performance, this is where the GX70 demands recognition of its value.
AMD’s Radeon HD 8970M may not deliver the framerates we saw with the NVIDIA GTX 780M inside MSI’s GT70, but it still embarrasses other notebooks in its sub-$1300 price range.
Another consideration is that my benchmark settings are harsh, because I believe in exploring the upper limits of a system’s capabilities. To even achieve 25FPS on Metro: Last Light‘s Very High graphics setting at a native 1920×1080 resolution is an accomplishment for a laptop of this class. That game is a system destroyer. Elsewhere, games like the detail-heavy Sleeping Dogs turn in a respectable 35FPS on high settings, and BioShock Infinite delivers a smooth 47FPS on its highest graphics settings.
The takeaway? You should feel confident that MSI’s GX70 will run Battlefield 4 and all upcoming games for the next few years at medium to high quality.
It isn’t all roses and praise in this land of surprisingly affordable gaming notebooks, however. The GX70 has one notable issue:
After the third consistent result (above), I was convinced my testing was flawed. 1660 for the quad-core A10? Not only was it a worryingly low score, but it’s the lowest score I’ve ever recorded. Lower than the Surface Pro, lower than ASUS’ All-in-One desktop. MSI ultimately confirmed that this APU, the A10-5750M, is known to cause a bottleneck with this GPU (8970M) and the 7970M. The real-world consequences aren’t nearly as negative as the score reflects, however. There’s a slightly perceptible delay in launching some applications, but honestly the impact to gaming performance is negligible enough to not alter my enthusiasm for this machine.
MSI’s system engineers score another point in the “Pro” column with the GX70′s relatively cool temperatures under load. I’ve recently started a punishing torture test by looping Prime 95 combined with 3DMark’s Fire Strike Professional test, which puts major stress on both the GPU and CPU. After 90 minutes, the core CPU temperature averaged 77 degrees Celsius, and externally the laptop remained cool to the touch in the places that matter: palm rest, keyboard, and right side. That said, it does push the hot air out its left side and rear exhausts, so lefties may find it annoying but certainly not scorching.
If I had one gripe in terms of the notebook’s aesthetics, it’s the plastic chassis design. The top of the lid has an attractive brushed aluminum appearance, but this case has been used to death on a plethora of notebooks from multiple manufacturers, and the dog-eared corners around the bezel are anything but sleek.
With a baseline asking price of $1299, AMD once again proves it’s synonymous with value, even considering the APU’s bottlenecking issue. Beyond that, MSI delivers a whole mess of features which have no business being included at this MSRP: Blu-Ray playback, exceptional audio fidelity, a customizable backlit keyboard, 17″ matte display, five USB ports (three of them USB 3.0), and AMD’s EyeFinity technology to power three external displays. It’s reasonable to consider the GX70 for a mid-range desktop replacement.