I remember testing the MSI GT70 last year and in my review, I said it was one of the best performing gaming notebooks available. And while I praised it excellent performance, high-end specifications and great design – the battery life was a bit of a let down. To be fair, the GT70 worked more as a desktop replacement rather than an actual notebook so portability isn’t really a key aspect in considering the purchase. A year after, the MSI’s flagship gaming notebook gets updated, aptly named MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro. With a superfast Intel Haswell CPU and Nvidia’s latest graphics processor, let us see if it will manage to remain one of the best gaming notebooks out there.
Build Quality & Design
The MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro retains the design of its predecessor. The rough edges, large size and bulky exterior shows that this machine is a beast. It is not going for the slim and portable design, but tries to squeeze all the features of a full-pledged gaming desktop into a smaller machine. Large vents line the sides of the notebook, which are needed to move the hot air out produced by the high-end components it uses. There are a plethora of ports available on each side as well as the back. The keyboard area is wide enough to include a numeric pad.
The exterior is robust and comes in a matte finish that gives the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro a certain level of elegance despite the bulky design. I love the MSI emblem located behind the screen that lights up whenever you are using the notebook. At 4.2 kilograms, this notebook isn’t light and it’s recommended you use it on a flat surface rather than on your lap.
MSI spared no expense when configuring the GT70 2PE Dominator Pro. It features the latest 4th generation Intel Core i7 4700MQ Quad-core processor running at 2.40 GHz. It comes standard with 16 GB of RAM which you can upgrade further to 32 GB. It comes with two hard disks: one for the boot drive, coming in at 384 GB which is a Super RAID 2 drive, meaning it is about 7.5 times faster than normal drives. In addition to that, there is another 1 TB drive that you can use as a data dump. And with a machine like this, I am sure you will fill up the space easily by installing some games.
Graphics comes in two flavours: an Intel HD Graphics 4600 which is part of the Haswell CPU, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX880M. With a dedicated memory of 8GB, it’s guaranteed to run the latest games without any problems. By far, it is one of the best possible graphics processor you can find on a notebook – even matching desktop quality graphics. The graphics cards are switchable, but you can configure programs to run on a specific GPU. Audio technology is provided by Dynaudio, which consists of a two stereo speakers and a subwoofer. Despite the 2.1 channel configuration, software emulation included in the notebook will let you enjoy surround sound when playing games or even watching movies.
Speaking of movies, the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro includes a Blu-ray drive that you can use to play Blu-ray movies and even make some since it is also a writer as well. The high-end specifications mean that this notebook would not have any problem playing high definition content along with the ability for you to author your own discs. As a gaming machine, the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro also comes with a nearly every connectivity port you can imagine. There are five USB ports, three of which are 3.0 while the rest is 2.0. An SDXC card reader is also present, along with a mini DisplayPort, HDMI and D-sub connections for display output. There are also multiple audio in/out ports located conveniently at the side for easy access. A built-in webcam is also present Lastly, all connectivity options like Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, Ethernet, and Bluetooth 4.0 are included. The MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro comes installed with Windows 8.1.
Like its other notebooks, the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro comes pre-installed with various software that enhance the device’s capabilities. But unlike other notebooks, they are barely considered bloatware since they actually can be useful. Here’s a round-up of some of the software installed: XSplit Gamecaster lets you broadcast your gaming sessions online on Twitch, UStream or YouTube. You can also record gameplay and even use the webcam to add your own video while annotating the video being recorded. Another feature called Killer DoubleShot combines the Ethernet and Wi-Fi adapters, giving you the best possible speed when connected to online games. This in turn provides lower latency that gives you a faster response when shooting those enemies online. There is also a Dragon Gaming Centre that provides up to date information on all your components – from the CPU to the GPU. It provides temperature and fan speed, letting you know how much load your system is taking.
Screen and Keyboard
What I liked about the previous MSI GT70 was its large non-reflective matte screen and they utilize the same display in the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro. The huge 17.3-inch screen comes with 1920 x 1080 screen resolution, though with the specifications I wish it would be higher. The LED backlit, non-reflective surface means you can freely use it outside it would still be visible. Even when you use it with a light behind you, the screen still delivers optimum quality.
The keyboard was designed by SteelSeries, a renowned manufacturer of gaming equipment. The island-style design makes it easy to operate and the feedback was great, and even includes a separate numeric keypad which I always prefer on a keyboard. It is backlit as well and can be preprogrammed with any colour scheme that you want. The SteelSeries Engine software tool also lets you program each keystroke and save various profiles that you can activate on the fly. One thing you’ll notice though is that Windows button has been placed from the left side of the keyboard to the right. It works since it manages to eliminate the accidental presses you might incur when playing a game, though if you are used to using keyboard shortcuts then you might have some trouble. In addition to that, there are a bunch of touch sensitive controls for the most common functions located on top of the keyboard, where the power switch is also located. The track pad comes with left and right buttons and also support multi-finger inputs.
The MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro is definitely made for gaming and the benchmark results show. Here’s a rundown of some of the scores it got:
|Fire Strike (Extreme)||612|
|Bioshock: Infinite:||Average FPS|
|Very High Settings||84.48|
|Tomb Raider:||Average FPS|
|Resident Evil 6:||Benchmark Score|
With all the components inside the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro running in high performance mode, the internal fans can get noisy at times. It is not distracting especially when the speakers are in full blast mode, but with graphics-intensive games, it can get very loud – which somehow may get annoying at times.
The MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro comes with a standard 9-cell 7800 mAh battery that gave about 4 hours and 25 minutes of battery life. It isn’t the best, but considering the power hungry components, its actually good that it lasted this long. And with the large size of the notebook, I’m sure this device will be on a table for most of the time.
For the price of $2779, the MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro doesn’t come cheap. But for its price it comes maxed out with the best possible specifications and features you will need from a gaming notebook. Last year’s GT70 was my favorite gaming notebook and this year’s updated MSI GT70 2PE Dominator Pro still remains one of the best. It’s not just a gaming notebook, it’s a behemoth machine that will make gamers and geeks full with glee when they use it.