MSI GT70 0NC 17.3″ Laptop Review (i7 3610QM / GTX 670M)


MSI has taken the mobile gaming market by storm in recent years with their highly popular and competitive range of gaming laptops. With the recent release of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors and nVidia’s GTX 600 series mobile graphics cards, MSI took the opportunity to incorporate them into the latest addition to their notebook family.
MSI designed the GT70 0NC to be (in their own words) “fast, powerful and accurate”. At the heart of this system making MSI’s desire a reality, is the lightning-quick Intel Core i7 3610QM processor. To balance the system, graphics are supplied in the form of a 3GB GTX 670M which is powering a 17.3” Full-HD Anti-Glare LED screen.
Readers who aren’t interested solely in gaming will be pleased to hear that the GT70 0NC has plenty of productivity-enhancing hardware on offer. 16GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory coupled with a pair of 64GB SSDs in RAID 0 configuration ensures that this system is equally as fast in day-to-day scenarios as it is in a gaming environment.
Touting a 17.3” 1080p screen, 16GB of memory, RAID 0 SSDs, a BluRay drive and Killer Gaming network card, is MSI’s latest ‘Gaming Series’ iteration worth its credit card-crunching £1,999 price tag?!
Specifications:
Screen: 17.3” Full HD LED Anti-Glare Widescreen (1920 x 1080)
Processor: Intel Core i7 3610QM
Memory: 16GB (4x 4GB) DDR3 1600MHz
Graphics: 3GB nVidia GTX 670M
Boot Drive(s): 2x 64GB SanDisk U100 SSDs (RAID 0 configuration)
Storage Drive: 750GB WD Scorpio Black HDD
Optical Drive: Matshita BD-MLT UJ240AF BluRay Writer
LAN: Bigfoot Killer E2200 series
Keyboard: Backlit Keyboard by SteelSeries
Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
A plain cardboard box which features MSI’s logo protects the GT70 0NC’s inner box.
The more elegant internal box makes it clear that this laptop is part of MSI’s highly acclaimed ‘Gaming ‘G’ Series’. MSI is clearly very proud about the fact that the GT70 0NC’s keyboard is designed by SteelSeries and the sound is taken care of by Dynaudio. Detailed specifications are located on the side of the laptop box.
The system itself is protected and secured by 2 basic pieces of cardboard. Scratches are prevented by the use of a plastic cover and a nylon-like material which folds around the entire laptop.
A hefty charging block is used which is manufactured by Delta Electronics and rated for 180W of power. Operational input voltage of the block is from 100-240V with an output of 19V/9.5A.
A large amount of paperwork is included with the GT70 0NC. Some of the material is of little use. Important booklets such as the quick start guide and F3 hotkey recovery function and are printed in colour. MSI includes a sticker which shows off the laptop’s ‘ECO Engine power saving modes’ and ‘TDE (Turbo Drive Engine) Technology’.
The thick styling of MSI’s GT70 0NC may not be quite as good as some of the competing systems that we have recently reviewed, but it is by no means ugly – just chunky.
Instantly evident is the anti-glare feature of the 17.3” LED screen. It gives the screen a less reflective appearance when looking directly at it. This is a highly convenient feature which is worth noting if the anti-glare functionality proves effective.
With a weight of 3.9KG, users can rest assured that they won’t need a forklift to transport this system. That said, we wouldn’t class it as a daily use ‘portable’ system either.
MSI places their logo below the screen on a reflective border. A High-Definition webcam and a microphone are positioned in their ideal location – directly above the screen. A variety of viewing angles can be achieved thanks to the implementation of hinges which allow for a tilt angle of approximately 150°.
A brushed-aluminium panel which is highly susceptible to attack from fingerprints forms the GT70’s lid. In the centre of this rear panel, MSI embeds their logo which is capable of glowing when the system is being used. MSI chooses not to use any type of latch mechanism to hold down the screen when traveling. Personally, I would have opted for a simple latch, but this is down to preference.
Located on the GT70 0NC’s left side is a vent which allows hot air to be exhausted away from the system in addition to a number of inputs. The inputs include three USB 3 ports, a 7-in-1 card reader and the gold-plated audio ports which use MSI’s Audio Boost design. The right side is home to a pair of USB 2 ports and the BluRay writer’s drive tray which is operated by an eject button on the system’s control ‘dashboard’. Distributing the USB 3 ports more evenly by moving one to the right side would have been of greater convenience to some users.
A Gigabit LAN connector is grouped with eSATA, HDMI and VGA ports to form the rear connections. Positioning the power input at the rear ensures that it doesn’t interfere with any of the side-mounted connections. A lock is positioned adjacent to the power input.
SteelSeries designed the GT70′s full-sized keyboard and numpad with gamers in mind. The positioning of the all-important WASD and shift keys will prove effective for most users, but could cause slight issues for those of us with large hands.
Located on the management ‘dashboard’ are touch buttons which allow you to toggle system settings such as the Turbo, full fan speed and keyboard lights modes. The important WiFi and BluRay drive eject buttons are positioned alongside caps and num lock LEDs on this same dashboard.
Dynaudio designed the 2.1 speaker configuration which makes use of THX’s TruStudio PRO technology. 2 speakers are located on opposite sides of the information dashboard at the front of the system, with the single subwoofer positioned on the system’s underside.
A slick trackpad allows quick movement of the cursor around the screen. Both the left and right click buttons are bordered by a highly reflective material which makes them easily-identifiable in low-light conditions. As with the keyboard, those of us with big hands will find it tricky to game with this trackpad.
A multi-coloured, backlit keyboard is present on the GT70 0NC.
MSI’s KLM or Keyboard LED Manager is an interesting piece of software which allows you to control the colour, style and even movement of the keyboard’s LEDs. We can see this being a party-piece for users who can’t wait to show off their new laptop to friends and family.
5 LED indicators show the status of certain features of the system when it is in use. Bluetooth, WiFi, battery, sleep and HDD access statuses can be indicated by the LEDs.
Viewing the GT70 from the side re-iterates the point that this isn’t a slim system. Nevertheless, it isn’t too large to use when commuting on a train or plane.
The number of vents used on this machine’s underside is kept to a minimum in favour of side-mounted cooling vents. This ensures that hot air isn’t prevented from escaping when the laptop is positioned on a lap or soft surface such as a bed.
MSI attaches a ‘warranty void if removed’ sticker to the covering panel. This isn’t a good idea because it will deter the custom of a large proportion of enthusiast users who enjoy playing about with their system. MSI should have more faith in their customers. One would think that the people who buy a system such as this will know exactly what they are doing with its components. It also prevents users from fixing their own problems, should any arise.
Pushing up a pair of clips allows the battery to be removed. A large 7800mAh, 87Wh Lithium-ion model is used. The battery will be analysed later in this review.
A single large cooling fan is fed the i7 3610QM and GTX 670M’s heat via multiple copper heat-pipes before flushing it away via the side vents. The 2.5″ HDD bay is positioned in a convenient location which allows it to be easily accessed. 2 of the 4 RAM slots can be accessed allowing you to easily change the memory configuration of this system.
MSI has made the system easily-customisable, yet they snatch this worthwhile feature away from the end-user by attaching the needless warranty-voiding sticker. Surely MSI wants us to take care of our systems by cleaning the fan from time-to-time?
The pair of mSATA SanDisk U100 SSDs is located away from heat-producing components. This is a smart decision as it will extend their lifespan.
MSI supply the GT70 0NC with a large amount software – some of which is needless bloat-ware. The decision to include resource-hogging security software is one that will frustrate many buyers.
A windows score of 7.3 is very respectable. It is disappointing to see that the pair of SanDisk U100 SSDs in RAID 0 configuration scores only 7.6 which is less than the single SSDs in AlienWare’s M17x R4 and PC Specialist’s Vortex III HD7S.
Intel’s 22nm Core i7 3610QM quad core processor which is used in the GT70 utilises 6MB of level 3 cache. MSI uses 16GB of DDR3 1600MHz which operates with timings of 11-11-11-28.
The Core i7 3610QM is clocked at 2.3ghz, with a turbo option to 3.3ghz. More information on the processor is available here.
GPU-Z reports the GTX 670M’s default GPU clock speed as 620MHz and shader speed as 1240MHz but these frequencies are only operated when the turbo mode is enabled.
Pressing the ‘Turbo’ button engages MSI’s turbo mode which increases the GTX 670M’s clock speed by 25.2MHz from 594.8MHz. Shader frequency is also increased to 1240MHz from 1195MHz.
The nVidia Control Panel allows you to manually switch between the Intel HD4000 IGP and GTX 670M for use with certain tasks. We found that the tasks were automatically assigned to good effect.
The 128GB SSD configuration leaves plenty of room spare for installing large programs such as Photoshop and some games. A total of 686GB is free on the Western Digital Scorpio Black storage drive.
Unfortunately, MSI leaves the default save location for documents, downloads and the rest of the storage-hogging directories on the SSD rather than moving them to the HDD. The first thing that I would advise you to do is switch some of the save locations to the HDD, otherwise your SSD storage will be depleted within no time at all.
Comparison Systems (for specific synthetic test comparisons):
Software:
  • 3DMark Vantage
  • 3DMark 11
  • PCMark 7
  • SiSoft Sandra
  • Cinebench 11.5 64 bit
  • FRAPS Professional
  • Unigine Heaven Benchmark
  • CrystalDiskMark
  • Cyberlink PowerDVD Ultra 12
  • Cyberlink MediaEspresso
  • Battlefield 3
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Dirt 3
SiSoftware Sandra (the System ANalyser, Diagnostic and Reporting Assistant) is an information & diagnostic utility. It should provide most of the information (including undocumented) you need to know about your hardware, software and other devices whether hardware or software.
Sandra is a (girl’s) name of Greek origin that means “defender”, “helper of mankind”. We think that’s quite fitting.
It works along the lines of other Windows utilities, however it tries to go beyond them and show you more of what’s really going on. Giving the user the ability to draw comparisons at both a high and low-level. You can get information about the CPU, chipset, video adapter, ports, printers, sound card, memory, network, Windows internals, AGP, PCI, PCI-X, PCIe (PCI Express), database, USB, USB2, 1394/Firewire, etc.
Native ports for all major operating systems are available:
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x86)
  • Windows XP, 2003/R2, Vista, 7, 2008/R2 (x64)
  • Windows 2003/R2, 2008/R2* (IA64)
  • Windows Mobile 5.x (ARM CE 5.01)
  • Windows Mobile 6.x (ARM CE 5.02)
All major technologies are supported and taken advantage of:
  • SMP – Multi-Processor
  • MC – Multi-Core
  • SMT/HT – Hyper-Threading
  • MMX, SSE, SSE2, SSE3, SSSE3, SSE 4.1, SSE 4.2, AVX, FMA – Multi-Media instructions
  • GPGPU, DirectX, OpenGL – Graphics
  • NUMA – Non-Uniform Memory Access
  • AMD64/EM64T/x64 – 64-bit extensions to x86
  • IA64 – Intel* Itanium 64-bit
Intel’s Core i7 3610QM shows competitive performance in the Sandra Arithmetic test. Its performance is narrowly surpassed by the i7 2960XM.
MSI’s GT70 0NC shows great Sandra Cryptographic performance managing to oust AlienWare’s M18x as the laptop chart-topper.
With the 16GB of DDR3 memory operating at a frequency of 1600MHz and 11-11-11-28 timings, the GT70 offers over 19.6GB/s of bandwidth.
PCMark 7 includes 7 PC tests for Windows 7, combining more than 25 individual workloads covering storage, computation, image and video manipulation, web browsing and gaming. Specifically designed to cover the full range of PC hardware from netbooks and tablets to notebooks and desktops, PCMark 7 offers complete PC performance testing for Windows 7 for home and business use.
A score in excess of 4300 points is very good for a laptop and shows that this system is an all-round powerhouse. A score of 12.6MB/s for the ‘system storage – importing pictures’ test is lower than anticipated. The Kingston HyperX 3K SSD in PC Specialist’s Vortex III HD7S boosts that system to a much higher 22.51MB/s score.
CINEBENCH R11.5 64 Bit is a real-world cross platform test suite that evaluates your computer’s performance capabilities. CINEBENCH is based on MAXON’s award-winning animation software CINEMA 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. MAXON software has been used in blockbuster movies such as Spider-Man, Star Wars, The Chronicles of Narnia and many more.
CINEBENCH is the perfect tool to compare CPU and graphics performance across various systems and platforms (Windows and Mac OS X). And best of all: It’s completely free.
The MSI GT70 0NC system flew through Cinebench R11.5 to register an excellent score of 6.22. Intel certainly has designed a fast processor in the i7 3610QM.
Unigine provides an interesting way to test hardware. It can be easily adapted to various projects due to its elaborated software design and flexible toolset. A lot of their customers claim that they have never seen such extremely-effective code, which is so easy to understand.
Heaven Benchmark is a DirectX 11 GPU benchmark based on advanced Unigine engine from Unigine Corp. It reveals the enchanting magic of floating islands with a tiny village hidden in the cloudy skies. Interactive mode provides emerging experience of exploring the intricate world of steampunk.
Efficient and well-architected framework makes Unigine highly scalable:
  • Multiple API (DirectX 9 / DirectX 10 / DirectX 11 / OpenGL) render
  • Cross-platform: MS Windows (XP, Vista, Windows 7) / Linux
  • Full support of 32bit and 64bit systems
  • Multicore CPU support
  • Little / big endian support (ready for game consoles)
  • Powerful C++ API
  • Comprehensive performance profiling system
  • Flexible XML-based data structures
We use the following settings: 1920×1080 resolution. Anti Aliasing off. Anisotrophy 4, Tessellation normal. Shaders High. Stereo 3D disabled. API: Direct X 11.
An average FPS result of 26.7 is very good for a nVidia-powered system. The AMD Radeon HD7970M used in some of the competing systems from AlienWare and PC Specialist shows significantly greater performance in this benchmark.
Futuremark released 3DMark Vantage, on April 28, 2008. It is a benchmark based upon DirectX 10, and therefore will only run under Windows Vista (Service Pack 1 is stated as a requirement) and Windows 7. This is the first edition where the feature-restricted, free of charge version could not be used any number of times. 1280×1024 resolution was used with performance settings.
A good 3DMark score of 12571 is achieved by the MSI GT70 0NC. Yet again, the performance of nVidia’s GTX 670M is soundly surpassed by that of AMD’s HD7970M.
3DMark 11 is designed for testing DirectX 11 hardware running on Windows 7 and Windows Vista the benchmark includes six all new benchmark tests that make extensive use of all the new features in DirectX 11 including tessellation, compute shaders and multi-threading.
After running the tests 3DMark gives your system a score with larger numbers indicating better performance. Trusted by gamers worldwide to give accurate and unbiased results, 3DMark 11 is the best way to test DirectX 11 under game-like loads.
If you want to learn more about this benchmark, or to buy it yourself, head over to this page.
A score of P2975 is respectable. The CPU’s physics score is very competitive and the GTX 670M cements its place at the upper-end of nVidia’s graphics hierarchy structure.
A very important part of overall system responsiveness is down to hard drive performance. We use two of our favourite benchmark utilities Crystalmark X64 Edition and HD Tach to rate performance from the onboard SATA controller.
The pair of SSDs’ sequential read speed of over 720MB/s is tremendous. SanDisk’s U100 SSDs show admirable read performance when used in RAID 0 configuration.
Write speeds aren’t anywhere near as impressive, with the sequential result registering as a much lower 367.6MB/s. We would expect much more from 2 SSDs in RAID 0 mode, but evidently SanDisk is selling its drives on the basis of excellent read speeds.
The ATTO Disk Benchmark performance measurement tool is compatible with Microsoft Windows. Measure your storage systems performance with various transfer sizes and test lengths for reads and writes. Several options are available to customize your performance measurement including queue depth, overlapped I/O and even a comparison mode with the option to run continuously. Use ATTO Disk Benchmark to test any manufacturers RAID controllers, storage controllers, host adapters, hard drives and SSD drives and notice that ATTO products will consistently provide the highest level of performance to your storage.
Consistent and competitive read and write speeds are shown by the Western Digital Scorpio Black HDD. It justifies its place as one of the premier 2.5″ hard disk drives.
Cyberlink PowerDVD 12 is one of the finest solutions for the BluRay experience on Windows and we found this software to work perfectly with this chipset. We tested with Christopher Nolan’s 2008 blockbuster, The Dark Knight.
Only 5% of the processing power is being used during BluRay playback. nVidia’s Optimus technology does its job well by off-loading the BluRay task to the low-power Intel HD4000 IGP.
The Matroska Media container is a very popular, open standard Multimedia container which is usually found as .MKV files. It is a very popular format in enthusiast circles and can be played directly in Windows Media Player with suitable codecs installed. We use the Combined Community Codec Pack (CCCP).
We ripped our BluRay disc of The Dark Knight to 1080P MKV and used Windows Media Player to playback the file.
MSI’s GT70 0NC easily chomps through the demanding task of a 1080P MKV file; a mere 15% CPU utilisation is required. The task is effectively off-loaded to the Intel IGP whose activity is around 20%.
Many people using this system will be enjoying Flash related content so we feel it is important to test with some of the more demanding material available freely online. Full hardware acceleration is enabled.
Only 6% of the system’s processing power is required to view Flash content. The 1% increase in comparison to BluRay playback is likely due to the resources required by the internet browser and audio software.
CyberLink MediaEspresso 6 is the successor to CyberLink MediaShow Espresso 5.5. With its further optimized CPU/GPU-acceleration, MediaEspresso is an even faster way to convert not only your video but also your music and image files between a wide range of popular formats.
Now you can easily playback and display your favourite movies, songs and photos not just on your mobile phone, iPad, PSP, Xbox, or Youtube and Facebook channels but also on the newly launched iPhone 4. Compile, convert and enjoy images and songs on any of your computing devices and enhance your videos with CyberLink’s built-in TrueTheater Technology.
New and Improved Features
  • Ultra Fast Media Conversion – With support from the Intel Core i-Series processor family, ATI Stream & NVIDIA CUDA, MediaEspresso’s Batch-Conversion function enables multiple files to be transcoded simultaneously.
  • Smart Detect Technology – MediaEspresso 6 automatically detects the type of portable device connected to the PC and selects the best multimedia profile to begin the conversion without the need for user’s intervention.
  • Direct Sync to Portable Devices – Video, audio and image files can be transferred in a few easy steps to mobile phones including those from Acer, BlackBerry, HTC, Samsung, LG, Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and Palm, as well as Sony Walkman and PSP devices.
  • Enhanced Video Quality – CyberLink TrueTheater Denoise and Lighting enables the enhancement of video quality through optical noise filters and automatic brightness adjustment.
  • Video, Music and Image File Conversion – Convert not only videos to popular formats such as AVI, MPEG, MKV, H.264/AVC, and FLV at the click of a button, but also images such as JPEG and PNG and music files like WMA, MP3 and M4A.
  • Online Sharing – Conversion to video formats used by popular social networking websites and a direct upload feature means posting videos to Facebook and YouTube has never been easier.
For our testing today we are converting a 4.4GB 720p MKV file (1h:58mins) to Apple Mp4 format for playback on a portable device. This is a common procedure for many people and will give a good indication of system power. We are using the newest version which has been optimised for Sandybridge processors.
Hardware acceleration is enabled.
Converting a 4.4GB 720P MKV file in 5 minutes and 34 seconds shows that the Core i7 3610QM is an excellent media-converter with GPU acceleration enabled. As a comparison, the same file took 3 times longer to convert on an i7 2600K-based desktop system.
According to EA, Battlefield 3 garnered 3 million pre-orders by the day of its release. It is unknown at present whether these figures are worldwide or just for the US. The pre-order total makes it “the biggest first-person shooter launch in EA history”, according to the publisher. The engine is beautiful on the PC and very demanding of the partnering hardware.
Playable frame rates are achieved in the ever-demanding Battlefield 3. The GTX 670M’s 3GB of VRAM makes short work of a 1920×1080 resolution. Settings may have to be reduced to make online gaming smoother and more enjoyable as it tends to be more demanding.
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (also known as Bad Company 2 or BF: BC2) is a first-person shooter video game developed by the Swedish firm EA Digital Illusions CE and published by Electronic Arts for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3, and Xbox 360 systems. It is a part of the Battlefield series and was released worldwide in March 2010.
The game is primarily a squad-level online first person shooter based in a contemporary modern warfare setting. Additionally, the game includes a single player campaign, where the player reassumes the role of Preston Marlowe, the protagonist of the original game. The game’s Frostbite 1.5 engine allows for destructible environments, and multiplayer maps contain a wide selection of vehicles, aircraft and emplacements and allow for five different game modes.
We are testing in full Direct X 11 mode.
The 3GB GTX 670M and Core i7 3610QM combine to form excellent average frame rates of 44 FPS. Minimum FPS remained above 34 FPS indicating that this system is perfectly capable of handling our settings and 1080P resolution.
DiRT 3 was released in 2011 and has received a lot of praise from gamers and reviewers across the globe. It is the second most recent iteration of the Colin McRae Rally series, despite Codemasters dropping the Colin McRae branding. It supports DirectX 11 which enhances detail and brings a number of other visual enhancements to the gaming experience.
We used the ultra settings to truly test the 3GB GTX 670M.
Dirt 3 proves no problem for the MSI GT70 0NC … the system is capable of 36 FPS on average. The frame rates did drop below 30 for a short period of time, but this is unlikely to ruin the gaming experience.
We measure from a distance of around 2 foot from the chassis with our digital sound level meter to mirror a real world situation.
Please refer to our KitGuru noise guide for a comparison between the noise levels of this system and everyday scenarios.
KitGuru noise guide
10dBA - Normal Breathing/Rustling Leaves
20-25dBA – Whisper
30dBA - High Quality Computer fan
40dBA - A Bubbling Brook, or a Refrigerator
50dBA - Normal Conversation
60dBA - Laughter
70dBA - Vacuum Cleaner or Hairdryer
80dBA - City Traffic or a Garbage Disposal
90dBA - Motorcycle or Lawnmower
100dBA - MP3 player at maximum output
110dBA - Orchestra
120dBA - Front row rock concert/Jet Engine
130dBA - Threshold of Pain
140dBA - Military Jet takeoff/Gunshot (close range)
160dBA - Instant Perforation of eardrum
Quiet operation clearly isn’t one of the GT70 0NC’s strengths. During BluRay playback, the system isn’t intrusively loud and shouldn’t have a negative effect upon your viewing experience. When the heat is turned up and extra load is applied, the fan starts to ramp up to a far more audible speed. When operating at full fan speed, the system is loud – there’s no denying it!
The tests were performed in a controlled environment with the temperature maintained at a constant 26°C – the upper-end of the temperature scale for this laptop’s likely usage environment. Idle temperatures were measured after sitting at the desktop for 30 minutes. Load measurements were acquired by running Furmark and Cinebench together.
Idle temperatures are exactly where we’d expect them to be for a laptop of this calibre. 50°C is nothing to worry about. With a demanding load applied, the temperatures quickly increase to well over 70°C. The load temperatures still don’t show any cause for concern.
To test the battery today we put the machine through three sets of real world situations.
One as a media movie lover on the move, a person wanting to watch HD media on a train journey or bus with two thirds screen brightness (any less and quality suffers).
Secondly as a business man, using the machine for productivity with wireless enabled and balanced power settings with a mid way (around half) brightness setting.
Thirdly as a gamer on the move, with the nVidia graphics card active and screen brightness up high.
Battery life is a major strength for the GT70 0NC thanks to its 87Wh unit. We managed to achieve over 3 hours of ‘business-man’ style usage.
This figure will increase for simple web-browsing tasks. Being able to watch the entire 2 hour and 32 minutes BluRay of The Dark Knight with battery to spare is another impressive feat.
Gaming battery life is also commendable but there is no way that you will be playing any modern games using the battery. The system forces our GTX 670M to slash its clock speeds making modern games unplayable even at significantly reduced settings.
MSI includes a TURBO button for their GT70 0NC system which increases the 3GB GTX 670M’s clock and shader frequencies by 25.2 and 45 MHz, respectively. They state that this speed boost will have a positive impact on graphically-intensive tasks.
Synthetic benchmarks are a good tool for indicating the performance increases achieved, if any.
Very small increases are shown in the synthetic benchmarks. Turbo mode does allow the GT70 0NC system to break the 3000 points barrier in 3DMark 11.
Real-world performance is crucial, therefore we also measured the effect that our GPU speed boost had on gaming performance.
Small but very worthwhile performance increases are given by the higher clock and shader frequencies. An across-the-board increase in minimum FPS is worth pointing out. This can be the difference between a game being playable and the settings having to be reduced.
The MSI GT70 0NC is a formidable, powerful gaming system. It managed to smash through our benchmark suite asserting itself as one of the bold performers on the powerhouse laptop scene.
Intel’s Ivy Bridge Core i7 3610QM processor is blazingly fast and has no problems delivering fantastic frame rates and nippy media conversions.
The pair of 64GB SanDisk U100 SSDs offers ample high-speed storage space and delivers excellent read speeds when used in RAID 0 configuration. Write speeds are somewhat lacking in comparison, but they aren’t slow. Western Digital’s Scorpio Black hard drive is also a strong performer, offering plentiful storage at a decent speed.
The 17.3″ Full-HD LED display has no problem producing images of excellent quality from a well-lit, high-contrast source such as a high definition game or BluRay.
The anti-glare function works well, but in certain scenarios it can have a negative impact on the sharpness and contrast of the image. When basic sources such as many of the Windows Aero schemes and web pages are nicely displayed, the screen begins to look bland and dull with the anti-glare coating becoming easily observable.
MSI’s GT70 0NC isn’t the most stylish laptop on the market. The podgy design which measures in as almost 60mm at the thickest point is built for the purpose of cooling and housing high-end hardware … not aesthetics.
Thankfully, the front is more attractive with the aesthetically-friendly keyboard, red accents and reflective materials. Attractiveness of the brushed-aluminium lid is also a positive point.
With large physical dimensions that aid cooling and energy-efficient hardware, the idle noise output of MSI’s GT 70 0NC is low and non-intrusive. During BluRay playback the acoustic output remains tolerable even with the optical drive in operation. Once a demanding load was applied, the fan’s speed increased to offer better cooling. At full fan speed, the system was easily heard and at a level we would consider irritating for extended use.
The biggest disappointment of all comes from the graphics card. nVidia’s 3GB GTX 670M is no match for AMD’s mighty HD7970M which is used on the cheaper competitors from PC Specialist and AlienWare. In reality, the 670M is little more than a re-named GTX 570M and sadly the last-generation performance is clear.
In graphically-intensive benchmarks, the GTX 670M lags way behind the performance that we have observed from AMD’s competing part. Granted, the HD7970M isn’t the GTX 670M’s primary competitor, but if the system which incorporates it is priced similarly to the AMD flagship-based model, it can do little to escape the comparison.
Gamers should have few complaints with the SteelSeries keyboard. The backlit implementation will impress users for style and convenience when typing in low-light conditions.
On the negative side, the keys require a high actuation force which is less than ideal for the important buttons. Throughout testing, we consistently encountered errors which had arisen from the key presses not being registered. This was frustrating to say the least, but on the bright side, it shouldn’t take long for a user’s typing style to adapt.
As a gaming laptop, the MSI GT70 0NC isn’t worth the extra £700 spend over PC Specialist’s Vortex III HD7S or the £200 spend overAlienWare’s M17x R4. Both of the 7970M-equipped systems offer better gaming and game-related benchmark performance thanks to their far superior graphics card.
Priced at £1,999, the MSI GT70 0NC gaming laptop is slightly difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. A similar system based on the PC Specialist Vortex III HD7S could save you over £500 and, with the HD7970M, offer better gaming performance. If the GT70′s price were to drop to around £1,700, it would be a much more attractive option.
Pros:
  • Powerful Core i7 3610QM processor.
  • Super fast RAID 0 SSDs.
  • 16GB memory.
  • Plenty of ‘extras’ – BluRay burner, Bluetooth, Killer LAN.
  • Excellent audio from the 2.1 speaker system.
  • Anti-glare LED screen.
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Backlit keyboard.
  • Effective cooling.
  • Turbo mode.
Cons:
  • Expensive.
  • Can get loud.
  • Not very stylish.
  • Poor typing experience with keyboard.
  • Could have a better graphics card at this price.
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