Tuesday, 3 February 2015

MSI GT80 Titan SLI Laptop Review

On October 31st, 2014 MSI announced its latest gaming notebook dubbed the GT80. At first glance the unusual and different layout of the keyboard was an early indicator that this wasn’t going to be just an ordinary gaming notebook. Joint engineering with SteelSeries the MSI GT80 Titan is the world’s first notebook with a backlit mechanical keyboard fitted with Cherry switches. But it didn’t stop there, throw in dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M and the best and latest mobile CPU from Intel.

There is no doubt that this is hands down the most powerful laptop on the market today. We’ll get to performance later but first let’s take a look at the specs on the highest model available.

Intel® Core™ i7-4980HQ 2.8GHz to 4GHz (i7-4720HQ Review Model)
32GB Memory (16GB Memory Review Model)
Dual NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 8GB SLI
18.4” Full-HD 1080p Anti-Reflective Display
SteelSeries Cherry MX Brown Backlit Keyboard (RED LEDs)
1TB Solid State Drive + 1TB Hard Drive (512GB SSD Review Model)
BluRay Writer
Windows 8
2 Years Warranty (Includes 1 Year Global)

We received an engineering sample from MSI so the packaging was pretty standard laptop style but I’m sure the full retail versions will offer much more to the customers who buy this beast!
With a screen sized 18.4” the GT80 Titan SLI is a big unit, but the screen size isn’t what makes it the monolithic size it is. The sheer parts inside this beast coupled with a mechanical keyboard makes it a beefy monster that will trouble the strongest of guys carrying it around.

The sides of the GT80 contain 5x USB3.0 ports, audio jacks and an optical output. Towards the back of the sides you’ll find two large vents which exhaust an incredible amount of air. Be sure to keep these vents cleared of any objects that aren’t fond of heat. The GT80 produces and incredible amount of heat but the cooling does an incredible job on getting all that hot air out.

Along the top you’ll find the SteelSeries mechanical keyboard with Cherry Brown switches which is my personal favourite switch so I did find it quite pleasing that they opted for browns. It gives you the tactile feel without the ‘click’ of Blues. The placement of the mechanical keyboard is towards the edge of the laptop to accommodate for the switches and plethora of hardware housed in the GT80. However, I did find the placement to heavily compliment the 18.4” sized display when gaming. It meant that you could comfortable sit back and game like you would using a standard keyboard and desktop with the 18.4” sized display perfectly coupling the distance you would normally be using the GT80. The 18.4” display is vibrant and good enough display for casuals and professionals; however with the dual 980M’s in here it would have been nice to have a 1440p display option (no 4K for me).
Next to the keyboard you’ll find a cleverly designed digital trackpad. When lit up the trackpad acts as a number pad, click the ‘NUM’ button on the trackpad and the lights turn off and it now acts as a mouse trackpad. The trackpad itself is a bit of an awkward location but with a laptop this size most users will find themselves using as USB or wireless mouse so it’s not really that big of a deterrent. Above the number pad are the only physical buttons with the power, GPU switch and fan controller. The fan controller only allows you to switch between full speed or auto control.

The rear of the unit keeps it basic with air vents on either side, 2 mini Display Ports, HDMI, Ethernet port and a large 4-pin power jack accompanied with a huge 360w power brick. The power brick is big and does get warm so always remember to keep it well ventilated. The lid is presented in a faux brushed aluminium and has a clean look to it, just be cautious though as many of the surfaces on the GT80 Titan is a magnet for fingerprints.  The back side of the display has a gently illuminated logo that adds a subtle classy touch to the overall design.
Back at the front of unit above the keyboard area you’ll find a removable cover that reveals just some of the powerful internals including the DVD drive, a 4x m2 SSD’s and a mechanical hard drive. You see glimpses of the GPU’s and CPU but all those components are revealed more on the bottom side of the unit.

The performance of this laptop is what makes it come to life. No matter what game I threw at it (aside from a few AAA titles) it managed to hold up ultra-graphics at comfortable 100fps+. Playing games on this laptop truly felt like a full desktop experience. It looked good and performed amazingly well. The concerning thing was the total underutilization of the GPU’s for most parts which can be partially put on lack of driver updates. In the coming months with NVIDIA’s strong driver support and updates I do expect the GT80 to push performance even more with future updates.
Gaming was comfortable and pleasantly comfortable with the large screen and mechanical keyboard, the laptop did remain pretty cool with GPU temps hovering around 70-75 degrees on load. The keyboard area remained cool with means you can game on the GT80 for prolonged times without the need to worry about sweaty palms. The placement of the keyboard is definitely a win for MSI and I would like to see more gaming focused laptops to adopt a similar style.

One of the key things MSI has done with the MSI GT80 Titan is open the path for future upgrades. With promised GPU upgrades for at least the next 2 GPU cycles you’re looking at a laptop than can last for a solid 5 years (if not, much longer). With most of the other internals being upgradeable or changeable it does give the customer pretty open options to play with.

The biggest and most talked about thing about the MSI GT80 Titan SLI however, is the price tag. At $6299 it’s priced as much as a small vehicle so you have to really ask yourself if this is something you actually need. For hard-core gamers or even people who do a lot of travelling and aren’t happy with their under $1000 modest laptop, this could be an option for you. Sure, it’s a massive investment, but some people do travel a lot and want that full gaming experience wherever they go. Unfortunately no other laptop other than the MSI GT80 Titan SLI will give you that. It simple is the most powerful and convenient gaming laptop on the market.

When doing these reviews I always ask myself what would I change if I were to build this from the ground up? Firstly, I’d stick with a single GTX 980M, which is a fair chunk of the price cut, a 1440p display and more basic storage options (standard SSD’s)
Sahin Selvi

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