MSI GT70 Review: Large display, long-lasting performance

The MSI GT70 is a formidable everyday performer, as well as an excellent gaming machine. When the unit’s closed, it even looks the part. Flip it open, and MSI might have been better off shooting for an under-the-radar aesthetic rather than incorporating what look like elements from a Cadillac body kit. Appearances aside (beauty is in the eye of the beholder), the GT70 is a very powerful laptop with only minor foibles.

What’s most surprising about the GT70 is its battery life-5 hours and 10 minutes. That’s positively Methuselah-like for a desktop replacement this powerful-and is partly due to a capacious 87 watt-hour battery and a less voracious third-gen Intel Core i7-3610QM CPU. Our $2000 test unit also sported 16GB of memory, dual SanDisk U100 60GB solid-state drives configured in RAID 0, a 700GB hard drive, and a Blu-ray burner. Other, cheaper configurations are differentiated only by more sedate storage options. The GT70’s ports and connectivity are state of the art: three USB 3.0 ports, eSATA, gigabit ethernet, and Killer 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi (450 megabits per second), HDMI and VGA video out, an SD card slot, and surround audio. The latter is output via two additional jacks sitting beside the normal headphone and microphone jacks. All are gold-plated, which makes them less prone to oxidation and offers a slightly firmer connection, but doesn’t improve sound quality.

The GT70 is heavy: 8.4 pounds by its lonesome, and 10.6 pounds in combination with the hefty AC power brick. It’s also large at 16.9 inches wide by 11.1 inches deep by 2.4 inches high. But it’s a desktop replacement, a category you shouldn’t be shopping if you’re not looking to develop your arm musculature.

The laptop does have several mild annoyances. It has no physical eject button for the Blu-ray player disc tray. Instead, a touch control for this is at the top of the keyboard deck, but the included S-Bar toolbar app must be running in order for it to work under Windows. I don’t like toolbars. The button does, however, function at boot time sans software. Also, I was unable to permanently disable the Bigfoot network boot agent in the GT70’s BIOS-it kept turning itself back on for some as-yet-to-be-explained reason.

I also ran my own primitive test of the Bigfoot Killer Wi-Fi. You most likely need a 450-mbps-capable router to get the full effect of its bandwidth. My Linksys E3000 router is up to only 300 mbps. Still, the GT70 transferred 15GB of largish files at only 10 mbps-while my 6-year old Asus laptop using 802.11g managed 12 mbps. It can be said fearlessly-your results may or may not live up to the hype.

All in all, while the styling might be considered amateurish, and some minor idiosyncrasies exist, MSI has put together an all-around winning package in the GT70. Its 5-hour-plus battery life sets it apart from other high-performance heavyweights, and it’s a full $1500 less than its aforementioned EON17-S rival.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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