Introducing the MSI GT70 Dragon Edition

You'll forgive me if deja vu is striking. This is the third time we've had a chance to test this chassis from MSI (the first being the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17 and the second being the CyberPower FangBook). Each time there's been an incremental hardware update, but this is also the first time we've seen this notebook directly from MSI and more than that, this flagship edition brings a tremendous amount of hardware to bear. The GT70 Dragon Edition may have the same basic chassis, but MSI has secret sauce hiding under the hood.

While it may seem like there's not much left to say about this chassis that hasn't already been addressed in those previous reviews, as it turns out, there are both some new wrinkles that materialize with this ultra high end build and some old wrinkles that are finally making themselves apparent.

First, this review isn't just about the MSI GT70. Under the hood we also have the benefit of testing Intel's shiny new Core i7-4700MQ based off of the new Haswell microarchitecture. We're also getting to check out NVIDIA's brand new GeForce GTX 780M, the first full GK104 part available in a notebook. The 680M was no slouch, but with the 780M we're getting all of the shader clusters, a healthy boost in clocks, and NVIDIA's Boost 2.0 technology.

CyberPowerPC FangBook Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4700MQ
(4x2.4GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.4GHz, 22nm, 6MB L3, 47W)
Chipset Intel HM87
Memory 4x8GB A-Data DDR3-1600 (Maximum 32GB)
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5
(1536 CUDA cores, 771MHz/797/5GHz core/boost/memory clocks, 256-bit memory bus)

Intel HD 4600 Graphics
(20 EUs, up to 1.15GHz)
Display 17.3" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Chi Mei N173HGE-L11
Hard Drive(s) 3x SanDisk X100 128GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD in RAID 0

Western Digital Scorpio Blue 1TB 5400-RPM SATA 6Gbps HDD
Optical Drive TSSTCorp SN-506BB Blu-ray writer
Networking Killer Networks e2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Killer Wireless-N 1202 dual-band 2x2 802.11a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio (Sound Blaster Cinema)
2.1 speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side -
Right Side 2x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Ethernet
D-SUB
Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
Vent
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 16.9" x 11.3" x 2.2"
429.3mm x 287mm x 55.9mm
Weight 8.6 lbs
3.9kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
SoundBlaster Cinema audio
Killer Networks wireless and wired networking
Configurable backlit keyboard
3x mSATA SSD Striped RAID
Warranty 2-year parts and labor
Pricing $2,699

Starting from the top, the new Dragon Edition (searchable as Dragon Edition 2) features an Intel Core i7-4700MQ socketed quad-core CPU. More informed readers will note that Haswell chips don't feature higher clocks than their outgoing Ivy Bridge counterparts, so all CPU performance improvements are purely architectural. The i7-4700MQ, outside of its GPU, is on paper identical to the outgoing i7-3630QM: 2.4GHz nominal clock speed, with turbo bins of up to 3.2GHz on three or four cores, 3.3GHz on two cores, and 3.4GHz on just one core. As a flagship notebook it's a bit surprising that MSI opted for the entry-level Haswell quad, but you'll see CPU performance isn't really the limiting factor here.

Attached to the i7-4700MQ is 32GB of DDR3-1600, more than most users are going to ever need but appreciated nonetheless. The shiny new HM87 chipset brings much needed 6Gbps support across all of the SATA ports, and MSI takes advantage of this by configuring three SanDisk X100 SandForce-based mSATA SSDs in RAID 0. While this is extremely fast and capable of being much, much faster than just using a single SSD, there's no subjective difference. The biggest change a user can make is just jumping to a good SSD in the first place, and I've always been skeptical of SSDs in striped RAID for consumer use.

Of course, the other big news is the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M, and despite being based on the same silicon as the GeForce GTX 680M, NVIDIA brings to bear a very healthy performance boost. Everything is up but the TDP: from the 680M's 1344 CUDA cores we're up to GK104's full 1536, GPU clocks are up from the nominal 720MHz to a bare minimum 771MHz, and memory speed is up from 3.6GHz to a fantastic 5GHz. Boost clocks on the 780M ensure that it's constantly performing as fast as it can, and in testing I saw it spending a substantial amount of time over 900MHz, essentially biting the heels of a desktop GTX 680's stock clock. On top of that, GK104 tends to be memory bandwidth limited, so the nearly 50% faster memory clocks should go a long way towards improving performance further.

Finally, MSI has gone with Killer Networking across the board. While I'm iffy on the need for Killer wired networking, Jarred has personally tested their wireless and found it to be a substantial upgrade over conventional Centrino wireless networking. Dual-band support also gets the Dragon Edition a pat on the head.

System Performance
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  • darkhawk1980 - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Dustin,

    I realize that this is straight out of the box, but I highly suggest checking out MSI's own forums. There should be an electronic controller firmware you can flash that removes the throttling problem that is present in these notebooks.

    I personally have one of the older GT70 0NE laptops with a GTX680M, and I can safely say that mine will trounce this notebook. This is because once the throttling issue is resolved, it's possible to run the GTX680M core at 950 MHz without any issues.

    And while I do find turning on the fan to maximum while gaming, I think you're really putting the noise issue as being too high of a problem. It's not nearly that bad. I actually made a custom cooler for my GT70 simply because I wanted better cooling, and this custom cooling allows me to game at 950MHz without the maximum fan setting.

    Honestly, the GT70 is a great notebook for the price with the super raid feature. It's perhaps not as 'nice' as an alienware, but it can compete easily, and for a good bit less money. Keep in mind, you are comparing the last generation hardware in the alienware, to the current/new generation hardware in the MSI. Of course the prices are going to be the same.....Compare the new alienware and realize that the price will now be $500 more than the MSI for the same features, possibly even less. MSI has again, priced it very competitively against the competition. It's the whole reason I bought a GT70 instead of an Alienware.
    Reply
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    The author hasn't written "Alienware is better than MSI" or "Alienware provides better value for the money than MSI." Why do you define your MSI against Alienware?

    MSI is MSI, and Alienware is Alienware. A negative review is not a reason to justify your purchase to anyone else.
    Reply
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    He doesn`t need a new firmware. He need to remove the bad paste job and redo it.
    All CPUs no matter what model will throttle at 98C.
    Reply
  • BobBobson - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    OMG..

    shut up, please!

    If you are happy with your GT70 then great, why dont you go away and just be happy about it cos there are plenty here who aren't.
    Reply
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    "Plenty here who aren't"

    I see you moved to Anandtech to whine more about your notebook. For those who doesn't know, this is the Only guy from notebookreview who had any problems with his GT70 and cried about it instead of sending it in.
    Yes many here who complain about it. Only you just like in NBR.
    Reply
  • JBVertexx - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Your ranting is actually making MSI look worse - it's pretty obvious from your rants that you have some sort of personal ax to grind. Really, perhaps you should do as BobBobson suggested. Reply
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Yes because I work for MSI and represent them.

    lol
    Reply
  • BobBobson - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Yes, you do. And you are paranoid as well. If you don't actually work for MSI, then what the hell are you doing rabidly defending this company as though it were your dear old mom who was getting slighted? Reply
  • mercutiouk - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    As we have a paid shill here, could you possibly get in touch with the european branch of the MSI repairs?
    Hitachi drive fails, sent back - came back from repair with a different power supply. This didn't fit the socket on the back snugly.

    Come a warm summer the arcing between badly fitting power plug and power pin resulted in the socket basically melting. Sent back. "Customer damage". It took threat of forum posts detailing exactly how poor your service treatment in Europe was to get a "ok, we've approved it - this one occasion only".
    5 months later... the hard drive fails again. The laptops now got 1 hitachi and 1 WD blue, in a raid-0...

    I can well believe the review here. Notebookcheck or no, you screwed up your flagship product. I think more reviews will show this to be true.
    Reply
  • mercutiouk - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Didn't make clear but this was on a GX660-R Reply

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