Is Xotic PC's Tuned-Up MSI GT70-Based Platform Our New Performance Champ?
MSI's GT70 Dragon Edition 2 delivers the high-end performance we expect when you combine the best from Intel and Nvidia in one platform. In some games, the Xotic PC factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 780M comes close to the performance of two 680Ms in SLI. While some of that is attributable to platform bottlenecking on the comparison machine and newer drivers benefiting our Haswell-based sample, we also know the GeForce GTX 780M boasts more CUDA cores and aggressive clock rates. Although it isn't far and away faster than its predecessor, Intel's Core i7-4930MX also gives us a little extra performance by virtue of its architecture. With that said, notebooks bundled with larger power supplies should be able to get even more performance from Intel's mobile flagship CPU. Even with MSI's NOS technology draining the battery to keep up, this system's paltry 180 W power supply runs out of capacity too quickly.
Starting at $2800, the GT70 isn't an inexpensive platform. Our sample, as configured, runs an even steeper $3500+. But there's something to be said for the fastest available mobile processor, mobile GPU, and three 128 GB SSDs operating cooperatively, too. A comparable Alienware system with a similar configuration will run you at least $600 more, and that'll get you a third-gen Core processor and previous-gen GeForce GTX 680M, both of which are on their way out. Add in the storage config, SteelSeries keyboard, Dynaudio speakers, Atheros Killer NICs, Blu-ray burner, and attractive exterior accents, and MSI's latest offering starts looking more attractive to the mobile gamer.
In this case, we'd also approve of paying $45 bucks to have Xotic PC overclock the CPU and GPU for you, if only to get those three days of stress testing that might weed out a problematic Haswell-based processor. Plus, there's the warranty coverage on the tuned hardware, which is a plus.
The $1000+ Core i7-4930MX is overkill, we'd say. On one hand, it's a fast little chip that enjoys a 4.1 GHz peak Turbo Boost clock rate. There are bragging rights that go along with such an extravagance. Conversely, it also ups the platform's TDP by 10 W. As we saw, the system is already close to maxed out with a 47 W processor and 100 W GPU. Add in overclocking and MSI's NOS feature starts hitting the battery up for extra power any time you mash the gas pedal. MSI did send us a newer firmware that leans less severely on NOS, but we still observed the technology kicking in. Intel's $425 Core i7-4900MQ would have been an excellent alternative, we think. Alternatively, MSI could have bundled a 210 or 240 W power supply and worked around the NOS issue altogether.
The GT70 sets a high standard for large gaming notebooks in many ways. It has the performance potential to serve up playable frame rates in modern titles at the highest detail settings. It isn't embarrassingly bulky in the process, either. You can get a couple of hours of game time out of the battery, albeit at reduced-performance clock rates. Just surfing the Web, though, expect as many as six hours from MSI's GT70.
Performance-wise, this system sets the mobile standard to beat; there's very little able to post better benchmark results. As a substitute for a gaming desktop, MSI's GT70 Dragon Edition 2, built-up and tuned by Xotic PC, is a potent machine. If MSI could just iron out its power-oriented idiosyncrasies, it might even be an award candidate.