MSI GT80 Titan

MSI GT80 Titan 2QE Gaming Laptop Hands-on Review


MSI has been banging on the PR drum heavily with the announcement of the MSI GT80 Titan and they have much reason to do so. Aside from carrying over what makes the GT72 Dominator a high-end piece, the GT80 totally reinvents the laptop form factor by being the first notebook to integrate a mechanical keyboard. MSI recently held an event to officially launch the MSI GT80 Titan in the Philippines and we’ve managed to get some time with the MSI GT80 TITAN, to be specific the GT80 TITAN 2QE SKU which touts dual-GTX980M in SLI configuration.

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MSI has been riding a wave of success with its notebook line and its not really being hush hush about it releasing multiple new models with varying designs and use-cases with the Ghost series of MSI notebooks introducing the slim form factor the their port folio but the company hasn’t turned its back on its flagship line of gaming notebooks. The MSI GT series of notebooks are performance-tuned beasts that directly compete with the ASUS ROG line of gaming notebooks. The new flagship, the MSI GT80 Titan trounces on any and all competing products with the inclusion of an in-body mechanical keyboard, replacing your standard chicklet keyboard with a SteelSeries mechanical one. Let’s take a quick look at the MSI GT80 TITAN notebook and break down the beast.

MSI GT80 Titan

Specifications

MSI GT80 Titan 2QE

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MSI GT80 Titan 2QD

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Features

  • Windows 8.1
  • The 4th generation Intel® Coreâ„¢ i7 Processor
  • 18.4″ WLED FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare Display
  • Enthusiast level NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 970M 6G discrete graphics card provides great performance and ultra image quality
  • Ultimate performance: SLI Graphics
  • Pioneer in Gaming, 1st mechanical backlit Keyboard on Notebook
  • Most Wanted Keyboard Switch: Cherry MX switch with Standard key Cap Height
  • All new design, the slimmest 18.4” gaming notebook
  • One touch switch between touchpad & numeric keypad
  • The whole new feature “SHIFT” brings you total control over the system’s balance between performance and temperature
  • Exclusive Super RAID 3 with 4 SSD RAID0 gives over 1600MB/s reading speed! (option)
  • Cooler Boost 3: Higher efficiency dual cooling system.
  • Killer Double Shot Pro (Killer Gb LAN + Killer 802.11 a/c WiFi) with Smart Teaming
  • Audio Boost 2 with 3 independent amps for best sound experience
  • SteelSeries Engine 3 to customize every key and devices for personalizing your play style
  • XSplit Gamcaster for easily recording gaming moments, broadcasting and sharing live gameplay sessions to Twitch, YouTube, UStream and more
  • Evolution of Sound by Dynaudio 4 + 1 speaker system, 2 speakers for each channel
  • Matrix display support max 4 displays to expand the vision for extreme gaming experience or multi tasks
  • Keyboard by SteelSeries with LED back light
  • Wide Viewing Angle Display

Closer Look

MSI_GT80_TITAN_0003The MSI GT80 Titan is what you’d get when you take their normal style gaming laptops and slap a TKL mechanical keyboard in there and a touchpad on the side. Aside from the fact that its around 3 inches thick, to really get a feel of how beefy the GT80 Titan is to carry it around and at 4.5KGs its a real hefty chunk of metal and plastic.

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The MSI GT80 Titan package includes the GT80 Titan laptop, a wrist rest, an MSI Dragon keychain plushie and gold-plated WASD replacement keycaps. Not pictured but also included is a large-ass power brick and an equally large-ass power brick which can be seen below:

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The MSI GT80 Titan power brick is huge and carrying it around adds another kilogram or so to the 4.5KG heft of the laptop.

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MSI uses a wide hinge design for the top shell and a metallic, brushed metal alloy covers the top chassis. Red glowing accents detail the surface with the MSI Dragon logo present for styling.

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If you need a hint of how thick the GT80 is, here’s a side profile shot. The USB3.0 slots are for your reference. You can also see the optical drive, audio ports and card reader from this side. On the other side are also a pair of USB3.0 ports.

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The rear of the MSI GT80 titan sports large exhaust vents and video I/Os are present including an HDMI port and a pair of mini DisplayPort outputs as well as a LAN port. The adapter plug sits in the middle and what could hypothetically be its belly button.

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Since MSI had to move some thing around with the mechanical keyboard present, they opted to just shove everything on the space just above the keyboard and place all the components there. The image above shows us the GT80 Titan’s “hood” removed granting us access to the internals of the laptop with ease rather than traditional underside access.

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MSI wants the most out of M.2 technology and in the GT80 Titan, we see a maximum of four, that’s right, FOUR (4) M.2 slots populated here by 128GB Kingston SNS8100S3 SSDs. In this particular model we have two 16GB DDR3L-1600 SO-DIMMs for a total of 32GB system memory. This may vary per SKU so check your model first. A 1TB hard drive is also connected which can be swapped out with your choice of 2.5″ SATA storage.

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With the keyboard consuming the entire lower half of the GT80 Titan, its only instinctive that MSI moved the number pad to the right. Now left handed people might have a problem with this but it makes perfect sense in this setup given the TKL design of the mechanical keyboard that’s built in. MSI has opted to double the trackpad as a number pad giving it double duties. When NumLock is turned off, the number pad grid is disabled and a normal trackpad is in its place.

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And we finally arrive at the centerpiece of the GT80 Titan, the mechanical keyboard designed by SteelSeries and features Cherry MX Brown switches. If you’re reading this right now and don’t know what the fuzz is all about mechanical keyboards then stop reading. Go get yourself acquainted with mechanical keyboards first. Going back, MSI employs a TKL design keyboard similar to Filco-based keyboard we’ve seen. Nothing really special in this mechanical keyboard aside from the fact that its on a laptop really.

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MSI didn’t really go over the decision to use Cherry MX Brown as their ONLY switch variant but given SteelSeries’ insistence with their choice of Cherry MX Blacks for a long time on their own mechanical keyboards. MSI showed us that its possible to change the LED illumination but we didn’t get the chance to try it without the SteelSeries Engine present and given the limited time we’ve had, we’ll just leave that to a future update.

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The screen is full HD 1080p resolution panel with 60hz refresh rate. The screen has a really good viewing angle and stays crisp at even the most extreme angles.

Quick Benchmarks and Initial Thoughts/Impressions

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First up, let’s see the actual specs of what we’re working with. We have a Core i7 4980HQ mobile processor capable of clock speeds up to 4Ghz. Its a full quad-core processor with Hyperthreading enabled. 32GB of total system RAM is present, with the modules running at DDR3-1600 11-11-11-28 speeds. This could be better given the user-serviceable nature of the GT80 Titan. You can pop-in some OC memories in there and see how far you go.

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On the GPU side, we have a pair of GTX980M running in SLI. A total of 8GB of GDDR5 VRAM is present (note that VRAM doesn’t stack, so no 16GB VRAM for you). The GPU is clocked in at 1038Mhz and will boost to around 1127Mhz and the memory clocks is set at 1253Mhz.

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Starting off with storage, four M.2 128GB SSDs running in RAID0 gives us sequential speeds of nearly 1500MB read and 1050MB write. Given the best situations, 1.5GB/s is unimaginably fast and large texture files and level loads will just cruise by with these speeds. MSI rates up to 1TB of maximum RAID configuration here so a total of four 256GB M.2 SSD’s can be used and provided that your modules have better performance, it should provide a significant improvement versus the 128GB results we see above.

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The desktop i7-4770K normally scores 8.7+ in CineBench 11.5 and as we can see the MSI GT80 Titan’s i7-4980HQ manages a solid 7.34 score in this benchmark. CineBench’s FPS benchmark isn’t really SLI optimized so let’s skip that part and move on to some 3D benchmarks:

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Running the free version of 3DMark (2013) here let’s focus on Fire Strike still. A GTX 980 would normally score around 10,000 3Dmarks paired with a 4770K on stock. Here we can see the MSI GT80 Titan running 13345 3Dmarks on SLI. Given the obvious performance gap between the two, its impressive to see an SLI configuration of a mobile platform reach around 75% of its desktop counterpart.

So let’s break it down for out initial impressions. In terms of performance, we couldn’t really run our battery of tests given the short amount of time we’ve had but on relative comparison, 3D performance is (and I’m being generous) very good. When SLI is supported in the case of our benchmarks, frame rates during the test were good running in 1080p and those familiar would know that the last part of the test is very taxing even for midrange desktop GPUs. Storage performance is excellent and MSI’s RAID implementation in their gaming laptops are top notch, for those who really want to max out the option is always there to install a large capacity 2.5″ SSD to replace the bulk storage present handled by a spindle-based HDD. The screen quality is good and colors are vibrant but those picky about color saturation might want to fiddle a bit as reds appear too red in this screen.

Build quality is excellent. MSI has really taken everything they want and spun it around to find the best placement and this resulted in the GT80 Titan’s convenient top cover internals for ease of maintenance and upgradability. Speaking of upgradability, MSI employs MXM form factor GPUs which should effectively allow one to upgrade their GPUs when new ones arrive. MSI can’t guarantee yet the viability of next-generation NVIDIA cards but it is in the roadmap. Again, the main focus here is the inclusion of a mechanical keyboard and MSI didn’t spare any details by totally just slapping a mechanical keyboard right smack in the GT80 Titan. To offset the obvious lack of a detachable wrist rest, MSI included a soft cushion wrist rest a bonus when buying the GT80 Titan and replacement keycaps, gold plated I might add, are also included to replace the WASD keycaps.

In terms of functionality, as MSI puts it, the GT80 Titan is a desktop replacement. Its main purpose is to server as a mobile desktop replacement. That said, battery life is completely out of the question. Any gamer will say that when they play on their laptops, the battery is out and the adaptor is in. To complement this, the GT80 Titan features multi-display support hence the HDMI and dual-mini DisplayPort outputs and to ease the large surround display is the generous 8GB framebuffer.

And now we arrive at value. MSI isn’t giving out PH SRP yet but online etailers stocking the GT80 Titan 2QE variant prices the configuration at $3699. Now the model we’ve tested has some of its specs a bit upgraded like the quad M.2 SSDs and 32GB memory and rumored pricing for the local PH market is set estimated to reach a staggering Php200,000. Two hundred thousand. Now who in their right mind would want such a thing? Well plenty of folks if the pre-order list is any indication. Possibly rockstars who have some MTV Cribs wishlist and just want to show off their laptop when they get the visit.

In all seriousness though, MSI presents a very distinct use-case scenario for the GT80 Titan. Its target audience are people with insane amounts of money and they want desktop class performance but DO NOT want a desktop. Which is weird given the nature of a laptop and its intended portability. At the end of the day, it all boils down to bragging rights. As decked-out as it is, the GT80 Titan holds no advantage over a similar performing desktop even with the form factor difference. Given its mobility, its large size and heavy weight nails it down to your desk and its excessive power draw means you better be looking for a socket fast after some use. But what you get is performance. Performance of an upper mid-range gaming PC with the portability of an adult German Shepard. Sure its mobile and has its own display but to really max it out, you’d hook it up to multiple screens and then again you’re tied to the wall outlet so what’s the point right? For bragging rights.

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And that’s what MSI got when it made the GT80 Titan. MSI can brag about having the most powerful notebook right now in the planet and MSI can brag about having the first mechanical keyboard on a notebook on the planet and at the end of the day that is what the MSI GT80 Titan is all about: raw power at all costs.

MSI backs the GT80 Titan with 2 years warranty. We give it our B2G Performance Award.

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