MSI GT80 TITAN Review

MSI GT80 TITAN Gaming Notebook Review


Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx.: $4733.99* – MSI GT80 TITAN
PH – Approx.: Php250,000*

*Varies by configuration

We’ve taken a quick look at the MSI GT80 TITAN gaming laptop in the past, just a few weeks after announcement of the MSI GT80 Titan and now we’re back to explore the machine even more. For those unaware, the MSI GT80 TITAN is the first ever gaming laptop to feature a full mechanical keyboard and has a spec sheet good enough to satisfy some of the most demanding gamers. Also under its belt is a price tag steep enough to make Steve Jobs jealous. Those few things alone certainly make the GT80 Titan the

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Specifications

MSI GT80 Titan 2QE

MSI GT80 Titan

MSI GT80 Titan 2QD

2qd

Features

  • Windows 8.1
  • The 4th generation Intel® Core 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

Packaging & Content

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN

The MSI GT80 Titan is packed in a large box and when we say large, we mean it. The packaging is extremely hefty and even the box handle cannot take the weight of the entire content of this package.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN

The content of the MSI GT80 Titan packaging are tightly packed and layered with dense foam padding to secure the laptop and other content during transit.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN

The GT80 Titan includes a lot of freebies in the box including a large silicone wrist rest, an MSI Dragon plush charm, and a gold-plated WASD keycaps and key puller. This complements the typical inclusion of documentations and installation disc along with the power brick and of course, the GT80 TITAN gaming laptop itself.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN

And to top it all off, MSI also includes a backpack with the bundle to safely carry your GT80 Titan with you because you’re seriously not going to sling this on your back unless you’re built like a tank.

Closer Look – MSI GT80 TITAN

The top shell of the MSI GT80 Titan is quite simple but its made to look really aggressive with the sharp corners and sleek edges giving it a sports car feel. The MSI Dragon logo brightly adorns the top shell with red streaks serving as highlights on the otherwise bare, brushed metal chassis. The underbelly of the beast shows us little about the GT80 Titan where there’s only the feature stickers close to the Dynaudio subwoofer breaking up the mostly grilled, fan intake of the GT80 Titan’s bottom shell. For those curious enough to ask where to take apart this thing, there’s no service access here. We’ll discuss more about that later.

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.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN Review

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.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN Review

MSI uses a wide hinge design for the top shell and it bends up to around 120*. Bend it more and you risk breaking it in half.

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN Review

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.

MSI provides metal keycaps for the WASD keys for intense FPS gamers who easily wear these keys out, these are really good but if you’re not fond of metal keycaps, you can use any compatible keycaps in the market that can fit Cherry MX stems.

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If you want to access the internal components, you need to remove a screw in the bottom and slide out the top plate to gain access to the components.

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Inside are access to the optical drive, the M.2 SSDs, memories and hard drive bay.

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.

Packaged Software

Aside from the included Windows 8.1 installation, MSI also bundles a couple of software with the GT80 Titan. First up is the MSI Dragon Gaming Center where you can monitor the system status including temperatures, fan speed, power draw and current system utilization. In another tab you can setup shortcuts for utilities for quick access. Another tab for setting up quick access is the play key tab where you can setup shortcuts for applications, games, etc. The last tab in the MSI Dragon Gaming Center allows us to toggle device settings like switching power plans, disabling the Windows key or switching the GT80 Titan’s profile to suit your current needs via the Shift Mode option. We have Green for light power usage, Comfort for balanced and Sport for maximum Titan power.

soundBlaster_cinema

Complementing the entertainment function of the GT80 Titan is the Sound Blaster configuration software where you can tweak the audio settings to suit your needs. You can play around with your custom setting to match the output you want or use the included profiles to get started quickly.

xplit_gamecast

Finally we have Xsplit GameCaster for gamers who want to share their games online or who do streaming, this is the perfect inclusion for you.

Performance Testing

Some parts of this review have been reused from our previous article. Some parts have been edited for current relevance.

cpuz

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.

gpuz

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.

cdm

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.

3dmark_firestrike

The MSI GT80 Titan scores 12838 on 3DMark Firestrike which runs at 1080p resolution. Now let’s see how the GT80 Titan handles a 4K resolution benchmark:

3dmark_ultra

That may not mean anything but here’s a GTX 980 Ti desktop system and its 3DMark Firestrike Ultra score:

3dmark_firestrike_ultra
GTX TITAN X FireStrike ULTRA Score

That’s a $1000 GPU and the GT80 Titan is putting up around 66% of that performance on a mobile form factor.

For gaming we tried playing around with GTA V and given the game is really, really optimized for PC we had a really good experience playing the game. We set the settings to everything on high at 1080p resolution and we were getting decent 55-65FPS.

Temperature

We focus more on the GPU here since there’s two of them in the system but we’d just like to pay special attention to these numbers as the GT80 Titan really does a good job cooling itself even under load with the GPU just hovering a few degrees above ambient (26*C ambient in our case) and keeping the system under 70*C where it really start to get uncomfortable for any mobile unit. The CPU goes up to around 70*C under load and combined with the GPU, that puts the system on a toasty 50-70*C frame when gaming. Using the built in fan control, you can max out the cooling fans and really just go crazy and keep the GT80 Titan around the sub-60*C mark. This does however make the system really noisy.

Conclusion

MSI GT80 TITAN Review
MSI GT80 TITAN Review

As we mentioned in our initial hands-on review of the GT80 TITAN, there is one feature that MSI is really pouring into this thing that bests every other offering in the market today and that’s upgradability. MSI is aiming to build around an existing system and make it modular enough to allow adopters to retain their existing systems and upgrade when needed. As this is the initial product, there’s not much info out there but if this is really what MSI is going for, we can hopefully see it in an upcoming refresh of the GT80 TITAN. For those that do own it already, MSI allows upgrading of the SSDs, HDD storage, and graphics card and memory for now depending on which configuration you choose. The sample we have is already decked out and there’s really no room for upgrades anymore. That said let’s break it down again for our verdict:

Performance. 3D performance is 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. 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.

Functionality. 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.

Value. Online etailers stocking the GT80 Titan 2QE variant prices the configuration at $3699. Pricing for the local PH market is set estimated to reach a staggering Php250,000. That’s an insane amount to pay for a laptop. But the argument exists though, MSI is putting everything they can into the GT80 TITAN and not marketing it as some sort of classy, mobile solution. Its a full-powered desktop replacement ready to move around as you command it and tear through games when needed. This might not be everyone’s idea of a gaming notebook but for those that do and appreciate the amount of stuff you’re getting here, the asking price is actually reasonable enough.

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. 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.

Price / Where to Buy:

US – Approx.: $4733.99* – MSI GT80 TITAN
PH – Approx.: Php250,000*

*Varies by configuration

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

B2G_Gold

B2G_Performance