The GT70 boasts the most powerful next-gen mobile GPU currently available, NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 670M. While we're certain it will be superseded by even more powerful machines with even higher class GPUs, at the point of publishing this review, it is the most powerful gaming notebook that's readily available in this region. It's also using Intel's brand new third generation, Ivy Bridge Core i7-3610QM (quad-core 2.3GHz processor) and dual 60GB SSDs in a RAID 0 configuration that's augmented with a 750GB storage drive. While the SSD array is labelled as the OS drive, Windows 7 Home Premium only takes up about 15GB of drive space, leaving some spare room to install a couple of important large games. We wished there was more space (perhaps dual 90GB SSD units would be better), but for the purpose of our testing, we managed to install all of our benchmarks and games on the SSD array.
As mentioned earlier, MSI has included their Turbo Drive Engine technology on the GT70. In theory, this 'one-button overclock' will boost the performance of the machine to give it an extra edge over its competitors. To prevent overheating (especially when Turbo is on) there's also a Cooler Boost button, which ramps up fan speed.
With such impressive specs, we had high hopes for the GT70, so we put it up against Dell's Alienware M17X R3, our current notebook performance champion, and Samsung's Series 7 700G7A, our Tech Awards 2012 Editor's Choice for Best 3D Gaming Notebook. Of course these comparison machines are based on last generation hardware like Sandy Bridge class processors and previous generation top-end GPUs, so we're really expecting our very first gaming-grade MSI GT70 notebook to trump them.
|Specifications / Notebook||MSI GT70||Dell Alienware M17X R3||Samsung Series 7 700G7A|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-3610QM
|Intel Core i7-2860QM
|Intel Core i7-2670QM
|Chipset||Intel HM77||Intel HM67||Intel HM65|
|Memory||16GB DDR3||16GB DDR3||8GB DDR3|
2 x 60GB SSD (RAID 0)
750GB HDD 7200RPM
|1.5TB HDD (2 x 750GB SATA) 7200 RPM||1.5TB (HDD 2 x 750GB SATA) 7200 RPM|
|Video||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670M||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 580M||AMD Radeon HD 6970M|
The GT70 started off strong with a convincing win against both the M17X R3 and G700G7A in PCMark 7 thanks largely to its SSD drive configuration. Looking at the Productivity suite, which relies heavily on storage read/write speeds, and also the System Storage score, you can see how much of a boost the GT70's SSD drive gives it.
Looking at the Computation score, which is less reliant on system storage, and more taxing on the processor, we can see that the GT70's 2.3GHz Ivy Bridge processor shows slight performance gains against the older M17X R3's 2.5GHz Sandy Bridge processor.
Rather disappointingly, with Turbo Drive Engine enabled, the GT70's scores didn't turbocharge off the charts, limping to an underwhelming increase of less than 1% across the board.
In 3DMark 11, the MSI notebook's GeForce GTX 670M discrete graphics module was very competitive with the Dell's GeForce GTX 580M - the top mobile GPU from last year. This only means a notebook with a 680M graphics processor will set new records for mobile gaming performance, but we're plenty happy with the 670M for now. With Turbo Drive Engine enabled, the 670M graphics engine caught up and was level on both Performance and Extreme presets. Even so, this was only a negligible 1% increase in performance from the GT70's base scores, which again was disappointing and, as a result, we've turned off Turbo Drive Engine for the rest of our benchmarks.
As a side note, we had Cooler Boost turned on while Turbo Drive Engine was enabled and the sound emitted by the revved up fans was about on par with a hair dryer right next to you on full blast - definitely not an option for those wanting to be stealthy.
For comparison's sake, we've also included a desktop graphics card with similar scores, AMD's Radeon HD 6790, so you can see how mobile GPUs compare against their desktop counterparts. Obviously, a full-sized desktop graphics card will always be more powerful than a same generation mobile unit, but essentially, a high-end mobile GPU today is roughly equivalent to the previous generation's mid-range desktop graphics card. For those interested to know how it stacks with a desktop NVIDIA counterpart, the GTX 670M is roughly on par with a desktop GTX 460.