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
POST A COMMENT

115 Comments

View All Comments

  • skiboysteve - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I got excited at your comment but I looked, there is nothing. Not a single laptop from Lenovo, Dell, or HP with Haswell and no discrete graphics. Reply
  • peterfares - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    Haswell JUST came out. Give it a month or two. Business machines usually take a little longer than the consumer ones to refresh. Reply
  • ZeDestructor - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    Ane one might argue for good reason too.... I have yet to see a proper ThinkPad, Latitude or Precision machine overheat... Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    system 67 has a laptop with the 4750hq and iris pro graphics. Reply
  • SirGCal - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    This would be a laptop I would enjoy. Something I could take with me to my trips to the hospital crossed country when I have to go, but still let me game in the evenings. Granted have to be plugged in for any length of time but... My problem is just the costs. For that type of money I can build one hell of another desktop or even lanbox... I really wish that the 'build your own laptops' would take off to make that market more price competitive instead of this 'gotcha' market it is now... Reply
  • SirGCal - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Well, that would be in theory ofcorse... if it could keep itself cool... Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    check out rjtech. plenty of choices there Reply
  • alexvoda - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I would like if someone at Anandtech could test the Gigabyte P27K
    http://www.gigabyte.eu/products/product-page.aspx?...

    AFAIK it is the only notebook that has one feature I like very much: the combo USB3.0/eSATAp port.
    Reply
  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the review. Any chance there are some new 14" gaming laptop reviews in the pipeline? Specifically the Alienware 14 and Razer Blade 14? I've been travelling quite a bit lately and am contemplating something like one of those to help pass the time on the long international flights. Hell I'm even curious to see if the new 13" MBA can play some current games at 900p or 800p @ medium settings with GT3 graphics. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Trying to secure them. Thankfully we have pretty good relationships with both vendors, so it shouldn't be a question of "if," but "when." Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now