MSI’s bombastically titled GE70 2PE Apache Pro serves up serious gaming power in a 17.3in chassis. With a quad-core Core i7 processor alongside one of Nvidia’s latest GTX 800 Series GPUs, the Apache Pro promises blindingly quick performance for $1,899.
It certainly looks like it means business. It’s an imposing piece of kit, measuring almost 4cm thick and weighing a lumpen 3kg, and the chassis feels seriously tough. The metal wristrests hardly flex during typing, and the metal extends all around the keyboard, giving the laptop’s entire base reassuring solidity.
One of the Apache Pro’s key assets is its dedicated GeForce GTX 860M graphics chip, which sits in the middle of Nvidia’s new 800 Series range, and boasts the new, power-efficient Maxwell microarchitecture. In contrast with the previous Kepler architecture, the Maxwell generation distributes its CUDA cores into several separate blocks, each of which can be dynamically toggled on and off to minimise power usage. As a result, Nvidia claims the new Maxwell GPUs deliver twice the performance per watt of their Kepler predecessors.
The GeForce GTX 860M finds itself in good company. Working alongside is a quad-core Core i7-4700HQ CPU supported by 16GB of DDR3 RAM, a pair of 128GB SSDs in a RAID0 array and a 1TB HDD. The pair of SSDs ensures lightning-quick boot-up and application-load times, and achieved sequential read and write speeds of 836MB/sec and 505MB/sec in the AS SSD benchmark. It came as no surprise to see the Apache Pro breeze through our suite of Real World Benchmarks with an overall score of 0.97.
Gaming performance is equally impressive. The GeForce GTX 860M completed our Crysis benchmark – run at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and High detail settings – at a silky-smooth average frame rate of 65fps. Even with Crysis cranked to Very High detail settings, the Apache Pro kept up a playable average of 42fps.
Nvidia’s new Battery Boost feature helps eke the most from the MSI’s battery, however. This allows the user to cap the maximum frame rate between 20fps and 50fps in 5fps increments and, once this is set, the GPU’s clock speeds and power requirements are adjusted on the fly to minimise power consumption. To put this to the test, we repeated our Crysis benchmark at 1,280 x 720 resolution and Very High detail settings. With the frame rate capped at 50fps, the MSI lasted 53mins, and with the frame rate set to 25fps it lasted 1hr 5mins – a 23% increase in battery life.
The MSI’s display is a high point. The matte finish of the 17.3in, Full HD panel all but banishes distracting screen reflections and, thanks to the 1,101:1 contrast ratio, images are eye-poppingly dynamic.
Ergonomically, MSI has kept standards high. The SteelSeries Scrabble-tile keyboard combines a spacious layout with great-feeling keys, and the multicoloured backlighting comes in handy when the lights go down. The laggy-feeling touchpad is a shame, but it’s bearable for short periods and, helpfully, is disabled when you plug in a USB mouse.
Connectivity includes two USB 3 ports, a pair of 3.5mm audio jacks, an HDMI port and an SD card reader. Along the right there are two USB 2 ports, a DVD writer, and Gigabit Ethernet and VGA ports. Wireless networking ticks all the boxes, too: there’s dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.
Like all gaming laptops, the MSI is expensive. It’s also given a run for its money by the considerably more compact Gigabyte P34G v2. However, if you’re on the hunt for a big-screened gaming laptop the MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro comes heartily recommended.