Raw horsepower that lacks image quality.
You know a gaming laptop is going to be rather powerful when it ships with not one, but two power bricks. They’re joined together via a special Y-shaped adaptor which plugs into the rear of this brute of a laptop, suggesting that it sucks down oodles of power. The huge 18.3-inch screen dominates the overall form factor of this beast, but it’s also darned thick, at 69mm at its deepest point. Breaking your back at 5.5kg, it’s not the kind of machine you’ll be taking in your check-in luggage. Obviously it’s this big for a reason, and MSI has absolutely crammed it with cutting edge hardware… for the most part.
If there’s one rather strange oversight, it’s the screen. Sure, it apparently covers the full 100% sRGB colour range, though it doesn’t appear as punchy as other IPS screens we’ve seen. However, it’s only 1920 x 1080, with a maximum refresh rate of a mere 60Hz. Seriously? What’s the point in having the incredible horsepower within when you’re limited to such a stock-standard display? It’s possible to plug in up to three external 4K displays, but you’re still going to be stuck looking at a 1080p screen in the middle, and when it’s this big, the pixel structure is rather obvious.
That aside, the rest of the machine is admirable indeed. A SteelSeries keyboard with Cherry MX switches resides right on the edge of the machine, so you don’t need to wrest your hands on a hot palm wrest. There’s also a small touchpad that doubles as a numpad at the tap of a button the right. Given the size of this thing, we expected a decent set of speakers; while they’re rather loud, there is very little bass, so you’ll be needing to use headphones. There’s also another very good reason for using headphones; under full load this thing sounds like a hurricane. It measured 54dB under 4K load (we used Nvidia’s DSR to enable 4K playback on the 1080p screen), which isn’t uncommon on such powerful gaming machines. That doesn’t mean we have to enjoy all that fan-noise though.
Under the hood is arguably the most powerful gaming laptop we’ve yet seen. Obviously Intel’s new 7th Gen Core i7-7820HK does the CPU work, and it’s a beast. With quad HyperThreaded cores, it peaks out at 3.9GHz under load, and has a hefty 8MB cache. With a top TDP it’s no wonder this thing is loud. Memory hogs will love the 64GB of DDR4 2400MHz, but it’s the storage solution that is ridiculously amazing. Four independent PCIe SSDs are tied together in RAID 0 mode, along with a single 1TB hard drive. Yep, you’re going to be the first into the server, every time.
But the real kicker here are the twin GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs running in SLI mode. As the benchmarks show, they obliterate pretty much anything you can throw at it, in any resolution. Unlike previous Nvidia mobile GPUs, these are basically identical to the desktop model, so you’re getting true desktop power in a partially portable design.
Networking is taken care of via Killer’s Killer DoubleShot Pro, which combines Killer’s E2500 Gigabit Ethernet controller and one Killer Wireless-AC 1535 chipset for 802.11ac. There’s also a plethora of USB ports, including a Thunderbolt-enabled USB Type-C port.
It might be the world’s most powerful gaming laptop, yet the choice of a low resolution, low refresh rate display is puzzling to say the least. If all you care about is stratospheric frame rates, then it’s a fine solution, but it seems a shame to waste all that horsepower on a HD resolution. Hopefully the next version has a 2560 x 1440, 120Hz panel at the least.