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MSI GT780DXR review

Laptops & PCsReviews
8/10
by Darren Allan, 07 May 2012Reviews
MSI GT780DXR review

The GT780DXR is, as the “GT” label rather hints, a veritable sports car of the laptop world – with a big engine, and enough grunt for some full-on portable gaming. Equally, as it packs some serious hardware it’s also pretty chunky, and one of the slightly less portable notebooks you’ll ever come across. But that’s to be expected…

Chunky notebook

The unit is pretty heavy, weighing in at just a touch under 4kg, and pretty bulky too, particularly towards the back of the laptop, where it widens to stand 60 mm tall if you include the little rubber feet.

And given this chunkiness along with a rather plain black finish, the 780DXR is unlikely to win any awards for its aesthetics. On the upside, the machine is sturdily constructed and faces no build quality issues.

Once the laptop is opened up, the aesthetics are similarly average – we weren’t so keen on the silver fine-mesh speaker grilles, for example. However, this really is a machine which isn’t concerned with form, but function. That function being speedy frame rates and gaming, of course, although some facets of the design are thoughtful in terms of the gamer’s needs beyond fast and fluid action.

Primarily, we’re talking about the keyboard which has been designed by Steelseries. It’s a nice and large full keyboard, with well-spaced chiclet style keys. The action of the keyboard is quite clicky, but it provides a solid and pleasant typing experience on the whole. The layout of the keys has also been slightly altered from the norm to benefit gamers.

The spacebar has been shifted over to the left a bit, so it, the Control key in the bottom left corner, and the WASD keys form a triangle. In other words, it’s comfortable for the left hand with the traditional shooter control scheme – which is a nice touch.

The slightly shifted spacebar didn’t affect our typing accuracy at all, and in fact our only bugbear with the keyboard was nothing to do with the adjusted layout on the left side. In fact, it was the Enter key on the right, which is one of the smaller variety sometimes found on laptop keyboards. That meant we missed it occasionally, but not so much to be truly irritating.

Furthermore, the keyboard allows for multiple simultaneous key presses (over ten of them), and MSI provides a good gaming mouse along with the GT780DXR. The own-brand mouse has programmable keys, and a 3200 CPI resolution that you can switch on the fly for when zooming in with that sniper rifle. Thus gamers are pretty well equipped from the get-go with this notebook.

Anti-glare display

Naturally, the central attraction isn’t the supporting peripherals, but the core spec – the display, processor, and the graphics card backing it up. Fortunately, it’s all good news on this score, too. The 17.3in screen is a full HD 1920 x 1080 affair, and it’s a sharp display with an anti-glare coating.

The trend lately has been towards glossy screens with gaming laptops to ensure vibrant colours, but they also ensure rather less welcome reflections in brighter environments. With this MSI notebook, when sat in a well-lit room you can be assured you won’t have to stare at your own mug during darker gaming or movie scenes. The anti-reflective screen is a very smart boon, but the best part is the colours still remain vibrant and well balanced. Blu-ray movies looked particularly impressive.

In terms of raw firepower, the 780DXR comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-2670QM, a quad core beast which runs at 2.2GHz, with turbo up to 3.1GHz. That’s backed up with a strong mobile graphics solution, the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570M with 1.5GB of video memory on board. 8GB of system memory is provided.

As you might imagine, this combination meant that the 780DXR performed impressively when we benchmarked some games. Battlefield 3 ran very smoothly on high details at full HD resolution, averaging 40 fps (frames per second). Cranking the graphics settings up to ultra detail, the machine still maintained a playable 30 fps on average, although it did dip to the mid-20s (and sometimes low 20s) when the action got thick and heavy.

Dusting off our sword and shield, Dragon Age II on full HD, with very high details, hit an average of 35 fps slowing to around the 30 fps mark with heavy action. Again, that made for some gorgeous looking graphics flowing along pretty smoothly. The Stalker: Call of Pripyat benchmark, running at ultra details, averaged 70 fps, and 35 fps on the intensive “sunshafts” section. That’s a very good result for a laptop.

Suffice it to say that gamers won’t be disappointed with the performance here, or the excellent display which makes the most of those higher visual detail settings. MSI also has a TDE “turbo” button, which adds an extra few frames per second to a game’s fluidity when pressed. There’s also a fan button to turn on extra cooling for when the laptop is being pushed hard rendering 3D graphics.

Fan noise

Bear in mind, though, that the extra fan power is pretty darn noisy, and can be heard above the speakers turned up full. Indeed, the default fan speed is audible, and a touch noisy. Heat levels aren’t bad – but as you’d expect with a machine packing this sort of graphics firepower, the base does get somewhat warm when gaming, but not to a problematic degree.

MSI’s work on the sonic side is almost as impressive as the fluid visuals this machine provides. Twin Dynaudio speakers are backed up by a subwoofer, and this package actually delivers some pretty decent bass depth. Guns and explosions benefit from some real impact, and the volume can be cranked pretty much up to full with little or no distortion evident.

The sound has a nicely rounded, clean feel to it – so for example in the famous Matrix movie “gunfight in the hotel lobby” scene, the bass guitar of the music track can still be heard over the chatter of machine guns and exploding masonry. Good stuff.

In terms of ports and extras, there’s a good array. The laptop boasts a triplet of standard USB ports, two USB 3.0 ports, an e-SATA port, VGA and HDMI, along with a multi-card reader, Ethernet port, microphone, headphones and line in. An HD webcam is also on board.

There’s no SSD here, and while that certainly would have been a welcome addition, it would have pushed the price up, too. The good news is the 1.5TB hard disk is swift enough, and provides plenty of storage space.

Finally, we come to the battery. We tested the machine to see how long it’d last playing an intensive game away from the mains, with balanced power settings. The GT780DXR managed 1 hour and 45 minutes, not a good result, but not a terrible one either considering this is under major load.

However, it’s also worth noting that frame rates dipped from very smooth in Battlefield 3 with high details, to very jerky when running on the battery. MSI’s notebook isn’t particularly happy away from the mains, and throttles everything back, which underlines its role as a desktop replacement model.

Verdict

The GT780DXR is a bit bulky, not much to look at, and it doesn’t fare well away from the mains. The fan is also a bit noisy, particularly when it kicks up a gear. However, we appreciated this notebook’s quality anti-glare display and fluid frame rates, not to mention some smart extra touches for the gamer, such as the keyboard design and inclusion of a decent gaming mouse. This MSI laptop is a worthy buy considering what you’re getting here.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

MSI GT780DXR

Processor

Intel Core i7-2670QM

Video Card

Nvidia GeForce GTX 570M 1.5GB

Memory

8GB

Hard Drive

1.5TB 7200rpm

Display

17.3in, 1920 x 1080

Ports

3 USB 2.0 ports; 2 USB 3.0 ports; 1 eSATA port; VGA; HDMI (v1.4); Multi-card reader; Microphone port; Headphones; Line in; Ethernet port

Optical Drive

DVD-RW with Blu-ray support

Connectivity

Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

OS

Windows 7 Home 64-bit

Size and weight

428 x 288 x 55mm (WxDxH), 3.9kg

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