MSI GS70 2QE Stealth Pro review
Processor: Quad-core 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ, RAM: 16GB, Size: 418.5x287x21.8mm, Weight: 2.66kg, Screen size: 17.6in, Screen resolution: 1,920x1,080, Graphics adaptor: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, Total storage: 2x 128GB SSD, 1TB hard disk
The GS70 2QE Stealth Pro is an ultra-powerful gaming laptop, and is the first we've reviewed that comes equipped with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970M graphics processor (GPU). Unsurprisingly, we were eager to put this 17.3in behemoth to the test straight away. The 970M and 980M GPUs replace the 870M and 880M chips, but while a performance boost is to be expected, the 900-series GPUs promise to be more power-efficient too.
The GS70 is almost identical in specification to the Recommended award-winning Chillblast Helix. Not only does it have the same 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ processor, it also comes in the same chassis and has the same battery, making direct performance comparisons very easy. The main differences are that the MSI machine has the GTX 970M while the Chillblast Helix has a last-generation 870M, and the MSI GE70 has 16GB of RAM while the Chillblast Helix has 8GB.
We performed the same graphics benchmark tests on both machines, and the progress Nvidia has made in just a few months is startling. In our super-easy Dirt Showdown benchmark, with the game running at a resolution of 1,280x720 with 4x anti-aliasing and High quality graphics, the Chillblast Helix managed 107.5fps while the MSI produced 118.1fps. Increasing the texture settings to Ultra and boosting the resolution to 1,920x1,080 revealed a gulf in performance. The Helix produced a capable 51.6fps but was trounced by the 2QE Stealth Pro, which produced 99.9fps.
In our most challenging test, Crysis 3 running at 1,920x1,080 with High quality graphics, the MSI GS70 produced an average 48.7fps while the Helix produced an average 38fps, which is clear evidence that although their release is only separated by a few months, the 900-series GPUs are much better performers.
We also strayed beyond our usual benchmarks to see how this laptop can handle being hooked up to a higher-resolution external monitor. We connected it to a 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution display via the MSI GS70’s HDMI port (there are also two mini DisplayPort connectors) and re-ran our Dirt Showdown and Crysis 3 benchmarks. Dirt Showdown at Ultra graphics quality yielded a still excellent 67.4fps, but Crysis 3 at High graphics quality was unplayable at 23.3fps. Careful graphics tweaking will be required if you're looking to play modern games at these resolutions, but it's definitely possible.
The GS70 2QE Stealth Pro scored 92 overall in our application benchmarks. This score breaks down as 104 in the single core-focused image rendering test, 91 in the video rendering challenge and 95 in the multitasking segment. This is very nearly desktop-quality performance, and it makes Windows 8 programs open lightning fast and also hints at excellent performance if you're planning on streaming games live to the internet, or want to edit video on your laptop.
Storage space comes in the form of two 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB mechanical hard disk, which should be plenty of space for storing all your music, videos and games. The high capcity SSDs mean you'll also have room to store your most used games and applications on high performance storage, meaning they'll be faster to load.
While the physical design of the chassis is identical to the one used by the Chillblast Helix, there are a few tweaks unique to MSI. The keyboard has the same characteristics, with widely-spaced keys coated in a grippy material. The keys have pleasant tactile feedback, making them very well suited to long sessions of typing and gaming. The layout is a little strange, though, with the Delete key sitting to the right of the Insert key, making it harder to reach, and the Return key is half-height, which may irritate some users.
The keyboard is backlit, although not in the useful way that lights up the characters on the keys. Instead, the lighting strips are found underneath the keys and light up the spaces between them. There are three sections, each of which can be customised using the preinstalled SteelSeries software, and you can set them to display any colour you please, either static or pulsing. There's a host of different options, but the backlights look cheap and patchy.
The touchpad, while unlikely to be the focal point for most gamers, is accurate and easy to use. The physical buttons are integrated into the pad, and we had no problems clicking and dragging icons.