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
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
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
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  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    And how is this relevant? A) you can find the most reliable notebook and still find people with problems. B) GX-660 is an old model. OEMs tend to progress with quality as the gain more experience
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Just read your post now.

    How is it MSI fault that someone else hardware fails?
    And how is it MSI fault that you continued to use a PSU with power connector for a different product even though you noticed yourself they didnt fit like it should?
  • ZeDestructor - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    Said PSU was sent back by MSI. Therefore THEY should have checked that they were sending correct parts back. Plenty of small changes happen during manufacturing silently. This could be one of them., More QC fails.. No thanks, so many other companies do much, much better...
  • fanofanand - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I've been reading this site for over 5 years and have never been compelled to register until I read these comments. Dustin has done an admirable job with this review and huaxshin is clearly a paid shill. Never have I seen someone so adamantly defend something they didn't have a vested interest in, and I have no doubt that this case is no exception. People complain that Anand is too cozy with Intel, too nice to Nvidia, too hard on AMD etc. Readers here are CONSTANTLY looking for bias and here comes an honest open review and Dustin has been slandered repeatedly claiming the review is bogus etc.

    Why on earth should Dustin have to modify the laptop to review it??? A reviewer should NEVER alter a product during the course of a review. A buyer shouldn't be expected to do so, in fact it would void the warranty. If this is how MSI is shipping their product, then that's exactly what should be reviewed. Huaxshin you need to get out of here with your trash and go back to Tom's Hardware where reviews are regularly bought. Anand has higher standards and has been a positive force of change within the industry.

    Dustin I applaud your honesty and candor with this review, it's refreshing to see somebody call out a company that has poor QC or in this case, bad design. Kudos!
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Its not about modifying anything. Its about giving your partners, who send you a free sample, a chance to respond or resend a proper unit, before posting it online.

    Not spitting in their face first, then using a towel to clean up after MSI have discovered the fault.
    I would have understood it if it was a different error like keyboard malfunction, or any other poor designed part of the notebook. But not a clearly faulty notebook not functioning like it should.

    Which is clearly the case here because there is no chance MSI designed this system to run at 98C, which not only is too hot for comfort, but will also cause the CPU to throttle and not perform like it should.

    MSI is not this stupid, to push out a system like that. It doesnt make any sense
  • JBVertexx - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    You're wrong - this is typical MSI - pure garbage, cheap, gaudy, cheesy junk. I made the mistake of buying an MSI motherboard, once, before I started paying attention to substantial reviews such as this. MSIs style is to pack product full of feature-set bullet points that they hope to appeal those ignorant consumers in the market, but in reality, turn out to have zero substantial value to the overall product.

    MSI - pure trailer-park-trash junk.
  • JBVertexx - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    And huaxshin, you are only adding to that trailer-park-trash image by evidence of your ignorant rants throughout this forum.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Let me just chime in by saying I have an MSI GX60 with A10-4600M. I know it's a different laptop, but it warrants mention simply for the fact that it too appears to have performance issues. A10-4600M is no i7, certainly, but in many cases I'm getting performance that's closer to what I'd expect from the integrated HD 7660G rather than a high-end HD 7970M. I've tried to get better performance, so far to no avail. I thought the problem might be with AMD's Enduro or their drivers in general, but now I'm wondering if the APU is simply getting so hot that it's running at lower CPU speeds.

    I have no idea (well, I *do* have suspicions though) why haxshin is so adamant that Dustin did something wrong with this review, but the fact is the system is underperforming, and it appears to be throttling quite severely. Getting to the CPU to replace the TIM with something better is not something I have ever had to do in the course of a laptop review, and I know this review from Dustin is a couple weeks late. I would assume he at least mentioned some of the concerns to MSI, but if they sent out a lemon laptop to a major review site, what does that say about the potential for retail notebooks? Ugh.
  • huaxshin - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    Are you guys really this uninformed? Not you too Jarred :/

    The reason why you get lower performance with a AMD APU + 7970M (any high end really) is because the CPU part of the APU is bottlenecking the GPU. Its too weak to drive the 7970M. Notebookcheck did an extensive test on the GX60 and found out that the APU cause the overall result over 18 games, to fall down to GTX 660M with i7.
    Its that bad.

    Temperatures is not the culprint there at all. Just weak APU used. The A10-4600M is a 35W TDP, its one of the most cool running CPUs out there. Since it use the exact same chassis as the GT60 with a cooling system built for 45W i7s.
    Running Prime95 caused the A10-4600M to max out at 71C, which in no way will cause throttle.

    I stand on my opinion that you should contact MSI to make a solution with a replacement than putting out a review that cause both benchmarks and temperature measurements to be wrong. MSI is at fault here for not doing better quality check, no doubt about that. I just hope Dustin thought this through before posting the review.
  • DeltaActual - Wednesday, June 19, 2013 - link

    Can admin please ban this lamer?

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