27 notebooks can't be wrong
A month or so back, I had a friend come to me asking for advice on which gaming notebook he should purchase. He had specific needs that were tailored to a portable gaming machine: he wanted to have a single machine for home and mobile use, he wanted to be able to game while traveling and he had a pretty reasonable budget. As the "guy that runs the gaming hardware website" I was expected to have an answer...immediately. But I didn't. As it turns out, dissecting and digesting the gaming notebook field is pretty complex.
I sent a note to MSI, offering to build a video and a short story around its products if they sent me one of each of line of gaming notebooks they sold. Honestly, I didn't expect them to be able to pull it together, but just a couple of weeks later, a handful of large boxes arrived and we were staring at a set of six powerful gaming notebooks to analyze.
|GE62 Apache Pro-014||GS40 Phantom-001||GS60 Ghost Pro-002||GS72 Stealth Pro 4K-202||GT72S Dominator Pro G-220||GT80S Titan SLI-002|
|Screen||15.6-in 1080p||14-in 1080p||15.6-in 1080p||17.3-in 4K||17.3-in 1080p G-Sync||18.4-in 1080p|
|CPU||Core i7-6700HQ||Core i7-6700HQ||Core i7-6700HQ||Core i7-6700HQ||Core i7-6820HK||Core i7-6820HK|
|GPU||GTX 960M 2GB||GTX 970M 3GB||GTX 970M 6GB||GTX 970M 3GB||GTX 980M 8GB||GTX 980M 8GB SLI|
|Storage||128GB M.2 SATA
|128GB PCIE SSD
|128GB PCIE SSD
|256GB PCIE SSD
|256GB PCIE RAID SSD
|256GB PCIE RAID SSD
|Optical||DVD Super-multi||None||None||None||Blu-ray Burner||Blu-ray Burner|
|Display Output||HDMI 1.4
|Connectivity||USB 3.1 Type-C
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 2.0 x 1
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2
|USB 3.1 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.0 x 6
USB 3.0 x 5
|Dimensions||15.07-in x 10.23-in x 1.06-in||13.58-in x 9.65-in x 0.87-in||15.35-in x 10.47-in x 0.78-in||16.47-in x 11.39-in x 0.78-in||16.85-in x 11.57-in x 1.89-in||17.95-in x 13.02-in x 1.93-in|
|Weight||5.29 pounds||3.75 pounds||4.2 pounds||5.7 pounds||8.4 pounds||9.9 pounds|
MSI sent this collection along as it appears to match closely with entire range of available options in its own gaming notebook line, without actually sending us ALL 27 OF THE AVAILABLE SKUs! Yes, twenty-seven.
MSI GS40 Phantom
In the video below, I'll walk through the discussion of each of the series of notebooks that MSI offers for gamers, what the prevailing characteristics are for each and what kind of consumer should be most interested in it. I also discuss the specifics of each of the models we received for the project as well as getting into the performance deltas between them.
MSI GS72 Stealth Pro 4K
- MSI GE Series
- The entry level of gaming notebooks, available in both 15.6 and 17.3-in 1080p screens, limited to GTX 970M or GTX 960M GPUs. You still get 16GB of memory, SSDs in MOST systems, Killer Networking hardware, Steel Series keyboards and weights range from 5.29 to 5.95 pounds.
- MSI GS Series
- Varies in screen size from 14-in to 17.3-in but the focus here is on slimmer designs. Both 1080p and 4K screens are available, though you are still maxing out at a GTX 970M graphics solution. 16GB of RAM, NVMe PCIe SSDs are standard, with available models as thin as 0.78-inches and as light as 3.75 pounds.
- MSI GT72 Series
- These focus on performance per dollar, getting maximum single GPU performance in the chassis. They all have 17-in screens with available G-Sync integration, and GPUs from the GTX 970M to the GTX 980 (full). 16-32GB of memory, all using SSDs, optical drives, Thunderbolt, six USB 3.0 ports but GT72 systems are bigger and heavier to compensate for all this.
- MSI GT80 Series
- These are for the crazy enthusiasts only, all of which include SLI configurations or GTX 970M, 980M or 980. An 18.3-in 1080p screen is the only option for your display, but you get 16-64GB of memory, RAID enabled SSD configurations, Blu-ray burners, Thunderbolt, five USB 3.0 ports and a friggin Cherry Brown mechanical keyboard!
After going through this project, here are a few recommendations I would have for users looking to pick up an MSI gaming notebook.
- Best Gaming Value
- GT72 Dominator G-831 - This combines the larger form factor with a GTX 970M GPU, 17.3-in 1080p screen, 16GB of memory, 128GB SSD and priced at $1599. I think this is a good balance of cost and GPU horsepower.
- Looking for a Slimmer Design
- GS70 Stealth Pro-006 - For $1699 you lose the optical drive from the above GT72, but get a lighter and thinner design. You have the same technical horsepower, GTX 970M, Core i7 processor, etc., but the integrated fans will likely be noticeably louder to expel the heat from the more narrow chassis.
- If you need more performance
- GT72 Dominator Pro G-034 - With a jump from the $1599 GT72 above to $2099, this model gets you a GTX 980M and a 256GB SSD. Based on the performance metrics I ran, that should net you another 40-50% of GPU horsepower.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these machines and I'll do my best to answer them!
A new fighter has entered the ring
When EVGA showed me that it was entering the world of gaming notebooks at CES in January, I must admit, I questioned the move. A company that, at one point, only built and distributed graphics cards based on NVIDIA GeForce GPUs had moved to mice, power supplies, tablets (remember that?) and even cases, was going to get into the cutthroat world of notebooks. But I was promised that EVGA had an angle; it would not be cutting any corners in order to bring a truly competitive and aggressive product to the market.
Just a couple of short months later (seriously, is it the end of March already?) EVGA presented us with a shiny new SC17 Gaming Notebook to review. It’s thinner than you might expect, heavier than I would prefer and packs some impressive compute power, along with unique features and overclocking capability, that will put it on your short list of portable gaming rigs for 2016.
Let’s start with a dive into the spec table and then go from there.
|EVGA SC17 Specifications|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-6820HK|
|Memory||32GB G.Skill DDR4-2666|
|Graphics Card||GeForce GTX 980M 8GB|
|Storage||256GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD
1TB 7200 RPM SATA 6G HDD
|Display||Sharp 17.3 inch UDH 4K with matte finish|
|Connectivity||Intel 219-V Gigabit Ethernet
Intel AC-8260 802.11ac
2x USB 3.0 Type-A
1x USB 3.1 Type-C
|Audio||Realtek ALC 255
|Video||1x HDMI 1.4
2x mini DisplayPort (1x G-Sync support)
|Dimensions||16-in x 11.6-in x 1.05-in|
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
With a price tag of $2,699, EVGA owes you a lot – and it delivers! The processor of choice is the Intel Core i7-6820HK, an unlocked, quad-core, HyperThreaded processor that brings desktop class computing capability to a notebook. The base clock speed is 2.7 GHz but the Turbo clock reaches as high as 3.6 GHz out of the box, supplying games, rendering programs and video editors plenty of horsepower for production on the go. And don’t forget that this is one of the first unlocked processors from Intel for mobile computing – multipliers and voltages can all be tweaked in the UEFI or through Precision X Mobile software to push it even further.
Based on EVGA’s relationship with NVIDIA, it should surprise exactly zero people that a mobile GeForce GPU is found inside the SC17. The GTX 980M is based on the Maxwell 2.0 design and falls slightly under the desktop consumer class GeForce GTX 970 card in CUDA core count and clock speed. With 1536 CUDA cores and a 1038 MHz base clock, with boost capability, the discrete graphics will have enough juice for most games at very high image quality settings. EVGA has configured the GPU with 8GB of GDDR5 memory, more than any desktop GTX 970… so there’s that. Obviously, it would have been great to see the full powered GTX 980 in the SC17, but that would have required changes to the thermal design, chassis and power delivery.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 4, 2016 - 07:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Y900, Lenovo, ips, Intel Core i7, GTX 980M, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, CES 2016, CES
Lenovo has announced the Y900, a dedicated gaming machine which features the current high-end mobile CPUs and GPUs, as well as configurable overclocking.
Exact overclocking numbers are not yet available, but this will be controlled through software to allow users to select a higher performance level. The system can be configured with up to a quad-core 6th gen Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, and up to a massive 64 GB of DD4 memory - though with 4 SoDIMM slots it will be easy to upgrade the memory later. Storage options include PCIe SSDs (1 slot) and traditional SATA 6.0 Gb/s drives, and there is also USB 3.1 Type-C as well as HDMI 2.0 among the I/O.
Specifications from Lenovo:
- Up to Intel 6th Gen Quad Core i7 overclockable CPU
- 17.3” 16:9 FHD (1920x1080) IPS Anti-glare
- NVIDIA GTX-980M 4G/8G GDDR5 PCI-Express discrete graphics
- Up to 64GB DDR4 memory (4 x SO-DIMM)
- Up to 512GB SSD PCIe (RAID 0), Up to 1TB HDD SATA 3
- Camera: 720p with internal digital array microphones
- 2 x 2.0w JBL speakers and 3.0w subwoofer w/ Dolby Home Theater
- Battery: Up to 5 hours (Li-Polymer, 6 cell, 90Wh)
- Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 w/always on charging, 1 x USB Type C (supports USB 3.1, Display Port, Thunderbolt), Audio Jack, Mic Jack, HDMI 2.0, 4-in-1 card
- reader, SPDIF, Display Port)
- Mechanical keyboard with programmable color backlighting
- Colorful highlighted touchpad
- Windows 10 Home
- Dimensions: 425.4mm x 15.2mm x < 35.9mm
The Y900 gaming laptop starts at $1999 and will be available beginning in June of this year.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: ROG, notebook, ifa, gx700, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, asus
IFA is turning out to be an odd place full of weird announcements focused on PC gaming and enthusiasts rather than just mobile phones and electronics. ASUS has gone in the completely opposite direction today, announcing not just a series of gaming notebooks but a new series that is water cooled. I'm not making that up.
That is the new ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) GX700 series of gaming notebooks, coming in the 4th quarter of 2015. Looking for a price? You won't find it here but you will find a lot of interesting technology. This is what ASUS claims about the GX700:
- All-new flagship gaming laptop
- 4K 17-inch display
- Water-cooling system with pump/radiator
- Mobile K-series CPU with overclocking
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics (TBD)
A 4K screen in a 17-inch form factor is going to...have exceptionally small pixels. Clearly this is going to need quite a bit of Windows-based text and format scaling to make sure the desktop experience is usable. ASUS is using the new K-series Skylake processor that is unlocked and allows for overclocking in the same way you do so in the desktop market.
Oh, and what's this? An unannounced mobile GeForce GTX GPU? I doubt this is anything more than a currently shipping Maxwell GPU with some additional horsepower behind it, possibly more closely matching performance of the desktop GTX 980 Ti.
And of course, let's talk about the water cooling system. I asked for more details but ASUS wasn't budging. Clearly if you market this as a notebook there has to be portability to the device so expect that large portion that is front in center in the above picture to detach with quick connections to the notebook housing. That large external base will likely hold the pump, radiator, reservoir and even some docking functions like display connections, USB, etc. With water cooling and an unlocked Skylake processor you should expect some impressive overclocking capability considering the form factor!
I would assume that if you disconnect the machine to take on the road without the water cooling base the hardware would run at slower speeds with normal in-case fans as we see with other designs on the market today.
This sound amazing, crazy and kind of senseless, but I need to try it right away. Expect to pay top dollar for something like this especially considering the component cost of the screen, CPU, GPU, etc. not to mention the specific engineering for the new housing and design. I'll keep my eyes out for more information on the ASUS ROG GX700!
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Skylake, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebooks, laptops, IFA 2015, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, G752, asus, 4k
ASUS has announced the newest addition to their Republic of Gamers (ROG) gaming laptop lineup, the G752. What's new? ASUS offers these bullet points:
- All-new chassis with new design theme
- New plasma copper, armor titanium and lava red color
- Intel Skylake platform
- NVIDIA graphics up to a GTX 980M 8GB
- Optional 4K display
- Thunderbolt 3.0 technology
- Gaming keyboard with anti-ghosting 30-key rollover with 2.5mm long-travel keys
The high-end model is the ROG G752VY, which boasts these specs:
- 17.3” AG FHD IPS LED backlit display (1920x1080) with G-SYNC / 17.3” AG UHD IPS LED backlit display (3840x2160) with G-SYNC
- Intel Core i7-6700HQ / i7-6820HK Processor (TBD)
- Mobile Intel CM236 Chipset
- DDR4 2133 MHz memory up to 64 GB
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 4 GB / 8 GB GDDR5
- 2.5” SATA 2TB 5400 RPM HDD/1TB 7200 RPM HDD/1TB SSHD, PCIEX4 M.2 NVME 512 GB / 256 GB / 128 GB SSD
- DVD Super-Multi / Blu-ray combo / Blu-ray writer
- Built-in HD camera and array mic
- (WxDxH) 428 mm X 334 mm X 23~53 mm, 4.38 Kg (with 8-cell battery)
With the option of a 4K display and some serious specs the G752VY covers the bases for a desktop-replacement gaming powerhouse, topping the list of new laptops.
Sitting below the G752VY is the G752VT (yes this is a different laptop, though you could easily mistake the “T” for the other model name’s “Y”), and this 17.3” laptop differs in GPU selection with the GTX 970M and is only offered with a FHD 1920x1080 IPS display. Rounding out the lineup is the G752VL which has the GeForce GTX 965M GPU, and is otherwise virtually identical.
These new gaming laptops will be available in Q4, and pricing starts at $1499.
Gaming laptops are something that most people are quick to reject as out of their price range. There is a lot of sense in this train of thought. We know that laptop components are inherently lower performing than their desktop counterparts, and significantly more expensive. So the idea of spending more money for less powerful components seems like a bad trade off for the added gains of portability for many gamers.
However, we also seem to be in a bit of a plateau as far as generation-to-generation performance gain with desktop components. Midrange processors from a few generations ago are still more than capable of playing the vast majority of games, and even lower-end modern GPUs are able to game at 1080p.
So maybe it's time to take another look at the sub-$1000 gaming notebook options, and that's exactly what we are doing today with the Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition.
The Aspire V Nitro is equipped with fairly modest components when compared to what most people think of gaming laptops as. Where machines such as the MSI GT70 Dominator or ASUS G751 seem to take the kitchen sink approach towards mobile gaming machines, The Aspire V is a more carefully balanced option.
|Acer Aspire V 15 Nitro Black Edition|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4720HQ 2.6 GHz|
|Graphics Card||NVIDIA GTX 960M 4GB|
|Storage||1 TB Hard Drive|
|Dimensions (W x D x H)||15.34" x 10.14" x 0.86" - 0.94"|
Anchored by an Intel Core i7-4720HQ and a GTX 960M, the Aspire V Nitro isn't trying to reach to the top stack of mobile performance. A 15.6" display along with 8GB of RAM, and a single 1TB spindle drive are all logical choices for a machine aimed towards gaming on a budget.
While it's difficult for us to recommend that you buy any machine without an SSD these days, a 1TB drive is great for game storage on a machine like there. There are also other configurations optiosn which add SATA M.2 SSDs alongside the 1TB drive, and we managed to open up our sample and put an SSD in ourselves with little pain.
Introduction and Design
With the introduction of the ASUS G751JT-CH71, we’ve now got our first look at the newest ROG notebook design revision. The celebrated design language remains the same, and the machine’s lineage is immediately discernible. However, unlike the $2,000 G750JX-DB71 unit we reviewed a year and a half ago, this particular G751JT configuration is 25% less expensive at just $1,500. So first off, what’s changed on the inside?
(Editor's Note: This is NOT the recent G-Sync version of the ASUS G751 notebook that was announced at Computex. This is the previously released version, one that I am told will continue to sell for the foreseeable future and one that will come at a lower overall price than the G-Sync enabled model. Expect a review on the G-Sync derivative very soon!)
Quite a lot, as it turns out. For starters, we’ve moved all the way from the 700M series to the 900M series—a leap which clearly ought to pay off in spades in terms of GPU performance. The CPU and RAM remain virtually equivalent, while the battery has migrated from external to internal and enjoyed a 100 mAh bump in the process (from 5900 to 6000 mAh). So what’s with the lower price then? Well, apart from the age difference, it’s the storage: the G750JX featured both a 1 TB storage drive and a 256 GB SSD, while the G751JT-CH71 drops the SSD. That’s a small sacrifice in our book, especially when an SSD is so easily added thereafter. By the way, if you’d rather simply have ASUS handle that part of the equation for you, you can score a virtually equivalent configuration (chipset and design evolutions notwithstanding) in the G751JT-DH72 for $1750—still $250 less than the G750JX we reviewed.
Subject: Mobile | June 2, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Tobii Technology, msi, GTX 980M, gt72, gaming notebook, g-sync, eye-tracking, computex 2015, computex
MSI has announced a new version of the GT72 gaming notebook featuring NVIDIA G-SYNC technology.
Like the current GT72 Dominator Pro G, this features NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M graphics, though this announced version has 8GB of GDDR5 (vs. the previous 4GB) powering its 17.3” display. The G-SYNC implementation with this notebook will allow for variable refresh between 30 - 75 Hz, and as the existing G72 is a 1920x1080 notebook also featuring a GTX 980M it might seem unnecessary to implement G-SYNC, though this would ensure a smoother experience with the newest games at very high detail settings.
Based on the current GT72 Dominator Pro G we can also expect an Intel Broadwell Core i7 mobile processor (the i7-5700HQ in the current model), and these notebooks support up to 32GB of DDR3L 1600MHz memory, as well as up to 4 M.2 SSDs in RAID 0.
MSI is also announcing development, in partnership with eye-tracking company Tobii Technology, of a “fully integrated eye-tracking notebook” for gamers, and MSI will have prototype notebooks at Computex to demonstrate the technology.
We’ll post additional details when available. Right now full specs, as well as pricing and availability, have not been revealed.
Subject: Mobile | June 2, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: notebook, msi, Intel Core i7, gaming notebook, computex 2015, computex, Broadwell
MSI has unveiled a refreshed notebook lineup featuring the new quad-core Intel Broadwell mobile processors.
Broadwell launched as a dual-core only option, which resulted in some high-performance notebooks opting to stay with Haswell CPUs. With the introduction of quad-core versions of the new Broadwell chips for mobile, MSI has jumped on the bandwagon to offer a few different options. Of the 20 new notebooks offered by MSI, 18 of them are powered by Intel Core i7 chips.
Intel’s 5th Generation Core i7 processor powers 18 MSI laptop models, including the GT80 Titan SLI, GT72 Dominator, GS70 Stealth, GS60 Ghost, GE72 Apache, GE62 Apache, GP72 Leopard, GP62 Leopard, and the newly announced PX60 Prestige. Available immediately, all gaming notebook models come with an array of superior technologies, including Killer DoubleShot Pro for lag-less gaming, SteelSeries Gaming Keyboard for exceptional customization and feel, and more.
The flagship GT80 Titan SLI has these impressive specs, including an Intel Core i7-5950HQ processor:
GT80 Titan SLI
- Screen: 18.4” 1920x1080 WideView Non-Reflection
- CPU: Intel Core i7-5950HQ, 2.9 - 3.7 GHz
- Chipset: HM87
- Graphics: Dual GTX 980M SLI, 8GB GDDR5 VRAM each
- Memory: 24GB (8GB x3) DDR3L 1600MHz (4 SoDIMM slots, max 32GB)
- Storage: 256GB Super RAID (128GB M.2 SATA x2, RAID 0) + 1TB 7200 RPM HDD
- Optical: BD Burner
- LAN: Killer Gaming Network
- Wireless: Killer N1525 Combo (2x2 ac), BT 4.1
- Card Reader: SDXC
- Video Output: HDMI 1.4, mDP v1.2 x2
- MSRP: $3799.99
The GT80 Titan SLI gaming notebook
1920x1080 with this model seems low, especially considering the obscene amount of VRAM (8GB per card on a laptop? Really?). Still, this notebook has excellent external monitor support with dual mini-DisplayPort outputs, though HDMI is limited to version 1.4.
MSI has also introduced a refreshed GT72 Dominator with NVIDIA G-Sync (covered here), and this new version also features USB 3.1. And for the more business-minded there is the premium PX60 Prestige, now refreshed with Broadwell Core i7 as well.
These refreshed notebook models will be “available immediately” from MSI’s retail partners.
Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:33 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Razer Blade Pro, razer, notebook, laptop, i7-4720HQ, GTX 960M, gaming notebook
Razer has updated their massive Blade Pro notebook with new dual storage options and NVIDIA’s newly announced GeForce GTX 960M graphics.
Razer targets the Blade Pro at both gamers and professionals, placing emphasis on the usefulness of the device beyond gaming. However, being limited to 1920x1080 on a 17.3-inch display will eliminate this from consideration by most creative professionals (though the display does feature an anti-glare matte finish). Aiding the performance/gaming side of the notebook is Razer’s localized heating system which the company claims “focuses on directing heat away from the main touch surfaces of the notebook, to areas that can dissipate heat quickly and are not commonly touched by the user. This allows the laptop to pack in the highest performance available with NVIDIA’s critically acclaimed GTX graphics”.
The Blade Pro is constructed from aluminum and while reasonably thin at 0.88 inches, the notebook weighs in at a hefty 6.76 pounds (though the probably battery life of such a high-powered system precludes this from a lot of portable use anyway).
One of the most interesting aspects of this design is Razer’s Switchblade User Interface (SBUI), which the company says “is designed for a more efficient and intuitive experience for professionals and gamers.” It combines 10 customizable tactile keys and a unique LCD trackpad (which I would assume features a glass surface). Meanwhile the keyboard is backlit and features anti-ghosting technology as well.
Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.6GHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), Optimus Technology
16GB System Memory (DDR3L-1600 MHz)
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
128GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 256GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
17.3" Full HD 16:9 Ratio, 1920 x 1080 LED backlit
Intel Wireless-AC 7260HMW (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0)
Gigabit Ethernet port
3x USB 3.0 ports
HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5 mm microphone/headphone combo jack
7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)
Built-in full-HD webcam (2.0 MP)
Compact 150 W Power Adapter
Built-in 74 Wh Rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery
Razer Switchblade User Interface (SBUI)
Razer Anti-Ghosting Keyboard (with adjustable backlight)
Razer Synapse Enabled
Kensington Lock interface
16.8 in. (427 mm) Width x 0.88 in. (22.4 mm) Height x 10.9 in. (277 mm) Depth
6.76 lbs. / 3.07 kg
The Razer Blade Pro starts at $2299.99 and is available now from the Razer online store.