Thanks goes out to CUK, Computer Upgrade King, for supplying the MSI GS63VR notebook for our testing and evaluation
It's been a few weeks since we took a look at our first gaming notebook with NVIDIA's Max-Q design, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus. We briefly touched on the broad array of announced Max-Q Notebooks on that review, and today we are taking a look at the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro.
One of the first notebooks to feature the GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design, the MSI GS63VR is a more traditional notebook form factor than the GTX 1080-toting ASUS ROG Zephyrus. In fact, the GS series has been a long running line of thin-and-light gaming notebooks from MSI. What is new though is the avalability of a GTX 1070-class option in this chassis. The GS63VR previously topped out with the GTX 1060 as the highest end option.
|MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-002 (configuration as reviewed)|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)|
|Graphics||NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design (8GB)|
|Screen||15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz|
512GB Samsung PM871a M.2 SATA SSD
1TB Seagate 5400RPM HDD
|Wireless||Intel 8265 802.11ac (2x2) + BT 4.1|
|Dimensions||379.98mm x 248.92mm x17.53mm (14.96" x 9.80" x 0.69")
3.96 lbs. (1792 g)
|OS||Windows 10 Pro|
|Price||$2399 - Newegg.com CUKUSA|
Taking a look a look at the exact notebook configuration we are testing, we find a well-equipped gaming notebook. In addition to the GTX 1070 Max-Q, we find a 35W Quad-Core mobile CPU from Intel, 32GB of system RAM, and plentiful storage options including both M.2 SSD and traditional 2.5" SATA drive configurations. This specific notebook is equipped with a SATA M.2 SSD, but this notebook will also support PCIe devices with the same M.2 port.
Can you hear me now?
One of the more significant downsides to modern gaming notebooks is noise. These devices normally have small fans that have to spin quickly to cool the high-performance components found inside. While the answer for loud gaming desktops might be a nice set of headphones, for notebooks that may be used in more public spaces, that's not necessarily a good solution for friends or loved ones.
Attempting to address the problem of loud gaming notebooks, NVIDIA released a technology called WhisperMode. WhisperMode launched alongside NVIDIA's Max-Q design notebooks earlier this year, but it will work with any notebook enabled with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or higher. This software solution aims to limit noise and power consumption of notebooks by restricting the frame rate of your game to a reasonable compromise of performance, noise, and power levels. NVIDIA has profiled over 400 games to find this sweet spot and added profiles for those games to WhisperMode technology.
WhisperMode is enabled through the NVIDIA GeForce Experience application.
From GFE, you can also choose to "Optimize games for WhisperMode." This will automatically adjust settings (in-game) to complement the frame rate target control of WhisperMode.
If you want to adjust the Frame Rate Target, that must be done in the traditional NVIDIA Control Panel and is done on a per app basis. The target can be set at intervals of 5 FPS from 30 to the maximum refresh of your display. Having to go between two pieces of software to tweak these settings seems overly complex and hopefully some upcoming revamp of the NVIDIA software stack might address this user interface falacy.
To put WhisperMode through its paces, we tried it on two notebooks - one with a GTX 1070 Max-Q (the MSI GS63VR) and one with a GTX 1080 Max-Q (the ASUS ROG Zephyrus). Our testing consisted of two games, Metro: Last Light and Hitman. Both of these games were run for 15 minutes to get the system up to temperature and achieve sound measurements that are more realistic to extended gameplay sessions. Sound levels were measured with our Extech 407739 Sound Level Meter placed at a distance of 6 inches from the given notebooks, above the keyboard and offset to the right.
A few months ago at Computex, NVIDIA announced their "GeForce GTX with Max-Q Design" initiative. Essentially, the heart of this program is the use of specifically binned GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060 GPUs. These GPUs have been tested and selected during the manufacturing process to ensure lower power draw at the same performance levels when compared to the GPUs used in more traditional form factors like desktop graphics cards.
In order to gain access to these "Max-Q" binned GPUs, notebook manufacturers have to meet specific NVIDIA guidelines on noise levels at thermal load (sub-40 dbA). To be clear, NVIDIA doesn't seem to be offering reference notebook designs (as demonstrated by the variability in design across the Max-Q notebooks) to partners, but rather ideas on how they can accomplish the given goals.
At the show, NVIDIA and some of their partners showed off several Max-Q notebooks. We hope to take a look at all of these machines in the coming weeks, but today we're focusing on one of the first, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus.
|ASUS ROG Zephyrus (configuration as reviewed)|
|Processor||Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)|
|Graphics||NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Deseign (8GB)|
|Memory||24GB DDR4 (8GB Soldered + 8GBx2 DIMM)|
|Screen||15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz G-SYNC|
512GB Samsung SM961 NVMe
4 x USB 3.0
Audio combo jack
|Power||50 Wh Battery, 230W AC Adapter|
|Dimensions||378.9mm x 261.9mm x 17.01-17.78mm (14.92" x 10.31" x 0.67"-0.70")
4.94 lbs. (2240.746 g)
|OS||Windows 10 Home|
|Price||$2700 - Amazon.com|
As you can see, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus has the specifications of a high-end gaming desktop, let alone a gaming notebook. In some gaming notebook designs, the bottleneck comes down to CPU horsepower more than GPU horsepower. That doesn't seem to be the case here. The powerful GTX 1080 GPU is paired with a quad-core HyperThread Intel processor capable of boosting up to 3.8 GHz.