With so many new ultra-portable gaming laptops populating the market, the MSI GT70 Dominator 2PC makes the case that bigger is better. The large hulking desktop replacement is one of the first machines to offer NVidia’s new line of 800M graphics cards. The device pairs it new powerful 870M GPU with equally impressive innards including an i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a secondary 1TB HDD for ample storage. In additional to top-notch specs the MSI GT70 Dominator also features excellent connectivity with Killer DoubleShot Game Networking, a vibrant 17.3 matte display and responsive SteelSteries keyboard. But perhaps best of all MSI manages to offer the entire package at the manageable price point of $2,000.
The MSI GT70 Dominator’s form factor be a bit bulky, but there’s a lot of value crammed into that sizeable chassis.
Build and Design
With sharp cutting angles and downward slanting design the MSI GT70 Dominator provides a stylized aesthetic despite its hulking frame. On the lid a thick black plastic band outlines the brushed aluminum protective surface. On the top center of the lid sits msi silver lettering with the company’s gaming logo (that lights up when the device is powered) resting directly below.
The bottom portion of the chassis is comprised almost entirely of plastic, save for the brushed aluminum palm rest on the deck. The small patch of brushed metal is a notable boon providing a comfortable cool-to-the-touch surface while typing. The power button is placed prominently at the top center of the deck, surrounded by a band of touch-responsive controls. The controls allow users to alter their settings or launch specific programs such as MSI Dragon Gaming Center on the fly.
Designed as a desktop replacement, it comes as little surprise that the MSI GT70 Dominator isn’t the lightest laptop on the market. Measuring in at 16.85 x 11.34 x 2.17 and weighing in at 8.6lbs. (closer to 10lbs. with the power brick), the laptop is a handful to travel with. While the high-powered gaming machine not be all that portable, it is sturdy. The chassis proved resilient, holding its form even after heavy pressure was applied. Slight rippling did occur along the edges of the display, but with the machine’s durable frame and reliable hinge design that’s hardly a call for concern.
Ports and Features
The MSI GT70 offers fantastic connectivity with a cornucopia of features aimed at gaming-centric consumers. The laptop supports 4K video output via its HDMI and mini Display Port connectors. The laptop is also capable of broadcasting across three displays simultaneously with Matrix Display support.
The MSI GT70 Dominator makes great use of its large frame providing a generous array of ports. The left side of the device features three USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a microphone jack, an audio jack along with additional input and output audio ports. The right side houses two USB 2.0 ports and a Blu-ray/DVD+-RW combo drive. Finally on the back end of the chassis the device features an Ethernet connector, a VGA connector, a mini Display Port connector and an HDMI connector.
The laptop also offers Killer DoubleShot Game Networking, which links together both Ethernet (Killer E2200) and Wi-Fi (Killer Wireless-N 1202) drivers to provide consistent low-latency connections on both wireless and wired connections. The technology utilizes something MSI calls Advanced Stream Detect to automatically classify and prioritize the latency-sensitive applications (i.e. online games) to provide a faster more consistent connection. Basically it reduces the time it takes the laptop to send and receive information, so that the bottleneck for online connectivity rests almost solely with the internet speed. The technology won’t be capable of overcoming slow internet speeds or sluggish servers, but it can provide a notable boost to the user’s ping (connection speed). With many of today’s most popular titles like League of Legends and Call of Duty relying on twitch-based split second reactions, the Killer DoubleShot Game Networking proves to be a notable boon.
Display and Sound
The MSI GT70 Dominator features a 17.3 FHD (1920 x 1080 resolution) anti-glare LCD display. The screen’s exceptional brightness and high contrast allow for rich vibrant color detail. Notebook Review was particularly pleased at how the display detailed a fiery comet against the dark clouded night sky in the opening cinematic to Diablo 3. The panel’s coloring isn’t perfect and will be easily outclassed by the screens found on workstation-grade laptops, but it’s still one of the best gaming-centric panels on the market.
The screen’s matte finish helps to reduce glare, providing generous viewing angles with images holding up well past 100 degrees on the horizontal axis. The only downside to the non-reflective design is that the low-reflectivity layer adds a slight grain.
It should be noted that the display does not offer touch controls, which some users find disappointing considering touch gestures pair so well with Windows 8.1’s layout. The lack of a touch-enabled display is a common conceit among gaming laptops, and while the feature would certainly add some utility, its widespread absence is understandable. With cutting edge specs and often high-quality builds the cost of gaming laptops is already steep, and adding features such as touch-panels just further increases the cost. With the MSI GT70 Dominator offering such competitive specs at an attractive price point, NBR can happily look past the lack of touch-controls.
The MSI GT70 Dominator houses two speakers along the top right and left corners of the laptop’s face. Despite the hulking size of the Dominator, the machine isn’t actually all that boisterous. The laptop is capable of producing audio for a modest sized room, but anything more than that will prove too much. While the speakers not be all that loud they are quite capable. Notebook Review was able to listen to an orchestral track at 100 percent capacity without any noticeable distortions. Perhaps just as important the speakers preform just as well in-game. NBR was pleased by the laptop’s ability to accurately capture and depict a wide array of special effects while playing a match of League of Legends.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The MSI GT70 Dominator features a Chiclet-style SteelSeries keyboard complete with number pad. The full-sized keyboard takes advantage of the device’s ample frame offering excellent spacing between keys. In a smart and simple move, the Windows key has been relocated over to the right the side of the keyboard (between the AltGr and Ctrl keys) to ensure that users don’t accidently strike the key when playing games. The only other noticeable alteration to the keyboard’s layout is a condensed right-shift key. The squared keys sport a raised texture and curve inward to provide an easy to grip surface.
The keyboard also offers excellent performance with solid key travel and responsive tactile feedback. The keys don’t offer the same tangible clicking sound that you’ll get from a mechanical keyboard, but they do produce a nice audible pop when compressed. With its spacious layout and responsive feedback the SteelSeries keyboard performs admirably as both and everyday typing instrument and a gaming device.
In addition to offering a high quality typing experience, the MSI GT70 Dominator also provides users with extensive control via SteelSeries Engine. The application allows users to alter the LED backlight colors and program key press macros for each individual key. Setting up macro commands proves incredibly quick easily thanks to the drag and drop pictured layout. Users can save their key bindings to profiles and can even switch between multiple setups (called layers) within a profile on the fly. While normally all these different macro setups could get confusing to keep track of SteelSeries Engine makes it easy by pairing it with the LED backlights. By matching distinct backlight color schemes to their profiles,
The touchpad is located to the bottom right of the spacebar. The pad’s surface is smooth and easy to navigate, making it great for general use and web surfing. Swipes, clicks and multi-finger gestures all read well, and the two physical mouse buttons at the bottom of the pad provide snappy tactile feedback.
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