We’re still waiting with baited breath for AMD’s Polaris architecture to hit the laptop world, but in the meantime Nvidia is steaming ahead and getting Pascal into the hands of the big players. This month we’ve already reviewed a dual GeForce GTX 1080 beast, but MSI’s brand new GT73VR opts for just a single GTX 1080. Let’s just say the results are not disappointing, despite this drop in component prowess.
Given the lower power requirements of Nvidia’s new Pascal architecture, we’re a little surprised at the size of these first Pascal-powered behemoths. Weighing 4.14kg it’s your usual gaming behemoth, and not the kind of machine that will build a reputation for mobility. Funnily enough, MSI promotes the fact that it’s the thinnest 17.3-inch gaming laptop on the market, measuring just 446mm. Despite the uber-powerful GPU within, MSI has gone for a 1080p screen, measuring 17.3 inches, a surprising decision. We’d have figured something a bit higher would be a good fit for the GeForce GTX 1080, but at least you can rest assured any game you throw at this beast will run with ease at this resolution. It’s a 120Hz monster though, so you’re going to get some severely smooth frame rates once that 1080 kicks into high gear. MSI has wisely chosen to go the IPS route, delivering excellent image quality, though the 5ms grey-to-grey pixel response time is a little on the high side. There is the option to upgrade to a 4K panel if you like, but we don’t think the GeForce GTX 1080 has quite enough oomph.
As our review from this month’s Metabox Prime-X revealed, the mobile GeForce GTX 1080 is basically identical to the desktop component with a couple of minor frequency drops. But they’re so minor that you’re basically getting the same performance as a full desktop machine, which is a revolution in mobile performance.
There is the option to upgrade to a 4K panel if you like, but we don’t think the GeForce GTX 1080 has quite enough oomph.
Delivering data to the GeForce GTX 1080 is Intel’s Core i7-6820HK processor – don’t worry, we hadn’t heard of it either. This quad-cored CPU includes HyperThreading, and has a maximum Turbo speed of 3.6GHz. It only has a maximum TDP of 45W, so when compared with the 1080’s TDP of 150W, we’ve got a relatively cool machine on offer, which should lead to lower fan noise and fewer concerns with it acting as a heater during the winter.
MSI has gone for a generous 32GB of memory, while a single 512GB NVMe SSD is included for the fastest possible data access. You can swap this out for two M.2 SSDs in RAID 0. Of the 512GB, only 475GB is usable, but that’s still a hefty amount once you throw in the OS and about ten of your favourite games. There’s also a 1TB mechanical drive included for your media files and less-important games. We’ve seen Killer products showing up in more laptops of late, and this machine is no exception. Killer’s DoubleShot Pro has been put to use to deliver Gigabit Ethernet, along with 802.11ac.
Connectivity is provided by five USB 3.0 Type-A connectors, along with a single USB 3.0 Type-C. HDMI 2.0 out is also a welcome inclusion, delivering 4K @ 60Hz, making this a great machine to hook up to your 4K TV.
So, how does a single GeForce GTX 1080 compared to two of them, as well as the GeForce GTX 1070? Remarkably close to an SLI configuration to be true. Where the twin 1080 MetaBox Prime-X scored 23106 in Fire Strike, the MSI machine managed a rather close 15198, only 25% slower despite the halving in GPU power. Our other benchmarks show similar drops in performance, with the exception of Shadow of Mordor, which doesn’t play nicely with SLI, helping MSI’s machine leave it eating its dust.
As you can see, the drop from twin GeForce GTX 1080s to one hasn’t had a huge impact on performance. It’s certainly not in the same 4K leagues as the Metabox Prime-X; but it’s also two grand cheaper, and with a 120Hz 1080p screen more than fast enough to play basically any game you can think of (Well, maybe not Star Citizen’s beta…). That’s not to say that this is a cheap laptop by any means – if you want the latest in Nvidia hardware, prepare for your bank account to get burned. There’s also the fact it’s a single GPU machine, so there will never be any SLI quirks. But overall, MSI has delivered a traditional desk-bender of a gaming machine, powered by the latest and greatest in every area.