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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  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    When the GPU is pumping 100+ W into those tiny heatsinks, the CPU has to be cooled by some seriously hot air. It's actually almost a heatpipe-miracle that this tiny fan manages to keep things running at all.
  • JBVertexx - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    That thing looks like a laptop right out of the 1990's - probably the ugliest, gaudiest looking laptop I've seen in a long time.

    You have to wonder, though, if thermal performance is going to be a common issue with these Haswell systems. If it's true that system builders were provided CPUs that produced much less heat than the actual production versions, then what do they do? You've designed your system, lined up your supply chain, and then the CPU's are now producing more heat than your design spec allowed for. I can see the "Max Fan" button being a last minute addition as a way around this issue.

    Even so, my Dell Latitude has a better designed cooling system than this Laptop. MSI looks like they tried to cut corners based on the Haswell promise and got bit.

    It really is typical MSI though, all gaudy "style" and no substance.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Thursday, July 11, 2013 - link

    i think it was a msi problem. clevo laptops with haswell, the asus laptop with haswell, and the sager models with haswell dont have this issue. only msi does.
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    This review is a bust. I just knew it, from the time it took to make this review.

    The game benchmarks you did is nothing short but plain BS.
    1080p benchmarks.

    TES Skyrim:
    Anandtech: GTX 780M 18% slower than GTX 680M.
    Notebookcheck: GTX 780M 26% faster than GTX 680M.
    Notebookit: GTX 780M 21% faster than GTX 680M.

    StarCraft 2:
    Anandtech: GTX 780M is 12% slower than GTX 680M.
    Sadly nobody else have tested it. Nvidia got +20% with the 780M over the GTX 680M. Pretty much logical. 12% slower? Give me a break

    Tomb Raider:
    Anandtech: GTX 780M is 3% slower than GTX 680M
    Notebookcheck: GTX 780M is 102% faster than GTX 680M.

    I won`t even bother going through the benchmarks where the GTX 780M leads, but its most likely very inaccurate as pretty much every game benchmark in your test.

    Source: Notebookcheck and Notebookreview

    I previously used Anandtech as a source for information about mobile products, but seeing that you can`t even review a product properly, this site goes far down my must-read list.
    I`m actually sick in my stomach that you guys messed up this much with a new flagship GPU.

    You ought to be ashamed of yourself for not double checking your data before pushing out a BS review like this one. You numbers doesn`t make any sense at all.
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Did you even read the review? That was the point...
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    I'll spell it out: the GTX 780m is underperforming in the MSI.
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    No its not. Go read the GT70 review on Notebookcheck.
    They had no CPU throttling OR any performance issues with the GTX 780M

    This review should be deleted and redone.
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    OK, I came on a bit too strong. The results in the review are bizarre, but they do provide reason to pause: we have no guarantee that the MSI's cooling system can handle a heavy CPU/GPU OC over a long time. The bridge doesn't help much during a load that stresses the CPU and GPU. Notebookcheck reported throttling and up to 90C for the CPU and GPU.

    Of course, my thoughts might be misplaced, and the issue might be the 180W power supply.
  • huaxshin - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    That is plain wrong.

    The thermal capacity inside the GT70 is more than capable of cooling the 4700MQ and the GTX 780M. Visit Notebookreview forum and read reviews from owners of GT70, or read any other reviews on the internet. Nobody have these high temperatures when gaming.

    The temperatures in the Notebookcheck review is when they are running Prime95 and Furmark. Not remotely close to any scenario a user will EVER encounter.
    The temperatures when using it is much lower.
  • BobBobson - Tuesday, June 18, 2013 - link

    Blah Blah Blah........

    Why don't you go cash in your MSI company pay cheques you paid shill.

    This review is equivocal with my and many other peoples experiences with the new GT70 Haswell notebooks. Why would Anandtech dishonestly smear a product of a major computer tech manufacturer? For the same reason you and your type scour the internet talking a sweet game about every bit of excrement that comes out MSI's back-end?

    If there was a bit more honesty on the internet when it comes to tech products, people would have a lot less hassles in their lives and the world would be a better place. I commend Anandtech on this honest GT70 review, the first honest review I have seen,

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