Notebookcheck

Review MSI GT780R Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by Daniel Rechitsky), 06/23/2011

Gaming Power. After bringing a multitude of mid-grade graphics cards to the market, Nvidia is finally showcasing its new high-end GeForce 500 series. The MSI GT780R will be one of the first notebooks to boast the GTX 560M. But can the MSI truly set itself apart from other gaming notebooks?

MSI GT780R

Passionate gamers who want a gaming laptop to call their own are presented with the powerful 17" MSI GT780R, which really scores some points in the hardware and features department.  The most appealing of these is the Nvidia's brand new GeForce GTX 560M high-end graphics card, the successor to the GTX 460M legacy. The processor here can be no other than one of Intel's Sandy Bridge CPUs, that is, the Core i7-2630QM.

Two 500-GB hard drives connected via RAID 0 keep the need for an external hard drive far at bay.  The Blu-Ray drive makes for some highly enjoyably film watching sessions.  The choice of an excessive 16 GB DDR3 RAM only makes us shake our heads since 4 GB is enough for just about anything.  Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit is the pre-installed operating system here.  It should be stated that MSI offers less extensive configurations at lower prices as well.

Note also that the laptop we review below is only a pre-production model.  Many things can still change before the series hits the shelves (like the case craftsmanship, software, cooling system, and accessories).

Update: MSI even sent us a second GT780R on account of various problems we had observed with the first (more on that later).  This second model, despite its unfinished status, performed better overall.  All data or qualities marked "Update" refer to the second model rather than the first. 

Case

Matte Surfaces
Matte Surfaces

The days of high-gloss cases seem to be coming to an end.  As opposed to the previous GT663R, MSI has now settled for mostly matte, scratch-resistant surfaces. The case design now looks calmer and less flashy.  

The materials used make an overall good impression.  While the bottom of the case and most edges are made of plastic, the display lid and palm rest distinguish themselves through brushed aluminum.  The 17" colossus is pretty sturdy on the whole.  Except for the bar of touch keys above the keyboard (which was not exactly firmly set in place in our test model) the base unit hardly caved in even when we applied some strong pressure to it.  The display lid, however, proved itself to be rather flimsy—a quality observed in too many laptops.

The display lid hinges are not the tightest. The upside is that you can easily open up the notebook with one hand.  But when the table underneath the laptop starts shaking just a bit, the screen starts bobbing back and forth.  The GT780R is meant to be kept in one place more often than not, especially considering its weight of about 4 Kg can become a hassle to carry back and forth with you.

Update: When testing the second model, we found the bar of touch buttons above the keyboard to be mounted firmly in place.

Connectivity

USB 3.0 Performance
USB 3.0 Performance: Transcend StoreJet TS500GSJ25D3 500 GB USB 3.0 HDD

Ports

Although the laptop lacks an ExpressCard slot and a Firewire port, the variety of ports available here is above average.  As is typical for desktop replacements, some of the ports are located at the rear.  External monitors can be attached to the notebook using the VGA port or the HDMI output (DisplayPort via adapter).

Devices like external hard drives, keyboards or mice, for example, can be hooked up via eSATA or USB (2x USB 3.0, 3x USB 2.0).  Those hoping to attach a surround sound system need not despair, MSI's got you covered in equipping the GT780R with four audio ports.  The arrangement of ports, on the other hand, is a tad bit inconvenient for our tastes.  With the clustering together of the audio and USB ports along the left side, your workspace can easily get cluttered up by cables.

Internet and Bluetooth

MSI has included just about any mode of connecting to the internet you could think of here.  You can connect via landline using the RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet port.  Intel's Centrino Wireless-N 1030 module allows for a speedy b/g/n wifi connection.  And for communication between the laptop and cell phones we have the latest Bluetooth 3.0 standard included.

Left: 2x USB 3.0, Card Reader, USB 2.0, 4x Audio (Surround)
Left: 2x USB 3.0, Card Reader, USB 2.0, 4x Audio (Surround)
Back: Kensington Lock, DC-in, RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet, VGA, eSATA, HDMI
Back: Kensington Lock, DC-in, RJ-45 gigabit Ethernet, VGA, eSATA, HDMI
Right: 2x USB 2.0, Blu-Ray Drive
Right: 2x USB 2.0, Blu-Ray Drive
Tons of Bloatware
Tons of Bloatware

Software

MSI goes a bit too heavy on the pre-installed software.  Turning the laptop on for the first time you'll find over 50 pre-installed programs!  The result is that for several minutes after booting up the computer, the system's reaction time is reduced by a good deal thanks to this plethora of applications.

It takes a bit of time until the system can really get into gear, giving you the feeling you're using an old office laptop.  Luckily, there's a simple solution: uninstall the unnecessary software.  The upside is that among this overabundance of programs we have the useful Corel WinDVD, so you can just put in a Blu-Ray disc and it'll play, just like that.

Accessories

We're hoping the package contains some more goodies once the GT780R is released onto the market.  Besides the bulky 150-watt power supply and a large 9-cell battery, our notebook came with merely a single drivers and tools DVD—nothing more.

Input Devices

Keyboard Backlight Software
Keyboard Backlight Software

Keyboard

The keyboard here has several surprises in store.  MSI decided on individual chiclet keys measuring a decently-sized 15x15 mm.  We found the feel of typing to be up to par but the resulting noise a bit loud.  Note: the "Enter" key at the center of the keyboard is not the large backwards "L" shape some of us are used to but is rather a smaller rectangle.

In order to satisfy the high standards of the gaming community, MSI collaborated with gaming respected accessory manufacturer SteelSeries on the keyboard.  An important difference to most keyboards is the position of the "Windows" key, which is found on the right side of the GT780R keyboard.  MSI uses the freed-up space at the left to make the "ctrl" and "alt" keys larger.  These changes supposedly put the WASD keys in the perfect arrangement with the lowest row of keys, MSI speaks here of the "Golden Triangle".

The keyboard backlight is yet another unique feature. Thanks to the clear interface of the intuitive software, the keyboard backlight can be easily configured to your detailed preferences.  Three sections, 28 colors and various modes—oh the possibilities!  On top of that MSI equips the laptop with a row of touch buttons right above the keyboard.  Among these is the "eject" button for the Blu-Ray drive.

Beleuchtung
Beleuchtung
Various Backlight Options

Touchpad

The touchpad performance is patchy.  On the upside we have the generous size (91x46 mm), support for multi-touch gestures, the recessed touchpad surface and the option to deactivate the touchpad.  Everything else could really use some improvement.  The rough, textured surface does indeed make for good feedback but infringes upon a smooth, comfortable feel in return.

What's more is the unpredictably sensitive touchpad, the cursor sometimes moving incredibly fast across the screen and inaccurately landing somewhere where you didn't want it.  Once you redirect the cursor to where you actually want it, not every click registers, leading to yet more frustration.  To put the icing on the cake, scrolling and using multi-touch gestures shows a delayed and overall choppy response (configured via touchpad driver).

Update: Although the second test laptop we received didn't satisfy our standards 100% (the rough texture of the touchpad is simply subpar), a few things have improved.  Multi-touch gestures worked a bit more smoothly and moving the cursor was more predictable overall.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Wie wir testen - Display

To play Blu-Ray DVDs in their full brilliance, MSI doesn't skimp on the screen and equips the GT780R with a full-HD display (1920x1080 pixels).  The powerful GeForce GTX 560M is fully capable of rendering this fine resolution without a hitch. The aspect ratio is the usual 16:9, perfect for films and newer games.

236
cd/m²
244
cd/m²
241
cd/m²
259
cd/m²
266
cd/m²
265
cd/m²
267
cd/m²
278
cd/m²
269
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 278 cd/m²
Average: 258.3 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 85 %
Center on Battery: 266 cd/m²
Black: 0.3 cd/m²
Contrast: 887:1

MSI wasn't exactly famous in the past for installing high-quality displays in their laptops.  Luckily, the folks at MSI decided to wipe the slate clean with the GT780R—the CMO1720 panel is quite dazzling in a few ways.  Starting with the average screen brightness of 258.3 cd/m², the GT780R leaves a great deal of the competition out in the cold.

Thanks to the low black level of 0.3 cd/m², blacks look very saturated rather than slightly gray.  A typical run-of-the-mill display doesn't even come near such a good value (average around 1.0 cd/m²).  The excellent contrast ratio of 887:1 makes for a vivid, sharp picture.  The one downside is that the color space that can be displayed on this screen doesn't nearly cover the sRGB color space (which is a standard reference for laptop screens).  Nevertheless, only professional graphic designers and the like will notice this—to the rest of us, the colors look quite good.

MSI GT780R vs. sRGB (Grid)
MSI GT780R vs. sRGB (Grid)
MSI GT780R vs. AdobeRGB (Grid)
MSI GT780R vs. AdobeRGB (Grid)
MSI GT780R vs. MacBook Pro 17 (Grid)
MSI GT780R vs. MacBook Pro 17 (Grid)

We can't praise the anti-glare screen enough.  Annoying reflections that are all to common with glossy-screened laptops very rarely make an appearance on the GT780R.   The combination of high screen brightness and the matte screen finish makes the laptop excellent for using outdoors.  Want to watch a film on the patio and sip on a cool drink on a sunny day, no problem there!  Note that hitting TAB will not provide you with a drink :(

Outdoors MSI GT780R
Outdoors MSI GT780R

The display scores yet more points with its wide range of viewing angles.  Even looking from sharp angles off to the right or left of the screen, the picture remains undistorted.  Tilting the screen expectedly yields an overexposed or darker picture at smaller angles, but even in this respect the display leaves many others in the dust—you won't have to constantly readjust the screen, no sir.

Viewing Angles MSI GT780R
Viewing Angles MSI GT780R

Performance

Turbo Boost
Turbo Boost

Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM

The processor here is the highly decorated quad-core Sandy Bridge CPU from Intel. The Core i7-2630QM is manufactured in the 32nm process and currently finds use in  many high-end notebooks.  The processor contains 995 million transistors and a 6 MB large L3 cache (Core i5: 3 MB).

The base clock rate of 2.00 GHz can be kicked up to 2.90 GHz via Turbo Boost (depends on CPU stress and temperature).  The Hyper Threading function allows the simulation of four additional virtual cores, allowing the CPU to process up to 8 individual threads simultaneously.  The on-board HD Graphics 3000 graphics card always remains inactive since MSI has forgone any energy-saving switchable graphics technology.

Systeminfo CPUZ CPU
Systeminfo HDTune
Systeminfo GPUZ
Systeminfo CPUZ Graphics (Turbo)
Systeminfo CPUZ Graphics
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM SPD
Systeminfo CPUZ RAM
Systeminfo CPUZ Mainboard
Systeminfo CPUZ Cache
Systeminfo HDTune
System Properties MSI GT780R

CPU Performance

The GT780R pulls off a wonderful performance for CPU-intensive tasks.   Dual-core CPUs from Intel work a good deal slower than the i7 when running programs optimized for multi-core use.  The CPU score achieved in Cinebench R11.5 64 Bit reveals the astounding power of the i7-2630QM: 4.96 points  compared to the 2.61 points earned by the Core i5-2410M (Schenker XMG A501)—that is, a 90% faster performance!  In the multi-core benchmark of the time-honored Cinebench R10 64 Bit, the i7's lead dwindles a bit, 16876 points to 9781 points translates to 73% faster performance.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3709
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
13952
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5452
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
4665 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
16876 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5734 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
39.57 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
4.96 Points
Help
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage8599 points
PCMark 72516 points
Help
HWiNFO
HWiNFO

Graphics Card: Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M

The selling point of the GT780R is the brand new graphics card.  Nvidia's excitedly awaited premium model GeForce GTX 560M is soon to be released onto the market.  Unlike its predecessor the GTX 460M, the GTX 560M is not based on the GF106 chip, rather on the GF116 chip which is better optimized for energy efficiency.

The clock rates for the core and the 192 shaders have been increased, instead of the old 675 and 1350 MHz respectively, the GeForce GTX 560M runs at 775 and 1550 MHz (+15%).  As far as the video memory goes, nothing's changed however: the 1536 MB GDDR5-VRAM (1250 MHz) is connected at 192 bit just like before. The chip is produced in the 40 nm process, also the same as before.  The big advantage to Nvidia GPUs is their wide array of supported features.  The graphics card supports GPU-based physics acceleration (PhysX), clean and polished 3D video technology (3D Vision, some accessories required) among others that separate it from its main competitor, AMD.  The package wouldn't be complete without DirectX 11 which is very important for playing newer games.

To get the most out of the GeForce GTX 560M, MSI has fitted the GT780R with a special turbo mode.  With the press of button the core and shaders shoot up to 813 MHz and 1627 MHz, respectively (+5%).  The actual improvement in performance corresponds pretty well to the increase in clock rate.   While the Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark ran its course 5% faster, the boost in performance observed in playing the new racing game Dirt 3, however, amounted to a mere 3%—same for the GPU score earned in 3DMark 11.

5.9
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.4
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.6
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
7.2
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
7.2
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9

GPU Performance

The DirectX 11 performance of the GeForce GTX 560M was tested via Unigine Heaven 2.1 (1280x1024) among other benchmarks.  Although the Nvidia GPU does manage a good refresh rate of 27.6 fps here, this score isn't nearly enough to ensure first place among mobile GPUs. AMD's top-of-the-line Radeon HD 6970M (Eurocom Racer) achieves 20% faster performance with 33.2 fps.  As far as the GPU score of the 3DMark 11 (1280x1024) benchmark goes, the GeForce GTX 560M stands no chance against the current throne holder—the Radeon HD 6970M beats it by a whopping 56% with 2,834 to 1,820 points.

3D Mark
3DMark 0338098 points
3DMark 0521979 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
15369 points
3DMark Vantage9314 points
3DMark 112031 points
Help
CrystalDiskMark (HDD1)
CrystalDiskMark (HDD1)
CrystalDiskMark (HDD2)
CrystalDiskMark (HDD2)

HDD Performance

With all the other high-end hardware in place MSI didn't forget to put in a good hard drive.  The model we reviewed came with two 500-GB HDDs from Western Digital (WD5000BEVT), spinning at 5400 RPM and set to run in tandem via RAID 0.

With a sequential read rate of 116.6 MB/s and a sequential write rate of 137.1 MB/s, the hard drive here performs at the level of a faster-rotating 7200 RPM HDD (Hard Drive Test, CrystalDiskMark).  Compared to new SSD hard drives, the two speedy HDDs nevertheless seem old.  In terms of boot-up speed, reaction time and loading times, solid state drives are a great deal faster.

The hard drives can, nonetheless, easily be swapped out, (all the important hardware is accessible).  So, there's nothing standing in your way if you choose to upgrade to an SSD at a later date.

2x WDC Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT-22A0RT0 (RAID 0)
Transfer Rate Minimum: 71.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 155.1 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 118.2 MB/s
Access Time: 18.1 ms
Burst Rate:
DPC Latency Checker
DPC Latency Checker MSI GT780R

Verdict: Performance

The application performance of the GT780R impresses across the board. Intel's quick Sandy Bridge processor speeds up just about every program to incredibly smooth performance so as not to negatively affect your pace of work.  What's more is that the quad-core CPU is powerful enough for running the applications of years to come. Nvidia's high-end GeForce GTX 560M is also good choice and first shows weakness only when dealing with extremely demanding 3D applications.  An excessive 16 GB DDR3-RAM will never leave you wanting more—8 GB really would have been enough. MSI should have just invested in an SSD instead of the extra RAM.

Gaming Performance

Wie wir testen - Leistung

In running various recent games, our aim was to find out to what extent the GeForce GTX 560M can set itself apart from its predecessor.  The results for the GeForce GTX 460M come from our reviews of the Medion Erazer X6813 or the Asus G73SW depending on the particular game at hand—both of which were also equipped with an Intel Core i7-2630QM.

Dirt 3

The brand new racing game Dirt 3 overwhelms the GeForce GTX 560M with graphics details set to max.  With a full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, 4X Antialiasing (4X AA) and "Ultra" graphics presets, the refresh rate averaged out to a slightly choppy 23.3 fps.  With such high graphics settings, only the absolute best graphics card would run the game smoothly, such as the AMD Radeon HD 6970M which achieved a fluid 33.2 fps here (+42%).

Dirt 3
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080Ultra Preset, 4xAA, -AF23.3 fps
 1360x768High Preset, 2xAA, -AF85 fps
 1024x768Medium Preset, 0xAA, -AF124.1 fps
 800x600Ultra Low Preset, 0xAA, -AF201.7 fps

Crysis 2

This extremely resource-demanding shooter from Crytek pushes the GeForce GTX 560M even harder.  The graphics preset "Extreme" produced a fairly choppy 19.4 fps  at a full-HD resolution (1080x1920)—which really makes a first person shooter hard to play.  At 18.1 fps, the older GeForce GTX 460M is a mere 7% slower.  We'd recommend  the graphics preset "Very High" and a lower resolution.

Crysis 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080Extreme19.4 fps
 1366x768Very High58.2 fps
 1024x768High79.3 fps
 800x600High115.6 fps

Call of Duty: Black Ops

The GT780R was able to spit out a perfectly smooth picture for the latest Call of Duty offshoot: Black Ops. Even at full HD (1920x1080), 4X AA, 8X AF and the graphics preset "Extra", the GeForce GTX 560M produced a perfectly smooth 64.0 fps.  Like with Crysis 2, the older GeForce GTX 460M turned out to be around 7% slower (59.3 fps).

Call of Duty: Black Ops
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080extra, 4xAA, 8xAF64 fps
 1360x768high, 2xAA, 4xAF90 fps
 1024x768medium, 0xAA, 0xAF100.1 fps
 800x600low (all off), 0xAA, 0xAF123.4 fps

Mafia 2

Thanks to its not-very-demanding graphics engine, the gangster epic Mafia 2 can be enjoyed in all its glory on the GT780R.  The built-in benchmark measured a smooth 41.6 fps with 16X AF in a full-HD resolution (1080x1920).  The older 460M managed only 34.7 fps, putting the new GeForce GTX 560M here a respectable 20% ahead of its predecessor.

Mafia 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high, 0xAA, 16xAF41.6 fps
 1360x768high, 0xAA, 16xAF68.3 fps
 1024x768medium, 0xAA, 8xAF83 fps
 800x600low, 0xAA, 0xAF108.5 fps

Starcraft 2

Bilzzard's real-time strategy hit doesn't cause the GeForce GTX 560M to break much of a sweat.  The campaign's intro, "For The Swarm", was run in a full-HD resolution 1920x1080 with "Ultra" graphics settings at a smooth average of 35.2 fps. Nvidia's older GeForce GTX 460M is around 11% slower here (31.5 fps).

StarCraft 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080ultra35.2 fps
 1360x768high67.9 fps
 1360x768medium86.2 fps
 1024x768low234.9 fps

Metro 2033

The GT780R really has a hard time with the extremely demanding Metro 2033.  A combination of high detail settings, a full-HD resolution and DirectX 11 mode result in an unplayable 11.0 fps.  The GeForce GTX 460M ran the first person shooter about 10% slower at 9.9 fps.  The game only starts running smoothly in a high resolution with DirectX 10 mode and moderate graphics settings.

Metro 2033
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080Very High DX11, AAA, 4xAF11 fps
 1600x900High DX10, AAA, 4xAF28.2 fps
 1360x768Normal DX10, AAA, 4xAF58.2 fps
 800x600Low DX9, AAA, 4xAF96.6 fps

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

The new GeForce GTX 560M really hasn't made much a gain compared to its predecessor in playing Bad Company 2.  A fairly smooth 34.3 fps results from a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels, 4X AA, 8X AF and high detail settings, although the picture get a slight bit choppy every now and then.  In playing Bad Company 2, the older GeForce GTX 460M is a mere 8% slower (31.6 fps).  In order to have the game run completely smoothly, you'd have to either reduce the resolution or the graphics enhancers (AA and AF).

Battlefield: Bad Company 2
 ResolutionSettingsValue
 1920x1080high, HBAO on, 4xAA, 8xAF34.3 fps
 1366x768high, HBAO on, 1xAA, 4xAF67.5 fps
 1366x768medium, HBAO off, 1xAA, 1xAF90.7 fps
 1024x768low, HBAO off, 1xAA, 1xAF118.1 fps

Verdict: Gaming Performance

Compared to all other notebooks, the GT780R shows outstanding gaming performance.  Only do extremely demanding titles like Crysis 2 or Metro 2033 make the GeForce GTX 560M choke up and produce a choppy picture.  Other than that, the GPU can run just about any game in full HD and with maximum graphics settings. Graphics enhancers like antialiasing and anisotropic filtering are also no problem. Nvidia's oldie-but-goodie GeForce GTX 460M on average only trails about 13% behind the new top dog.

Big time gamers will find just about everything they want in the GeForce GTX 560M, which truly earns the GT780R the distinguished title of gaming laptop.  Hardcore gamers who will compromise at nothing would be better off with the Radeon HD 6970M or the GeForce GTX 485M.  As far as desktop graphics cards go, GTX 560M would only rank in among mid-grade GPUs à la GTS 450.

low med.high ultra
Need for Speed Shift (2009) 107.781.249.2fps
Resident Evil 5 (2009) 147.7102.457.9fps
Risen (2009) 118.675.850.133.4fps
CoD Modern Warfare 2 (2009) 194.995.478.351.2fps
Battlefield: Bad Company 2 (2010) 118.190.767.534.3fps
Metro 2033 (2010) 96.658.228.211fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 234.986.267.935.2fps
Mafia 2 (2010) 108.58368.341.6fps
Fifa 11 (2010) 461.7308241151.9fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010) 123.4100.19064fps
Crysis 2 (2011) 115.679.358.219.4fps
Dirt 3 (2011) 201.7124.18523.3fps

Emissions

Exhaust Fan
Exhaust Fan

System Noise

There's no one statement to sum up the system noise of the GT780R.  While the laptop's idle, the fan ranges from subtle to fairly noticeable.  The clattering of the two hard drives every now and then draws your attention to the noise.  When playing games, the GT780R really makes its presence known, although most gaming notebooks are hardly any quieter.

The special button to increase the fan speed (in order to lower the temperature) is really something MSI could have done without.   The resulting 50 dB(A) will quickly get on anyone's nerves.  Overall, the noise produced is halfway tolerable.  If you're looking for a gaming notebook that's as close to silent as you can get, the Asus G73SW is just about the best choice.

Noise Level

Idle 30.6 / 33.9 / 36.2 dB(A)
HDD 31.2 dB(A)
DVD 35.5 / dB(A)
Load 39.5 / 44.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft SL-320 (15 cm distance)
Temps Stress Test
Temps Stress Test

Temperature

Since noise levels are so high, the resulting low case temperature is the GT780R's greatest strong point.  When idle or under heavy use, the temperature remains pleasantly low—an average of 26°C is a rarity among gaming laptops.  The palm rest remains especially cool, never demonstrating a noticeable increase in temperature.

We unfortunately were not able to complete our usual stress test (Furmark & Prime). Regardless of whether turbo mode or the increase-fan-speed function were on or off, the CPU was quickly throttled down to 800 MHz, and the laptop shut down completely after several minutes.

The reason for this might very well be a poor electrical feed.  We measured the notebook eating up a maximum of 195 watts, while the power supply is meant to provide 150 watts at most.  The hardware temperature couldn't have been the culprit here since both the CPU and GPU remained under 90°C the whole time.   Under normal use, however, (even running demanding games), no such problems arose and the results of benchmarks speak to the laptop's otherwise powerful performance.  Maybe MSI will clear up this issue before the notebook hits the shelves.

Update: Our second model of the GT780R didn't shut down under 100% CPU load. The CPU throttling down to 800 MHz still remains an issue, however.

Max. Load
 29.1 °C31.2 °C24.7 °C 
 28.7 °C30.9 °C26.3 °C 
 23.4 °C23.5 °C23.6 °C 
Maximum: 31.2 °C
Average: 26.8 °C
24.1 °C29.1 °C32.1 °C
22.3 °C28.5 °C25.5 °C
22.0 °C22.3 °C24.2 °C
Maximum: 32.1 °C
Average: 25.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  47.2 °C | Room Temperature 20.6 °C | Voltcraft IR-360
THX TruStudio PRO
THX TruStudio PRO

Speakers

The built-in 2.1 sound system is the result of collaboration with Dynaudio.  Although the audio sometimes sounds muffled and the highs are lacking, the speakers pull off a decent performance overall.  The maximum volume is enough to fill even a large room and thanks to the subwoofer, the bass is clearly present.

To the credit of MSI, the GT780R also supports THX TruStudio PRO.  You shouldn't expect far too much from this utility, however.  Heavier audio can sound "frazzly" (especially when the "Crystalizer" is activated).

Battery Life

Reader's Test
Longest Battery Life (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
Shortest Battery Life (Classic Test)

Despite the lacking graphics switching technology, the laptop can remain unplugged for a good while.  The relatively long battery life can be attributed to the well-configured hardware and the powerful 9-cell battery (87 Wh, 7800 mAh).

In the Reader's Test from Battery Eater (scrolls through a text doc), the GT780R managed to run for a respectable 5 hours 20 minutes with minimum screen brightness and wifi off.  Playing back a DVD doesn't last quite as long on battery power: 2 hours 30 minutes is enough for most films, though (max. screen brightness & and "balanced" energy-saving settings).

When really putting the stress on the hardware, the laptop doesn't last too long unplugged.  When performing the Classic Test from Battery Eater, the laptop turned off after 66 minutes of maximum screen brightness and energy-saving settings off.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 20min
WiFi Surfing
2h 42min
DVD
2h 30min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 06min

The power consumption we observed was no big surprise for a gaming notebook with powerful hardware.  We measured 24.9 to 34.8 watts while the laptop was idle (with Turbo max. 58.9 watts).  Under heavy use, on the other hand, the system fluctuated between 123.8 and 195.0 watts.  Compare this with the 17" DevilTech Fragbook DTX (Core i7-2630QM & GeForce GTX 470M) which ate up a bit more power when idle but a little less under heavy use.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.5 / 1.3 Watt
Idle 24.9 / 28.4 / 34.8 Watt
Load 123.8 / 195 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC-940

Verdict

MSI GT780R
MSI GT780R

It's easy to see that the GT780R was designed to target gamers.  From the look of the case to the colorfully backlit keyboard to the high-end hardware, MSI places a heavy emphasis on gaming.  The Intel Core i7-2630QM and Nivida GeForce GTX 560M can handle most recent games without a hitch with graphics set to high.

The big selling point of this 17" gaming notebook is its extensive set of features: a Blu-Ray drive and two HDDs connected via RAID 0 is not something you come across every day.  Thanks to its decent battery life and high-quality, full-HD matte screen, using it on the go or outdoors is no hassle—provided you're willing to lug the 4-kg behemoth around.  The case, partially covered in sleek brushed aluminum, always remains comfortably cool to the touch.

Unfortunately, a few key weak points kept us from giving this guy a rank of "Very Good".  The CPU throttling during the stress test, the rough texture of the touchpad, the ever-present fan and the laptop's truly heavy weight all detract from an otherwise well-rounded package.

Still, to anyone looking for a snazzy, powerful gaming laptop, we recommend the GT780R without hesitation.  To those looking for a subtler design, the Clevo P170HM Barebone might be the right choice (DevilTech Fragbook DTX, based on the P170HM).  The Alienware M17x R3 and Asus G73SW are also good alternatives.

In Review: MSI GT780R
In Review: MSI GT780R

Specifications

MSI GT780R

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM67
:: Memory
16384 MB, 4x 4096 MB DDR3-RAM (1333 MHz)
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560M - 1536 MB, Core: 775 MHz, Memory: 1250 MHz, Shader: 1550 MHz; GDDR5-VRAM, ForceWare 268.12
:: Display
17.3 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, CMO1720, Full HD, LED Backlight, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
2x WDC Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT-22A0RT0 (RAID 0), 500 GB 5400 rpm Two HDDs—RAID 0 (1000 GB total)
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC892 @ Intel Cougar Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
3 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 eSata, Audio Connections: Headphone jack/SPDIF, microphone input, line out, line in (7.1 out), Card Reader: SD,SDXC,SDHC,MMC,MS,MS PRO,xD,
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 1030 (b g n ), 3.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp DVDWBD TS-LB23A
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 61 x 428 x 288
:: Weight
3.88 kg Power Supply: 0.78 kg
:: Battery
87 Wh Lithium-Ion, 7800 mAh, 9 cells
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 720p (1280x720), Power Supply: 150 watts, Drivers and Tools DVD, Corel WinDVD, MAGIX Software Suite, 24 Months Warranty,

 

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Pro

+Matte, high-quality display
+Mostly matte case surface
+Case always cool
+Outstanding performance
+2 HDDs in RAID 0
+Backlit keyboard
+Blu-Ray drive
+Turbo mode
 

Cons

-CPU throttling under very heavy use
-Grainy touchpad surface
-Fan always on
-Heavy weight
-Bloatware
-No optimus

Shortcut

What we like

Above all, the excellent performance and case that's always cool to the touch.

What we'd like to see

The option of an SSD (solid state drive).

What surprises us

That MSI went with a matte screen finish.

The competition

17" gaming laptops with a Sandy Bridge processor and high-end graphics card such as the Alienware M17x R3, the Asus G73SW or the DevilTech Fragbook DTX.

Ratings

MSI GT780R
06/16/2011 v2
Florian Glaser

Chassis
78%
Keyboard
80%
Pointing Device
76%
Connectivity
80%
Weight
58%
Battery
76%
Display
88%
Games Performance
92%
Application Performance
91%
Temperature
92%
Noise
74%
Add Points
84%
Average
81%
84%
Gaming *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review MSI GT780R Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2011-06-23 (Update: 2013-06- 6)