MSI GX70 Gaming Notebook Review; AMD A10-5750M Tested
AMD launched their Richland mobile parts months ago but thus far, design wins have been few and far between. The situation has led to Intelís expensive Haswell architecture virtually taking over the notebook and ultra-portable markets. The last place many would have expected Richland in within a gaming notebook but thatís exactly what happened when MSI chose the A10-5750M for their new GX70.
MSIís notebook family may not be the most widely recognized around and it certainly doesnít receive the press coverage of Dellís Alienware line or ASUSí Republic of Gamers G-Series notebooks. However, their gaming notebooks are known as being well priced and feature packed. The GX70 is no different in this respect since it boasts some serious specifications and only costs $1300. When compared against comparably-equipped systems using Intel processors, thatís a huge savings. But do you get less by going with a Richland-based notebook? Not necessarily if gaming is the systemís primary purpose.
For just $1300, the GX70 has the potential to become an affordable, portable gaming powerhouse. As we saw in our initial architectural preview, its A10-5750 APU may not be the most powerful processor around, decent in-game performance is still possible. Even though Richland has been marketed for its battery life proficiency, MSI has paired up it with AMDís most powerful mobile graphics chip: the HD 8970M 2GB. This mobile graphics processor is based off of the Neptune XT core which has 1280 cores and operates at 900MHz with Turbo enabled. Though clock speed has been increased this is the same core used in the previous-generation HD 7970M though UVD3 has been added and ZeroCore Power will allow for drastically reduced power consumption when the display is turned off. Eyefinity multi monitor support tags along for the ride as well.
One of the most important features brought to the table by AMDís HD 8970M is the new Enduro technology. Much like NVIDIAís Optimus, this fourth generation implementation of switchable graphics allows the GPU to automatically turn off when itís not needed, causing the more efficient APU to take over in most non-demanding situations. In most scenarios Enduro will prolong battery life by only enabling the discrete GPU when its massive graphics horsepower is needed. In theory, this works quite well but AMD has struggled to bring their Optimus-competitor to a level that makes it a viable solution.
The GX70ís other specifications are relatively par for the course in the gaming notebook segment. Thereís a massive 17.3Ē 1080P backlit LED screen, a 750GB hard drive, 7200RPM hard drive and more connectors that most gamers could possibly need. It also weighs in at hefty 8.6 pounds and over 11 pounds with the external power brick, bringing the whole affair into desktop replacement territory. The GX70 may be a notebook but donít expect to haul it around like an Ultrabook.
There are some interesting additions too, among them Killerís networking stack which prioritizes gaming-related packets, a headphone port thatís been upgraded with an amplifier, Sound Blaster Cinema software, Bluetooth V4.0 support and a gigantic 9-cell battery. Even the keyboard received a gamer-focused design with SteelSeries providing their knowledge for its engineering.
With an overall size of about 17Ēx12Ē, the GX70 isnít a small notebook by any stretch of the imagination but it isnít any larger than similar products from ASUS and Alienware. As a matter of fact, at 8.6lbs it is actually one of the lighter desktop replacements, though a thickness of 2.17Ē makes it feel quite chunky.
MSIís exterior design uses a straightforward non-nonsense approach with a brushed a blackened brushed aluminum top cover thatís been flanked by plastic bumpers on all four sides. Thereís a slight amount of lid flex but for the most part, the GX70 feels well constructed albeit with heaps of plastic. By the way, that MSI logo is backlit so it glows a muted white when the notebook is in use.
The black on black tones continue within the GX70ís interior but this time, some glossy plastic has been added around the keyboard. Unfortunately it causes distracting reflections whenever the notebook is used in well lit environments or outside.
MSI has avoided the soft-touch finish preferred by some of their competitors, instead deciding standard reinforced plastic palm rests. This does cause hand oils to become an unsightly problem in short order but luckily itís easily cleaned with a microfiber cloth.
Throughout testing the GX70 exhibited very little chassis deflection, proving that exotic materials arenít really needed to ensure a rigid, nearly flex-free build. Granted, the engineering here doesnít feel quite as refined as ASUSí G-series but it price point is substantially lower and the material joints are well executed which virtually eliminates the possibility of them becoming dust magnets.
Another indication of good build quality is hinge strength and the GX70ís ensure its heavy lid remains securely in place. MSI has also added a small lip around the chassisí outer edge which helps immensely when trying to lug this thing around.
The upper edge of the GX70 holds a centrally-mounted power button as well as a number of indicator LEDs that correspond to functions within MSIís Control Center Software. They also serve as hot keys for booting the included Media Player, switching the display and keyboard backlighting on / off, starting the Cooler Boost function (which runs the fans at 100%) and engaging an Airplane Mode that turns off all wireless communications. Thereís also a G-Panel key that isnít tied to any function but can be set up through an onscreen user control interface. Their muted orange glow ensures they wonít become overly distracting.
A pair of THX-certified speakers with an old-school sliver look has also been installed in this area to ensure adequate acoustical separation.
The GX70 certainly doesnít disappoint on the connector front either. Its left side is equipped with three USB 3.0 ports and four audio gold plated audio jacks which include audio out and mic in ports alongside two dedicated hookups for left / right separation for headphones which support the function. An SD card reader is present here as well.
On the right hand side MSI has installed a pair of USB 2.0 ports and the GX70ís Blu Ray drive.
The notebookís rear is where much of the action happens with the Killer Networks enabled LAN jack, a Kensington lock, the power connector and three display outputs. The HDMI 1.4, mini DisplayPort and VGA connectors can be utilized separately or they can be combined to create an Eyefinity display group. This does limit maximum resolution on each external monitor to 1080P from the VGA output but the HD 8970M likely wonít allow for playable performance on three higher resolution screens anyways. Alternately, the mini DisplayPort can be used with a compatible hub for triple monitor daisy chaining.
At first glance the underside of MSIís GX70 doesnít feature anything of particular interest but the removable 9-cell battery is becoming something of a rarity these days. Thereís also another speaker grille here which houses a 3 watt mini subwoofer, a necessity when securing this notebookís THX certification.
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