MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition review

The MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition gaming laptop offers everything you might want--including a quad-core CPU, Nvidia graphics--at a price that isn't too astronomical.
Photo of MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition

The MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition is every inch a gamer’s PC, from the goofy spelled out number in the model name to the coiled dragons emblazoned across the lid and palmrest. A rainbow of colors bursts from the keyboard backlight, and though it will cost you a good chunk of change, the performance is very good. Some gamers like basic black, and others want custom paint jobs, but for most gamers, the GT70 One Dragon Edition offers everything you might want at a price that isn’t too astronomical.

Design
Like most gaming laptops, the GT70 One Dragon Edition is one big system. Measuring 2.17 by 16.85 by 11.34 inches (HWD)—similar to the Maingear Nomad 17 Ultimate—it won’t even fit into the laptop compartment of most bags. With a weight of 8.29 pounds (10.45 pounds if you include the power adapter), carrying it around is a backbreaking proposition. You’ll be able to take it with you to a LAN party, but this beast will be fairly stationary from day to day. If you want something more portable, there’s always the slim Razer Blade (2012).

The chassis is primarily constructed of plastic, with a reinforcing layer of aluminum across the lid and palmrest. To really drive home the “Dragon Edition” tag, the silhouette of a coiled dragon is imprinted into the brushed crimson anodized aluminum on the lid and palmrest. The 17.6-inch display looks good with a 1,920-by-1,080 resolution IPS panel, though the viewing angles are only so-so, with shifts in color when viewed at an angle. For the gamer sitting dead-center in front of the screen, however, the display is excellent. And anti-reflective coating also cuts down on any distracting glare.

The keyboard, manufactured by SteelSeries, features multi-colored backlight. Different colors can be assigned to different portions of the keyboard, and several distinctive lightning patterns can be selected, letting you light up the board with a rainbow of colors. The keys themselves are chiclet-style and provide excellent feedback, but the layout could be improved. The QWERTY keyboard and the 10-key numeric pad aren’t physically separated, and as a result, the arrow keys are crammed in between, resulting in a half-size Shift key to accommodate the Up arrow, and a half-size 0 key on the keypad. This is an especially puzzling design choice since there is ample room for all of the keys; there is an extra inch and half of space on either side of the keyboard.

Above the keyboard are two metal speaker grilles, covering the Dynaudio stereo speakers, which are complimented further by a built in subwoofer. THX TruStudio Pro software sound optimization further improves the sound quality. Whether we tested it with the latest Iron Man 3 trailer or the intricate beats of Daft Punk, the quality was good, producing crisp clear sound and good volume.

Features
MSI has outfitted the GT70 One Dragon Edition with as rich a selection of ports as you’ll find on a gaming laptop. On the right is a tray-loading Blu-ray drive (BD-R/BD/DVD-RW Dual Layer) and two USB 2.0 ports; on the left, three USB 3.0 ports, a 7-in-1 card slot (SD/SDXC/SDHC/MMC/MS/Pro/xD), and four audio connectors—Microphone input, Headphone out, Line-in Audio—with gold plating for lower noise and distortion, and MSI Audio Boost with integrated amplification for better sound.

The rear of the laptop has a power connector, VGA output, eSATA port, and HDMI output. A Kensington lock slot lets you physically secure the laptop, a must for larger LAN parties and tournaments. For networking, the GT70 One Dragon Edition is equipped with a Killer DoubleShot configuration network adapter, which combines 802.11n Wi-Fi and Ethernet. Both are optimized for speed, prioritizing latency-sensitive application traffic. The result is improved performance for online gaming, and video streaming.

More than a full terabyte of data storage is available, thanks to the combination of a 750GB 7,400 rpm hard drive and two 128GB solid-state drives (SSD) in RAID 0 (striped) array. The combination makes for a sizable amount of storage and optimum performance. MSI doesn’t put any needless software onto its new systems, just the Windows 8 (64-bit) operating system and a few tools for backup and calibration, so the new GT70 One Dragon Edition has nearly all of that storage space available right out of the box.

MSI covers the GT70 Dragon Edition with a one-year warranty covering parts and labor. It also includes a gaming-rig sized backpack—since most laptop bags simply can handle something so big—and an over-sized dogtag-like id plate, that can either be attached to the bag or worn like something you’d see on a geeky Mr. T.

Performance
The GT70 One Dragon Edition is equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i7-3630QM processor paired with 16GB of DDR3 memory—the same combination seen on the mid-range Editors’ Choice Asus G75VW-DH72. Normally clocked at 2.4GHz, MSI has also added its proprietary Turbo Drive Engine overclocking, which lets you ramp up the speed to 3.4GHz for faster performance at the touch of a button.

Even without the overclocking activated, the GT70 One Dragon Edition still offers some of the best performance available in this price range, scoring 5,182 points in PCMark 7, putting it well ahead of last year’s Alienware M17x R4 (4,598 points) but just behind the Maingear Nomad 17 Ultimate (5,328 points). Cinebench results (6.41 points) put it right in line with similarly equipped systems, like the Asus G75VW-DH72 (6.44 points), as do Handbrake and Photoshop results (0:36 Handbrake, 3:32 Photoshop).

MSI outfitted the GT70 One Dragon Edition with an Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M graphics processor, with 4GB of dedicated memory. In Aliens vs. Predator, it racked up 104 frames per second (fps) at medium detail settings and 1,366-by-768 resolution, and stayed in the playable range with 35 fps when resolution was dialed up to 1,920-by-1,080. When tested with Heaven, however, it scored 123 fps at medium settings and an excellent 58 fps at 1080p. While you’ll get better graphics performance from a system packing two GPUs, like the high-end Editors’ Choice Origin EON17-SLX, you will still see excellent performance on even the most demanding games.

Where the GT70 One Dragon Edition really stood out was battery life. Where most bulky gaming machines struggle to cross the two-hour threshold, the laptop lasted 4 hours 12 minutes in our video rundown test, making the most of its 9-cell 87Wh battery. By comparison, the Maingear Nomad 17 Ultimate, with a similar 87Wh battery, lasted only 1:06, while the Asus G75VW-DH72 lasted an admirable 3:02. Even the portability-minded Razer Blade (2012) lasted only 3:53, making the MSI one of the longer lived gaming rigs on the market today.

Strong performance and a reasonable price make the MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition an excellent choice among mid-range gaming laptops, but you will find better performance in some competing systems, like the Maingear Nomad 17 Ultimate, and similar performance for less in the budget-friendly Editors’ Choice Asus GT70-DH72. However, if the blend of performance and customization appeal to you, we have no qualms recommending the MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition with several other laptops side by side.

More laptop reviews:

Specifications
RAM 16 GB
Operating System Microsoft Windows 8
Weight 8.29 lb
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GTX 680M
Screen Type Widescreen
Processor Name Intel Core i7-3630QM
Networking Options 802.11n
Processor Speed 2.4 GHz
Primary Optical Drive Blu-Ray Disc
Screen Size 17.3 inches
Storage Capacity (as Tested) 1006 GB

Verdict
The MSI GT70 One-609US Dragon Edition offers everything you might want, including quad-core processing, Nvidia graphics, and networking designed with online gaming in mind, at a price that isn't too astronomical.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc