MSI’s latest Stealth Pro is their first slimline gaming laptop to use the new Maxwell-powered GTX 970M graphics card, and it makes this machine one of the fastest gaming machines I've ever balanced precariously on my lap. That I can even do that without melting through the flesh of my thighs is testament to the efficiency of Nvidia’s latest graphics technology and the cooling in MSI’s svelte 20mm thin laptop design.
We’ve already seen MSI’s GT72 with the GTX 980M inside it producing some impressive gaming performance figures and, while the GS70’s GTX 970M is demonstrably slower than its (literally) bigger brother, this slimline machine can still be considered a gaming heavyweight.
The GTX 970M uses the same GM204 GPU as the GTX 980M, but has considerably fewer CUDA cores inside. The top-end chip comes with 1,536 cores versus the 970M’s 1,280 and it also has a sub-1GHz clockspeed. When you compare that to the desktop version, the GTX 970, the mobile part looks weaker still. The desktop chip has a full 1,664 CUDA cores, a 25% improvement over the mobile part.
Nvidia is claiming its newest mobile Maxwell cards are capable of almost matching the performance of their desktop brethren—that’s quite an ask. It would require a completely linear performance scale to hit the touted 75% gaming speed they’ve been promising. Like the GT72 that Wes has been playing with, I’ve only seen performance figures from the GS70 that show the GTX 970M hitting between 65-70% of the gaming frame rates of the desktop equivalent of the card.
That might make you think I was a little disappointed with the performance of this bright red MSI machine. But, considering it’s the fastest gaming notebook I’ve personally tested, that’s certainly not the case.
The GS70 is around 10-15% quicker than a competing Asus G750 with Nvidia’s top last-gen mobile graphics tech inside. That the second-tier mobile chip can top 30FPS in Metro: Last Light at its highest 1080p settings is excellent—the GTX 880M by comparison was languishing in the late 20s.
Impressively it’s also quicker, and quieter, than the dual-GPU Aorus X7 v2 I recently tested. Granted, that machine is only using a pair of 860M GPUs, but it’s also essentially the same price as the GS70 and noticeably behind in gaming performance terms and overall spec.
But straightline gaming performance isn’t the only benefit Nvidia are trying to achieve with the mobile Maxwell architecture. The second spin of its BatteryBoost tech wants to free you from the need for a mains connection when gaming on a laptop.
Part of this is ensuring the manufacturers don’t hobble battery-based GPU performance, but there is also a new GeForce Experience (GFE) element. Maxwell’s efficiency means it can operate with lower energy demands (the 970M has a 75W TDP compared with 110W with the 870M) and that’s important when you suddenly only have 100W coming from the battery to power the entire system.
The GFE component is able to create a specific per-game settings profile, automatically applied once you’re unplugged. With a configurable maximum frame rate cap (set at 30FPS out of the box) the GPU will only use enough power to hit that level and waste no more. Sure, you’re not going to get the full power of your GPU, and lose some visual bells-and-whistles, but you’ll still be able to game away from the plug socket. For a while at least.
The issue is that BatteryBoost still only delivers a small amount of extra gaming time. Using GRID 2 as a test I got just 42 mins of play time out of the GS70 at my standard settings. With BatteryBoost enabled that rose by only twenty minutes. What you get out of the new settings varies by game, and the GS70 did manage to push over the necessary one hour mark, but that doesn't deliver the freedom we need to not worry about always being plugged in.
The new Maxwell graphics card isn’t the only thing that sets the MSI GS70 apart, and I’m not talking about the shocking colour scheme. This is the peak of MSI’s Stealth Pro range. From the quad-core i7 CPU and mass of memory to the twin 256GB M.2 SSDs in RAID, it screams quality. The build quality is also excellent. There’s no give or rattle in the solid Steel Series backlit keyboard and, while I’m no fan of trackpads without discrete buttons, it’s as responsive as any I’ve used recently.
It all comes at a price. This is the top-spec GS70, so you’re looking at a price of around $2,300 / £1,730. Whenever I test laptops like this I can’t help but think about the desktop I could build with that cash. You can pick up lower-end versions of MSI’s GS70 for a more reasonable price, however, still with that excellent build quality and, importantly, the GTX 970M.
MSI have created a rather impressive, slimline high-end gaming machine in the GS70 2QE Stealth Pro, but it has done so with a high price tag to match. If you don’t want the heft of something like the bulky GT72, but still crave the gaming performance, then the GS70 is a great shout. But you might need to re-mortgage first.
MSI’s impressive GS70 is easily the quickest laptop we’ve tested so far, and it’s all down to the Maxwell-powered GTX 970M inside. The gaming performance is well in advance of the top Nvidia GPU of the last generation and is also able to offer improved battery life thanks to GFE too.
CPU rendering performance
Cinebench R11.5 - Index score: higher is better
MSI GS70 2QE - 7.07
Asus G750 - 6.91
Aorus X7 v2 - 7.14
DirectX 11 synthetic performance
Heaven 4.0 - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better
MSI GS70 2QE - (8) 41
Asus G750 - (7) 36
Aorus X7 v2 - (6) 30
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Bioshock Infinite - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better
MSI GS70 2QE - (9) 72
Asus G750 - (13) 66
Aorus X7 v2 - (12) 63
DirectX 11 gaming performance
GRID 2 - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better
MSI GS70 2QE - (67) 89
Asus G750 - (60) 79
Aorus X7 v2 - (67) 84
DirectX 11 gaming performance
Metro: Last Light - (Min) Avg FPS: higher is better
MSI GS70 2QE - (15) 31
Asus G750 - (14) 27
Aorus X7 v2 - (10) 25
GRID 2 - Time in minutes: longer is better
MSI GS70 standard - 42
MS GS70 BatteryBoost - 62
SKU GS70 2QE-031UK-RED
CPU Intel Core i7 4710HQ @ 2.5GHz
GPU Nvidia GTX 970M
Memory 16GB DDR3L @ 1,600MHz
Storage 2x 256GB M.2 SSD, 1TB HDD
Screen size 17.3-inch
Native resolution 1920x1080
OS Windows 8.1