The GT80 Titan looks like a gaming laptop for people who hate gaming laptops. The 10 pound heavyweight, with an 18-inch 1080p display, challenges most of the conventional issues gamers have with laptops compared to desktop rigs.
Hate cramped chiclet keyboards? The GT80 is the first laptop to use an actual mechanical keyboard. It has Cherry MX Brown switches. Want to be able to upgrade your components? A panel on top of the laptop gives you access to M.2 SSD slots, RAM, and a 2.5-inch drive bay. Even the graphics cards, a pair of Nvidia GTX 980Ms in SLI, can be swapped out for newer MXM mobile graphics down the road. Aren't happy without a triple-monitor setup? The GT80 supports Nvidia Surround thanks to two DisplayPort and one HDMI output on the back.
Think laptop performance just isn't good enough? Well, a pair of 980Ms running in SLI is comparable to (and even slightly outperforms) the desktop 980, according to MSI. A 350 watt power brick ensures they have enough juice to run at full capacity.
That just leaves one major sticking point: price. And the GT80 Dominator isn't cheap. It starts at $3300, though the version on display at CES cost $3700 thanks to a step-up Intel Extreme 4980HQ processor. The system also included 24GB of RAM, a 1TB 7200 RPM HDD and two 128GB M.2 SSDs running in RAID. A trackpad on the right side of the keyboard doubles as a 10 key numberpad with haptic feedback.
This is absolutely a chunky laptop. In fact, I think "laptop" is a poor descriptor for it. The ventilation is designed to shunt most of its heat out the back, and MSI included a convenient button toggle to turn the fans on full blast if you want to keep the graphics cards as cool as possible while playing demanding games. Even if it doesn't get leg-burning hot, it's hard to imagine anyone using this system in their lap. It's absolutely a desktop replacement.
Because of its size, the GT80 is surprisingly light--much lighter than I expected before I picked it up. It's not a system you'd want to take on-the-go regularly, but for a gaming party at a friend's place? No problem (and MSI said they're throwing in a backpack to carry the Titan, as there aren't many bags for 18.4-inch laptops). You'll be the only one with a mechanical keyboard built into your laptop.
The screen is the one real weakness here. It's only a 1080p panel, which MSI says is an issue of availability—1440p or higher resolution panels simply aren't being produced at this unusual 18.4-inch size with the regularity they'd need to sell the GT80. Thankfully, MSI chose a Samsung PLS panel, which is a step up from the cheap, washed-out TN panels (with poor viewing angles, to boot) that many laptops use. 1080p is also a decent pixel density for the size, and games will naturally run better at 1080p than at 1440p. But if you're a stickler for high pixel density, you'll want to plug the GT80 into an external monitor.
For $3300, we'd rather build a small mini-ITX system in a compact case, throw a GTX 980 and desktop Core i5 into it, and pocket the extra $2000 or so. But it's cool to see MSI tackling upgradability, which we'd say is the major shortcoming of gaming laptops, with a system that's so open and accessible. You can even pop the Cherry MX Brown keys off the keyboard and replace them with another set, if you're so inclined.
The MSI GT80 Titan should be hitting online retailers soon. MSI's website has a list of sites you'll be able to buy it from, including Newegg and Amazon. And now for some more photos: