Review: MSI GT780 DX

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Review: MSI GT780 DX

Someone’s put some thought into the GT780 DX. For starters, this isn’t a badge engineering job using a commodity-spec whitebook as a starting point: MSI has commissioned a unique design.

The result isn’t going to have Apple rethinking its approach to laptop chassis quality but there is at least a frisson of flair in the multi-coloured (and user configurable) keyboard backlighting, slices of genuine brushed aluminium and bevelled chassis edges.

That keyboard is the result of an alliance with peripherals specialist SteelSeries and is probably the most tactile and satisfying we have used on any recent gaming laptop. Unlike the slightly rattle-prone and spongey boards offered by, for instance, Rock Xtreme 768 and Medion Erazer X6811, this one is solid of base and slick in action.

Speaking of partnerships, MSI has also teamed up with Dynaudio to sort out the sound. The idea is to project it carefully to the user, creating more depth and immersion. Put simply, it works. Although the sheer volume on offer is fairly modest, there’s a richness and expansiveness to the soundstage not many other laptops can match.

Another nice touch is the trackpad disable button. If you’re serious about serving up some online devastation, you’ll be using an external mouse. The last thing you want is accidental trackpad inputs. With the trackpad turned off, that’s not going to happen.

MSI trackpad

If the bits MSI is responsible for are best on test, what about the off-the-shelf components?

As TN LCD panels for laptops go, the 17.3-inch display is decent enough. Thanks to an LED backlight, whites are clean and bright. As TN screens go, the colours and viewing angles are far from shabby, too. Likewise, we’ve no beef with its responsiveness or the 1,920 x 1,080 native resolution.

The only problem is the existence of the Sony F Series and its drop-dead gorgeous screen. What’s been seen cannot be unseen and unfortunately the GT780DX’s LCD looks positively pedestrian by comparison.

Performance

Still, we’ve no such complaints about the gaming performance on offer. The quad-core Intel Core i7 2630QM and Nvidia GeForce GTX 570M are choice components.

Okay, we’d rather have a GTX 580M or AMD Radeon HD 6990M pumping the pixels. But with 336 shaders, 3GHz memory and a 192-bit bus, the GT780DX has genuine gaming chops. It certainly makes absolute mincemeat of Dirt 3, even at 1080p and with 4x anti-aliasing.

An average of 38 frames per second at the same settings in World in Conflict is very decent, too. Only the GPU-wilting Heaven benchmark really gets the better of it.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Rendering performance
Cinebench R10: Seconds: Quicker is better
MSI GT780 DX: 51s
Rock Xtreme 685: 46s

Battery life performance
Battery Life: Minutes: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 141
Rock Xtreme 685: 108

DX11 gaming performance (1,280×720, 4x AA)
Dirt 3: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 102
Rock Xtreme 685: 108

Industry standard 3D performance
3DMark 06: Index score: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 16,634
Rock Xtreme 685: 20,497

DX10 gaming performance (1,280×720, 4x AA)
WiC: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 57
Rock Xtreme 685: 74

Tessellation gaming performance (1,280 x 720, 4x AA)
Heaven: Frames per second: Higher is better
MSI GT780 DX: 28
Rock Xtreme 685: 40

As an overall package, this MSI has got to be the best balanced and most desirable notebook here. It’s not the fastest, it hasn’t got the best screen, but as a full package it’s very hard to fault.

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Review: Rock Xtreme 768

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Review: Rock Xtreme 768

To consider the Rock Xtreme 786 a routinely luggable laptop would be to would risk months in traction. It weighs in at nearly four kilos and offers a 17.3-inch LCD display which is great for gamers and movie lovers.

Better, therefore, to think of the Xtreme 786 as transportable rather than portable. The sort of one-piece rig that’s perfect to take to university at the beginning of term or to haul to a friend’s house for a special occasion. Just don’t imagine you’ll be whipping it out for five minutes fragging on the tube.

Of course, Rock isn’t entirely responsible for the Xtreme 786’s gargantuanism. The chassis hails from a maker of white label laptops, which have been re-branded by Rock, and packed with some seriously powerful components.

As tested, the headline specification is very impressive. Intel’s Core i7 2630QM CPU is responsible for general computing duties. And very fit for purpose it is, thanks to four cores, and an appetite to tear holes in computational conundrums. This will handle anything you can throw at it, multitasking with ease.

Next up is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 485M mobile GPU, complete with 2GB of memory. It’s pretty much the same chip as the supposedly new GeForce GTX 580M, so in raw performance terms it’s about as good as it currently gets in laptop graphics.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 62 minutes
Cinebench: 16495
3DMark 2006: 17946

Rounding out the digital paraphernalia is a pair of conventional 500GB hard disks, 6GB of system memory which results in an extremely responsive system. There’s also a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a Blu-ray drive, which really help to future proof this machine.

Active 3D

What really marks the Xtreme 786 from other gaming getups is support for Nvidia’s stereoscopic 3D Vision gubbins. That includes an IR emitter built into the chassis and a pair of 3D Vision active-shutter goggles in USB, rather than wireless trim. Combined with the large, 1080p LCD panel, the result is a gaming spectacle that pretty much defines what is currently possible with a mobile(ish) machine.

OK, the big LCD screen relies on older ‘TN’ technology, which in real terms means that it’s miles behind the Sony F Series in terms of colour saturation and contrast. It’s still a nice panel, which looks pin sharp, and serves the stereoscopic 3D remit with fast response times.

How much of an attraction 3D Vision is, on the other hand, is down to personal preference. We’re not convinced by any stereoscopic tech that requires the wearing of glasses. The Nvidia 3D Vision itself works well enough, even with the most demanding games thanks to the ample performance of the GTX 485M graphics card.

The Rock Xtreme 786 is a powerful gaming machine, and a good buy for all gamers who are interested in 3D fragging. However, we still feel that the excellent Sony VAIO F Series is a better bet for everyday users.

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