MSI GT60 Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review


MSI's Dominator Pro GT60 packs two significant firsts.  It's the first high-end gaming laptop we've reviewed with a HiDPI display (the GT60's 2880x1660 panel is the equal of the vaunted MacBook Pro's Retina display), and it's the first system we've looked at to sport NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 880M. MSI has also packed this system with a plethora of high-end components in a bid to challenge the dominance of more conventional boutique builders like Alienware.

We'll be comparing and contrasting the GT60 against the Alienware 17 we reviewed recently to give you a sense of how the two systems compare head to head. First, though, we want to talk about the specs MSI has brought to the table and the total system package...

MSI GT60 Dominator Pro 3K-475
Specifications & Features

Optical Drive:
Dominator Pro 3K-475
Intel Core i7-4800MQ (2.7GHz base, 3.7GHz Turbo, 6MB L3)
15.6-inch WQHD 2880x1620 Anti-Glare Display
16GB dual-channel DDR3L-1600MHz (4 DIMMs)
1TB SATA 3Gbps (7200 RPM) HDD
Slot-Loading Dual Layer Blu-ray Reader (BDROM, DVDRW, CD-RW)
Killer Wireless-N 1202 (802.11a/b/g/n, BlueTooth 4.0)
8-cell Lithium Ion (87 w Hr)
2 Years Limited Warranty (Includes 1 Year Global Warranty)
MSI Command Center, Steelseries Engine, XSplit Gamecaster
$2399 (as configured), lower cost builds available

GTX 880M:  Mobile Kepler, Mark 3

When NVIDIA announced its new GTX 800M family earlier this year, they elected to tackle the market with a mixture of older and newer technologies. The new Maxwell GPU is confined to the lower end of the market (GTX 830M, 840M, 850M, and some 860M) while the GTX 870M and 880M are both built on the older Kepler core.

The version of the GK104 GPU in the GT60 does have a few tricks that the older models don't. It's clocked at 954MHz with a Boost Clock on top of that and offers 160GB/s of memory bandwidth. It offers a full 1,536 GPU cores, 128 texture mapping units, and 32 ROPs -- which means that this GPU is, for all intents and purposes, a desktop-class GTX 680, except for one significant feature: a huge 8GB frame buffer.

Oddly, that's not just a lof of RAM -- it's more memory than NVIDIA puts on any other single-GPU product including its  GK110-based GTX 780 Ti.

Do You Need An 8GB Frame Buffer For Gaming? 

The simple answer to this is, No. At least for now. The average 1080p game (and 1080p is still going to be the sweet spot for a single GTX 880M) consumes between 1.2 - 2GB of GPU memory. Games running in 3K can consume significantly more, but 4K gaming benchmarks have demonstrated that the vast majority of games run just as fast on the GTX 780 Ti (3GB frame buffer) as the Titan Black (6GB frame buffer). So, it's not likely that any game that requires 8GB of RAM is ever going to run on a GTX 880M.

As for whether or not carrying an 8GB frame buffer draws more power than the 4GB flavor, it probably does, but not that much. It's hard to find exact details on GDDR5 power consumption at the per-GB level, but what data we could find suggests that memory bus width and clock speed have a greater impact on total power consumption than the amount of RAM. The larger frame buffer probably accounts for 3-6W of power consumption under load, but that's not much compared to how much power the laptop itself uses when gaming.

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