MSI GT60 Dominator Pro Gaming Laptop Review

Battery Life, Battery Boost

Battery Boost and Battery Life:

One of the major new capabilities of Nvidia's GTX 880M is baked into the company's GeForce Experience software and dubbed Battery Boost. According to Nvidia, Battery Boost consists of several timing and performance-level optimizations that collectively lower device power consumption and improve battery life.

We ran a number of various comparisons on the MSI Dominator Pro, using games like Diablo 3 (to match our earlier story on the topic), Metro Last Light, and BioShock Infinite. Each game gave a dramatically different experience, so we've broken them out to discuss separately.

Diablo 3:

We've previously covered Diablo III and the impact of turning the frame rate down when playing. The first thing we want to show you with this title is an apples-to-apples comparison of power consumption when hooked to AC power for both the Alienware 17 and the GTX 880M. In the test below, the game is locked to 30 FPS using Diablo III's own software, not Battery Boost.

Note that at maximum power, the GTX 880M and the R9 M290X pull almost exactly the same wall power but the 880M draws much less power to run the system at a steady 30 FPS.

Next up was the Battery Boost test on Diablo 3 -- but unfortunately we ran into a snag. While BB worked to an extent, it could only pull the game's frame rate down to 66 fps or so -- significantly lower than when on wall power, but not the 30 FPS target we set within Nvidia's Battery Boost application.

BioShock Infinite:

Unlike Diablo 3, BioShock Infinite is a DX11 title that's only a little over a year old. Battery Boost did successfully reduce the game's frame rate to 30 fps -- but unfortunately, it introduced terrible screen tearing. The ripping was so bad (and so constant) that it might be more accurate to call it screen fracturing; even small camera movements caused the screen to rip.

Neither FRAPS nor Steam can capture V-Sync tear via screen shot, so this is simulated in Photoshop. It's an accurate representation of how bad the tearing is.

There was no way to prevent it -- we tried locking V-Sync on in both the NVCP and in-game and pushed the output to a secondary monitor. We also tried increasing the target frame rate from 30 fps to 50 fps (that's the maximum allowed by the GeForce Experience 2.0.1 software). Nothing helped -- the tearing at 50 fps was just as bad as 30 fps.

Metro Last Light

Metro Last Light was the third title we tested and the only one to work perfectly out of the box -- by which we mean that the frame rate indeed pulled down to 30 fps and did so without any tearing or other anomalies. Unfortunately, it's also the title that got the least benefit out of a 30 fps lock. We tested Last Light in two modes -- a locked 60 fps maximum frame rate with V-Sync and a 30 fps frame rate set via Battery Boost. We confirmed that the laptop was actually running at the target frame rates via FRAPS.

Please note that we used different settings in Metro: Last Light than in our normal review in order to make certain the GPU had room to improve. A card that can't maintain 40 fps with Battery Boost disabled won't gain much from enabling it. 

The improvement in Metro Last Light was a modest 17%. It's not clear why.

Boosted Verdict

Battery Boost is a great idea that still needs some work. Of the three games we tested, only one of them worked flawlessly, and it was the game with the smallest amount of gain. Right now, support is too erratic to recommend buying a laptop for this feature, but the early results we've seen clearly illustrate that pulling down the frame rate absolutely can improve power consumption, and thus battery life.

Battery Life (Battery Eater Pro):

After this array of battery tests, our standard Battery Eater Pro benchmark is a bit pedestrian -- but here are those results, for completeness's sake. We've included tests of both the integrated Intel GPU and the external cards for the Alienware 17 and the MSI Dominator Pro.

Performance in BEP is as expected -- both laptops have similar hardware with similar batteries, and they come in at a little over an hour for the discrete GPU and closer to 90 minutes with their Intel integrated solutions.

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