“It's not the size of the lap in the top, it's the size of the top in the lap, or some such nonsense.” - Mark Twain (maybe)
First unveiled to the world at CES this year, the MSI GT80 aroused high levels of curiosity among gamers. After all, it’s the world’s first to include a proper mechanical keyboard and specs that would shame some of the desktop builds as well. No, it won’t beat some of the more expensive and ambitious desktop builds that are out there, but that’s not the goal anyway. So what is the exact purpose of something this big, sinister and expensive? Is it to prove that you are absolutely insane (also rich) to buy it? May be...
MSI claims the GT80’s design is inspired by ultimate weapons in sci-fi scenarios and the design gives it a more fluid look with feelings of light speed. We have no idea where this is going, but we absolutely love it. The brushed aluminium look with red accents that glow on either side of the lid look subtle yet sexy.
The glowing red MSI logo further accentuates a wonderful aesthetic synergy. The build and finish is right on the money, no doubt about that at all. The aluminium plate that covers the goods above the keyboard has the MSI dragon logo etched on it. We would have loved it if this glowed and had a red, breathing LED light that wasn’t too bright and obtrusive, but now we’re just fantasizing. The panel is designed so that it’s easy to remove for future upgradability. Insane!
The overall build and structural integrity is superb, as expected, and should be at the price it comes at. After all, you can get a small car for such a price! The magnesium alloy bits that surround the keyboard and the back are also well built and appear to be stronger than eight burly men at an Irish pub. We’re pretty sure it can take some abuse.
The big and burly
So, let’s address the elephant in the room, shall we? The size! It almost negates its right to be called an organic laptop. This ogre of a gaming machine sits somewhere in between a desktop and laptop - ummm, call it a deptop or lapdek? Lapdesk! Lapdesk it is. For when you plant this bad boy on your lap (please be mature), you might want to consider adopting children, if you know what we mean.
Typing or playing a game while it’s on your lap is a workout in itself, unless you have exceptionally large legs that don’t mind getting cooked. To put things into perspective, this 18.4in monster covers the chest when sat open on the lap and looks like something our policemen could use as bulletproof armour.
But that’s not all, the placement of the keyboard at the outer edge leaves very little room for your wrists to rest and by default you tend to push the laptop ahead to try and accommodate your paws. It also weighs 4.5kg! This ain’t no crotch rocket; just plant it on your desk. You will also need a huge bag for this elephant - it won’t fit in your regular bag. Bummer. But MSI provides one, thankfully.
Popping them cherries
The full mechanical keyboard makes the GT80 the first in the world to have it. The switches are by Cherry, of course, and the ones on the Titan are the Cherry MX Browns. These sit in the middle of the Cherry MX Blues and the Cherry MX Reds, and we personally think that the Cherry MX Browns are the best for gaming. Opinions differ, though, and it would be nice to have a choice of different keys, considering the keyboard is one of the main USPs of the Titan. Oh, even the special WASD keys are not provided since India is not a “global best-selling country”.
To accommodate the keyboard, the trackpad is moved to the right-hand side, where the number pad should be. But wait, it is actually a number pad too! Just touch the number lock key and the number pad illuminates. Whoa, magic? Yes, our inner child believes so. Touch the key again and it turns into a trackpad. Whoa, magic again!
Clever, but such sorcery takes getting used to and the trackpad itself isn’t the best we’ve fingered. But by no means is it bad or unsatisfactory; it is plenty responsive and always impresses anyone who touches that number lock key. In fact, it can be very addictive. We just had tiny problems with the Windows 8 gestures, when our finger would tend to slide from the left to the right and switch apps. But it is all good once you’re used to it.
Lock ’n load
The Titan SLI has as many ports as it has fat. On the left, MSI has put in a lovely Blu-ray writer, an SD card slot with three USB 3.0 ports and a Kensington lock. There’s also a mic-in and a headphone-out jack, but what really strikes a chord is the addition of an S/PDIF output. There is a dedicated amp and an isolated audio board too, so that there is no disturbance in the final audio signals you are listening to.
On the right side, there are two more USB 3.0 ports and the back is from where you would connect additional displays through two mini display ports. It also has an HDMI out and the ethernet port for LAN. There is a 4-pin charging port for the charger to connect, which you’ll be using very often, almost perpetually.
With a price that high, a size that big and two powerful GPUs, it is natural to expect the display to be 4K, and as sharp as Samurai Jack’s sword. But your hopes and dreams will crash just like Mario going down a ditch, with music and all. Why? Because a 4K panel of that size on a portable device is very difficult to conjure. And hence, we’re stuck with 1080p, but not all is lost. The display, even if not 4K, is stunningly beautiful.
The colours are as natural as we’ve seen on a display this size and hence, the experience is thoroughly enjoyable. The brown muddy terrain of Altis in Arma 3 looks stunning with crisp details and amazing textures. The effects of the grass swaying and the heat mirage over the floor are also pretty amazing to look at on this display.
The lower resolution means less stress for the two cards even when playing more demanding games. Which means FPS levels will shoot over the roof, and that is always a lovely thing, just like chocolate oozing out of a lava cake. Even the more recent and demanding games like Witcher and Shadow of Mordor look absolutely stunning. The display is a bright one too, 303 nits of brightness seem to be pretty much all you need on a display that big, really.
It has unbelievable viewing angles (we didn’t believe MSI when they said it did) and comes with anti-glare tech that is very useful, especially in games like Arma 3 Epoch when it’s night time in the game. An annoying tubelight or a bulb behind you or above you won’t affect or create any blind spots on the screen. Outdoor gaming, although a stupid thing to do with this monster truck of a gaming machine, is possible too.
Silly folk, you wanna know how two big graphics cards and a killer processor perform? Really? It is what it is, GTX980m SLI mated to a 4th-generation Core i7 4720HQ, and it performs as expected - brilliantly. We loaded up close to 17 games to properly test what the Titan is capable of and no prizes for guessing, we were thoroughly impressed. Our review model had a 4th-generation processor, but the one you will get to buy will come with the latest Core i7 5th-generation processors. Which means more power!
Everything set to Ultra, Arma 3 saw an FPS of about 55 and above, it never dipped below that even while entering busy cities and hot marketplaces. Combat situations with a high AI count also didn’t make the Titan nervous. We’ve never had any gaming laptop do this before. But GTA V got the better of the Titan, everything set to high and draw distance maxed out, the FPS remained somewhere between the 25-35 mark. Playable, but not in the desired 40-45 FPS mark.
Benchmark scores encroached the region where desktop scores are usually charted. The Titan scored a massive 21,831 on the 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark. The Acer Nitro scored 12,530 in the same test at Full HD resolutions. The Titan completely shatters others like a disgruntled Rambo on steroids with a machine gun.
The Titan scored a whopping 10,257 on the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark and 5938 on the Fire Strike Extreme, even beating some of the capable gaming PCs that are out there. There is absolutely no doubt this machine is a beast of a performer.
Titan audio and video
The Titan SLI packs in a 4.1 speaker system put together by hi-fi champs Dynaudio. There’s also the Creative Sound Blaster Cinema 2 software that is tried and tested, to take care of all the modes and settings you may want. It works pretty well and the Titan does create a big sound as expected. But we can’t help but feel that it does sound like a bunch of teenage girls shopping for the first time when turned to 11. Loud and jarring, with a lot of low-end weight that’s absent.
The EQ settings, even when done manually, are of very little help and at the end of it all, you get a sound that is loud but not as well-defined as it should be. But we are being over-critical now. The inclusion of the S/PDIF out is a boon for those who wish to have a surround sound setup and works rather well. With audio being loud and clear, the video is not bad either. The 1080p camera will get you through Skype calls, provided there’s some light. If it’s too dark, it gets a bit shabby.
Coming in hot
With two top-of-the-line graphics cards and a processor that can obliterate tasks in seconds, it is obvious the Titan is a wealthy contributor to global warming. But things are kept in check thanks to four huge vents and the Cooler Boost 3 technology. Not enough, you think? There’s a dedicated button next to the power button to manually get the fans to work full-speed. When you do that, it feels like the Titan is going to take off like a spaceship Will Smith would be proud to be on. But hey! It keeps the heat under 85 degrees, which is, excuse the wordplay, quite cool.
The MSI Dragon Gaming Centre is, well, at the centre of it all. This is a simple software that makes life very easy. There’s a system monitor that provides performance, Shift mode, temperature and network information. There’s also Instant Play that allows you to add your games and settings for easy and fast launch.
The sexiest bit about the Titan is its keyboard. To get the most out of it, the SteelSeries Engine 3 is your go-to software.The software allows customizability and tweaking of the keyboard. You can not only manage the keyboard’s lighting but there’s support for other devices as well. The headphone and the mouse can also be managed from here. Keypress macros and text macros is child’s play and can be done blindfolded.
Best part of it all? You can back up all your settings on the cloud with the SteelSeries CloudSync. So you don’t lose any of your settings that you spent hours on. There’s also multiple language support, so proper keyboard layout will never be a problem unless you don’t know what language you want. A problem with which we can’t help.
There’s the regular but super-cool Shift technology that allows you to switch between ‘Green’, ‘Sport’ and ‘Comfort’ modes. Just press FN+F7 and you can put Dominic Torreto to shame with all the shifting you do.
Titan or Titanic
With specs that can kill some of the more ambitious PCs, the GT80 Titan SLI seems to be the ultimate gaming laptop. Yes, at that price, it does seem to be made for the most intense (read rich) gamers and enthusiasts, but it surely is worth the asking price. Convincing someone to spend close to ₹3 lacs on a laptop just got a lot easier, thanks to the Titan.