MSI GE70 2PE (Apache Pro) - 265UK Gaming Laptop Review
The GE70 2PE gaming laptop is a winner from MSI
What is the MSI GE70 2PE?A gaming laptop at its core, the MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro -265UK, to give its full title, has been high on our wishlist for a long time. Our previous laptop reviews have covered manufacturers such as Gigabyte, Samsung and Toshiba, with the former usually coming out on top, with a quality range of gaming laptops at a reasonable price, although often suffering from noise and heat issues when put through their paces. With the range of gaming laptops MSI have to offer, we look forward to adding them to our reviews and hope to see more in the future.
Our first gaming laptop from MSI is the GE70 2PE (Apache Pro) -265UK. Quite a mouthful of a model, but one that on paper offers a tasty specification. The GE70 2PE gives us a 17.3" Full HD anti-glare display, 16GB of DDR3 RAM @ 1600Mhz, two 128GB SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB HDD, a 4th generation Intel i7-4710HQ CPU and Nvidia GTX860M graphics with 2GB of GDDR5. Given their reputation we have high hopes MSI will provide a worthy alternative to Gigabyte but with a current price of £1299 it does need to have a few tricks up its sleeve to justify the entry fee.
Design and connectionsThe GE70 2PE is definitely up there in the looks department with several striking features ready to grab your attention straight away. From the black brushed steel effect finish to the top, keyboard surround and trackpad, the illuminated G Series Logo and the red bezel around the base, this is a gaming laptop you certainly won't be afraid to show off to friends. The build quality is of a similar high standard, with strong screen hinges, a well-balanced feel and no flexing issues on the base. It generally feels very well built and put together.
MSI have loaded this system with all kinds of cool sounding features to stand out from the crowd, but the most prominent of these is the SteelSeries Engine. This gives you a very high level of customisability for the keyboard and other devices, such as the keyboard back-lighting which can be configured from over 1000 colour combinations and also several pre-set scenario modes. Gaming mode, for example, simply illuminates the left side of the keyboard around the most used WSAD keys.
Then, aside from the colours, every single key on the keyboard can be customised to perform anything you want. You want the space bar to actually be tab? That's no problem. The keys can be further customised with almost unlimited macros from basic tasks right down to mouse events. You can also configure it on a game by game basis and when that game is launched the settings will automatically change to suit. The feel of the keyboard is very responsive and comfortable. Above the keyboard we find a quick access button to change the backlighting to one of 4 configured layers and the Cooler Boost button which when pressed will increase the system fan speeds to quickly lower the temperatures.
For a 17" laptop it's a pretty weighty and large beast. Weighing in at 3.0kg and with dimensions of 418mm wide, 269mm deep and 39mm thick it's amongst one of the largest and heaviest gaming laptops we have seen for a while, with perhaps the Aorus X7 just keeping its crown coming in at 3.2kg. The connections should cover most eventualities without being overly plentiful. To the left we find the Kensington lock, power connection, HDMI port, headphone and microphone (gold plated) connections, SD card reader and two USB 3.0 ports. To the right we have a single USB 3.0 port, a USB 2.0 Sleep and Charge port, VGA port and the Ethernet connection along with the DVD drive tray.
MSI GE70 2PE SpecsPriced at £1299.99, for a Windows 8.1 17" gaming laptop the specification is impressive for that money. We get a 4th generation Intel Haswell i7-4710HQ Quad Core CPU running at 2.5Ghz ( turbo speed of 3.5Ghz), 16GB of DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz and GTX860M Nvidia graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM. Other specifications are 802.11 b/g/n WiFi, HD (30 FPS @ 720P) webcam and Bluetooth v4.0. The display here is a 17.3" Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution with an anti-glare LED screen. Only a basic DVD Super Multi drive is present rather than a Blu-ray drive, which seems a shame at this price point.
The storage in our review sample is almost identical to Gigabyte's P25X v2 with 2 x 128GB SSDs setup in RAID 0 configuration and an HGST Travelstar 7K1000 7200RPM 1TB HDD. The only difference here being the use of Toshiba HG6 mSATA SSDs over the Lite-on found in the P25X v2 and MSI have coined their setup 'Super Raid'.
The technical specs for the 128GB Toshiba HG6 SSDs claim an impressive read speed of up to 534 MB/s and write speed of 482 MB/s. With ATTO Disk Benchmark, after our three runs we found an average read speed of 1073 MB/s and an average write speed of 627 MB/s. Thanks to the RAID 0 configuration we received very fast ATTO Disk benchmark speeds - way above the single SSD quoted speeds. Whilst these speeds are impressive, for real world application use the differences between using an SSD in standard mode, as opposed to RAID 0, are less conclusive. Whilst RAID 0 splits the data evenly across two or more disks without parity information and therefore increases the speed significantly, the downside is that there is no data redundancy, so that means if one drive fails, you lose the data across both of them.
PCMark8's Storage Test which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs such as Battlefield 3, MS Office and Photoshop for example and therefore represents real world tests rather than synthetic and is not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance, we get a score of 4998 with a bandwidth of 295.19MB/s. This is the highest score seen since our introduction of the PCMark 8 benchmark, beating Gigabyte's P25X v2 of 4972. Although this again is very similar to other PCMark8 systems with a single SSD not running in RAID which would suggest that the benefits seen by have a RAID 0 setup do not translate to real world use.
The 2 x 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 237GB for Windows to use. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 183GB. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a very fast average score of 9.43 seconds.
DisplayThe 17.3" display uses a Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution LED backlit LCD panel with an anti-glare coating. We found impressive viewing angles with an image still viewable at almost 160⁰ and the anti-glare coating does its job very well, with barely any reflections visible at all and even a bright light aimed directly at the screen is diffused particularly well.
We use Passmark's Monitor Test program for the laptop screens currently, which runs through various standard quality tests of the screen to give you an idea of the screens performance. It also comes with a very useful help section to tell you exactly what you should be looking for and areas where the screen may not be performing well. The screen passed all the tests without any issues save for some very minor backlight bleed from the edge-lit screen. The colours were very bold and strong and text appears very clear. It's a basic test, admittedly, but the software is free and without resorting to buying expensive software and test equipment, this is a test most home users can easily replicate for themselves.
Pre-installed softwareThankfully, there's not a massive amount of software taking up valuable space but what there is pre-installed is particularly useful. Starting with MSI's Dragon Gaming Center which gives quick access to various utilities such as SoundBlaster, Steelseries and Killer Network Manager software plus current status of the system such as CPU usage for example. Also found here is the excellent Instant Play feature. For those who play one game more than any other and want that experience to be the best possible, then MSI have really come up trumps here. You can add a game to the quick launch button which is Fn+F4 then configure the display brightness, system volume, mouse settings and even select from a list of applications to close when the game is launched. This means once configured a game can be launched with just one press of the Fn+F4 keys and it will change all the settings you need, plus close a load of tasks that may be running to give you the best experience for that game.
Amongst the other software already mentioned we have XSplit Gamecaster. This is a very simple and easy to use program to stream and record your gaming sessions. It is integrated with all the popular services such as Twitch, YouTube and UStream. The final software to mention is a free 1 month trial of Office 365 and Power DVD 10. A fairly old PowerDVD version now but as this system unfortunately does not have a Blu-ray drive then it serves its purpose.
Is the on-board sound any good?MSI are keen to push two unique features for the audio. Firstly 'Audio Boost' which claims to give 30% clearer sound and fidelity for external headsets and speakers and then for the on-board speakers, themselves, we have the 'Sound by Dynaudio,' who are a Danish audio specialist company that 'studies electrical circuits, dozens of speaker drivers, and how to best arrange internal parts and components to optimize sound ' so MSI claim that their laptops have the best stereo sound in the industry. Lofty claims indeed, but our testing found them to have some merit.
Laptop speakers are not usually the best and quite often very disappointing, but the two Stereo Speakers and one subwoofer backed up by SoundBlaster Cinema in this system comes across very well indeed. The maximum volume is excellent and no audio break-up or distortion was heard at all. It's difficult trying to compare properly to systems reviewed weeks and months ago but we'd go as far as saying that this is comfortably the best we have heard on any of our laptop reviews to date. Whether with music, movies or gaming the audio is excellent throughout.
MSI GE70 BatteryThe battery here is a Li-ion 6 cell, 4400 mAh, 49Wh. From those specifications alone you can see it's particularly underwhelming compared to Gigabyte's P25X v2 which had an 8 cell, 5700 mAh, 86.18Wh battery for example. The battery doesn't match the quality of the rest of the system, sadly. Using Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting, we received a very low result of 119 minutes. Then the poor results continued with our YouTube video test, which is a 4 hour loop of a standard 480P video and with the laptop set to the high performance setting and the screen at 100% brightness, we managed a very poor 100 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that to 132 minutes and with the same settings for DVD playback we managed a measly 102 minutes; so barely enough to watch a complete film. Very poor results here for a gaming laptop, given that our previous review systems have comfortably managed 3 or 4 hours - and more - in these tests.
Gaming laptops always cause us problems with regards to the gaming performance using battery alone. As we have seen with all our previous reviews, the laptops are severely crippled, even in high performance mode. There are settings that you just cannot access to push the system to the max. This MSI system is no different, sadly, although with the poor battery life seen above that's probably no bad thing. Testing with Battlefield 4 we dropped instantly from 60FPS to the obvious limit under battery life of 30FPS and it did become pretty unplayable in places. With a 100% charge we only managed 48 minutes of gaming before the battery died. The battery from flat takes 150 minutes to charge back to 100%.
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 9.43 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 10.468 seconds 9 3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 99092 5 3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 14988 5 3D Mark - Fire Strike 3887 5 3D Mark - Sky Diver 12027 5 Passmark Performance Test 8.0 3440.4 4 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 63.34FPS - CPU 7.04pts 6 Unigine Heaven 4.0 609 4 Unigine Valley 1.0 860 4 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 3238 5 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4998 8
Our standard set of tests, as shown in the table below, are each run at least 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out with the laptop in high performance mode, mains power plugged in and the screen set to 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this laptop we are using the latest Nvidia 344.65 graphics drivers. With the tests it's always worth bearing in mind the relative power of the graphics unit compared to the desktop equivalent and according to Passmark's Video Card benchmark, the GTX860M is roughly in the same area as an Nvidia GTX 550Ti or a Radeon HD 5830. Using Nvidia's Maxwell technology it has 640 pipelines running at 1020MHz and with a memory speed of 1250MHz.
Whilst not the dizzy heights of Gigabyte's P25X v2 with the GTX880M graphics, the MSI system with the GTX860M still performs fairly well here. Our Battlefield 4 test saw a reasonable 40 FPS with Ultra settings and a much better 82 FPS with settings lowered to high. Max Payne 3 still gives systems a good test and here we had just 29 FPS with everything on maximum (GPU memory permitting of course) and a more playable 51 FPS using High settings. That does compare very well with the GTX870M seen in Gigabyte's P35W v2 which managed just 23 and 45 FPS respectively in the Max Payne 3 test. We again tested with Sims 4 and clearly a optimisation patch has been released as we received an excellent 94 FPS on medium settings compared to just 31FPS seen on the P25X v2 with the far better GTX880M graphics.
Benchmark Score Summary
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 40 Battlefield 4 High Settings 82 Sims 4 Medium Settings 94 Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 29 Max Payne 3 High Settings 51
Fan noise & HeatThe HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our testing sessions. The CPU core temperatures at idle are 50°C and under test conditions these reached a pretty toasty 97°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching a fairly comfortable 83°C.
With some of the Gigabyte laptops we have reviewed lately, noise and excessive heat were real issues making for extremely loud and hot systems. Thankfully, this can't be said with MSI's GE70. For gaming and benchmarking the loudest we reached was 45dBs and just 36dBs for DVD playback. The cooling system employed here is clearly much better than Gigabyte's and, coupled with the excellent on-board speakers, for once headphones are not a necessity!
- Excellent on-board audio
- Good Specification
- Competitively Priced
- SteelSeries Engine is superb for Gamers
- Impressive Design
- Very poor battery life
- No Blu-ray drive
MSI GE70 2PE (Apache Pro) - 265UK Gaming Laptop Review
Should I buy the MSI GE70 2PE?Our first of hopefully many MSI gaming laptop reviews has definitely started with a winner. For £1299, you get a system with an impressive specification, vast storage, decent components plus a very striking design and excellent build quality. MSI's SteelSeries Engine is a real highlight of the whole system and coupled with the InstantPlay feature, offers a huge range of configuration options to make your gaming experience as smooth and impressive as possible.
Another highlight is the fantastic on-board audio. Too often a neglected area with gaming laptops, here MSI has come up trumps, providing probably the best audio experience we have ever heard from a laptop. The GTX860M coupled with the i7- 4710HQ CPU allows you to play the majority of games on high to maximum settings, using mains power of course. Our only real negative is the dismal battery life, compared to the rest of the system the battery just does not compete with sub-par scores across the board.
What alternatives are available?The main competitor here is probably Gigabyte with their similarly priced P34G v2 which has an almost identical specification, save for an increased 4GB of graphics memory and lower speed 5400RPM HDD but the MSI features already mentioned really help their system stand out. If you are a looking for a well designed and good looking gaming laptop, competitively priced offering a whole host of great features then the MSI GE70 2PE is definitely one to consider. We are, therefore, happy to bestow an AVForums Recommended Award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,299.99
Value For Money8
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