You have got to admire the sheer audacity of the folks at MSI who came up with the GT80.
Even among gaming laptops, the GT80 stands out with its brash, ridiculously over-the-top design. And it is the first laptop to have a mechanical keyboard.
If you are not clued in yet, a mechanical keyboard provides greater audible and tactile feedback compared with the usual membrane-based keyboards.
Available in the market since the 1980s (the IBM Model M keyboard was popular then), such keyboards are now back in vogue, especially with gamers.
But fitting one into a laptop requires a major redesign. Mechanical keyboards are heavier than membrane-based keyboards and have more depth, too. This is probably why MSI moved the GT80's touchpad to the right, where the number pad is usually located.
The touchpad also doubles as a number pad. Tap "Num Lock" at the top left corner to toggle between touchpad and touch-enabled number pad. Meanwhile, the keyboard has been moved down such that the Space bar now sits at the edge of the laptop.
Designed by noted peripheral manufacturer SteelSeries, the keyboard uses Cherry MX switches (brown version), the gold standard for such keyboards. The red backlit keys are slightly narrower than usual, but feel so much more tactile.
MSI has cleverly rejigged the laptop internals so you can easily access them and change the optical drive, storage and memory by removing a panel between the keyboard and the screen.
Powering this beast of a laptop are two Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M graphics chips. The mobile variant offers about 75 per cent of the graphics performance of the desktop version, but in tandem, the pair can beat a single desktop GTX 980.
Gaming performance was excellent at over 83 frames per second in Crysis 3 at "Very High" setting.
These chips are built such that they can be upgraded when graphics chipmakers release new models. MSI's distributor, Corbell, said consumers will be able to buy graphics upgrade kits (when available) for the GT80 within their two-year warranty period.
But MSI did not go far enough with the display resolution.
The GT80's 18.4-inch screen has a decent but hardly awe-inspiring 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. With two GTX 980M graphics chips, the GT80 should support most games at 3,840 x 2,160 pixels with the right settings.
Alternatively, you can connect this laptop to an external monitor to get this ultra-high resolution (and possibly a larger display) via DisplayPort.
The GT80 costs more than most gaming PCs - this review unit is $6,599. In Singapore, MSI sells a different configuration for $5,699, which is still much more expensive than its nearest competitors.
This is not a laptop, but a mobile desktop that does not compromise on performance.
Processor: Intel Core i7-4980HQ (2.8GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M SLI 8GB GDDR5
Screen size: 18.4 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
Connectivity: 5 x USB 3.0, HDMI, 2 x Mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet port, SD card slot, audio jacks
Battery: 89 watt-hour
Value for money 1/5
Battery life 2/5
This article was first published on Feb 04, 2015.
Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.