MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro gaming laptop review

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro

The new and more power-efficient GTX 800M series of GPUs from nVidia has given rise to a new generation of slimmer, lighter gaming laptops in recent months. However, the GE70 2PE Apache Pro is a bit of a throwback to the days of the big, heavy gaming beasts once more. See also: Best laptops of 2014

Weighing in at a full 3 kg and measuring 39 mm thick, the 17-inch GE70 certainly isn't very backpack-friendly, and will definitely spend most of its time at home. The battery doesn't last all that long either, and only just scraped 120 minutes of streaming video even when using its power-efficient Intel HD Graphics 4600 integrated graphics.

It's also been a while since we've seen a gaming laptop chucking out quite so much hot air from the cooling vent on its left-hand side. Fortunately, the casing of the laptop itself remains cool, so we weren't too worried about overheating, and the cooling fans weren't obtrusively noisy either.

Weight and size aside, the GE70 is actually quite smartly designed. The black plastic casing isn't particularly elegant, but it's quite sturdy and provides good support for the 17.3-inch screen.

The keyboard is firm, spacious and comfortable, and it's nice to see a full-size set of arrow keys for a change. The keys themselves have a nice smooth travel action, and we even liked the way that the keyboard backlight displays smoothly graduated colours across the width of the keyboard. And, on a more practical level, the SteelSeries Engine software supplied with the GE70 gives gamers plenty of options for customizing the keyboard, selecting different colour schemes and applying macro commands to the keys of your choice.

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro: annoyances

There are a few annoying rough edges, though. The plastic surface of the trackpad feels flimsy and unresponsive, and bends quite noticeably when you press down on the left/right buttons. Another shortcut is the AC-3160 wireless adaptor, which only supports single-stream Wi-Fi at 433 Mb/s, compared to the full 1300 Mb/s speed of current draft 802.11ac. However, gamers will tend to prefer a lag-free wired network connection anyway, for which there's a Killer e2200 network adaptor.

And, thankfully, the 1920 x 1080 resolution screen is bright, sharp and colourful. Horizontal viewing angles are close to a full 180-degrees, and there's a matt-finish that reduces glare and reflection for maximum visibility. (See also: 20 best budget laptops of 2014.)

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro

The vertical viewing angle is more limited, though, so you might need to nudge the screen occasionally to get the brightest possible image. It's not a major flaw but, like the trackpad, it shouldn't be a flaw at all in a laptop as expensive as this.

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro: great performance

We couldn't fault the GE70 on performance, though. Our review unit was priced at £1299 with a quad-core Intel Core i7 running at 2.5 GHz, 16 GB of memory and an nVidia GeForce GTX 860M graphics processor.

The storage system is pretty impressive too, with a 7200 rpm hard drive providing 1 TB of storage for all your games, music and videos, while Windows itself is installed onto a pair of 128 GB solid-state drives that are configured as a RAID 0 volume for maximum performance. (See also: Best gaming laptops 2014.)

That rather over-the-top storage system bumps the price up a bit, and the GE70 is a bit more expensive than other laptops we've seen with the same processor and GPU. However, the RAID storage system performance does seem to aid performance right across the board.

Using the Windows 8 fast-start option, the GE70 recovers in just nine seconds and is ready to start launching applications right away. It breezed to a top-of-the-range score of 6241 points when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchtest, while scores of 3251 and 3460 points in the Home and Work suites of PCMark 8 were a match for more expensive gaming laptops we've seen costing £1500 or more.

The GE70 managed 120 fps with no trouble at all when running our Stalker casual gaming test, and also performed strongly with the more demanding Batman: Arkham City. That game defaulted here to 1600 x 900 resolution with DirectX 11 turned off, which produced a score of 54 fps. However, stepping up to 1920 x 1080 and turning DX 11 on, as well as all graphics settings to High, only caused a slight dip to 48 fps. And even with every single graphics setting on maximum the GE70 still managed a perfectly playable 36 fps that should keep all but the most demanding gamers happy. See also: Best laptops of 2014

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro

MSI GE70 2PE Apache Pro: Specs

  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080 pixel, 127 ppi) TN display, matt-finish
  • 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ (3.5 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated + GeForce GTX 860M (2GB)
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 2x 128 GB solid-state drives + 1 TB hard drive (7200 rpm)
  • dual-band 802.11b/g/n/ac, 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x VGA
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p webcam/microphone
  • 1x headphone, 1x microphone socket
  • 49 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 418 x 269 x 39 mm
  • 3.0 kg
  • 17.3-inch (1920 x 1080 pixel, 127 ppi) TN display, matt-finish
  • 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ (3.5 GHz Turbo)
  • Intel HD Graphics 4400 integrated + GeForce GTX 860M (2GB)
  • Windows 8.1 (64-bit)
  • 16 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 2x 128 GB solid-state drives + 1 TB hard drive (7200 rpm)
  • dual-band 802.11b/g/n/ac, 1x1 MIMO
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 1x HDMI 1.4, 1x VGA
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 720p webcam/microphone
  • 1x headphone, 1x microphone socket
  • 49 Wh lithium-ion battery
  • 418 x 269 x 39 mm
  • 3.0 kg

OUR VERDICT

The GE70 2PE Apache Pro does have its flaws – it's bigger and heavier than it really needs to be, the battery life is poor, and we really dislike the trackpad. However, it delivers the goods when it comes to gaming action. That extravagant storage system allows the GE70 to squeeze maximum performance out of its processor and GPU, and ensures that it provides high-end gaming performance at a competitive mid-range price.

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