The OTT Gaming Machine
In the end, we find ourselves at an impasse. The GT80 Titan SLI is a wondrous machine, and we found ourselves liking it a whole lot (as there is a lot of things about it we really do like), there is still a bit of a lingering disappointment that the machine doesn't perform as well as it should (which is likely due to cooling issues). It performs admirably well against similarly outfitted rivals like the Aftershock Titan V2.1 and the Gigabyte Aorus X7 Pro, though there is definitely room for improvement.
Despite having a faster processor and more RAM, the GT80 Titan SLI still lags behind (sometimes significantly) the Aftershock Titan V2.1 in performance. While there were instances where the GT80 Titan SLI outperformed the Titan V2.1, those times were rare and the difference in score was negligible (like the 113 FPS to 109 FPS in Shadow of Mordor). We were really expecting the GT80 Titan SLI to perform better than it did. Make no mistake though, the machine does deserve its name. It really is a monster with tremendous performance, it's just that performance is a tad inadequate for what we were expecting.
Our issues with the hardware aside, we have nothing but good things to say about the notebook's SteelSeries keyboard. If you've harbored any doubts regarding whether or not a tacked on mechanical keyboard is the same as a standalone mechanical one, you can put them to rest. The answer is yes. The Cherry MX Brown keys are as responsive as the 'normal' ones on standalone mechanical keyboards. While we'd still prefer the hybrid stems of the CoolerMaster NovaTouch TKL, the Cherry MX Brown keys used in the MSI GT80 Titan SLI is an acceptable and worthy substitute.
The nature of the keyboard means that unless MSI is willing to extend the length of the machine and make it even larger, there's not going to be room for a wrist rest. Some people won't mind, but we reckon a lot will. The alternative is to include kickstands near the rear of the bottom, but that could add to the notebook's thickness and weight. Typing for long periods can get very uncomfortable, especially for those with wrist problems. You're basically hanging your hands every time you're using the keyboard. MSI gives a free wrist rest with every notebook, but honestly, it feels like more like an afterthought.
As we mentioned earlier, there are actually three variants of the MSI GT80 Titan and we've created a table to detail the various versions of the machine there are, which should help clear things up. Remember, the model we tested is the highest-end model with all the bells and whistles.
|MSI GT80 2QE Titan||MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI||
MSI GT80 2QE Titan SLI
|Processor||Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6GHHz, 6MB cache)||Intel Core i7-4720HQ (2.6Ghz, 6MB cache)||Intel Core i7-4980HQ (2.8Ghz, 6MB cache)|
|RAM||16GB DDR3L||16GB DDR3L||32GB DDR3L|
|Graphics||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M||2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M in SLI||2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M in SLI|
|Storage||Super RAID 3 256GB SSD M.2 SATA (128GB x 2) + 1TB HDD (7200RPM)||Super RAID 3 256GB SSD M.2 SATA (128GB x 2) + 1TB HDD (7200RPM)||Super RAID 3 512GB SSD M.2 SATA (128GB x 4) + 1TB HDD (7200 RPM)|
|Differences (compared to review unit)||
The model we reviewed is one of the priciest gaming notebooks we have reviewed and also one of the most expensive gaming notebooks in the market today. Undoubtedly, much of the money towards recovering the R&D costs of developing this notebook. And on that note, we must say that it is commendable for MSI to embark on such a project and how they have managed to integrate a mechanical keyboard into a notebook and still keep it at a decent size (relatively speaking, of course), while packing it with some really fantastic hardware (for the highest-end model, at least).
To say our souped-up unit is extravagant is an understatement, but we would have no qualms recommending the system if the hardware performed to snuff. Sadly, it doesn't quite. Despite being superior to most notebooks (if not all of them), the performance barely offers any significant improvements over other SLI machines, like Aftershock's Titan V2.1 or even Gigabyte Aorus X7 Pro. It just doesn't make monetary sense to be forking out so much money for the barely discernible difference in performance. The only thing it has going for it, is its fantastic keyboard, but even that has its limitations since it is not that comfortable to use. In the end, considering the difference in price between the GT80 Titan SLI and other systems, one could easily get a premium mechanical keyboard (and games, and an external display or two).
In our opinion, if you have absolutely must have a notebook with an integrated mechanical keyboard, our advice to get a the entry-level GT80 Titan with just a single GeForce GTX 980M. The reason being the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M is more than capable of playing games at maximum settings at Full-HD resolution for the next few years anyway.
While we admire MSI's guts to go against the flow and offer consumers something new, we feel that GT80 Titan still needs tweaking before the idea can truly flourish. As it is, it is a really niche product for a very select group of enthusiasts with fat pockets who want to play games exclusively on a notebook and want a mechanical keyboard to go with it. Performance needs to be improved slightly and prices need to come down drastically if the GT80 Titan is to appeal to a wider group of audience.