MSI GT72: Ultra Quality Gaming Performance

Okay, that's enough small talk. I know most of you are really only interested in one thing: how fast is the GTX 980M? I've run a limited set of benchmarks on the system, basically testing at 1920x1080p "Ultra" and "High" settings. I've also increased the number of games being tested for this article beyond the usual five that we use for notebooks, simply because this is first and foremost a gaming notebook. PCMark and general system performance results might be nice to know, but I don't think anyone is going to buy the GT72 unless they plan on utilizing that shiny new GTX 980M. The new games are Batman: Arkham Origins, GRID Autosport, Metro: Last Light Redux, and Sniper Elite 3; I've also brought back Company of Heroes 2, which isn't something we normally test on notebooks. For now I'm comparing the GT72 with three other MSI notebook, and I've also tossed in a desktop i7-4770K (at 4.1GHz) with a GTX 970 as a reference; in theory, the GTX 980M shouldn't be too far off the GTX 970 performance.

For the sake of completeness, the settings used for Ultra generally include anti-aliasing, and in some cases that means SSAA (which can really pummel the GPU). Batman: Arkham Origins sets all the options to on/DX11, anti-aliasing is 4xMSAA, and PhysX is disabled. BioShock Infinite uses the UltraDX11_DDOF setting, Company of Heroes 2 has all the options at their maximum (including anti-aliasing set to High), and GRID Autosport has 4xMSAA enabled with the Ultra quality preset. For Metro: Last Light Redux, all settings are at maximum (including SSAA). And wrapping up, Sleeping Dogs uses the Extreme preset (which includes High SSAA), Sniper Elite 3 uses the Ultra preset with 4xSSAA enabled, and Tomb Raider uses the Ultimate preset (but without enabling SSAA – maxing out the settings drops the 980M by 7 FPS if you're wondering, so it's not a huge difference). Here are the benchmark results, starting with Ultra quality:

1920x1080 Ultra Performance

Batman: Arkham Origins - Ultra

Bioshock Infinite - Ultra

Company of Heroes 2 - Ultra

GRID Autosport - Ultra

Metro: Last Light Redux - Ultra

Sleeping Dogs - Ultra

Sniper Elite 3 - Ultra

Tomb Raider - Ultra

Average FPS for Eight Games - Ultra

First, let me just say that the inclusion of the desktop GTX 970 is really something of a high water mark for mobile GPUs to strive for. Granted, it's a $329 part compared to a $2200+ notebook, but high-end gaming notebooks have never been particularly economical. The fact that the GTX 980M can come close to the GTX 970 is pretty impressive, and it also breaks 30FPS in every one of our test games – something no other mobile GPU has ever achieved.

Obviously there are still going to be games where cranking every dial up to 11 isn't going to work out so well. Metro: Last Light (and the Redux sequel) is a prime example of this, as enabling SSAA in particular can bring even the fastest desktop GPUs down to unplayable frame rates; games like Crysis 3 and The Witcher 2 can be similarly taxing with all the settings maxed. Of course, if we're talking about "normal" settings (e.g. not SSAA), the GTX 980M is able to handle pretty much anything you might want to throw at it. Dropping down to our High settings (which mostly means turning off anti-aliasing in terms of quality and performance, though there are also differences between High and Very High/Ultra in some titles), performance jumps well into the playable range.

In terms of average performance, the GTX 980M tops all mobile contenders by a sizeable margin. It's about 35% faster than the GTX 880M, 70% faster than GTX 870M, and a whopping 110% faster than GTX 860M. Interestingly, I was expecting performance to be closer to the desktop GTX 970, but it turns out the 980M only manages to deliver 81% of the 970 performance on average. GPU memory bandwidth may be a factor here (7GHz vs. 5GHz), and the desktop GPU is also being helped by a CPU that's clocked 17-28% higher than the i7-4710HQ (depending on how high the 4710HQ is able to turbo).

This is part of what makes me wonder if MSI went a bit too conservative on the CPU side of things, but then we're already pushing high frame rates with the 4710HQ and in most cases it's only going to be frame rates above 60 FPS where the CPU plays a significant role.

MSI GT72: Unboxing and Initial Impressions MSI GT72: High Quality Gaming Performance
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Technically the top spec version of the GT72 is the Dominator Pro-243. It has an i7-4980HQ instead of the 4710HQ, and it has 4x256GB SSDs (1TB) instead of 4x128GB. It's "only" $900 more. Hahaha... There's a Dominator Pro-098 that has the same 4x128GB as the 208 we received, but it uses the i7-4980HQ as well; it costs $400 more just for the CPU upgrade. Ouch.
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    The 243 and 098 are cancelled for the 444 and 445 which are being updated to IPS displays but otherwise at the same price and load out.
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Another note, MSI have an upgrade program going into effect on the GT72 series.
  • Meaker10 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    They will be selling 970M/980M upgrade kits to owners of 8xx series systems.
  • mischlep - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Typo: Unboxing And Initial Impresisons page ends with: "It's also large enough and has sufficient cooling that it won't get uncomfortably hot in your lap, which is a problem with "
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Fixed... was busy all day writing this up, so my brain left off a few closing thoughts. Hahaha.
  • wetwareinterface - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    as to the omission (or in this case rejection) of optimus. it was done because it had to be done. a lot of people buy these laptops for cad or to run multiple screens for financial tracking and the like. optimus doesn't engage in those situations and you're left at that point with intel onboard graphics not supporting your app or only 2 displays available.

    optimus is only for gamers who want improved battery life when not gaming. this isn't really the target market for something like this laptop
  • huaxshin - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Dang. I just knew 4710HQ would be too weak and would bottleneck the GTX 980M in some games. Since Alienware and MSI seems to use HQ chips this year, I sincerely hope they will use their common sense and add better HQ chips (4980HQ and such).

    GTX 980M should probably be around 50%+ faster than GTX 880M if the CPU wasnt bottlenecking it. Bad decision about CPU, MSI.

    Good Preview Jarred
  • Hrel - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    Mobile performance is still a trade-off. You have to accept lower, but still not noticeably so, frame rates. You also have to turn some things down that don't really matter, like AA and shadows and lighting effects and such. But basically all the GTX class GPU's will give you performance that's much better than what you'll get on a console, so it looks plenty good and plays smoothly.

    Hopefully the next GPU process node drop will provide mobile parts where these trade offs go away, or at least heavily reduced. Which makes me feel good about keeping my GTX765M for at least a few years, just got it this year, so I'll probably keep it until 2018. At which point, hopefully, mobile GPU's that I can afford and don't DESTROY battery life will be available. Because that certainly doesn't exist today :)
  • Mikemk - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    "cranking every dial up to 11" XKCD reference?

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now