MSI GT80 Titan – First Impressions
We’ve seen plenty of gimmicks over the years when it comes to gaming laptops, but MSI has set a new bar with its latest offering: a laptop with a built-in mechanical keyboard. And we’re not talking about some half-baked solution here – it’s a fully fledged, full-size mechanical keyboard, Steel Series branded and using Cherry MX switches.
Making the most of the inevitable bulk that a laptop with a mechanical keyboard takes up, the GT80 Titan also comes with two Nvidia graphics cards, the latest top-spec Intel CPU and much more. Does it all add up to the ultimate gaming laptop? We got our hands on it to find out.
SEE ALSO: Best Gaming Laptops Round-up
MSI GT80 Titan – Design
Where to start with the design of this machine… It’s big, really big. With an 18-inch screen, a maximum thickness of 47mm and weighing in at 4.7kg, it’s unlikely to even fit in a bag, let alone be the sort of thing you’ll want to carry any distance.
But that’s par for the course with these machines. They’re meant to be used in place of a full desktop PC, so they spend more time on a desk than in a shoulder bag. As such, the fact that MSI claims it’s 17% thinner and 22% lighter than its main rival is by-the-by in this context, though of course still welcome.
In terms of styling it doesn’t exactly hide its bulk either, with little in the way of a taper to the front edge – understandable considering it has to accommodate a mechanical keyboard.
Otherwise the choice of matte black and red lighting looks okay. It’s definitely not quite as Lamborghini/spaceship cool as an Alienware 18 or Asus’ G751, but it’s definitely more stylish than the totally generic black slabs used by some system builders.
MSI GT80 Titan – Features and Screen
Joining the headline-grabbing keyboard is a pretty comprehensive selection of components. Inside you’ve got two Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 graphics cards running in SLI, which is as powerful a solution you can currently get on a laptop. These are backed up by a choice of the latest Intel CPUs, four memory slots allowing up to 32GB of RAM, and four SSDs slots for up to 1024GB in a four-way RAID.
It’s a formidable package that’s sure to make light work of anything you throw at it. This is particularly the case as the screen only has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (1080p), which even a single GTX 980 would be more than adequate for. Still, at least with two cards you’ll be guaranteed of being able to run every game at absolutely maximum detail settings and never drop below 60fps.
Otherwise it appears to be a reasonable quality screen. It’s IPS so it has decent viewing angles and colours are reasonably fulsome. Inevitably the lowish resolution has things looking a little blocky compared to what most people are used to from laptops these days, but when you consider it’s still the standard resolution for 24-inch desktop monitors, it’s all relative. MSI also claims that panels with a higher resolution than this simply aren’t yet available at 18 inches.
In terms of connectivity, you get five USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI, two Mini DisplayPorts, a SPDIF digital audio output, mic/headphone 3.5mm jack socket, an SD card reader and a Killer Ethernet socket. There’s also Killer Wi-Fi ac onboard, along with a Blu-ray writer and a 4.1 speaker system. That’s pretty comprehensive.
MSI GT80 Titan – Keyboard and Trackpad
A formidable spec list is a given for a massive gaming laptop, but what really sets this one apart is that keyboard and – you know what? – we’re actually somewhat convinced. Moving from laptop to laptop at the MSI launch event, it really was striking just how much more pleasing a typing experience it was to use the mechanical keyboard.
Some of this would be because it’s that little bit bigger than even large conventional laptop keyboards, but mostly it’s just because the key feedback and speed is just so much better on mechanical keyboards. We were more accurate and faster right off the bat.
Whether that actually makes it worth the extra bulk is a different matter. The counter argument would be that it makes more sense to buy a separate mechanical keyboard and laptop. That way you can use the mechanical keyboard with a desktop PC as well.
However, for the sake of being able to have a mechanical keyboard, even when gaming on the sofa, the kitchen table or around a friend’s house, we think we’d take the extra bulk of the MSI GT80 Titan. It’s a niche market, but such is the nature of these high-end gaming laptops. If you’re going to have it all in one machine, why not have the keyboard, too?
The keyboard’s positioned right at the front of the chassis, rather than set back like on most laptops, which allows room for the other components to sit behind. This means you don’t get the natural built-in wrist support from the front of the chassis, so we’d recommend investing in a nice wrist rest.
It also means there’s no room for a trackpad, so instead this is set off to the side where it also doubles as a number pad, with a touch button for switching between the two modes. Sadly, on this early sample this didn’t work reliably, so we can’t say how useful it may or may not be. We’ll have to wait for a final review before passing judgement.
SEE ALSO: Best Laptops Round-up
The MSI GT80 Titan is clearly bonkers, but the same could be said for just about every massive, hugely expensive gaming laptop there’s ever been. They’re a niche product for those who simply want everything in one device. As such, with mechanical keyboards being the latest must-have feature, it does make some sense. There are still a few key areas where the GT80 Titan needs to prove its chops, and it really is a shame the screen resolution’s so limited, but as a concept we’re totally on board.