Display and Sound
Moving from a low-res Ultrabook to a high-res gaming laptop is a real eye opener. We've spent the past week making do with a measly 1,366x768, so straight away, the 1,920x1,080 panel employed by the GE70 feels like a breath of fresh air.
And there's more to it than just the added pixels. Putting the desktop real estate to good use, MSI's panel is anti-reflective to help prevent glare, and it's plenty bright, too. The display doesn't quite have the initial wow factor of the various glossy competitors, but it's easy on the eye during regular use. Colour reproduction looks good, and in addition to horizontal viewing angles being great, vertical viewing angles aren't bad either.
The GE70 has a display that's capable of bringing Blu-ray movies and cutting-edge games to life, and it's packing a decent sound system, too.
MSI uses four speakers (two above the keyboard, two on the underside of the palm rest) and they work well together to create a virtual surround experience that carries THX TruStudio PRO certification. There isn't a great amount of bass, but lows are output reasonably well, providing a good amount of depth to the sound. Volume is ample for a small-to-mid-size room, and whereas most laptops leave you yearning for headphones, the GE70 provides a sound that's enjoyable for movies and games alike.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Though the GE70 is one of MSI's slimmest gaming laptops, it retains quite a few familiar features. The keyboard, for example, doesn't appear to have changed - the layout is identical to the GT70, and indeed last year's GT780DXR.
Designed in collaboration with SteelSeries to put the focus on gaming, the full-size board includes a couple of adjustments for the target market. These include a relocated Windows key - it's to the right of the space bar to prevent any accidental hits during gaming - and the ability to support up to 10 simultaneous key presses.
The inclusion of a dedicated numpad is always appreciated, but it does leave a few keys feeling cramped - particularly the Enter, right Shift and arrow keys. What's more of a concern is the uneven flex in the keyboard tray. The board has more give on the right than on the left, and though we became accustomed to it quite quickly, we'd still have preferred a more rigid base.
The keyboard looks otherwise identical to that of the GT70, but MSI has made one big change; the GE70 doesn't have the backlit capabilities of its premium cousin, which is a shame as the company's multi-coloured LEDs bring a bit of fun to gaming laptops. What the GE70 does have is a compact row of illuminated shortcut keys just above the main keyboard - these include eject, fan speed toggle, turbo and power on/off.
The turbo key can be misleading - you hit it expecting something to happen, but as it turns out, the key actually acts as a status LED for GPU activity. It stays off when the laptop's using the integrated Intel HD 4000 component, and glows blue when NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 660M kicks into action.
There's room for improvement on the keyboard, and we've similar feelings about the integrated multi-touch trackpad. The pad is quick to react and responds well to multi-touch gestures, but the textured surface feels a bit too rough under the finger. The mouse buttons don't have a lot of travel and can feel a bit stiff, but our biggest gripe here is the size of the trackpad surface; it's very small, for a 17.3in laptop. MSI could argue that gamers will use an external mouse - they've included a dedicated switch to disable the trackpad entirely - but a larger pad for everyday use wouldn't go amiss.