MSI GT80S 6QE Gaming Laptop Review

3.3
Expert Rating

The MSI GT80S 6QE is a lumbering beast of a gaming laptop, edging the line between where “portable laptop” ends and “desktop with a screen” begins. But will its insane performance and mechanical keyboard be enough to outweigh the worries over its substantial footprint and annoying software package?

Read on in my MSI GT80S review to find out.

Overview

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Brawny and future proofed, the MSI GT80S is close to perfect.

Price: $3,399.00 on Amazon 
Available: Now
Model #: GT80S 6QE

What We Liked

  • Jaw-dropping performance in every category
  • Mechanical keyboard is a welcome addition
  • Tons of available ports and connectivity options

What We Didn’t

  • Very heavy
  • Excessive amounts of bloatware included
  • Battery life was barely there

MSI GT80S Specs

ProcessorIntel 6th-Gen Skylake Intel Core i7-6820HK
RAM24GB DDR4-2133MHz
Storage Space256GB SSD/1TB HDD
Display Size18.4"
Graphics CardNvidia GTX 980M SLI
Display Resolution
1920 x 1080
Touchscreenred-x-icon
Battery Life1hr 23min full-load/2hrs 18min idle
Price$3,399.00
Buy Now

Design

From the outset, the design of the MSI GT80 will be a bit of a dividing line for consumers. On the one hand, its shell looks very familiar, accented with many of the same lines and a red-on-black color scheme that prospective buyers would recognize as a “gaming machine” from a mile away. Personally I’m not a huge fan of the aesthetic, but I can see how some people might prefer to give off the impression of “I’m a gamer” just from a passing glance at their machine.

On the other hand, you’ve got this:

MSI GT80S Review Design
The large panel above the keyboard and trackpad may not be for everyone

As you can see, the MSI has one big, glaring difference from pretty much every other laptop on the market: a large panel at the top meant for pure upgradeability. Where the keyboard would normally rest, instead there’s a silver removable panel that hides the system’s internals like its hard drive, graphics card, and RAM.

Having these parts all easily accessible makes it incredibly easy to upgrade your laptop on the fly with the latest parts and accessories, essentially future-proofing the GT80 for years to come. For hardcore gamers and hardware enthusiasts this feature could be seen as a godsend, but for other more casual laptop owners, it could just be considered a nuisance.

Speaking of nuisances, the shoulder-crunching weight of the MSI GT80S can’t be ignored. At 9.9lbs, the GT80S is the heaviest laptop we’ve reviewed, which could prove to be an issue for those who prefer portability over raw, unchecked power.

Software

Somewhat annoyingly, MSI hasn’t learned from the mistakes by Lenovo, and has included a whole deluge of extra programs on the GT80S at stock. The usual regulars are here, such as the MSI Dragon Gaming Center, which lets users tune their laptop’s GPU /CPU speeds and profiles for ultimate gaming performance.

MSI GT80S Software
MSI’s TrueColor app is a welcome respite from the rest of the bloatware included with the GT80S

It wouldn’t be so bad if the added software ended here, but the GT80S is also bogged down with: Norton Antivirus, Killer Networking (for Wi-Fi management), the SteelSeries Engine 3 (for keyboard configuration), BurnRecovery for backups, the Nahimic speaker configuration tool, and a whole deluge of other assorted MSI apps that would take an entire article unto itself to list in full.

The MSI “TrueColor” application was helpful though, with the option to quickly change the color profile of the screen on the fly. The “Anti-blue” setting prevented us from needing to download F.lux to keep blue levels down at night, while the “Designer” and “Gaming” options offered superior color representation in all viewing and gaming scenarios.

Hardware

However bothered we were with the unnecessary amount of added software, all those complaints quickly melted away once we laid our eyes on the staggering spec list the GT80S sports. With a brand new 6th-gen Intel Core i7-6820HK 2.7GHz processor, an Nvidia GTX 980M SLI GPU, a 256GB mSATA SSD and a whopping 24GB of DDR4-2133 RAM, the GT80S is less a gaming laptop, and more a gaming desktop that also happens to have a screen attached.

Unlike nearly every other gaming laptop out there right now, MSI went the extra mile with the addition of a mechanical keyboard, provided by than none other than (you guessed it), SteelSeries. Using Cherry MX switches (my personal favorite), both typing and gaming on the GT80S felt extremely responsive, and at times I actually preferred playing certain games on the laptop instead of my main gaming desktop just to feel the keyboard underneath my fingers.

MSI GT80S Hardware
The hardware specs of the MSI GT80S would be equally at home on a desktop or a mobile PC

Placing the trackpad way off to the right of the panel also pays off in a strange way. After a few days of daily use, I found myself wondering how I ever used a laptop any other way, free from the random palm grazes that would occur when typing on a normal laptop.

Connectivity options on the GT80S were extensive, with five USB 3.0 slots, one ESS SABRE HiFi audio DAC port, mic/headphone in/out, one SPDIF out, one HDMI 2.0 slot, a single RJ45 port, one USB 3.1, one Thunderbolt 3, and an SD card reader.

Unfortunately the onboard speakers (“POWERED BY DYNAUDIO”, an non-removable sticker reminds you every time you open up the case), left us wanting more. The sound was plenty loud, but lacked any distinct sense of bass, making all our music and videos sound tinny, distant, and too reliant on treble for extended watching/listening sessions.

Performance

At this price and weight class, it would be a disappointment if the MSI GT80S returned anything but record-shattering results.

 Fire Strike (3DMark) SkyDiver (3DMark) Cloud Gate (3DMark) TimeSpy (3DMark) Geekbench 3 (Single-Core) Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)
MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro1521029867N/A6215430816513
MSI GE62VR Pro Apache 947020702N/A3547366412994
ASUS ROG GL752VS1396130069N/A5272
336413472
ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501VW40271263015962309322812688
MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 4K66161784418466N/A3693 13339
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VT65641847320246N/A323411423
MSI GT80S131802471824017N/A357813397
ASUS G752VT6602N/AN/AN/A335113356
Acer Predator 178174N/AN/AN/A332413139

Luckily, the scores we logged on all of our tests were enough to cement our confidence in the GT80S as the king of all gaming laptops, former and current contenders included.

 Crystal
DiskMark
(SSD
Read/Write)
Crystal
DiskMark
(HDD
Read/Write)
Heroes of
the Storm
(Ultra Settings)
The Witcher III
(Ultra Settings)
Tomb Raider
(Ultra Settings)
Overwatch
(Ultra Settings)
Mirror's
Edge
Catalyst
(Hyper Settings)
MSI GT73VR 6RF Titan Pro3219MBs
3040MBs
116.3Mbs
131.3MBs
135FPS (Extreme)75 FPSN/A118 FPS88 FPS
MSI GE62VR Pro Apache557.2MBs
331.7MBs
106.0MBs
128.1MBs
110 FPS (Extreme)41 FPSN/A93 FPS63 FPS
ASUS ROG GL752VS745.6MBs
734.4MBs
148.7MBs
135.8MBs
156 FPS (Extreme)68 FPSN/A108 FPS69 FPS
ASUS Zenbook Pro UX501VW2205.3MBs
1579.4MBs
N/A41 FPS5 FPS14 FPS63 FPSN/A
MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 4K553.9MBs
402.3MBs
146.3MBs
140.1MBs
73 FPS11 FPS25 FPS89 FPSN/A
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VT538.3MBs
159.7MBs
142.2MBs
133.4MBs
107 FPS26 FPS66 FPS92 FPSN/A
MSI GT80S2896MBs
1183MBs
147.7MBs
137.3MBs
181 FPS59 FPS114 FPSN/AN/A
ASUS G752VT723.8MBs
157.7MBs
145.9MBs
140.6MBs
165 FPS47 FPS69 FPSN/AN/A
Acer Predator 172146MBs
1587MBs
145.9MBs
140.6MBs
170 FPS55 FPS60 FPSN/AN/A

Display

With so many other stellar specs tied to the GT80S we would have loved to see the inclusion of a 4K display on the laptop, but the included 18.4″ 1920 x 1080 IPS LED screen still gets the job done just fine.

MSI GT80S Display
The display isn’t terrible, but it’s not exactly head-turning either

Of course if you get tired of staring at lower resolutions, the MSI GT80S is plenty powerful enough on its own to run an external 4K or ultra-wide monitor on its own without dropping a frame.

Battery

While the specs and raw power of the MSI GT80S are both seriously impressive, unfortunately all that hardware has to have a tradeoff somewhere. In our idle testing of the onboard battery, we couldn’t get the GT80S past the 2hr 18min mark, while full-power gaming drained the charge in just 1 hour 23 minutes. This is downright pitiful, even by gaming laptop standards.

Speaking of the battery, one minor issue we noticed in daily use was the flimsiness of the charger’s connector. Move it a millimeter to the left or the right and it falls out almost immediately, requiring us to dip behind the machine multiple times during our testing to pick it up off the floor and plug it back in.

Wrap Up

The MSI GT80S is an absolute monster of a gaming laptop, outclassing and outperforming every other machine we’ve reviewed this year. With hardware specs and performance stats that rival most full-sized desktops, a mechanical keyboard, and the option to upgrade the laptop through an easily accessibly top panel, the GT80S checks off every box that the discerning gamer would have for their next big laptop purchase.

MSI GT80 Gaming laptop reviewSuch high praise in mind though, unfortunately the GT80S still falls short in critical areas like battery life and the ridiculous amount of included bloatware. With nearly 10lbs of weight you’d think MSI would have thought to pack in a little extra juice in the back, but even so, the GT80S is still a laptop that’s so close to being perfect we can almost taste it. Minor missteps aside, the GT80S is a great leap in the right direction for mobile gaming, and hopefully more manufacturers will work to emulate the example this laptop has set in the very near future.

Read Next: Best Gaming Laptop 2018

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Chris Stobing

Chris Stobing is a writer and blogger from the heart of Silicon Valley. Raised around tech from birth, he's had an interest in PC hardware and networking technology for years, and has come to Gadget Review to contribute his knowledge on both. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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