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MSI GT680 review: MSI GT680

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The Good Blistering performance; Impressive speaker quality; Frightening design will scare off the in-laws.

The Bad Slightly uncomfortable keyboard; Poor screen when not in cinema mode; Pathetic battery life.

The Bottom Line The MSI GT680 is angry all over, from the glowing orange lights that adorn its edges to the powerful processor in its black heart. It's here to master your games and fuel your nightmares.

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8.3 Overall

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Not all laptops are created equal. Some are designed to be super-lightweight, ready to be slung over your shoulder and taken off on an adventure. Others would prefer to sit in a swanky graphic designer's office making pretty shapes that sell for thousands of pounds.

The MSI GT680, however, would rather be sat in a dingy basement, ripping through the most brutal of games with reckless abandon, its frightening orange LEDs illuminating the look of terror on bystanders' faces.

This gaming beast is available now for just under £1,500.

Monster appearance

If you're after something subtle and well-mannered to complement your minimalist, polite lifestyle, the GT680 isn't for you. This brash lump of plastic will spill its drinks, scare your cat and insult your in-laws -- to their faces.

MSI GT680 front
It's an alarming machine in every sense.

If you like the whole 'invading alien spacecraft' look, however, this laptop will be right up your proverbial. Aggressive ridges run across its shiny black lid with the MSI logo sitting proudly in the middle on a grille-effect backdrop with a chrome plastic surround.

Equally aggressive are the grilles on the front edge, which glow a deep orange colour when in use. Frankly they look like the eyes of Cerberus itself, ready to bite your face off if you dare try to play My Little Pony: Pinkie Pie's Party Parade.

MSI GT680 back
Just look at those ridges. They want to destroy you. 

The alarming orange lights also extend to the side edges and around the trackpad. If you don't want to be scared witless, a handy hotkey turns them off, or sets them to pulse according to the action in the game.

The lid may look as angry as an impatient man queuing for the post office behind five old ladies, but it's made from a not-so-aggressive plastic that gave quite a bit of flex under our fingers. It doesn't feel as though it's about to break, but we'd still have liked to see something a little more durable in its place.

At 55mm thick and weighing 3.5kg, the GT680 certainly doesn't qualify as an ultraportable. But then, it's not trying to. It allows you to hit the games hard at your desk and then trot off with it to the energy drinks aisle in Tesco to settle down for a mammoth fragging session.

We popped it into a rucksack and could just about manage our commute to and from the CNET UK barracks without too much trouble. We definitely wouldn't want to whip it out in a cafe to send a quick email though -- not without sufficiently checking the structural integrity of the table first.

Lift the lid and you're met with an isolated keyboard. The square keys are set a little too high and slightly too far apart for our liking, resulting in us making more mistakes during quick touch-typing than we would normally make. We also aren't keen on the half-sized right-hand shift key -- we often accidentally tried to capitalise our sentences using the up arrow key that's right next to it. As this is a gaming machine, the W, A, S and D keys are highlighted red for quick identification.

MSI GT680 trackpad
The trackpad is suitably angry-looking and has a smart brushed metal effect.

The trackpad is a fair size and is rough enough to allow for quick, non-stick finger sliding. Sadly, it doesn't support any kind of multi-touch input -- annoying if you want to quickly scroll down webpages or documents. The trackpad buttons are joined at the middle and have an attractive brushed-metal effect. They're easy to click, which is handy for speedy Web browsing.

The wrist support has a pleasant honeycomb texture to it. We spent quite a while stroking our hands over it and concluded that -- although we'd rather be stroking a kitten, the wrist support on the GT680 was a suitable alternative. Like the rest of the machine, it's made of plastic, but here it feels solid, giving us barely any flex beneath our poking.

Above the keyboard are a set of touch-sensitive hotkeys that control screen brightness profiles, turbo mode, fan modes, battery modes, connectivity activation and lighting options.

Audio performance

You'll also find two speaker grilles surrounded by a ring of red metal. The speakers are tuned by audio specialists Dynaudio and use THX sound processing so we expected good noise from them. We played Vanessa Carlton's beautiful track Home and were very pleased with the clear high frequencies produced.

Naturally, we wanted to test how it copes with more intense tunes, so we blasted the dub-step stylings of Skrillex through its speakers. We were very impressed with the volume level it managed to achieve and were rather pleased with the bass response as well.

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