Tearing it open
Even though user access to the MSI AG270 isn't something that the company really discusses or advertises, of course we had to do it. Keep in mind that opening up the machine voids the warranty in this case, so even changing out the system memory or SSDs on this all-in-one is more or less at your own risk.
Removing the back panel was a pretty simple task; just a handful of screws hold it all in place. Upon taking the back panel off, you'll see all the hardware goodness that keeps the AG270 moving along, including the CPU, GPU, storage, etc. Clearly the motherboard is a small portion of the overall design, but the larger form factor allows MSI to do some interesting things will the cooler and storage that aren't possible with gaming notebooks.
In the upper right hand corner of the photo you'll see the 7200 RPM traditional desktop style hard drive that MSI is using. This gives you better performance than the 2.5-in hard drives and helps MSI save some money. Below that is the slot loading Blu-ray drive.
Speaking of cooling, both the Core i7-4870HQ and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU are being run through the same, heatpipe-based cooling system. The small heatsink on the left side of this photo is for the Haswell processor while the larger unit up top with the set of three pipes coming off of it cools the discrete GPU on an MXM module.
The heatsink cooling the configuration here is pretty large and the fan running air over it is larger than you'd see on nearly any gaming laptop as well. Because the MSI AG270 is larger than a laptop, even one of those 17-in behemoths, the engineers have more headroom for cooling. I'm actually a bit disappointed that MSI didn't got another step and make the heatsink much larger inside the chassis to allow for a slower, quieter fan or even higher clock rates. Just a bit too much empty space for my liking.
The GTX 980M, even though it is a mobility part, will generate some significant heat. By using a larger heatsink and dissipating the heat off the die quickly, MSI can allow the GPU to stay at higher clock speeds (thanks to GPU Boost) for longer periods of time. This results in better frame rates during extended gaming periods.
You can see the back panel connections on the motherboard here in what is actually the bottom portion of the system.
The HM87 chipset (under the small heatsink), the memory, and the M.2 SSDs are visible here. Both SODIMM slots are filled so if you ever desire a higher capacity or higher speed of system memory, you're going to replace them both. The M.2 ports are easily accessible here as well should you wish to replace them with higher capacity SSDs in the future, just keep in mind you are going to be on your own in terms of support after you open the AG270 up.