MSI GX60 Gaming Notebook



Company: MSI
Author: James Prior
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 10th, 2013

Summary

The MSI GX60 is the best gaming notebook I've ever used; it's simply excellent at delivering a high performance gaming experience in a portable package. In comparison to my current Studio 1747, the GX60 manages to offer experience upgrades in every respect, with the true star being the integrated APU's graphics performance, a 35W little corker of a processor. The styling is on the safe side of edgy and flashy, reserved but still assertive enough to be out of place in workplace. The feel lives up to the sticker price, around $1200USD, and the unit offers a solid value overall. Our comparison Studio weighed in at $1700 new, and has several hundred dollars of upgrades added to it; it's pleasing to see more performance available for much, much less $$ now.

AMD A10-4600M

There are detractors to the experience which make the GX60 not the best notebook in the world, like the Symantec backup and Trend Micro Internet Security suite. The preloaded apps should be ready to go, not ready to take my money, and I'm not going to give Symantec and Trend Micro money when I could pick Acronis and Kaspersky, for example. Subsidized OEM preloads have progressed now to where Microsoft now makes a feature of not doing it, with their Signature edition Windows 8 PCs. MSI's implementation really isn't that bad, with several good apps like the quick access dock and Cyberlink webcam software, although Microsoft Home & Student edition is very cheap for OEMs to bundle and should be present and paid for, rather than another pay-to-use version. Hey, it gives you the option of Google Docs or LibreOffice instead. WinZIP is included, but also not licensed, meaning you'll quickly uninstall it and switch to 7Zip even if you do benefit from the APU acceleration of encrypted archival abilities inherent in WinZIP. Windows Live Essentials serves as the photo and video suite, which isn't bad but still doesn't take advantage of the VCE hardware built into the APU and the discrete GPU. MSI informs us that newer models are now shipping with Windows 8 instead of 7; hopefully it will have a better driver setup.

mSATA SSD RAID 0

The hardware is well specified, certainly not lacking in brand names although it's hard to see the value of two particular choices: the SuperRAID SSDs and the BigFoot Killer NIC. The promised 1GB/S read speeds never appeared, or were even close for the SuperRAID, and the breakout and mSATA choice make upgrades expensive. Better then, perhaps, to pick a GX60 with just HDDs in it and buy your own SSD selection afterwards. The Killer NIC didn't seem to make any difference to gaming in terms of online server latency or file transfers, but it was reassuring I guess. Battery life was good for the class of device; you'll be able to survive a 4 hour layover in an airport by watching a Blu-ray and then surfing the web. I was able to surf for 60 minutes and then watch Harry Potter Deathly Hallows Part 2(TM) before getting a low battery alert, which told me an estimated 30 minutes power was remaining.

Steel Series Equipped

The steel series keyboard is nice, if a little cramped for a full configuration with number pad, and you'll have to hunt for some of the non-standard locations of extended function keys. The Function alternates work well, volume and brightness adjustment working all the time without conflicting with applications (windowed or full screen). Sound was another nice surprise, a well-balanced and not too tinny sound from such diminutive stature, the THX branded Realtek solution beating the IDT JBL/SRS configuration in the Studio nicely. Headphone use was good, with the output offering no hiss or other odd noises.

Thermal Vents

The gaming performance is acceptable for the product class, even if the scaling numbers indicated by Futuremark and Unigine tests never materialized. The 35W APU never feeling underpowered for the robust Radeon HD 7970M graphics. While not exactly the same as the Radeon HD 7870 desktop card it shares a core ASIC with, running 850MHz on the engine clock it still offers nearly 2.2GFLOPs of compute performance (400GFLOPS more than the recently announced PlayStation 4) and sports 2GB of high speed GDDR5. Fitting this into a 15.6" notebook that doesn't scorch desks is impressive, as is the thermal management of the notebook. It's not silent when gaming with the 7970M, and is certainly not going to be something you sit on your legs and game hard (or heterogeneous compute) with. But that's why the 7660G is there, to give you robust mobility performance with reasonable battery life. It's disappointing that the Catalyst Enduro drivers don't switch to the high performance GPU more reliably, but it is possible to override if you take the time. Consider it an extra administrative duty to perform for your games as you go.

The MSI GX60 is focused on gamers and delivers on that promise, exceptional gaming prowess with good thermals and usable battery life. The screen is bright and crisp, the touch panel controls work well, the build quality is high and the design works well. I'd like to see better SSD options (Seagate 1Tb SSHD would be nice) but the mSATA RAID is an ingenious solution to space constraints and didn't cause any problems outside our synthetic tests. I don't like the warranty void sticker covering the access panel, it means you can't clean anything or swap in RAM or HDDs without putting your warranty in jeopardy. Those who don't know will look at the bulk and dismiss it, never knowing you've got a great value, powerful desktop class gaming system under your arm. Fix the OEM preload with correct updated drivers that pick your GPU correctly, include a reasonably recent set of OS and app updates, change the warranty sticker location, tone down the stealth fighter nugget styling and it's a 5 star product: as currently configured, Rage3D awards the MSI GX60 4 stars.