Call it the attack of the awesome ivy. MSI's GT60 gaming notebook is one of the first notebooks to hit the market with Intel's third-generation Ivy Bridge processor. Combine that with a vibrant 1080p display, good audio quality and a powerful Nvidia GPU and you've got a recipe for hours of questing, grinding and saving the day at a rather affordable price.
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Click to EnlargeThe GT60 isn't as pretty as say, the Alienware M17x, but it's still a handsome piece of machinery. While we loved the lid's center panel of black brushed aluminum with a backlit MSI logo, we're not fans of the wide strips of plastic lining the sides and bottom. However, the side panels' distinct slope created some interesting angles throughout the design we couldn't help but admire.
The notebook's interior mimics the lid, featuring plastic side panels with a brushed black aluminum palm rest. However, our eyes were consistently drawn to the top of the keyboard deck and the glossy black plastic function key bar. Reminiscent of a Transformer headpiece, the angular bar ensconces a pair of speakers and the large chrome power button in the middle. It also holds touch controls for Wi-Fi, touchpad and Turbo.
We don't foresee many people moving the 7.8-pound MSI GT60 anywhere further than another room in their house. However, the notebook's 14.9 x 10.2 x 1.8-inch frame can fit into a large backpack or messenger back.
Click to EnlargeThe MSI GT60's 15.6-inch 1920 x 1080p full HD display delivered mesmerizing color and crisp detail, whether we were reading text, watching video or playing games. At 268 lux, the GT60 outshines the 220 lux desktop replacement category average.
We really appreciate the matte display on this rig, which eliminated the chance of any errant reflections spoiling our view. Viewing angles were nice and wide, maintaining color accuracy from just about every sitting position we tried.
Speaking of reflections, details in the 1080p YouTube trailer of "MIB 3" were so sharp we could clearly make out many of the reflections in the characters' chrome weaponry. We enjoyed the bleached white sterility of the MIB office. We noticed small instances of fuzziness in a couple of background scenes, but they were few and far between.
During the opening scenes of "Portal 2," we were enthralled with the ruined sterility of the Aperture Labs as GlaDos came back on line. There was a beautiful juxtaposition of lush green jungle vines woven between the sterile white surfaces of the test rooms and the cold gray steel of the girters and studs holding the lab together. When we finally got our hands on the portal gun and began wielding the titular blue and orange portals, they were nice and bright, offering a much-needed contrast against the stark white backgrounds.
Click to EnlargePowered by Dynaudio Premium speakers, a subwoofer and the THX Studio Pro control panel (pictured), we enjoyed a great sound experience. Although the GT60's audio defintitely benefits from the THX control panel, we couldn't tweak as many things as we would have liked. We could only move a slider on settings such as Surround, Crystalizer and Smart Speaker. It would have been nice to adjust settings for Music, Movies and Gaming similar to what HP's Beats Audio control panel offers.
Still, trumpets on Jay-Z's "Roc Boyz (And The Winner Is…)" were loud and triumphant, meshing easily with the rapper's braggadocios tenor. However, the bass was lost somewhere in between.
The system redeemed itself as we played through "Portal 2," where we were rewarded with the delicate clinks of empty bullet casings hitting tiled floors from adorable, but deadly turrets. Fighting enemies in "Batman: Arkham City," yielded satisfying fwaps, ughs and whooshes. Dive bombing from tall buildings provided a satisfying rush of air and a hearty crunch as we used some unsuspecting bad guy to cushion our landing.
Click to EnlargeSimilar to Alienware notebooks, the MSI GT60 features an island-style keyboard with a full number pad with customizable colored backlighting. We enjoyed configuring our keyboard to our color-coded liking using MSI's Keyboard LED Manager. While we would have loved the ability to blend colors similar to Alienware's Command Center utility, we created a pretty bad-ass looking keyboard. The 10 keyboard statuses (including Standard, Idle, Gaming, Normal, Breathing) added a welcome level depth and customization.
The black flat keys were a little on the small side, especially the Backspace and Right Shift keys. Still, we enjoyed ample feedback and achieved 55 words per minute with a 1 percent error rate on the Ten Thumbs Typing Test. That's slightly higher than our desktop average.
Click to EnlargeThe glossy polygonal border surrounding the 3 x 1.8 inch brushed aluminum touchpad make it appear smaller than it actually is (pictured). We had no problem sliding our fingers across the stimulating striated surface.
When typing, it's important to keep your hands curled--one person in our office found that is his hand brushed against it while typing, the pointer moved, causing the cursor to jump. We were also slightly dismayed by the lack of multitouch functionality such as pinch-to-zoom; it's not crucial for gaming, but would be nice to include. We're also usually not fans of the single mouse bar, but the GT60's chrome bar was responsive provided nice, firm feedback.
After 15 minutes of running a Hulu video at fullscreen, the touchpad, space between the G & H keys, and underside of the notebook measured a relatively cool 78, 87 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, we were able to use the notebook in our laptop for more than an hour with no discomfort.
Things became slightly warmer after playing "Batman: Arkham Asylum" for 15 minutes. We measured the touchpad at 84 degrees with the space between the G & H keys and the underside measuring 93 and 86 degrees, respectively. These measurements are still below our 95-degree threshold for an uncomfortable notebook.
Click to EnlargeA lone USB 2.0 port resides on the notebook's left side along with jacks for heaphones, a mic, audio in and audio out accompanied by a tray-loading DVD burner. Three USB 3.0 ports and a 7-in-1 card reader can be found on the right. Ports for HDMI, eSATA, VGA and Gigabit Ethernet jack sit along the notebook's rear(pictured).
Click to EnlargeImages from the MSI GT60's 720p webcam were fairly sharp under florescent lighting using CyberLink YouCam. We could see the stitching in our sweater along with the logo. There was a small amount of oversaturation, but our skin tone and gray sweater looked pretty accurate (pictured).
Talk about super-powered. The MSI GT60 features a third-generation (Ivy Bridge) 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor with 12GB of RAM, dual 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drives and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU with 3GB of VRAM. We had an absolute blast cleaning up the mean streets of Gotham in "Batman: Arkham City." As we played, we had 10 open tabs in both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer while running a full virus scan. The Dark Knight went about his crime-fighting duties without any noticeable latency.
The GT60 delivered impressive scores on our synthetic tests. The rig notched 3,336 in PCMark 07, a bit above the 3,163 desktop replacement category average. The ASUS G75VW-DS71 and its third-generation 2.3-GHz Core i7-3610QM quad-core processor scored a lower 3,041.
Booting the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Premium only took the GT60 53 seconds, thanks to the dual 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drives. That's enough to beat the 0:60 category average and the G75VW-DS71's time of 0:66.
The GT60's dual drives duplicated 4.97GB of mixed media files in 1 minute and 8 seconds, a blazing fast transfer rate of 74.8 MBps, far above the 37.4 MBps category average. The G75VW-DS71 (30 MBps) was left in the dust.
During the OpenOffice Test, the GT60 matched 20,000 names to their corresponding addresses in 4 minutes and 26 seconds. That's slightly below the 4:24 desktop replacement average.
Graphics and Gaming
Playing games on the MSI GT60 is an absolute joy. We couldn't keep the smile off our faces during "Batman: Arkham City" as we cleared out a room of 10 or more thugs. We made easy work of them with fluid roundhouse kicks, batarangs and backhands, with our ebony cape billowing menacingly all the while. The views of the dilapidated prison were grim, yet breathtaking complete with neon signs glowing weakly against the unshakable gloom of the night sky.
The GT60 delivered synthetic benchmarks that were almost as awesome as battling the undead juggernaut Solomon Grundy. The notebook's Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU with 3GB of VRAM delivered an epic 19,359 on the 3DMark06 benchmark. That's 6,408 points above the 12,951 desktop replacement average. The ASUS G75VW-DS71 and its GeForce GTX 660M GPUs with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM scored a respectable 16,028.
When we ran the "World of Warcraft" benchmark, the GT60 notched a face-melting frame rate of 190 fps on Good at 1920 x 1080p. That was more than enough to best the G75VW's score of 158 fps and the category average of 142 fps. When we cranked the test up to maximum, the GT60's score dropped to 106 fps.
We also ran a few benchmarks with the graphically taxing "Batman: Arkham City." With DX11 on, 4X MSAA, Graphics Very High and the resolution at 1366 x 768 pixels, the MSI GT60 scored an impressive 47 fps while the G75VW notched 31fps on the same settings. When we switched to 1920 x 1080p, the GT60's frame rate dropped to 28 fps, slightly below playable.
Traversing the sprawling campus of Aperture Labs was challenging, but it was never an ugly experience on the GT60. Shooting the portal gun was nice and slick. Our favorite part was hurtling towards the ground before placing a portal that would catapult us to another part of the test. The illusion of speed was both exhilarating and dizzying.
Click to EnlargeMSI doesn't bog the GT60 down with needless software, installing a skeleton crew of utilities and software. There's MSI SuperCharger that automatically detects and charges attached mobile devices. We also liked S-Bar, a panel of shortcuts for programs, Windows accessories, and function keys.
Additional MSI-branded programs include MSI VGA Overclock, Battery Calibration (pictured) and BurnRecovery.
Fellow gamers will appreciate the addition of Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager. The software identifies important activities such as gaming, video and audio network data, ensuring that the receive priority for high-speed connectivity.
Other third-party software includes Windows Live, Microsoft Office Starter, Google Chrome, Adobe Reader X, Norton Online Backup and a 30-day free trial of Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security 2012.
The MSI GT60 comes with a 2-year Limited Warranty.
Our $1,559 review unit of the GT60 features a 2.3-GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor with 12GB of RAM, dual 500GB 7,200-rpm hard drives and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 670M GPU with 3GB of VRAM.
The $1,399 base model (GT683-841US) offers a 2.2-GHz Intel Core i7-2670QM CPU, 12GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GTX 560M with 1.5GB of RAM. There's also the $1,499 GT683DX-840US, which comes equipped with a faster Nvidia GeForce GTX 570M GPU with 1.5GB of RAM.
During the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the GT60 lasted 4 hours and 37 minutes. That's 1 hour and 2 minutes longer than the 3:35 desktop replacement category average. The ASUS G75VW-DS71 only lasted 3:11.
Click to EnlargeMSI managed to pack a ton of power into a relatively portable and affordable platform. For $1,599, gamers walk away with a notebook that's equipped with Intel's quad-core Ivy Bridge processor, a seriously powerful Nvidia GPU and a design that can keep its cool during a heavy gaming session. Gamers should also consider the Alienware M14x. Although it has a smaller 14-inch screen, the $1,499 M14x offers an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU, 12GB of RAM, a 750GB 7,200-rpm hard drive and a 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 650M with Optimus. Overall, the MSI GT60 is an excellent choice for hardcore gamers or consumers searching for a notebook that can handle the most demanding tasks.