Great gaming and overall performance; Affordable price; Lightweight for its size; Backlit keyboard
Inconsistent touchpad; Subpar battery life; Runs hot while gaming; Somewhat bland case design
With fierce gaming performance at an affordable price, the MSI GE60 brings serious value to the table.
Getting into PC gaming at any size can cost you a pretty penny, but MSI is at the forefront of affordable gaming laptops in 2013. The $1,299 MSI GE60 stuffs a blazing 2.4-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M GPU and a 128GB mSATA SSD into a fairly portable 5.6-pound package. In fact, this design is lighter than other gaming rigs with smaller screens. However, this rig comes with some caveats.
The keyboard deck is a panel of brushed aluminum wrapped by a band of stark red plastic. The lowered chiclet keyboard sits inside a glossy black well. Above the keyboard is a long speaker grille with red accents underneath that run the length of the deck.
On the left are controls for the keyboard backlighting and MSI's Cool Boost feature, and the power button sits to the right. Below the keyboard, the chrome-lined, brushed aluminum touchpad sits left of center. Along the front edge are seven blue status lights for wireless connectivity, battery, and hard drive activity, to name a few.
The bottom of the GE60 is made of a matte plastic, similar to what surrounds its screen.
While it's a more sophisticated look than previous generations, the GE60's combination of materials still feels a little disjointed, and not as premium as designs from Alienware and Razer.
The GE60 measures 15.09 x 9.83 x 1.27-1.46 inches and weighs 5.6 pounds, making it lighter and thinner than the 6.6-pound Alienware 14 (13.2 x 10.2 x 1.58-1.64 inches).
In games like "Bioshock Infinite," this display offered brilliant color representation and terrific viewing angles with nearly zero color distortion. Games seem to look best on this screen at a slightly higher brightness and contrast. Once we calibrated the game to our liking, we could make out details in the darkest of rooms, peppered by bursts of light from gunfire and broken shields.
Brightness is an area in which the GE60 outshines the competition. The notebook's display registered 260 lux in our testing, which beats the category average of 207. The Alienware 14 put out 161 lux, which is terribly dim by comparison.
The speakers and gold-plated headphone jack on this 15-inch gaming rig put out respectable sound, powered by MSI's Audio Boost technology. According to MSI, this feature boosts output to headsets by 30 percent through an integrated audio amplifier chip.
Listening to Kanye West's "On Sight" through the GE60's speakers produced somewhat muddled bass notes but blisteringly loud volume and a crystal clear vocal track. However, we found that the synthesizers fought with Kanye's rhymes and often got lost throughout the track.
The same song through headphones didn't sound dramatically improved, but we did notice overall sound definition and less competition between sound sources. We could still hear Kanye's crass lines loud and clear.
Typing on the keyboard felt comfortable and travel was swift, but the keys felt a bit squishy after continued use. However, comfort isn't synonymous with accuracy, and we often found ourselves overreaching for keys, especially the shortened Backspace and right Shift key. We could have done without the number pad if it would mean more room and normal-size keys.
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Gaming with the GE60's touchpad proved a challenge when exploring the floating city of Columbia in "Bioshock Infinite." New drivers allowed us to move our character with the WASD keys and look around with the touchpad at the same time, which was borderline impossible before. However, firing a weapon and walking simultaneously was still but a dream.
While most hardcore gamers will do this anyway, we highly recommend using an external mouse while playing games.
While the Cool Boost function -- which ups the fan speed considerably -- brought the rig down to 114 degrees while playing, that's still toasty. Plus, activating Cool Boost makes the fan about as loud as an original Xbox 360, so bring your noise-canceling headphones.
Watching an episode of "The Colbert Report" on Hulu for 15 minutes registered much lower temperatures: 83.5 degrees on the touchpad, 87 degrees between the G and H keys and 104 degrees on the far left of its underside. These heat levels are lower than what the Alienware 14 produced overall, but would still be uncomfortable on your lap.
Ports and Webcam
Joining the Ethernet port are a VGA port, one USB 2.0 port and a DVDRW/CDRW drive. On the GE60's right side, you'll find a lock slot, AC adapter port, one more USB 2.0 port and two USB 3.0 ports. Rounding the I/O selection are an HDMI-out port, gold-plated headphone and microphone jacks and an SD card reader front and center beneath the front-facing LEDs.
While the GE60 has ports aplenty, its webcam fails to impress. Only able to take stills at 0.9-MP, images looked terribly blurry and lacked detail, though color representation seemed accurate. While the webcam records at 720p resolution, offline video wasn't as crisp as you would expect.
Graphics and Gaming
Running the same benchmark, the Alienware 14 reported 71 FPS at its native resolution of 1920 x 1080 and low settings. The machine scored 24 FPS at the highest settings.
Despite our benchmarks, playing Bioshock -- and recording with FRAPS -- at the highest possible settings yielded better results. The rate fluctuated between a playable 28 and 35 FPS. Bringing the settings down to "High" boosted the FPS to between 45 and 50.
The GPU produced gorgeous particle effects and lighting, especially as our character's shield broke from gunfire. However, we also noticed some disconcerting screen tearing as we strafed from left to right.
On 3DMark 11, this laptop scored 4,453, which is not only far better than the 1,233 category average, it bests the Alienware 14 (4,136) by more than 300 points.
Throughout most of our synthetic and proprietary benchmark tests, the GE60 and Alienware 14 were neck and neck. Thanks to its SSD, this gaming laptop booted to Windows 8 in a blistering 6.3 seconds, and completed the LAPTOP File Transfer Test in 27 seconds. That translates to a 188.5 MBps transfer rate. Alienware's 14-inch machine booted to Windows 7 at a snail's pace by comparison, 30 seconds, but finished its File Transfer test with a rate of 204 MBps.
MSI's latest 15.6-inch rig finished our OpenOffice Spreadsheet test, which matches 20,000 names and addresses, in 4 minutes and 5 seconds. That blows away the category average of 5:49, but the Alienware 14 finished the test 5 seconds faster. On the synthetic PCMark 7 test, the GE60 scored 5,654, beating the Alienware 14 (5,325) by more than 300 points.
Overall, these scores match this notebook's performance. The GE60 was quick in switching between the Windows 8 Modern and desktop interfaces, and loading games and apps was a breeze.
Battery LifeGE40, lasted a record 8:20 on our test.
Software and Warranty
Thankfully, MSI and Xotic kept the bloatware to a minimum on the GE60, with not much more than the standard Windows 8 apps included. What gamers will care most about is the MSI Afterburner tool, which allows users to easily overclock the CPU and GPU with a few sliders.
Also included is the Qualcomm Atheros Killer Network Manager. This utility allows users to monitor and control the network bandwidth that each application gets through the GE60's Ethernet port. Finally, MSI offers custom power modes and control of the laptop's Wi-Fi, webcam and more through its System Control Manager app. MSI supports would-be customers with a two-year parts and labor limited warranty.
Our review sample of the MSI GE60 came with a Samsung PM841 128GB SSD with mSATA III, a 2.4-3.4GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor and 8GB of DDR3 RAM. Also, the CPU was overclocked using Xotic PC's Redline Boost service and its 15.6-inch screen was given a professional monitor color calibration, bringing the grand total to $1,472. With a 750GB HDD at 7,200 rpm and without the overclock and monitor calibration services, the GE60 starts at $1,299.
Still, the fact that this notebook can keep up with the Alienware 14 in a lighter, slimmer body and larger display -- for hundreds of dollars less -- is a tough fact to ignore. Overall, the GE60 is a pretty good deal for gamers. Just don't forget your external mouse.
|CPU||2.4-GHz quad-core Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size||750 GB|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed||7,200 rpm|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type||SATA Hard Drive|
|Optical Drive||DVD SuperMultiDrive|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M|
|Touchpad Size||4.25 x 2.5 inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||VGA|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Microphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Size||15.09 x 9.83 x 1.27 - 1.46 inches|