The GE60 is relatively light for a 15.6" gaming laptop (2.6 kg) and it has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics card, which is more than enough to handle the display's Full HD resolution.
Note: the laptop we were sent to review was a pre-production model.
The soberly designed lid is made of glossy black plastic with subtle red lines on the top, and it loves to collect finger smudges. The underside of the chassis is lined with rough, matte black plastic. The edges surrounding the keyboard are the only part made of magnesium. Where the plastic and magnesium join together is a red strip going all the way around the chassis. It may not be the most luxury-looking laptop, but the finishing and manufacturing are impeccable.
The SteelSeries keyboard makes a good first impression with its well-spaced, backlit keys and numeric keypad. The key travel is short, but the stroke is a little soft for our taste. Interestingly, there's no Windows key on the left-hand side, only on the right. When you've already got your favourite shortcut combinations down pat (Windows + D for the desktop, Windows + E for Windows Explorer, etc.), that can be annoying.
The touchpad is clickable over the entire surface except for the top-most centimetre, and there are no physical buttons on the bottom. But that's okay, because the right click is still just a tap at the bottom-right. What you gain out of not having the physical buttons is more space to swipe and drag across (10.5 x 7 cm). The touchpad offers fluid and precise movement and recognises all the Windows 7 and 8 touch gestures, facilitating navigation in the Windows 8 interface.
The two-finger scrolling is just a tad too lively for us, but all you have to do is change it to your liking in the settings window. There's also an option to deactivate the touchpad any time you plug in a mouse; that way you avoid accidentally triggering commands or moving the cursor when your wrists brush against it.
Along the left edge of the computer are three USB ports (two USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0), an HDMI out, an audio out and an audio in. Along the right edge are an RJ45/Ethernet port, an additional USB 2.0 port and a VGA out. Well hidden on the front is the SD card reader. That's just about all the connectivity you need, although we naturally would have preferred a Blu-ray player to DVD.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
The GE60 manages its heat well, despite the heavy duty components. Even when pushed to the limit the chassis never exceeds 40°C (104°F). By comparison, the Alienware M17x-R4 went all the way up to 45°C (113°F). But the fan is quite noisy, regularly churning out 40 dB(A) of sound, sometimes even when the computer's at rest.
Images captured using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
The turbo fan button allows the fan to spin at 100% of its capacity. This comes in handy when you're using the laptop in a particularly hot room; it makes the fan spin faster and improves the overall cooling.
Of course, with the turbo fan on, it gets even louder, almost 48 dB(A)!
The GE60's matte Full HD display makes it far less sensitive to reflections and glare than most competing gaming laptops. And it has 800:1 contrast, which is better than most laptop screens.
On the downside, it isn't very bright (max. 265 cd/m²), the colours aren't very faithful and there are heavy blue overtones (colour temperature is 11,205 K, where 6,500 K is what you're aiming for). This can be quite problematic for anyone who wants to do things like edit photos or buy colour-specific products online.
At the helm of the audio is Creative SoundBlaster Cinema. The front speakers are nice and loud and deliver good sound quality. The problem is that when you turn the volume up all the way, there's obvious saturation. And it isn't the chassis vibrating, it's clearly the sound coming from the speakers.
Frequency response: speakers
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = heavily altered
The MSI GE60 has separate audio in and out jacks. Through both jacks the signal is satisfactory, with minimal harmonic distortion and relatively high volume.
Note: The laptop we tested is a pre-production version of the MSI GE60 (2OE), which features an Intel Core i7-4200MQ processor, 8 GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics card and a 750 GB hard drive. The remarks above refer to all variations of the MSI GE60, while the Processor Power, Gaming and Battery Life sections below apply only to the model we tested (see inset below).
The Haswell-generation Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor computes all tasks very quickly, more quickly than the previous generations we've tested. The Intel Core i7-3610QM, for example, takes 11% longer to compute the same tasks, and the Core i7-3517U (common in high-end ultrabooks) is a full 65% slower.
Surely because the model we used was a pre-release version, ours suffered recurring bugs and crashes while we were installing our testing software. Let's hope MSI smooths out all the wrinkles by the time it's ready for release.
Overall responsiveness could be better, due to the fact there's just a 750 GB (7200 RPM) hard drive inside; a solid-state drive would have helped speeds things up on the whole. Windows 8 takes 40 seconds to start up, which is twice as long as any ultrabook.
Thanks to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 765M graphics card (3DMark06 score: 20,900), the MSI GE60 2OE can play all games, any games, even the most recent, in the native screen resolution (1920 x 1080).
While the great majority of games run with great fluidity with the detail settings on the highest, a few of the most demanding games, such as Far Cry 3 and BioShock Infinite, will still require you to make some concessions. The GTX 765M is more powerful than the GTX 660M—which you find on the 2012 27" Apple iMac, among others—but it isn't as powerful as the Alienware M17x-R4's GTX 680M.
Nvidia's Optimus technology has the Intel HD Graphics 4600—which uses less power than the GTX—handle all lightweight 2D rendering and 1080p video decoding.
Intel has made a lot of noise about how little power its new Haswell processors require to run. But on the GE60, at least, we were disappointed. It lasts for only 2½ hours of continuous video playback (in airplane mode with the keyboard backlighting turned off, headphones plugged in and the screen brightness at 100 cd/m²).
MSI may have been too optimistic giving this 15.6-inch laptop an under-sized battery (9 cells, 49 Wh). By comparison, the Alienware M17x-R4 (9 cells, 90 Wh) lasts 4½ hours in the same conditions.
- Matte screen
- Loud fan
- TN display with unfaithful colours (Delta E = 9.4)
- Bugs and crashes in the pre-release version we were sent
- Battery life
The MSI GE60 (2OE) has all the fundamentals a gaming PC should have: processing power, high graphics capability and plenty of connectivity, all for a low price. All the same, this first stab at the Haswell processor was not a hole in one, due in part to an under-sized battery and a noisy fan.