Larger in size and more affordable than the Intel- and Nvidia-equipped MSI GE60, the GX60 is a chance to look at what kind of performance an all-AMD machine can provide (the CPU and video card are both from AMD). Is it a viable alternative to the ubiquitous Intel setup?
The MSI GX60 is too thick (5.5 cm) and heavy (3.5 kg) to fit into all backpacks. That's a euro standing next to it.
The most obvious thing you notice when unboxing the GX60 is how enormous the chassis is, even compared to MSI's other laptops. The lid is all plastic and quite sedate for a gamer machine. That said, you kind of get the feeling aesthetics weren't MSI's primary concern on this one...
The keyboard is from SteelSeries. The chiclet keys offer a nice stroke thanks to well-dosed resistance, a real pleasure while gaming. The Windows key has been exiled to the right of the space bar, which lowers your chances of accidentally hitting it and returning to the desktop in mid-play, but it's not as practical when you actually want to use it for a shortcut. We think a better solution would have been to keep it on the left as usual, but to have an option to deactivate it when you're in a game.
The miniscule touchpad is recessed into the chassis. We wouldn't exactly call it a crowning achievement—it isn't multi-touch, it doesn't recognise Windows 8 gestures, and there's a physical button for the left and right clicks instead of them being integrated into the touch surface. For some comfort—any comfort—we suggest using an external mouse, even for activities other than gaming.
There are three USB 3.0 ports and an SD memory card reader on the left side and an audio out, audio in, line out, line in and USB 2.0 port on the right side. On the back are an Ethernet port (RJ45), a VGA out, a Mini DisplayPort and an HDMI out. That just about covers most people's needs, although a Blu-ray drive would obviously have been appreciated along the right edge instead of DVD.
The three video outputs function simultaneously, allowing you to hook up three monitors at once, at which point the computer's screen turns off automatically. Having three screens combined gives you a virtual display of 5760 x 1080 pixels ([1920 times 3] x 1080). That sounds like a killer gaming setup... but, as we'll see in a minute, the poorly chosen CPU/video card combination makes it not even worth the trouble.
Heat readings with the components under stress
Images taken using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
Images taken using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera
On a positive note, the MSI GX60 manages its heat perfectly well, never letting the temperature get high enough to put the components in danger. The fan is quiet, oscillating between 37 dB(A) and 41 dB(A), even with processor-intensive programmes running. The only exception is during startup, where it blows at a loud 58 dB(A) for about ten seconds or so.
The matte Full HD screen makes the GX60 much less sensitive to glare and reflections than many competing gaming laptops, and the contrast is in the upper average, but it's all downhill from there. The maximum brightness is a low 280 cd/m² and the colours are anything but faithful.
Grey colour temperature
The screen's Delta E, which measures colour fidelity, is 10, far from the ideal 3. And there are heavy blue overtones (the colour temperature is 10,849 kelvins, rather than the preferable 6,500 kelvins). These measurements practically disqualify this screen for anyone interested in editing photos or buying colour-specific products online. With the gamma ranging from 1.8 to 2.6, the picture looks overexposed with blown out whites. It really doesn't look good; it's actually distracting when you're trying to play games.
The THX-powered speakers are good and loud, and give clean, unblemished sound even at high volume.
Frequency response: speakers
Green = good / Orange = tolerable / White = heavily altered
The GX60 has good audio connectivity, including two S/P DIF ports, a microphone in and a headphone out. That's more than most laptops on sale right now. On top of that, the sound both in and out is clear, tidy, pretty much spotless. The only reason we didn't give it all five stars is because the volume through the headphone output is relatively light.
There's no way around it, the AMD A10-5770M processor is not on the same playing field as the GE60's Intel Core i7-4800MQ—the processing speeds are almost twice as slow. For example, we exported a hundred .RAW files into JPEG in Lightroom and it took the GX60 410 seconds where it took the GE60 250 seconds.
If we had to compare the A10-5770M with an Intel chip, it wouldn't rival a gaming notebook-grade Core i7. It's closer to a Core i5-3337U for ultrabooks like the one found on the Samsung Series 7 Ultra. It's capable of handling all tasks, but it's still not one of the best.
All the storage is located on a 500 GB hard drive (5400 rpm). With no SSD to boost the responsiveness, startup takes 35 seconds, and shutdown takes less than 10 seconds.
If you don't mind getting your hands inside, there's a slot for an extra 2.5" drive to house either an HDD or an SDD. Just don't forget to format the machine or clone the disk if you're replacing the original drive.
On paper, the AMD Radeon HD 7970M has what it takes to handle high-level graphics on any game. But in practice, the card is held back by the CPU's low capabilities, as is confirmed by the 3DMark06 results: the GX60 1AC gets 12,900 and the GE60 2OE gets 20,900. As a result, if you want to play big, demanding games with smooth gameplay in the screen's native resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels), you have to set the graphics to medium or low. So forget about 5760 x 1080!
When you aren't running games, the Radeon HD 7970M hands the workload over to the Radeon HD 8650G, which consumes less power. This automatic system is called Enduro; it's the AMD equivalent of Nvidia Optimus.
Full HD movies play smoothly without any lags or hiccups.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
The GX60 can last for 4 hours and 15 minutes of video playback in airplane mode with headphones plugged in and the screen brightness at 100 cd/m². That's a pleasant surprise, because the GE60 only lasts 2 hours 30 minutes. The GX60 has almost as much battery life as the latest touchscreen ultrabooks, which are specifically designed for mobile lifestyles. But don't get your hopes up too high, because it weighs 3.5 kg, which might make you think twice before carrying it around all day.