Design and build: If you're looking for sober, look elsewhereLike most gamer models the MSI GX660R is quite garishly and aggressively designed: angular shell and hood in glossy black plastic - watch out for finger marks - and orange diodes on the sides, back and front. MSI does however supply a little application allowing you to switch them off if you want.
The keyboard offers comfortable, instinctive and quiet keying. Unfortunately the plastic around the keys tends to bend down into the shell when you press on it. This type of detail does worsen the overall impression somewhat.
The touchpad didn't impress either. Not only is it not multi-touch, but it only measures 8 cm in width and the shell itself is 29.6 cm wide. Going for a larger touchpad would have meant you could guide the cursor over the entire screen without having to start your glide again so many times and without losing precision when you want to increase the cursor's speed of movement. What's more, the scroll bars at the bottom right of the touchpad are also problematic. You need to scroll three or four times to scroll an entire page.
The webcam on the GX660R is HD 720p. We were hoping it'd give good quality but the image is pixelised, giving a lack of sharpness. This is a shame as for once the dark zones are well handled with not too much loss of detail. In spite of its drawbacks you will get away with using it on a daily basis (msn, skype and so on). If you don't exceed a res of 640 x 480 pixels, the image is a lot cleaner.
A little tip for you: use fn + F6 to activate the webcam. Otherwise it won't be usable, or even recognised by the system at all.
Connectivity covers all the bases. On the left there are two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, a USB 2.0 port and an ExpressCard port. Using the ExpressCard port you can add a wi-fi card, USB ports, a card reader and so on. On the right, there's a DVD burner, a USB 2.0 port, a headphones out - which also serves as an SPDIF out - a mic in and lines in/out. At the back, you'll find the VGA and HDMI outs and an eSATA socket.
When it comes to storage space, there are two 320 GB hard drives in a RAID 0. This type of configuration allows the machine to increase performance significantly by working on both drives in parallel; 50% of data is written to the first and 50% to the second simultaneously. The other side of the coin is that if one of the drives fails, you lose all your data. It's a shame that the drives can't be configured in RAID 1 as this would have allowed for a mirroring of the two drives and made the data more secure.
The fan is rather noisy, even when the computer is at idle. When you activate Cooler Boost - which increases the fan speed for better cooling - it makes so much noise we couldn't hear the three far-from-quiet desktops that were also in the room. Though noisy, the fan does keep temperatures down. Hardly more than 40°C, which, for this type of machine, is pretty good.
GX660R's temperature readings when you push the components hardReadings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera
Back, RJ45, VGA, eSATA, and HDMI
Underneath, once the panel has been unscrewed
Port USB 3.0 (x2), card reader, USB 2.0, ExpressCard
audio out, mic, audio in, headphones/SPDIF, USB 2.0 port, DVD rewriter
Processor power: excellent performanceWith a quad-core Intel Core i7-720QM, the GX660R offers excellent performance. It scores 143 on our index! This can be compared to 100 for our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400). This computer is therefore as much at ease with multimedia usage (photo, video and gaming) as with office documents and Internet.
The RAID 0 set up gives it a bit extra in applications such as video encoding, decompression of large files and so on. This is why, though the Asus G73Jh has the same processor, it only scores 138 on the index.
You can play HD 1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) no problem on this machine. We do nevertheless advise you to use the video decoding capacities of the ATI graphics card. For that, you'll just need software that supports the graphics card hardware decoding. This is the case with Power DVD 9 or Media Player Classic HC for example. The processor is then totally freed up, which reduces energy consumption and makes it available for other tasks.
Windows 7 Family Premium edition (64-bit) takes 42 seconds to boot. It turns off in twelve seconds.
Gaming with no concessionsThe ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics card offers excellent performance. Recent titles are perfectly playable at high graphics settings at the screen's native resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels). Even Crysis, reputed as one of the most resource-intensive 3D games, is fluid with graphics options pushed to a maximum.
Audio: DynAudio/Realtek, a dream pairingNobody will ever make a Hi-Fi out of their laptop. All the same the DynAudio system used here is very successful. The audio chipset gives indiscutably clean outs and the speakers give what is really quite a nice sound. Pushing volume to a max does result in some nasty saturation however.
While the DynAudio system is no substitute for a real speaker kit, you won't find anything better on a laptop at the moment.