MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: The most totable gaming laptop in its field

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: The most totable gaming laptop in its category, the MSI doesn't scrimp on performance

The most totable gaming laptop in its category, the MSI doesn't scrimp on performance. We review the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK power laptop. Also see: Best gaming laptops 2015.

New advances in graphics processor technology have been followed with promises of thinner and lighter gaming laptops. But the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK is the first high-performance notebook designed for gamers that really delivers on that promise.

At little more than 20 mm thick and weighing just 2.0 kg, it is far removed from the traditional brick-built machines which gamers have long been resigned to hefting around. And yet the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK still manages to pack the graphics horsepower needed to play today’s action games smoothly at maximum details settings.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Design and build

MSI has a bewildering range of gaming laptops, split across four ranges designated GP, GS, GE and GT. The GS series is below the flagship GT series, while the ‘60’ bizarrely refers to the 15.6-inch screen size. Then there is the range of additional codenames like Stealth, Shadow, Dominator, Titan, Apache... our sample of GS60 2QD bears the name of Ghost.

The chassis is all-metal, constructed from thin folded sheet aluminium, with a brushed grain and anodised into the scarlet-blood finish of this ruddy model. With this colour and its MSI Gaming Series dragon shield emblem on the lid back, it has more than a whiff of a Ferrari racing machine.

Following the trend started by Apple’s MacBook, the battery is integrated and not user replaceable, while further weight and space savings are made by leaving out any optical disc drive.

Opening the screen reveals more red under the bonnet, both top deck and screen bezel. Combined with the default MSI-logo red desktop wallpaper, this is not a laptop you will want to parade near any angry bulls.

The keyboard is one of the better types we’ve tried, branded by SteelSeries, and comprising black tiled keys with unusual blocky upper-case white typography. It has a good consistent action across the board, with medium travel and softly cushioned yet positive keys. We also appreciated the well-behaved trackpad, a large buttonless type with matt tactile surface.

Thanks to multi-colour keyboard backlighting there’s plenty of scope for chromatic lightshow fun – you can select different colours across three zones, create up to four layers of presets, adjust brightness in four steps, and even set breathing and wave effects across the keys. Light bleed was an issue though, with more LED shining from the key edges than through the actual keys. See all laptop reviews.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Ports and all

External displays can be connected via HDMI or Mini DisplayPort, and data ports run to three USB 3.0. Audio connectivity comprises separate 3.5 mm mini-jacks for headphones and mic.

Sound by Dynaudio, the legend declares by the perforated stereo speaker grilles, although the Danish loudspeaker specialist hasn’t made any game-changing sound improvements. Testing with music we heard the usual metallic tinny din found on most laptops, with an accent toward the lispy treble. You can tune out some of the excesses with the installed Creative Sound Blaster software.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Inside

The key component in the GS60 is the Nvidia GeForce GTX 965M integrated graphics processor, here backed with 3 GB of GDDR5 video memory. This was introduced earlier this year, one of Nvidia’s latest Maxwell architecture GPUs based on a 28 nm process.

For main processor the MSI uses the popular Intel mobile quad-core chip from last year’s Haswell series, the Core i7-4720HQ, specified at 2.6 GHz and with Turbo boost to 3.6 GHz. There was 16 GB of 1600 MHz in our sample, using two 8 GB SO-DIMM cards.

Storage is split into two, with a 128 GB SSD and 1 TB hard disk. The former flash drive is a Toshiba M.2 type, but using the older SATA Revision 3.0 standard which kept top speeds in check at around 500 MB/s.

Network connectivity is supplied by Qualcomm in the form of Killer-branded gigabit ethernet and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, the latter limited to two streams. Also see: Best laptops 2015.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Performance

The MSI GS60 puts its Intel Core i7-4720HQ quad-core processor to good use, turning in benchmark scores that were slightly ahead of other gaming laptops we’ve tested using the same processor.

Geekbench 3 scored it with 3561 points in single-core mode, and 13,306 points multi-core, while Cinebench, both versions 11.5 and 15, gave it fractionally the best scores of all the laptops tested with the same ’4720HQ – 1.58 and 141 points respectively for single-core operation; and 7.27 and 667 points for multi-core rendering.

For internal storage it has one each of flash drive and hard-disk drive. The former boot drive is a Toshiba M.2 type but based on slower SATA Revision 3.0 which kept highest sequential speeds in the familiar 500 MB/s area. But crucially this drive excels with deeply threaded small-file random transactions, up to 97,000 IOPS, so should keep the computer feeling responsive within the limits of the OS.

PCMark 8 didn’t show any speed issues either, with a useful 41 percent speed-up indicated in the Work unit when using GPU acceleration for relevant programs.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Display

The Samsung PLS display is a high-quality unit, with the highest reported colour gamut figures of all laptops in this group. It could meet 99 percent of the essential sRGB colour spectrum, and 75 percent of the more challenging Adobe RGB gamut.

Contrast ratio was relatively high at 610:1, ensuring shadow detail should be clearer in darker games, while overall colour accuracy was rated at with an average just over 1.0 Delta E. Also see: Laptop Advisor.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Battery

MSI fits a small battery inside the GS60, rated at just 48 Wh, and this gave the shortest run time of any gaming laptop in the group that was able to take advantage of Nvidia Optimus graphics switching technology. It played our looped video for just 2 hr 49 min, while using its lower-power Intel graphics chipset.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK review: Gaming

The MSI GS60 passed all our gaming tests with flying colours, except the final torture test of Metro: Last Light at near flat-out settings.

Faced with Batman: Arkham City it could easily average framerate figures of 67 fps at maximum Extreme settings at the screen’s native 1920 x 1080 resolution; or if you really want to see the frames fly drop to 1280 x 720 and High detail, where we measured 92 fps.

Tomb Raider 2013 played fluently at 144 fps at the same resolution and Normal detail, or 123 fps at full-HD resolution and High detail. Stretching the GPU further, we tweaked up detail and saw framerates fall to 82 fps (High), 59 fps (Ultra) before settling at Ultimate rendering settings, where the MSI could still average 39 fps.

In our first Metro: Last Light test at 1920 x 1080 resolution and basic High detail, it averaged a handy 64 fps, which only fell to a less fluid 20 fps in our highest test at Very High detail, with SSAA, 16x anti-aliasing filter, Normal motion blur and PhysX all engaged. See all laptops buying advice.

MSI GS60 2QD-470UK: Specs

  • 15.6in (1920x1080, 141ppi) PLS matt anti-glare screen
  • Windows 8.1
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6GHz Turbo)
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 965M (3GB GDDR5), Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 128GB M.2 SATA SSD, 1TB SATA HDD (7200rpm)
  • 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR3 (1600MHz) RAM
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 802.11ac dual-band 2x2 (Qualcomm Killer Wireless?AC 1525)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dynaudio stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm mic in
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 2.1Mp webcam
  • 48Wh lithium-ion, non-removable battery
  • 389x265x20.3mm
  • 2042g
  • battery life: 2 hours 49 minutes
  • PCMark 7 score: 5969
  • PCMark 8 Home score (conventional/accelerated): 3175/3749
  • PCMark 8 Work score (con/accel): 3435/3489
  • Batman Arkham City (High/Very High/Extreme): 82/78/67fps
  • Tomb Raider (Normal/High/Ultra): 123/82/59fps: Metro:Last (Light High/Very High): 64/20fps
  • 15.6in (1920x1080, 141ppi) PLS matt anti-glare screen
  • Windows 8.1
  • 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-4720HQ (3.6GHz Turbo)
  • nVidia GeForce GTX 965M (3GB GDDR5), Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • 128GB M.2 SATA SSD, 1TB SATA HDD (7200rpm)
  • 16GB (2x 8GB) DDR3 (1600MHz) RAM
  • Gigabit ethernet
  • 1x Mini DisplayPort 1.2, 1x HDMI 1.4
  • 802.11ac dual-band 2x2 (Qualcomm Killer Wireless?AC 1525)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Dynaudio stereo speakers
  • 3.5mm headphone jack, 3.5mm mic in
  • 3x USB 3.0
  • SDXC card slot
  • 2.1Mp webcam
  • 48Wh lithium-ion, non-removable battery
  • 389x265x20.3mm
  • 2042g
  • battery life: 2 hours 49 minutes
  • PCMark 7 score: 5969
  • PCMark 8 Home score (conventional/accelerated): 3175/3749
  • PCMark 8 Work score (con/accel): 3435/3489
  • Batman Arkham City (High/Very High/Extreme): 82/78/67fps
  • Tomb Raider (Normal/High/Ultra): 123/82/59fps: Metro:Last (Light High/Very High): 64/20fps

OUR VERDICT

While still not especially petite by the standards of some 15-inch laptops – its footprint is 14 percent larger than a MacBook Pro despite its smaller display – the MSI GS60 2QD-470UK does manage to keep within the magic size and weight figures of 2.0 kg and 20 mm, making it the most totable gaming laptop in its category. It has the graphics processor to take on modern games up to their highest detail settings, and is only let down by noisy fans and a relatively short battery life.

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