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Katherine Stevenson Jan 16, 2013

MSI GT60

At A Glance

Backgammon

Strong CPU and GPU performance; good battery life; nice screen.

Checkers

Cramped keyboard; no SSD.

Won’t break your back or your bank account

We’ve been so inundated with Ultrabooks these days that we almost forgot how powerful, and hulking, a full-on gaming notebook can be. The MSI GT60 arrived in our Lab to remind us. At 15.6 inches, the GT60 is not the biggest of the big, but it’s a beast nonetheless with a 15.5x10.5x2-inch body and a 10-pound carry weight.

The keyboard’s multicolored backlighting is customizable via a software control panel.

Aesthetically, the GT60 is almost entirely black plastic, with some gloss here and there for accent and a black brushed-aluminum panel on its lid. A slightly wedged profile and a multicolored backlit keyboard are probably its most distinguishing features. It’s not a stunner, but it’s not offensive, either.

Under the hood, the GT60 is rocking an Ivy Bridge 2.3GHz Core i7-3610QM, with a Turbo ceiling of 3.3GHz. It’s joined by a GeForce GTX 670M , which is based on Nvidia’s 40nm Fermi GPU as opposed to the newer 28nm Kepler. Regardless, the combo decimated our zero-point in the benchmarks by embarrassing margins. It told us what we already knew: that our current notebook benchmarks and zero-point are woefully inadequate for measuring today’s performance portables. So we tossed a few of our desktop benchmark’s the GT60’s way.

In the Stitch.Efx and ProShow tests, the GT60 was only about 20 percent behind our desktop zero-point, which has a Core i7-3930K hexa-core proc. That’s because the two apps aren’t optimized for more than four cores. In the x264 HD encoding test, the GT60 was at more of a disadvantage to the hexa-core desktop part. In 3DMark 11, the GT60’s 670M couldn’t hold a candle to the zero-point’s GTX 690 dual-GPU desktop part, not surprisingly, turning out a score of X927 vs. the ZP’s X5,847. Again, we’re not suggesting that a gaming notebook should be compared  to a big fat desktop, but we wanted you to have some point of reference, as our zero-point notebook is in the weeds here.

We also ran the STALKER: CoP benchmark on the GT60 and it turned out a respectable 32.8fps using the Ultra setting at 1920x1080, the notebook’s native res. Indeed, the GT60 seems up to the rigors of most modern games at the highest settings.

Gamers will appreciate how a touch-sensitive “Turbo” button above the keyboard throttles up the GPU and boosts performance by approximately 4 percent. A touch-sensitive fan button in the same vicinity increases cooling—as well as noise. And Nvidia’s Optimus technology automatically switches between GPU and integrated graphics where appropriate.

As is fitting for a gaming notebook, the GT60’s Dynaudio Premium speakers and subwoofer, along with a THX software control panel, produce good sound and achieve a satisfyingly loud volume. Less typical of gaming notebooks is the screen’s matte finish, but we don’t mind, as it eliminates distracting reflections. We also don’t mind the better-than-average battery life. Often these desktop replacements top out at around two hours in our video rundown test; the GT60 exceeded three hours.

One thing we aren’t crazy about is the keyboard. Despite this being a large notebook, the keys seem small and the overall layout cramped. The shortened right-shift key, in particular, caused us many a typing error. We’re also dismayed by the absence of any SSD storage. Given the caliber of the other parts, a fast boot drive, at the very least, seems warranted. Of course, that would add to the GT60’s price tag.

At $1,500, the GT60 remains affordable and offers a sound gaming system/desktop replacement, if not an outstanding one.

Specifications
CPU 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM
RAM 12GB DDR3/1600
Chipset Intel HM77
GPUNvidia GeForce GTX 670M
Display
15.6-inch, 1920x1080 LCD
Storage Two 500GB hard drives (7,200rpm)
Optical Drive8x DVD burner
ConnectivityEthernet, VGA, HDMI, eSATA, 7- in-1 media reader, 3x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, audio in, audio out, headphone, mic, 2MP webcam, , Bluetooth 4.0, 802.11a/b/g/n
Lap / Carry7 lbs, 13.5 oz / 10 lbs, 1 oz


Benchmarks

ZERO-POINT

Premiere Pro CS3 (sec) 899
420 (+114%)
Photoshop CS3 (sec) 131
79.3
ProShow Producer (sec)
876
542
MainConcept (sec)
1,7821,028
Far Cry 2 (fps)48.568.3
Call of Duty 4 (fps)62.2157.7 (+153.6%)
Battery Life (min)96187

Our zero-point notebook is an Asus G73Jw-A1 with a 1.73GHz Intel Core i7-740QM, 8GB DDR3/1066, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a GeForce GTX 460M, and Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit. Far Cry 2 tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA; Call of Duty tested at 1680x1050 with 4x AA and 4x anisotropic filtering.

THE VERDICT

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