If the MSI GT60 looks familiar, that might be because it’s identical to our zero-point gaming notebook, which we first reviewed in our December 2012 issue. While the laptop uses the same chassis, the refreshed unit comes with shiny new parts that include Intel’s Haswell CPU and a new top-tier 700-series GPU from Nvidia.
The exterior might look familiar, but she’s got shiny new parts where it counts.
In terms of design, the refreshed GT60 features the same brushed-aluminum 15.5x10.5x2-inch chassis as its predecessor. It also comes with the same competent 1920x1080-resolution TN monitor, quality-sounding Dynaudio speakers, capable multitouch trackpad, and multi-colored, backlit SteelSeries keyboard. Aesthetically, it’s a little garish, but it’s far from the ugliest notebook we’ve seen. The bigger problem is that it weighs nine pounds, 13.2 ounces, which is quite heavy for a 15.6-inch notebook.
Under the hood, MSI has made vast upgrades to the GT60. Our configuration came with a brand-new Haswell Core i7-4700MQ CPU and GeForce GTX 780M GPU, both of which we hadn’t had the pleasure of testing before. One of our biggest gripes with the previous GT60 was that it didn’t come with a solid-state drive. That issue has been resolved, as our refreshed unit came with a 128GB mSATA SSD that allowed the laptop to quickly boot to Windows in less than 14 seconds. Mechanical storage is handled by a 1TB HDD. If that isn’t enough space for you, the GT60 supports up to two additional mSATA SSDs, although opening the bottom of the laptop to access these bays voids the warranty. Another upgrade found in this new GT60 is a bump up to 16GB of RAM, from its predecessor’s 12GB. It also has two additional RAM slots, if you’d like to add more. Unfortunately, adding RAM requires cracking open the case and thus technically voiding the warranty, too.
Watching all these components chew through our benchmarks was a joy to behold. Not surprisingly, the CPU gains weren’t huge, with the GT60’s new Haswell processor beating its older Ivy Bridge counterpart by roughly 11–14 percent. Its biggest lead came in the multithread-loving x264 encoding benchmark. While these performance gains might not dazzle the skeptic, Intel has made some great strides with Haswell’s energy efficiency. Looping a ripped Blu-ray movie, the notebook was able to last roughly four hours and 20 minutes, which is about a 40 percent improvement over our zero-point’s already competent battery life. The biggest star here, however, is the new GeForce GTX 780M video card. While it still uses Nvidia’s Kepler architecture, which we first saw with the green team’s 600-series GPUs, it’s essentially loaded with a lot more firepower this time around. It’s got more than 1,000 more CUDA cores, its memory clock is 1,000MHz faster, and it has a 256-bit memory-interface width compared to the 670M’s 192. This all amounts to at least double the performance in our graphics benchmarks.
In our experiential gameplay tests, the GT60 ran Borderlands 2 maxed out at 1080p at around 100fps, proving that this rig should be able to cut through mainstream PC games like a hot knife through butter. Firing up Far Cry 3 for a beefier challenge, the GT60 wasn’t able to max the game on the highest Ultra settings, but it did manage silky smooth frame rates in the 50s on Very High with AA turned off, which is very impressive for a laptop.
In terms of performance, the refreshed GT60 is better than its predecessor in every way. We like the laptop a lot, but it still has some issues that prevent it from being completely Kick Ass. While it’s not the most expensive notebook we’ve ever reviewed, it’s certainly not cheap at $2,100. We also wish it were sleeker and dropped a few pounds so we could lug it around more easily. Still, if you’re seeking great performance from a desktop replacement, this is one fine machine.
Our zero-point notebook is an MSI GT60 with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM, 12GB DDR3/1600, two 500GB Seagate 7,200rpm hard drives, a GeForce GTX 670M, and Windows 8 64-bit. STALKER: CoP tested at 1920x1080 with Ultra settings, Tessellation, and contact hardening.
2.4GHz Intel Core i7-4700MQ
Nvidia GTX 780M
15.6-inch, 1920x1080 TN display (matte)
1TB (7,200rpm) HDD, 128GB mSATA SSD
Ethernet, VGA, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, eSATA, 7-in-1 media reader, 3x USB 3.0, USB 2.0, audio in, audio out, headphone, mic, 720P webcam, Bluetooth, 802.11n