Hardware Overview and CPU Performance

The hardware inside the MSI GS40 Phantom 6QE should be very familiar to those who read my review of the Gigabyte P34W v5. Like Gigabyte's 14-inch laptop, the GS40 also comes with an Intel 'Skylake' Core i7-6700HQ processor, which is a quad-core, eight-thread part clocked at 2.6 GHz with Turbo Boost up to 3.5 GHz. It has 6MB of L3 cache, it's built on a 14nm process, and it comes with a 45W TDP.

On the GPU side, the GS40 Phantom sports an Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, which is a 28nm Maxwell GM204 part with a 75W TDP. Raw performance from this GPU is similar to a desktop GTX 960, with the 970M packing 1280 CUDA cores, 80 TMUs, 48 ROPs, and a clock speed of 924 MHz that boosts to at least 933 MHz. On this laptop, the GTX 970M is equipped with 3 GB of GDDR5 memory at 5,012 MHz on a 256-bit bus, providing 120 GB/s of bandwidth.

As for other hardware, the GS40 Phantom gets 16 GB of DDR4 memory, which is perfect in size for this sort of laptop. Storage is split between a 128 GB Toshiba SSD and a 1 TB hard drive. For networking, you get Killer Gigabit LAN as well as Killer Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1. There's also an ESS Sabre HiFi audio DAC, which supports 24-bit/192kHz sampling.

Aside from some of the included extras, like the Killer networking and Sabre DAC, the GS40 Phantom includes a fairly typical gaming laptop setup. Let's see how it performs.

The Core i7-6700HQ in the GS40 performs as expected. In PCMark 8, the laptop exceeds expectations in the Home and Work tests, falling slightly behind in the Creative workload. Compression results in WinRAR are as expected, and memory bandwidth from the 16 GB of DDR4 is great for a laptop.

In the two encoding benchmarks in our suite, the GS40 falls marginally behind the Gigabyte P34W v5, but it's not by a hugely significant margin. I suspect this due to a slightly different thermal profile, which affects when the CPU is allowed to Turbo Boost. In general, the GS40 runs quieter than the P34W v5 during CPU-only workloads, which I'd prefer over slightly better performance.