Earlier this year, Intel and Nvidia released new products designed for high-performance mobile devices. On the processor side, Intel launched the H-series quad-core Kaby Lake CPUs, which feature increased clock speeds compared to the Skylake modes they replace. On the graphics front, Nvidia’s new GTX 1050 and GTX 1050 Ti bring mainstream GPU performance to more value-oriented gaming notebooks and larger ultraportables.
To test this new hardware in an actual device, I reached out to MSI, who kindly provided me with the GE62 7RD Apache. This is an entry-level gaming notebook powered by Intel’s new Core i7-7700HQ processor and a GeForce GTX 1050. It’s not the most beastly laptop going around, but it provides budget-conscious buyers with a wallet-friendly option that’s capable of playing today’s games, albeit at reduced quality settings.
I’ll be talking more about the hardware in this laptop later, but first it’s worth checking out the laptop’s design and features. At 29mm thick and 2.4kg heavy (5.3 lbs), the GE62 Apache is not a laptop meant to be carried around on the day to day. Instead this 15.6-inch system is destined to spend most of its time tethered to a desk, and that’s not at all surprising: portability is a bonus feature not a requirement of gaming laptops, so a budget machine like this was never going to strive for slenderness. Sure, it’s not an outrageously large device, but I wouldn’t want to carry this machine around often.
The GE62’s design and build is typical of modern MSI laptops. There’s brushed black metal on the lid and around the keyboard, with cheap plastic used elsewhere. Subtle angles are used around the base and lid to remind you this is a gaming laptop, while the edges are more aggressively angled so this system doesn’t look as chunky as its dimensions suggest. A couple of red highlights, including MSI’s gaming shield logo on the lid, add a small amount of interest to an otherwise stealthy design.
I appreciate that MSI’s modern gaming laptops aren’t as overtly gamer, which helps make some of their builds – particularly the slim and light Stealth series – look quite attractive. Unfortunately, you don’t tend to get the most attractive designs in budget-oriented products, and the GE62 is no exception. It’s simply too bulky to be anything more than a basic 15.6-inch gaming laptop.
But hey, if it’s cheap and you’re getting decent hardware that can run modern games, the looks aren’t too important.
The collection of ports on the GE62 Apache is exactly what you’d want from a budget gaming laptop. On the left is Ethernet, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a single USB 3.1 gen 2 Type-C port (without Thunderbolt 3 support), a HDMI 1.4 port, mini-DisplayPort, and two 3.5mm audio jacks. There’s also a proprietary power connector, an SD card slot, and a USB 2.0 port on the right side.
MSI has also included a DVD drive in the GE62. Yes, in 2017 apparently you can still purchase laptops with DVD drives. I don’t expect the drive will get used all that often, and I would have preferred if the space occupied by the drive was used for extra hardware or a larger battery.
The cooling solution inside this laptop is basic, and that’s not surprising considering the CPU and GPU are only 45 and 75 watts respectively. Air is drawn in from vents on the bottom, passed through small fans – one each for the CPU and GPU – and exhausted out of small vents along the rear edge.
The 15.6-inch LCD comes in two resolution options: 1080p and 4K. My review unit came with the basic 1080p panel, and I think this is the best option for most people. Although the 4K display would produce sharper imagery, 1080p should provides enough desktop resolution for most while the GTX 1050 is better suited for 1080p gaming by far.
MSI claims this is an “IPS-level” display, but in reality the display is very poor and doesn’t exhibit any IPS-like qualities. Viewing angles are bad, maximum brightness is an extremely poor 216 nits, and contrast is an abysmal 330:1 due to terrible black levels. While MSI’s True Color app does switch to ‘sRGB’ by default, accuracy isn’t great either.
The 1080p display is limited to a refresh rate of just 60 Hz. I didn’t expect anything better from a budget gaming laptop, but these days gamers are starting to expect higher refresh rates at this resolution.
The keyboard included with the GE62 Apache is the same SteelSeries unit found on most of MSI’s gaming laptops. This keyboard is well suited to both gaming and typing, thanks to clicky tactile feedback and decent travel distance. The keyboard’s layout is excellent, and although the island-style keys themselves aren’t particularly large, I had no trouble typing at my normal speed on this laptop. I also appreciate the full-sized enter, backspace keys and arrow keys, along with the handy numpad.
For those who enjoy RGB LEDs, the keyboard is backlit with three adjustable RGB lighting zones. You can’t control the color of individual keys like you can on Razer notebooks, but you do get some cool lighting effects and modes.
MSI has finally moved away from an ELAN trackpad with the GE62, instead opting for hardware from Synaptics. This results in a far more responsive and accurate tracking experience, and while gesture support isn’t as good as I’ve seen from other laptops, it’s a far cry from the garbage trackpad experience in previous MSI laptops.
Unfortunately, the trackpad isn’t perfect. MSI has decided to give it a brushed metal finish, which feels weird to touch and swipe across during use. I’d prefer just a basic, flat trackpad here, although I suspect people will mostly be using external mice for gaming.