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Some time ago I had the opportunity to look at Maingear's Titan 17 notebook, a system described as a high performance desktop replacement by the boutique PC builder. The portable certainly lived up to the hype as it decimated every benchmark we threw at it, chewing through games on its way to earning the title of the most powerful notebook we had ever reviewed.
The harsh reality, however, is that most people can't afford to spend a few thousand on a notebook computer, even if it's on a solid gaming machine that doubles as a desktop replacement. To that end, today we'll be checking out a portable from MSI that aims to deliver a similarly solid gaming experience without breaking the bank.
The MSI GX60 is the latest entry in the company's Gaming Series of notebooks. The unit we tested arrived with a quad-core AMD A10-4600M CPU clocked at 2.3GHz alongside AMD Radeon HD 7970M discrete graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 memory, a 15.6-inch non-glare display operating at 1920x1080, 8GB of DDR3 memory in a 4GBx2 configuration, 128GB of flash storage used as the OS drive and a 750GB 7200RPM disk drive for storage.
MSI GX60 - $1,199 - 1,420
- 15.6" 1920x1080 matte display
- AMD A10 Processor (2.3 GHz)
- AMD Radeon HD 7970M, 2GB discrete
- 8GB of DDR3 RAM
- 128GB SSD, 750GB HDD (7200RPM)
- Blu-ray drive
- 1 x HDMI, 1 x Mini-DisplayPort, 1 x VGA
- SD/MMC card reader (left)
- 4 Audio jacks (right)
- 3 USB 3.0, 1 USB 2.0
- Killer NIC 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth
- 1.3-megapixel (1280x1024) webcam
- Steelseries keyboard
- 15.6 x 10.5 x 2.2 inches, 7.7 pounds
It doesn't stop there, however, as MSI has implemented a couple of gamer-specific features designed to boost the system's overall appeal. It starts with an upgraded keyboard provided by SteelSeries that's said to offer a number of benefits such as simultaneous multi-key presses and a secure tactical feel. MSI even includes a wired gaming mouse as part of the package.
The GX60 also represents the first time that MSI has incorporated Killer Intelligent Networking (aka Killer NIC) into a notebook, specifically the E2200 platform. According to Killer, the solution is able to automatically detect and accelerate game traffic ahead of other network traffic for smoother, stutter-free in-game performance which could lead to a competitive edge.
When first looking at the GX60, it's immediately clear that this system will never be mistaken for an Ultrabook. Simply put, at 15.6 x 10.5 x 2.2 inches and weighing in at 7.7 pounds, it's pretty hefty. It's not as massive as the aforementioned Titan 17, but in today's market, a 7.7-pound computer is heavy.
Having said that, the GX60 is more aesthetically pleasing than other barebones gaming systems we've seen. The outer lid is mostly glossy with a raised design in the middle that terminates at the MSI logo. The right edge of the system is home to four audio jacks, a USB 2.0 port and a Blu-ray drive. Around back is a locking slot, the power jack, Ethernet jack, VGA connector, DisplayPort connection and an HDMI connector. It's worth pointing out that the trio of video outputs support AMD Eyefinity Multi-Display Technology, allowing you to output to three displays simultaneously. On the left side of the GX60 are three USB 3.0 ports and a card reader.
Opening the lid reveals a spacious keyboard deck complete with number pad. Above the matte screen is the prototypical 720p HD webcam and microphone. The bezel surrounding the display is pretty thick but it seems to blend in well enough with the overall theme of the notebook.
Stereo speakers flank the power button and various touch-sensitive controls that lie just above the keyboard. We're also told that the system includes a subwoofer although it isn't readily visible. One of the more interesting buttons here is the ability to manually control the system's cooling fan - simply touch the icon and the internal fans come to life. This is the first time I've seen such a feature on a notebook of any kind. Other touch buttons allow you to control the system's wireless connection, eject the optical tray and shut down the computer's display.
MSI says the SteelSeries keyboard is more rigid than the typical notebook board. I'd somewhat agree with this although it's not perfectly rigid by any stretch of the imagination. I noticed there is no Windows key to the left side of the spacebar like normal, I imagine to save space and fit the numpad cleanly. I didn't find anything to complain about with the SteelSeries board.
The touchpad is off-centered to the left because of the numpad, but still centered in respect to the actual keyboard like usual. The touchpad is recessed and features a separate one-piece button for the left and right click functions. There isn't a ton of surface area with this touchpad but odds are, serious gamers will use a mouse when playing anyway. Five LED indicators adorn the bottom of the touchpad, giving status updates to things like hard drive activity and battery life.
The wrist rest and surrounding area look to be built of a brushed aluminum, while the keyboard deck uses a contrasting glossy black plastic that matches the upper half of the system near the speakers. The majority of the screen bezel is also glossy in nature which will no doubt attract fingerprints over time.