In and Around the MSI GX60

I'll say this for MSI: they've kept a pretty uniform aesthetic for their gaming notebooks. I'm actually of the opinion that the slightly smaller 15.6" form factor serves it better than the outsized 17.3", and the cooling system designs between the GX60 and its larger cousin are basically uniform. In fact, almost everything between the two chassis is uniform, making any kind of detailed analysis almost redundant. Just about everything I said about the iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17's chassis design applies here.

We're looking at black plastic used for essentially the entirety of the MSI GX60. The touchpad continues to be a sticking point; it was abnormally small on the Valkyrie, CyberPower FangBook, and the GT70 Dragon Edition, and the slightly smaller GX60 has the same issue. The SteelSeries licensed keyboard loses the backlighting (likely sacrificed to bring the price down) but retains both the excellent key action that makes it such a strong choice and the baffling layout that utterly undermines it for American consumers. Even the L-shaped access panel on the bottom is similar.

For reference, this is the internal layout of the CyberPower FangBook, which uses the last generation cooling design for the GT70:

Now, here is the internal layout of the MSI GX60. Remember that the GX60 is a 15.6" notebook and thus a couple pounds lighter than the 17.3" FangBook/GT70:

And, just for reference sake, the interior of the recently reviewed GT70 Dragon Edition:

Apart from very minor differences in the heatpipes on the CPU coldplates, MSI appears to be using essentially identical motherboard layouts and cooling systems between their 15.6" and 17.3" lines. Eyeballing it, I have a hard time believing much, if any, cooling capacity is added moving up in the line. That means that the only reason to buy a 17.3" gaming notebook from MSI would be because you want the larger display. Not higher resolution, just larger. The keyboard size is identical, port layouts are almost identical, cooling systems are almost identical. While there are no stock GT60/GX60 units that sport 32GB of memory, iBuyPower's 15.6" Valkyrie (based off of this chassis) can be configured with up to four 8GB DIMMs.

It's a commodity design and like a lot of MSI's decisions, it seems predominately geared towards being as frugal and cost-effective as possible. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but sacrificing specialization of any kind is damaging. The most brutal thing about the GX60 may be the existence of MSI's own GE60, which trades the APU for an Intel i7-4700MQ and the Radeon HD 7970M for an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 765M. I'm in the process of testing a notebook that has a 765M, and its performance is almost on par with the outgoing GeForce GTX 675MX. That's still slower than the 7970M, but you gain a boatload of CPU performance.

Introducing the MSI GX60 System and Futuremark Performance
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  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    People can talk about how games don't need powerful CPUs all they want, but the fact is, there IS a minimum requirement, and some games DO make use of the top end CPUs available. The more powerful your GPU, the more powerful the CPU needs to be to allow it room to work.

    This MSI notebook is built using one of the reasons I don't buy pre-built desktops, cutting corners on one part to spend money on another. It's bad design, it doesn't work (at least when the corners are cut to this degree), it makes for a system that is built cheap and shows it in its performance. Shame on MSI, they know better (or at least some of them do - maybe those people aren't in the notebook division).

    "Balance" is the key to computer design, just as it is with many things in life.
    Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    For a while it was true, games by and large didn't really need powerful CPUs. Over about the past year or two that changed and changed *dramatically.* You're getting games that have a tremendous amount of complexity to them; graphics are practically the least of Skyrim's engine's worries, Crysis 3 has an incredibly rich and vibrant environment (despite being kind of crappy), and Tomb Raider is no different. It looks like TressFX takes its pound of flesh out of the CPU *and* the GPU. Reply
  • j_kut - Saturday, July 6, 2013 - link

    Skyrim, Crysis3 and Tomb Raider run all maxed out on the GX60 except for 4*MSAA.
    Only Games not running smooth on this system are MMOs where the CPU is needed for all characters on-screen.

    Being a GX60 owner myself I can totally recommend it, except you wanna play GW2 or similar stuff.
    Reply
  • YukaKun - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Where's the battery test with just the iGPU like you guys did with the i7?

    We need those numbers for bragging rights :P

    Cheers!
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Battery testing is done with the dGPU inactive via Enduro, so these are the "best-case" battery life results for this particular notebook. Reply
  • Khenglish - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    I know that on optimus systems that the dGPU will still draw a little bit of power even when off. The motherboard still keeps the Vin line active, although the GPU core and memory VR's shut down. I tested this with a multimeter. The fact that the card is still visible to on the pci bus means it's still drawing a little power.

    It's probably only like half a watt, but it's something.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Last I heard from AMD and NVIDIA, it's not even half a watt -- more like 100mW or something in that range. But until we get a system that only has a Richland APU with no dGPU, we can't really test what battery life is like. The GX60 is also a large system relatively speaking, so I'd expect a less performance oriented laptop to get much better battery life with Richland -- same goes for Haswell and IVB laptops. Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    There's something else that needs to be addressed, if at all possible...

    The first GX60 had exceptionally poor CPU performance as evidenced by your article eleven days back. From your conclusions, you didn't think that it could have all been down to the CPU (perhaps Enduro was to blame?). So, have MSI fixed that with the second gen GX60, or are we just seeing a (pardon me) turd with go-faster stripes? One or two of the part 1 tests actually underperformed the Trinity prototype which was interesting.

    A comparison between both GX60s would be an eye opener.
    Reply
  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    I'm ready for another page: GAMING PERFORMANCE PART 2

    Add (or replace) the HDD with an SSD and replace the memory with 2x4GB 1866MHz RAM. Rerun all tests and compare the incremental cost to the more expensive Alienware models. I would argue that the best memory and a good SSD with greatly improve the lags in CPU performance and free the dGPU to perform closer to an i7. Definitely not going to catch it, but closer...
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    This continues to be an intersting system. I wish AMD would put out a higher end mobile CPU. Since their A series is roughly 50/50 CPU/GPU, there's no reason they couldn't dump the GPU portion and replace it with another 4(ish) cores, and/or clock things higher with a 45 watt TDP. Reply

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