A Tale of Beauty and the Beast

Our first impression of the MSI GT627 is quite favorable. We have seen many notebooks that come with plastic casings, and they always feel cheap in comparison to an aluminum chassis. MSI uses a brushed aluminum cover on the top panel, as well as the keyboard palm rest, and it definitely makes a difference. The laptop feels more durable and looks nicer in our opinion.


Except, there's still plenty of plastic to go around, and some of this plastic is quite thin. We don't tend to treat our test systems very hard - there's no torture-testing going on here - and yet during the past month or so of use we managed to crack the plastic bezel below the LCD panel. Note that this didn't occur during disassembly; sometime while we were carrying our notebook around in a standard notebook bag on a trip, pressure on the chassis apparently cracked the plastic. It's ironic that this occurred with a seemingly more durable aluminum casing, which just goes to show that looks aren't everything.

There are a few other interesting aspects of the overall design and construction. A noteworthy inclusion is the complete 104-key keyboard with a dedicated number keypad. Many of us still have issues with the placement of the Fn key and would prefer to swap its location with the control key. Eventually, though, you can adapt to the keyboard layout. A far bigger concern is that the keyboard has a lot of flex - in fact, this is the flimsiest keyboard we've ever encountered on a laptop. We've only used one other laptop during the past several years that had such a cheap feeling keyboard... and that laptop also came from MSI (the S271). We've seen plenty of user posts complaining about this issue (i.e. in Newegg's comments), so we are definitely not the only ones who feel MSI needs to improve this area. This should literally be a 50 cent fix: use a stiffer back plate on the keyboard. Maybe there are people out there that like a "springy" keyboard, but it bothered me every time I used the laptop.

In terms of appearance, the other big concern is the LCD. You'll see the results later, but once again we have an LCD panel that has a terrible contrast ratio - you notice it the first time you power on the system. The $1100 price goes a long way towards helping us overlook that problem, but we would be much happier paying $1200 and getting a higher contrast ratio, along with a higher resolution like WSXGA (1440x900) or WSXGA+ (1680x1050). This isn't the worst laptop LCD we've ever tested by any means, but for a 2009 notebook it definitely leaves us wanting. 200:1 contrast ratios in 1280x800 displays were standard back in 2006, and LCD technology has improved quite a bit since then. It should come as little surprise that the manufacturing date of the Samsung LCD panel is reported as January 2007. A lot of users won't be bothered by the display, but anyone that does photo editing will see the problem immediately.

Overall, we have mixed feelings about the design. It looks great, and we love the aluminum cover on the top panel, but the cheap plastic parts in other areas and the flimsy keyboard totally counteract that. We would rather have a plastic chassis that doesn't crack easily and a keyboard that doesn't flex while we type. Component wise, the GT627 is nicely balanced, but the design of the chassis is lopsided with high-end options in some places and corner cutting elsewhere.

As far as displays go, I can pretty much guarantee that I will give a Gold Editors' Choice Award to the first laptop shipped my way that doesn't include a TN panel. Yes, manufacturers, it really is that important! Talk to your suppliers, convince even one of them to make a modern IPS, PVA, or MVA laptop panel, and as long as the rest of the laptop doesn't fall on its face you will have my full support. $200 extra for such a display? Yes, I would be willing to pay that much, and plenty of others would as well.

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  • fwacct4 - Saturday, May 2, 2009 - link

    I'm glad noise has been evaluated in this laptop review as well. Lots of stuff on desktop noise, but since I can't stick a laptop in a closet and still run it, fan noise on a laptop distracts me like nothing else. Even worse are laptop fan noise coming from people sitting near me. Reply
  • Rolling Camel - Friday, May 1, 2009 - link

    I'm really looking forward to a GT725, it is the uber notebook below $2000, not Gateway. My A64 3000+ is really slow and i need a computer with enough graphics power. So either i get an Phenom 2 X3 and Hd4870 based system, or get the GT725. The desktop is cheaper and more powerful, but i need mobility for my school.

    I know the GT725 has some worries:
    1.The keyboard, although there is a solution for it.
    2.Many report that the track pad wears fast, as if i will ever use.
    3.I'm worried about the thermal dissipation. The R770 seems more fit for the task.
    4.Warranty and customer service.

    The HD4670 equipped EX 625 is very tempting with it's $750 price tag.
    Reply
  • ira176 - Friday, May 1, 2009 - link

    Apple's batteries are custom made lithium polymer. They are not typical run of the mill lithium ion cells that most manufacturers use. Apple's batteries use all of the space in their design and have no "dead" space due to round cells packed in a rectangular battery as most win pc notebooks have. Although Apple's OS may be a little more conservative on battery usage it's got to be the mere fact that there's more capacity in their battery design, and maybe even cherry picked hardware and LED lcd displays. Win pc's could probably see better battery life with better battery designs and better part choices. Of course we would pay more for that pc notebook. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 1, 2009 - link

    Apples batteries are rated at between 40 Whr and 50 Whr in the current models - 40 for the Air, 45 for the standard MacBook, and 50 for the Pro if I'm not mistaken. The construction and material used in a battery does not affect the rating in Whr. If something is designed to output 5200 mA at 9.6V, it is a 50 Whr battery. A lithium polymer might be lighter for the total capacity, but I'm not talking about capacity.

    Given the above, it means that Apple's standard MacBook apparently consumes around 9.4W when surfing the Internet. In contrast, the ASUS U6V eats up 21W on average for the same task. I'm hoping to get a MacBook for a bit just to make sure there's nothing else going on, but Apple apparently uses less power surfing than most Vista PCs use at idle.
    Reply
  • Zan Lynx - Friday, May 1, 2009 - link

    From what I've gathered about it, Apple "cheats." They can turn hardware on and off and do clock scaling that isn't available via ACPI. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, May 1, 2009 - link

    Lenovo indicated to me at CES that they actually turn off components that aren't in use, which is how they improve battery life (supposedly - still waiting for a test sample). It makes sense that if your optical drive is inactive, completely shutting off power makes more sense than a .5W sleep state. They said they also power off the speakers when the sound is muted or when headphones are connected (another few hundred mW). I don't know about other devices, but really I don't care if it's "cheating" - custom designed hardware that functions better than the competition is fine as long as it works properly. Windows 7 is supposed to enable some better power savings (up to 11% better battery life I've heard), so we'll see. Reply
  • The0ne - Thursday, April 30, 2009 - link

    If you're going to game on it why not just get one with 17" LCD? Better yet, get one with 1900x1200 and everything is just beautiful :)

    It's great that the article addresses the LCD issues. I mean come on, it's one of the main components when considering a laptop.
    Reply
  • Rob94hawk - Thursday, April 30, 2009 - link

    Where is this Clevo901c laptop? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, April 30, 2009 - link

    I'm not sure what you mean. Do you mean where are the specs? If that's your question, the Sager NP9262 is a Clevo D901C chassis. Several other companies (WidowPC, AVADirect, Eurocom, etc.) use the Clevo chassis and rebrand it as their own, so I figured listing the original manufacturer in that case made the most sense. Reply
  • GoatMonkey - Wednesday, April 29, 2009 - link

    The display on the MSI GT627 218US is apparently different, because it is listing max resolution of 1680x1050. I'd like to know if that display has better contrast ratio.

    Also, any news on the upcoming MSI GT628 with the nVidia M160?

    Reply

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