This review was originally published in March 2014 and then was updated April 2015 with the benefit of a years’ extra use.
The GE60 is a 15 inch high spec gaming laptop from MSI. It is high powered and high specification with i7s and mine has a Intel 3630QM processor and two separate graphics systems for gaming (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 660M) and normal use (HD Graphics 4000). It is made with a black piano colouring with red accents around the keyboard and as go faster stripes around the cover and aimed squarely at the power gamer who needs to be somewhat mobile but the system is fast enough for most power users.
The GE60 has gone through a several generations with small changes made to both the styling and the specification. The specs below are for the review system but the newer version has a slightly more advanced graphics card but is otherwise nearly identical. Some of the older versions do not have SSDs or have less powerful processors so pay attention to your specific model’s specifications.
Size: 42 x 32.5 x 15.8 cm 3630QM
Colour: Piano Black with Red accents
Processor:Intel Core i7 2.4GHz
Memory: 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
Display: 15.6 Inches with Dual Graphics – Intel Graphics 4000 GPU and Nvidia GeForce GTX 660M
Connectivity: Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0 and one USB Charge port
Wi-Fi: 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 & 5 GHz) capable
Storage: 128GB SSD HD and 750GB Standard HDD
OS: Windows 8.1, Windows 10 compatible
Battery: Manufacturer stated battery life around 4 hours. Removeable. After a years further usage I’m getting an hour at most away from a wall socket.
After I felt the system start to have issues I upgraded the RAM in my GE60 to 16GB from the stock 8GB. It should be noted that the GE60 has 2 internal RAM slots not the 4 that some places (and some software) reports. The extra RAM helped re-invigorate the system.
The second bottle neck I’ve hit is the 128GB SSD – it’s very very full and a large proportion of software refuses to install anywhere else or keeps its cache on it. 70GB from Windows, 10GB from Office, 10GB Chrome cache, 5GB Plex cache and soon it gets very tight.
Features and Accessibility
Design & Visual Accessibility
The GE60 is a large and somewhat heavy 15.6 inch laptop made black plastic. It has a number of port and connectors on all sides including on the left a Kensington lock, power connector, a large vent, a USB 2.0 port a HDMI port (upside down for some reason), 2 USB 3.0 ports, a 3.5mm microphone socket and a 3.5mm headphone socket. On the right hand side is an ethernet port, a VGA connector, a USB charging with higher amp output and the Blu-Ray drive. On the front are two large vents, a SD card reader and numerous indicator lights. There are no ports on the back of the laptop.
Once opened the layout is familiar to anyone who has used large laptops. A near full size keyboard with number pad on the right and a touchpad just off centre, towards the left. There are a series of function keys above the keyboard and stereo speaker to their left and right.
The screen is coated with an anti-glare cover which means that it gets very few reflections and appears matt rather than shiny. The other consequence of this coating is that that the viewing angle is relatively small. As the screen angle is adjustable this is not a problem for a single user but means that two people sitting next to each other would find it hard to both get optimum views.
Audio & Accessibility
The GE60 has a built in mic next to the webcam that seems of reasonable quality and will suffice for most uses. The 4 stereo speakers are likewise of good quality, louder and clearer than you would expect. If you want to use headphones there is the standard built in 3.5mm headphone and microphone sockets which MSI claims have been optimised to provide low background noise and distortion and give up to 30% better output. I’m not sure that they could claim that much of an improvement but in my use the limiting factor has been my headphones not the system.
From a software point of view THX TruStudio Pro Audio is bundled with the system which gives you a large amount of control of the audio output. Think of it as a graphics equalizer on steroids. The system also included several Steel Series sound drivers intended to give better sound and efficiency but these clashed somehow with either my software or the updated Windows 8.1. After days of several blue screens of death I disabled and uninstalled them and have had no problems since.
After providing such good audio setup it is unfortunate that the GE60 suffers from the same problem that many gaming laptops do – it overheats. After it heats up it uses its large built-in fans to cool itself down again and these fans make a surprising amount of noise. They do their job and the laptop never overheats to a dangerous level but it does mean a near permanent level of background noise. Unless you are doing something very processor intensive this noise is rarely loud but it is continuous so the laptop is not suitable for anyone who will have issues with this.
This problem got worse over time to the point where I now have the GE60 on a powered laptop stand which keeps a fan turning and cooling the bottom of the laptop whenever it is switched on. This keeps the heat down but is not quiet at all and rather makes the GE60 a desktop only device.
Input and Touch
The GE60 is a heavy machine with a heavy separate power brick but is surprisingly low profile. The outside of the laptop is plastic and while the base and sides are rough and grippy, the top is shiny and slippery in the hand. Once opened the same shiny plastic is around the edges of the keyboard and trackpad.
The trackpad itself looks smooth but actually has a series of tiny bumps on it which provide great tactile feedback. It supports multi touch and gestures and is among the best trackpads I have ever used. It has a single button which has a very slight bump two thirds of the way across it with the larger left hand area being a left click and the smaller right hand side being a right click. It also has a recessed hardware button above it to disable the trackpad entirely. This button is small and positioned such that it is unlikely to be pressed accidentally.
After around a years usage some off the tiny bumps had been worn off by my finger’s tapping. The trackpad is still usable but now feels somewhat odd going from smooth to bumpy and back. This also makes it feel less precise and I’ve switched to using a USB mouse instead of the trackpad.
The keyboard is near full sized and is made by SteelSeries. It is not mechanical but is excellent for a membrane keyboard. They have made a couple of minor changes such as moving the windows key to a location where it is harder to press but is otherwise of standard layout.
Above the keyboard are several function keys and the power button. These keys are user programmable but by default allow you to switch between the two graphics systems, switch wifi, boost the fans and switch to an external monitor. The fan boost button is perpetually on for me – the system runs hot enough that if I switch it off it turns itself back on immediately. The buttons are slightly recessed and in such a location that they would be difficult to press by accident and do require a certain amount of force to use.
Ease of Use
As a Windows 8.1 machine there is little unusual about its ease of use – it is no easier or harder to use than another Windows 8.1 machine. The system does not come with a set of recovery disks but does come with an MSI branded utility that will regularly prompt you to burn them.
Price: £899 to £1,999 depending on model.
Retailer: Amazon My specific version – the 0ND-427UK does not appear to still be available but multiple similar models are.
Included In The Box
- Power brick and power cable (1.5m total length)
- Removable battery
- Quick start guide
The MSI GE60 is an excellent gaming laptop at a reasonable price (depending on the exact model). It has a solid keyboard and trackpad and is well made. Unfortunately MSI did skimp on a few internal components – the SSD is a little small, 8GB of RAM is less than would be preferable for a gaming system and battery life is poor. In addition it suffers from the normal gaming laptop problems of weight and fan noise. If you are willing to accept those problems and consider the system semi-portable and are watching the budget carefully then the GE60 is an excellent high-powered laptop choice.
12 Month Update
After another 12 months usage I’m still reasonably happy with the GE60 but as a desktop machine not a laptop. The problems I identified have gotten worse – the SSD is too small although I can work around it but most importantly it is overheating without the fans running all the time and an extra desk stand fan. If I was looking for a new system at this point MSI would be high on my possible list of contenders, perhaps with their replacement the GE70. If you happen to find a GE60 at a discounted price or second hand I would recommend it as a desk based system but not if you want to be mobile.
MSI GE60 was released in April 2013. The review is based on the MSI GE60 0ND-427UK version.