MSI GS60 2PC Ghost laptop
A gaming unit that has a surprisingly light weight and slim profile
- Excellent keyboard
- Excellent, non-glossy screen
- Thin and light for a gaming beast
- Some driver issues for graphics and Wi-Fi
- Fan noise
- Touchpad could be a bit better
It may be a gaming laptop, but MSI's GS60 Ghost has a lot going for it even if you're not all that keen on games. The keyboard and screen are both excellent, and the configuration is strong, despite the overall weight of 1.96kg and the thin chassis. For the most part, a worthy product to consider if you're a gamer looking for something relatively mobile.
Price$ 2,549.00 (AUD)
Configuration and performance
Around the sides, the MSI GS60 is equipped with three USB 3.0 ports (two on the left and one on the right), separate headphone and microphone ports, Gigabit Ethernet (Killer), a full-sized SD card slot (though cards don't sit all the way inside), an full-sized HDMI port, and a DisplayPort. There is a webcam, and a built-in microphone. You get Bluetooth 4.0, and dual-band, 802.11ac Wi-Fi.
On the inside, the configuration is helmed by an Intel Core i7-4700HQ CPU with four cores plus Hyper-Threading, and a standard clock speed of 2.4GHz. It's a fast CPU that offers plenty of grunt not just for gaming, but also for other tasks. It recorded 19sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, which is exactly what we expected from this benchmark (the other notebook with this CPU we've seen, the very large Asus N750JV, recorded the same time). In Handbrake, the GS60 Ghost took just 9min to convert a DVD file into an MP4, which is also the same as the Asus.
The all-important graphics department has an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M graphics adapter, which isn't a high-end GPU, and perhaps not ideally suited to pushing the native Full HD resolution of the screen in all games. It struggled a little in games such as Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, in which the best performance was with medium settings and a resolution of 1366x768. But it could just be that the drivers for the graphics adapter aren't optimised properly yet. (We also noticed that this game initially ran with the onboard Intel HD graphics rather than the NVIDIA adapter by default — NVIDIA's site has a guide for tweaking the Optimus settings). You can tell which GPU is in use by looking at the colour of the power button. When it's blue, it's using the Intel CPU's graphics, but when it's orange, it's using the dedicated NVIDIA adapter.
Other games such as CounterStrike: Global Offensive played super-smoothly at the native Full HD resolution of the screen, recording better than 150 frames per second, and older games such as Need For Speed: The Run were a ton of fun and looked great in Full HD. Some utilities you can make use of are the Dragon Gaming Centre, which has temperature monitoring and power consumption for the system, as well as stats on network speed. Furthermore, it includes Instant Play, which allows you to run preset system settings to optimise your laptop for gaming, and XSplit Gamecaster is available if you want to stream and record your gaming.
Storage is by way of a RAID 0 array for the operating system and game installations. It's comprised of two 128GB solid state drives, for a total capacity of 256GB, and it's very quick. In CrystalDiskMark, the read speed was 1.04 gigabytes per second, while the write speed was 725.6 megabytes per second (MBps). For data storage, you can use the 1TB hard drive that's also installed in the chassis, but, of course, it's much slower compared to the SSD array, even with its 7200rpm spin speed.
The laptop booted in just a few seconds from an off state, and MSI has included a program called Boot Configure, which you can set to make the laptop boot either to the Windows 8 Modern UI, or to the Desktop. It also allows you to change the Start button so that it goes directly to apps, rather the main Start screen when pressed.
Battery life naturally takes a hit in a thin laptop such as this that also has powerful components. When using the laptop for general Web browsing and typing, with a screen brightness just below halfway, and the keyboard backlight enabled, the battery lasted only 2hr 10min.
What's not to like?
The battery life is one thing, and we've already mentioned that the touchpad could be better. But the other thing that's a drawback is the noise that comes from the cooling fan on the right side. It's a consequence of the thin chassis and it makes a constant whirring noise when the laptop is used for everyday browsing and typing. It gets periodically louder when the CPU has to do extra work, such as when a YouTube video is playing. You can minimise this by using the 'Balanced' power profile, rather than 'High performance'. If you're using a mouse with this laptop, be sure to keep the vent in mind so that you don't impede it with a mouse pad.
While we like the overall styling of the unit and the way it feels, the brushed palm rest can end up feeling slippery from sweat after prolonged gaming sessions or loads of typing. A different texture would go some way to making this a non-issue.
The location of the power port is a third of the way in on the left side of the chassis, and it's a somewhat intrusive position. We think it needs to be moved closer to the rear of the chassis, or placed directly on the spine. It's also a fairly wide laptop (390mm) that could be cumbersome to carry around — you'll have to find an appropriate bag or backpack for it.
One of the gamers in our office noticed a problem with the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 wireless adapter, in which the connection was unstable when connected to 802.11n routers. This is possibly a driver issue, which, for now, could be fixed by rolling back to standard Windows 8.1, Microsoft-signed drivers. We should note that when we used the laptop on an 802.11ac router with its shipping drivers, its performance was solid and swift. We achieved file transfer rates up to 29MBps to a Linksys WRT 1900AC router.
Finally, a lot of hype is attached to the Dynaudio speakers, but the sound from this laptop is just good at best — especially since the speakers are located at the bottom and easily muffled. Music sounds decent overall, and, in fairness, it is very clear as long as you don't listen at full blast, but it lacks a much-needed low-end punch. You might have to fiddle with some of the settings in the Creative Sound Blaster driver to get the best out of them.
MSI has put a lot of effort into the GS60 Ghost, and it's a fine product overall. We love the styling (even the Dragon badge on the lid lights up), the keyboard is excellent and colourful, and the configuration is beast-like when you consider that it's housed in what can be called a slimline chassis and that the whole thing weighs just under 2kg. Importantly, it also has an excellent screen with high brightness and rich colour rendering.
You do have to pay a high price for all of this good stuff; the official retail price is $2549, so it's definitely not a unit for everyone. There are also some teething problems with its graphics and Wi-Fi drivers when playing certain games, so you'll have to look out for those.
Bottom line is that this is a gaming laptop worthy of consideration if you want a gaming laptop without a gaming laptop body. It's very much a mobile laptop (as long as you have an appropriate bag for it), and can easily be used on a lap. We also think it's a good all-round unit to consider if you're a typist looking for a large, mobile laptop with an excellent keyboard and screen. However, battery life isn't great, and the noise from the fan could be annoying.
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