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MSI GX660R  Review

MSI GX660R-646UK

Rating: ★★★★☆

Performance-wise, the GX660R is a monster. Everyday applications are blitzed by the quad-core Intel Core i7-720QM processor, while the AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics card offers comprehensive performance for running the latest games at full whack.

Where the GX660R really impressed us was the carefully implemented designs and impressive feature list, with many inspired by the work MSI does with professional gaming team it sponsors, Fnatic.

A new look has been implemented for the GX660R, which you’ll either love or hate, and embedded in the chassis are the high-end Dynaudio speakers, which you may recognise as the same manufacturer that built the sound system in your Bugatti Veyron (or not, of course).

All-in-all the GX660R is a great machine, with the only blemish on the copybook being the slightly suspect keyboard, which is disappointingly unresponsive and rattly.

MSI GX660R: Specification

The past generation of MSI gaming laptops (including the MSI GT725) featured a subtler brushed-aluminium design, but MSI has gone back to the drawing board with the GX660R, and it’s produced a bolder look.

The grey, mottled plastic palmrest looks good and contrasts nicely with the black of the keyboard. The shiny black lid boasts some aggressive contours that are a little reminiscent of Asus’ G51, although doesn’t quite manage the sinister cool of Alienware’s M17x.

As is traditional for a gaming laptop, the GX660R features a wealth of flashing lights dotted around the chassis and lid. While you can program whether you want the lights to flash or not, there’s not nearly the customisability that the Alienware M17x offers with its Alienware FX software.

MSI gx660r

All this may be a bit too much for some, and there’s no doubt that the GX660R rests at the garish end of the style spectrum, but we have to say we quite liked it.

Build quality is decent, and the GX660R is certainly a laptop you can take on your travels without worrying too much about sustaining damage on the road. The solid plastics also provide great protection for the laptop’s internal components, while the thickness of the lid does the same for the panel.

As mentioned above the GX660R features some nice design touches which might sound insignificant, but actually count for a lot.

Older laptops such as the MSI GT740 featured an indented Control button on the keyboard – not the regular location for the key – and the laptop’s vent for expelling hot air from the system used to sit on the right hand side of the chassis.

MSI has rectified the key issue, and the GX660R’s Control button now sits on the end of the row, replacing the Function key. MSI has also moved the hot air vent from the right side of the chassis to the left.

The thinking behind this being that most gamers use an external mouse, which previously got very hot positioned so close to the air outlet. Obviously, this doesn’t work so well for left-handed gamers.

Fnatic, the professional gaming team MSI sponsors, asked that the company make the palmrest cooler during use. As a result, a special fan button – called Cooler Booster technology by MSI – has been included above the GX660R’s keyboard, which can be hit if you need to cool the system down, and we found it works, enhancing comfort and usability well.

Having said that, the noise the fan system produces is substantial, but shouldn’t be a problem if you game with headphones on.

The GX660R features a 15.6-inch screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. Detail is excellent, while colour vibrancy and brightness are also impressive, ensuring your games and multimedia look great.

A shiny screen coating is in place, and does produce irritating reflections in bright light, but since this is a machine most likely to be used indoors, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Our one main complaint with the GX660R lies with the keyboard. MSI has used a chiclet-style design, with each key poking up through a hole in the chassis individually, yet there’s still quite a bit of flex in the board.

MSI gx660r

This not only means it’s quite noisy to use, but also that it isn’t as responsive as we’d like, which is a problem seeing as, if you’re gaming, it’s important that your every input is accurately read. There is a nice touch in that the WASD keys aer painted red, making them easy to locate in a rush.

A key selling point for the GX660R is the Dynaudio-designed speaker system. Dynaudio make high-end audio systems for recording studios, the home, and specialist automotive customers such as Bugatti.

MSI claims that instead of simply cramming some Dynaudio-approved speakers into the laptop, the company has been involved from day one in the designing of the GX660R so that – in the same way Asus has done with the forthcoming NX90 – the speakers are specifically designed to work produce the best sound possible from the GX660R’s chassis.

MSI gx660r

And it shows. In an area of laptop design that has been criminally ignored over the years, the GX660R produces the best sound quality we’ve heard from a 15-inch laptop.

We’re not saying the laptop will replace your high-end hi-fi system – it won’t – but in a world where digital content is being consumed on laptops and PCs increasingly often, you won’t find much better quality.

All genres of music we tested – from hip-hop through to classical – sounded great, with the middle and high-end especially impressing. We’d love a little more bass from the built-in subwoofer, but that’s being picky.

The GX660R boats the latest in connectivity as well. Down the left side of the chassis you’ll find two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, as well as a 4-in-1 media card reader and an ExpressCard slot.

Down the right side of the chassis is a further USB 2.0 port and the Blu-ray (read only) optical drive. On the back of the chassis sits a USB/eSATA combination port, the VGA and HDMI out and a Gigabit Ethernet connection.

MSI GX660R: Performance

As you’d expect for a top-of-the-range gaming machine, there’s plenty of power on offer for you to play with.

The quad-core Intel Core i7-720QM is fast becoming the chip of choice for manufacturers building gaming rigs, and MSI has employed it here, alongside an impressive 8GB of DDR3 memory.

Performance is scintillating, largely thanks to Intel’s Turbo Boost and hyperthreading technologies. The former senses when you’re carrying out a resource intensive tasks and automatically increases the processor’s clock speed, giving you a squeeze of power just when you need it. Once you’ve finished the task, it’ll drop down to a battery-friendly speed of 1.6GHz.

Hyperthreading technology basically offers greater multitasking, enabling you to run various programs and applications without noticing any lag.

MSI gx660r

As a result of the above, the GX660R can run resource-intensive multimedia software, such as video editing suites, alongside more mundane office applications without issue.

But the GX660R has a trick up it sleeve in the form of MSI’s Turbo Drive Engine (TDE). When activated by a hotkey above the keyboard, we found this to overclock the Core i7 processor by an impressive 4.8 per cent over its highest clock speed – effectively overclocking the already-overclocked.

This gives you further performance just when you need it – be it rendering an HD movie you’re making or during intense gaming, and makes the GX660R an even more powerful machine.

The GX660R runs a single AMD Mobility Radeon HD 5870 – with 1GB of dedicated video memory – and we found performance to be impressive. It can’t match the likes of the Alienware M17x, which runs two AMD Radeon HD 4870 GPUs at once, but in our experience the GX660R will run the latest games with all settings up high without problems, and represents some of the best value for money we’ve seen.

Impressively, MSI has included 1TB of hard drive space in a RAID configuration, which provides comprehensive storage for your multimedia files, games and work. The discs spin at 7200rpm, the fastest currently available in a laptop, which decreases the time it takes for the processor to access your content, therefore increasing performance.

MSI gx660r

As mentioned above, the GX660R features a Blu-ray drive for watching the latest HD movies, but you can only write to DVDs and CDs.

With the number of powerful components onboard, we’d expect the GX660R to offer poor portability – but it doesn’t. The 3.5kg isn’t the heaviest gaming machine we’ve ever come across – that dubious honour goes to Asus’ 6.1kg W90 – and the 118-minute battery life isn’t too bad, all things considered.

MSI GX660R: Conclusion

MSI gx660r

This MSI GX660 impressed us on a number of fronts. In a competitive market, it’s great to see a laptop manufacturer go the extra mile, and accompanying the – to be frank, expected – high performance are a range of features and design details that make the GX660 stand out in the crowd.

First and foremost, however, the GX660R succeeds as a very powerful and usable machine with an impressive specification (think Blu-ray drive, 1TB of storage on top of the processing chips) at a £1699 price that’s not ridiculous.

The sound quality produced form the Dynaudio-designed speakers is first class, and you won’t find anything similar on the market currently.

We liked

The GX660 succeeds fundamentally because it’s a very powerful laptop that’ll not only run the latest games, but also enable you to edit HD films and carry out your work at the same time.

Whether you like the garish design is a matter of personal opinion, but there’s no denying the neat features such as the Cooler Booster technology and TDE – flourishes that actually work.

The Dynaudio speaker system geniunely sounds fantastic, and will prove a selling point for some.

We disliked

There’s not a lot about the GX660R to dislike. Having said that, the keyboard is a disappointment and, despite its comfort, we’d expect a more responsive board from a gaming laptop.

The Cooler Booster technology does help in to keep the GX660R cool, but when it kicks in you could be forgiven for thinking you were living under the Heathrow flight path – it’s noisy.

Although it’s to be expected, portability isn’t the GX660R’s strongest suit and, although heavier, the Toshiba Qosmio X500 offers more battery life.

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Pros

  • TDE power
  • Cooler Booster technology
  • New look design
  • Aggressive performance

Cons

  • Keyboard
  • A noisy laptop to use
  • Wish the lighting was more customisable
  • New look won't appeal to all
  • Portability

Verdict

The MSI GX660R is a great machine at a sensible price. Performance is
as agressive as we’d expect for the money, but there is also a wealth
of extra features, clever design additions and impressive components
that make this a very competitively priced laptop.

Add to that the fantastic Dynaudio speaker system and you’re looking at one of the best gaming systems currently around.


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