MSI GX640: $1100 for a Speedy DX11 Laptop

Last week we looked at the two current mobile GPU heavyweights: AMD's HD 5870 and NVIDIA's GTX 285M. We should have the super heavyweight GTX 480M in for a review in the near future, but all of the mobile GPUs we've mentioned thus far command a hefty price premium. The Clevo W860CU starts at $1550 from AVADirect, while the new W880CU with GTX 480M starts at $2400 with 4GB RAM. If you're willing to take a step back in performance, MSI's GX640 cuts the GPU down to an HD 5850 and uses a dual-core i5-430M, all at a price point that's $500 lower than the quad-core equipped W860CU. The result is a potent combination of features and performance at a stellar price.

MSI GX640 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-430M
(2x2.26GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, Turbo to 2.53GHz, 35W)
Chipset Intel PM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1333 (Max 2x4GB)
DDR3-1333 @ 9-9-9-24 Timings
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5850 1GB GDDR5
(800 Stream Processors, 625MHz/4GHz Core/RAM clocks)
Display 15.4" LED Glossy 16:10 WSXGA+ (1680x1050)
(Samsung 154MT02-H01)
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 7200RPM
(Seagate Momentus 7200.4 500GB 16MB)
Optical Drive DVD+/-RW (TSSTcorp TS-L633C)
Networking Gigabit Ethernet (RTL8168/8111)
Intel WiFi Link 5100 (a/g/n)
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR (Motorola)
V.92 56K Modem
Audio HD Audio
2 stereo speakers with line-in, mic, optical, and headphone jacks
Capable of 5.1
Battery 9-Cell, 10.8V, 7800mAh, 85Wh battery
Front Side N/A
Left Side Mic, Line-In, Headphone, Optical (5.1 capable)
1 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive
Modem
Kensington Lock
Right Side Flash Reader (MMC/MS/SD/xD)
ExpressCard/54 Slot
4-pin FireWire
1 x eSATA/USB 2.0
Cooling Exhaust
Ethernet
Back Side HDMI
VGA
AC Jack
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 14.1" x 10.24" x 1.22" (WxDxH)
Weight 6.3 lbs (with 9-cell battery)
Extras 2MP Webcam
103-Key keyboard with 10-key
Flash reader (MMC/MS Pro/SD/xD)
Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
10 multimedia keys
Warranty 3-year limited warranty
1-year global warranty
Pricing Starting at $1070 Online

MSI doesn't skip out on any of the major features or connections with the GX640. Besides the usual USB 2.0, HDMI, and VGA ports, they provide FireWire, eSATA, Bluetooth, and an ExpressCard/54 expansion slot. The only things you might miss are DVI (you can use an HDMI-to-DVI adapter/cable) and DisplayPort outputs and USB 3.0. Even with those minor ommisions, there's plenty on tap here. MSI also has a 3-year limited warranty on the GX640, something we really like to see with laptops.

In terms of components, the dual-core i5-430M with HD 5850 will be more than enough to power through most tasks, and gaming performance is butter smooth at the native 1680x1050 LCD resolution. Speaking of the LCD, it's an older CCFL backlit model, but it does provide a good contrast ratio and is reasonably bright. This is one of those areas where a two-year-old LCD actually beats many of the current crop of panels—16:10 aspect ratio fans rejoice!

The remaining components consist of a 500GB 7200RPM hard drive—it's not as fast as an SSD but with a current price of $85, the capacity is much better. Since there's only one HDD bay and the goal appears to be affordable mobile gaming, skipping the SSD (for now) is a good choice. You can always add an SSD down the road to speed up general performance. Other features include a standard DVDRW drive, Bluetooth support, and MSI stuffs in a large 9-cell battery to try to keep mobility options reasonable. We're still looking at under three hours (best-case), but for short trips that should be sufficient. So let's dig in and see what the GX640 has to offer.

MSI GX640 Design and Internals
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  • SpeedyVV - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    As an owner of a GX640, I would say that this review is completely fair and bang on.

    Starting with the keyboard. Man it is really bad. it feels like those fake computer keyboards. It works, but really.

    Performance, is awsome for the price. Gaming is very enjoyable on this lappy.

    Really like the screen for both gaming and web and office work. Yes this is a work laptop for me too :)

    VBIOS and BIOS is a bigger problem than the article gives mention to.

    Is there a location that owners can get those updates?

    Even with these problems, I am happy with this laptop. I am not a touch typist so I can live with the keyboard, and hopefully those VBIOS and BIOS Anandtech got will be released.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    AFAIK, the BIOS/VBIOS/EC firmware MSI sent me is currently available on their site -- the 1656 release. Send me an email if you want the bootable CD ISO that MSI sent me, though, and you can try that. It flashes VBIOS and BIOS "automatically" (after booting from the CD, of course). jarred.walton AT anandtech.com Reply
  • sh_kamalh - Sunday, June 20, 2010 - link

    I am facing the same problem with a brand new gx640 that I just purchased yesterday. I wonder if you can send me the CD ISO to flash the BIOS. Reply
  • jim1447 - Thursday, October 14, 2010 - link

    Could you email me a CD ISO. I have this laptop coming today.
    Thanks a lot, BTW great review.
    Jim Campbell
    Reply
  • DaveGirard - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    that thing looks like the 386 that I took to Taiwan and left there because I didn't want it anymore. The keyboard is just plain nasty. Reply
  • strikeback03 - Monday, June 14, 2010 - link

    Too bad the keyboard feel is so bad, layout looks pretty nice, they have the fn/ctrl keys the way I like and aren't missing a column off the number pad like some Reply
  • kapute - Wednesday, June 16, 2010 - link

    Do these 5850 laptop graphic cards support three display's like the desktop versions do (eyefinity or whatever they call it)? ie, can you plug a monitor into the vga, hdmi, and have all three going at once? Reply
  • Hrel - Thursday, June 24, 2010 - link

    If someone could do a review on the laptop that I currently suspect is the best "bang for your buck" out there. It's made by compal, and available on Cyberpower.com who's machines you've reviewed before. If you'd like it configured like I did, which I think is the best bang for buck, do this: Go to the website. mouse over 15.6" Laptops and click on the $999 Xplorer X6-8500. It has a 1080p screen. (I'm not sure why the people who run this site do this, but even though the other configurations use the same chassis when personalized they come out to cost more than this one; annoying since it makes me configure all 3 or 4 machines built on the same base chassis to figure out which one is cheapest/best for me.) Then I configured it with the Core i7-620M CPU. (to get it over 1K so I can take advantage of the 5% off.) 4GB 0DDR3-1333, hopefully 7-7-7-21, probably not, but hopefully. ATI MR HD5650 1GB GDDR3 320GB 7200rpm HDD (I did this cause I'm gonna take that HDD out and use the Seagate Momentus XT 500GB, thanks for that review!!) Everything else on that page I left untouched. The only thing I did on page 2 was switch to Intel wifi with bluetooth; Though I'm curious if the MSI option is equal/better; 17 bucks isn't nothing. It has HDMI out and a fingerprint reader. This page says 3 USB ports, the specs sheet says 4USB ports; not sure which is true. (I do wish they were USB 3.0 ports, but I was hoping you guys would test some stuff and tell me if that even matters for use with an external hard drive, mechanical disk 7200rpm. Transferring large files like movies and games mostly.) On page 3 I select "none, format only" for the OS. And select "LCD perfect assurance" cause even 1 dead pixel is unacceptable to me. This brings the total to $1008.90 after 5% off, or $992.75 if you get the MSI network card. So yeah, I really hope you guys can get a hold of one of these for review; as a loner or given as a review unit or maybe someone will just buy one and review it cause it's really tempting me right now... like a lot! If you're review is good I'm gonna start saving up and hopefully be able to buy it around Christmas. Thanks guys! A loyal reader. - Brian Reply

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