MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 3K Reviewby Jarred Walton on August 21, 2014 6:00 AM EST
MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 3K: Subjective Evaluation
On paper, the GS60 Ghost Pro gets just about everything right: it has a good CPU and GPU for performance, plenty of RAM, a cutting-edge 3K display, and multi-colored zoned backlighting for the keyboard. You also get plenty of storage from the 1TB HDD with a 240GB SSD RAID set for faster OS and general application performance. But what's it like using the device on a daily basis?
Starting with the good, the keyboard is the same as what you'll find on the GT70 and GE60 that we reviewed recently. There are some minor personal niggles (like having the Windows key on the right), but it's not a major concern. I still miss having dedicated document navigation keys (Home and End in particular), but you can remap some of the keys using the keyboard software if needed. The touchpad is the same as in the GE60, using Elan Smart Pad hardware. Again, it works well enough that I can adapt to using it, but I won't say it's the best touchpad I've ever used. Some will also dislike the placement, with the touchpad centered on the spacebar, but if you're going to have a 10-key I think this is the best way to do it. Speaker quality is okay as well – lacking in bass response, and not enough to fill a large room, but in normal use the speakers are sufficient.
The display is where things get interesting, as MSI joins the HiDPI crowd with a 3K display (2880x1620). The out-of-box colors actually look pretty good, but oddly after calibration things seemed to get better in some ways and worse in others. The problem seems to stem from the use of an RGBW grid for the colors, which we've seen on some other HiDPI displays. It may be that our calibration software doesn't quite play right with RGBW, but the net result is that I almost prefer the out-of-box colors to the calibrated colors – and neither result is going to be acceptable for image professionals.
We could also get into the usual tangent about HiDPI and the various applications that don't work properly when you use Windows' scaling options. Humorously, when I first booted up the GS60 a notification from MSI popped up recommending I use 100% scaling. I suppose some people might be able to use a 15.6" 3K display at native resolution with no scaling, but I'm not one of them! I'm still more inclined to go with a good 1080p display over 3K for a laptop, though the 3K displays definitely look nice in the Windows Modern UI, and as a whole the 3K (and 4K) panels at least mean you won't get saddled with a low-end TN panel.
Build quality is definitely better than on the GE60, which is great to see, but the LCD cover is still a bit less rigid than I would like and the hinges could be stiffer as well. Compared to the GT and GE lines, however, the overall aesthetic is much improved, with a thinner chassis and more premium materials. It's a solid design overall, with perhaps the MSI Dragon Army logo on the LCD cover being a bit too "in-your-face" for some users. Cooling vents this time consist of left and right exhaust ports with two fans handling the CPU and GPU. The system can still get pretty warm under a heavy load (e.g. gaming), but if you're gaming you're probably using a mouse with the laptop on a hard surface, so it's less of a concern.
Unfortunately, there's still one other area to discuss, and once more MSI falls short, this time with the GS60: battery life. The GE60 didn't do very well, managing about 4.5 hours in our Light battery test; the GS60 (probably thanks to the 3K display) does even worse, mustering just 3.5 hours of useful battery life (and dropping down 2.5 hours in heavier workloads). I really prefer upwards of seven hours, which is something I've seen from other Haswell laptops like the Dell XPS 15 (over 9 hours, though granted that's with a much larger 91Wh battery). And that's really a good comparison point.
Dell is willing to offer you a higher build quality and what I would consider a better display, but you'll pay more for the privilege and you also get a substantially slower GT 750M graphics solution. In contrast, MSI will sell you a system with a faster graphics solution but lower overall build quality, with less than half the battery life. For gaming, I'd certainly say the MSI GS60 is the better notebook, but I really wish they could come a bit closer to the feel of the XPS 15. Ditch the hard drive, go with a 512GB or larger SSD configuration, and use increase battery capacity by at least 50%; then add in some BIOS/firmware tuning to improve battery life and we'd be golden. In the meantime, let's see just how well the current MSI GS60 Ghost performs.
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JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkYou can remap nearly every key... except Fn. :(
sheh - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkRemapping is a partial solution. There's also the tactile issue: part of my typing is based around the feel of key edges and where keys are relative to other keys. And there's nothing you can do about the missing left WinKey.
Yet, this is probably not as bad as some layouts like the UK one.
JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkI've harped on MSI's keyboard layout a lot over the years, but they don't want to change it and apparently some users like having the Win key on the right. Having played with a lot of keyboards, what I've found is that if you consistently use any single keyboard (or two keyboards, say home and work systems), you generally adapt to most things. But all things considered, yes, I would like a Windows key on the left -- take that bottom backslash, move the spacebar to the right, and put the key to the left. This has the added effect of moving the spacebar a bit more towards the center, which in turn can move the touchpad towards the center.
sheh - Friday, August 22, 2014 - linkI vote for industry-wide standardized keyboard/faceplate sets for notebooks.
jameskatt - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkWhy are you guys complaining about the price? This is a premium laptop with premium hardware. It is low priced for a premium laptop. Apple is like BMW and Mercedes Benz. MSI is like Hyundai. Dell and HP are like Volkswagen.
Legellan - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkDid anyone notice there are 2 HDMI ports on this thing. One on each side?
is one HDMI in so you could use it as a monitor? Kind of weird to have 2 HDMI out and a mini DP as well no?
limitedaccess - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkIt's for multiple external displays including support for multimonitor gaming.
JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkSorry -- I apparently left a fragment in the "Left Side" portion of the HTML tablet. You can see on the pictures, but there's only one HDMI and it's on the right side. There's also no USB 2.0 port on the left (another fragment in the table), but I have fixed the data in the table now.
xenol - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkWhy in the holy mother of engineering do they keep putting the hottest parts of the cooling system on the LEFT side? Do they not realize that for a gaming PC that the left side is where important controls live?
ZeDestructor - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkYour mouse hand is usually on the right when you're using a mouse. Personally, I'd rather the left side of my desk melt than have a burnt mouse hand.
What they should really do is solve the problem properly by exhausting out back instead of on the sides.