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 - linkThis system exhausts out both the back and sides, and I suspect it would run much hotter if they omitted the side vents. Thin designs are not cooling friendly, sadly.
henkhilti - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkNice notebook review.
One small remark.
In your conclusion you compared it to the Lenovo Y50 which links to Amazon.
That is a unit with 4K display for $1500 (not $1300) but please also note that is has a 256GB SSHD (=Hard disk drive + Nand flash cache) not an SSD (scroll down on the amazon page).
It also has a GTX860M instead of a GTX870M (if you compare it to the MSI's or Razer).
limitedaccess - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkSomething to keep in mind regarding the Y50 4k display is that it is supposedly a TN display that is locked to 48hz. Also the other characteristics are supposedly poor.
In general it seems Lenovo's gaming oriented Ideapad series all have rather poor displays. Also to be honest in general for the entire Lenovo notebook line there doesn't seem to be a strong emphasis on display quality.
The configuration he linked to though should be one with a 256gb SSD and not the configuration with a 1tb HD with 8gb nand cache.
nathanddrews - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkThe Lenovo Y50 is $1300 with a 4K screen and 256GB SSD.
It's a mistake to use Amazon as a source for validating information. Not only do the frequently get their specs wrong, they also blend reviews of similar models together and the pricing can change within hours due to allowing purchases through other vendors.
Either way, it doesn't matter. Lenovo officially discontinued the 4K option Y50.
JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkHold on... where are you getting that Lenovo discontinued the 4K Y50? I can't seem to find anything on that matter. As for the Amazon pricing, it changes regularly, just like Newegg. There's a reasonable chance the model I linked went out of stock between yesterday and now, leaving places that charge more.
nathanddrews - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkI just read last week, but when I go to official Y50 UHD website, it says "temporarily unavailable". I'm either totally full of crap or just misread it.
JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkYeah, that "temporarily unavailable" is what I saw. I thought it was new enough that maintaining stock was the issue, but who knows -- and a lot of people were complaining about backlight bleed on the 4K panel. If they're using a TN panel, though, that's the first I've heard of any 3K/4K LCD going the TN route; it would make me very sad if that's true.
creed3020 - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkThe stress testing graphs are missing labels for the duration of time along the x axis. Possible to add this in so we can get an idea of time elapsed in the test against temps?
JarredWalton - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkThe stress test charts are for one hour -- I had to hand-make the charts in Excel, and the data is actually at ~2.5 second intervals, so I figured it was best to just leave off units. I'll see if I can clarify this in the text.
larspehrsson - Thursday, August 21, 2014 - linkMatte or glossy? all other reviews I have read of the 3k version state that it has a glossy display but now Anandtech say that it is matte? Which is it?