MSI: Updated Notebooks at CES 2014by Jarred Walton on January 6, 2014 3:42 AM EST
MSI had all of their latest notebooks on display, along with some upcoming models that feature new designs and hardware. Most of the hardware and design elements remain the same for now, but one area that is receiving an update is the keyboard. Specifically, the SteelSeries keyboards are receiving updated software to allow improved control over the colored backlighting, but more importantly is that the keyboards are fully programmable –each and every key can be set to a macro.
That may not seem like a huge deal, but there are other benefits, for example being able to remap any of the keys to any of the other keys (which means people like me that like their Windows key on the left side can swap the Fn and Windows keys – or any other keys for that matter). The software also allows users to upload profiles for specific games, with individualized macros and mappings on each game. The software will detect which application/game is running and load the appropriate profile on the fly.
This doesn’t address every concern with the keyboards – I still want four keys to the left of the keyboard (CTRL, Fn, Windows, Alt) and I want a number keypad with a full-size  key in the bottom-left – but considering the overall feel of the SteelSeries keyboards is better than most other laptop keyboards, it’s yet one more benefit of MSI’s notebooks. MSI has also worked to improve the feel and backlighting of the keyboards.
Another item of note is that the existing branding for MSI’s notebooks is being phased out, to be replaced by more exciting names. Short-term, the GT, GS, GE, GP, and GX series will become the GT Dominator, GS Stealth, GE Apache, GP Leopard (they changed this, so the labels are wrong), and GX Destroyer. With the next update (Intel’s Broadwell CPUs and AMD Kaveri APUs), the G[x] prefixes will disappear and they will simply go with the main brand.
While we haven’t necessarily been big fans of the industrial design of some of the MSI notebooks (specifically, the GT and GX lines are looking a little long in the tooth), MSI is working to improve in this area as well. Their GS line is a great example of this, with a thinner, lighter chassis that still packs a punch. The designs have been tweaked slightly on some of the other lines as well, like the “muscle lines” on the metal lids of the upcoming GE60 and GE70. MSI also had a prototype laptop on hand with a hand-built chassis that continues the trend towards thin computing with good performance, and we’re looking forward to seeing what happens with the final hardware.
Finally, MSI will also be offering high-DPI 3K displays on several of the above laptops. The displays are still 16:9 aspect ratio (sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much hope at present for companies to buck the 16:9 trend in the Windows world, running at 2880x1620. High DPI display on Windows 8.1 are still a work in progress to be perfectly frank, and in many cases 1920x1080 at 100% scaling is more useful (in my experience) than 3200x1800 or 2880x1620 at 200% scaling. Most of this is just a software problem, however, and as more apps become high-DPI aware the situation should improve. We also noticed on at least one set of laptops that the 3K panel had much better color accuracy than the 1080p panel next to it. Let’s hope that’s not just a fluke and that all of the upcoming high-DPI displays will come with accurate color reproduction.