on July 10, 2013
Finding balance between a good gaming system and portable notebook is a difficult endeavor. There are plenty of 15.6" or 17" screen systems out there that are able to pack the highest performing components inside, but leave your shoulder/back aching. On the other side of the spectrum, there are a number of sleek, ultra book class notebooks that are easy to carry, but leave you wanting more performance. I needed a high performance notebook that allows me to multi-task and game a bit while away from home. The MSI GE40 is a nice compromise between the two categories with a few caveats.
Weighing in at 4.4ish pounds, the GE40 is quite light for what it packs inside. The palm rest and lid are a brushed aluminum. The lid has eye-catching red LEDs in the form of "dragon eyes". The rest of the body is comprised of your standard glossy plastic that attracts finger prints, but isn't handled all that often in everyday use. There is more flex in the palm rest and keyboard than a full aluminum chassis, but it doesn't scream poor quality.
My main issue with the GE40 is the quality of the screen. While it does feature a high 1600x900 resolution for a 14" screen, it is an average TN panel with OK viewing angles. This evaluation is quite subjective although I personally think the vertical viewing angles are poor. You will need to view the screen dead on or the image will be washed out. This left me a little frustrated trying to watch netflix on my bed.
With a high wattage Intel Haswell Quad-core 4th generation processor, it chews through everything quite quickly. The lower wattage CPUs in ultrabooks are primarily designed for battery longevity and much lower thermals with decent performance. The difference between Apple's latest generation Macbook air with it's 15W Dual-Core CPU and the GE40 is very noticeable in the programs that I use (namely Acrobat Pro, Photoshop, transcode applications). The dynamic overclocking of the CPU also allows lightly threaded applications to take advantage of higher clock speeds whilst putting the unused cores to sleep.
The graphics duties are shared between the integrated intel HD4600 and a dedicated NVIDIA GTX 760M. The switching is handled with NVIDIA's optimus tech. The integrated graphics are powerful enough to handle the Windows GUI acceleration, Flash, and movie playback to conserve power and reduce heat generation. The GTX 760M kicks in when you launch a full screen 3D application, allowing you to take advantage of a large performance increase. The GTX 760M did a great job of providing acceptable frame rates at the native resolution in the games I play. For specific numbers, look up the GTX 760M on Notebookcheck.com
This version of the GE40 has a 128GB solid state drive and a 750GB hard disk drive (occupying the bay where the DVD-ROM is on the cheaper version). Out of the box this notebook is much faster, but you should ask yourself if that is enough room for your OS and programs. Personally, I think a 256GB SSD is the minimum size, but you can always put your steam folder and larger games on the mechanical drive if you're willing to deal with longer load times.
While the GE40 has 8GB of DDR3-Low Voltage memory installed, it is a single DIMM. This is both a plus and minus. With a single DIMM, you drop your effective bandwidth to 10GB/ps for the CPU and integrated GPU. You'll be hard pressed to see a noticeable drop in performance, but this is supposed to be a high end system. On the other hand, if you were planning to go to a total of 16GB of RAM, you won't have to buy x2 8GB DIMMs. Just grab 1 8GB DIMM and you'll get your dual channel memory performance.
Windows 8: You either love it or hate it. I personally like Microsoft's new OS due to the faster performance and support for new hardware technologies. I'm not a fan of the Start Screen, but that's easily remedied with a third party start menu replacement. The product key for Windows is integrated into the UEFI BIOS of the system so you won't need to enter a key during Windows setup. Just activate once you've reinstalled the OS.
As I mentioned before, Norton and other trialware is preinstalled. You'll be greeted with a number of desktop cluttering icons and background services taking up system resources. It isn't nearly as bad as some, but again, this is a gaming system that shouldn't have junk preinstalled to begin with.
I personally reinstalled Windows 8 after installing an extra 8GB DIMM. Be prepared to download the wireless LAN drivers beforehand as Windows 8 doesn't come with them out of the box. There are also a plethora of other drivers that need to be installed to restore full functionality (Bluetooth, WLAN switch, ETC).
In normal operation, the notebook is a bit warm to the touch and the fan constantly runs at a slight hum. The fan is audible, but not overtly or annoyingly so. When gaming, the notebook does get hot. It's not unbearable, but it isn't super comfortable either. The fan kicks it into high gear and is very noisy. I was able to hear it every between explosions in game with my headphones on. Both the heat and noise levels are to be expected, especially with the amount of performance packed into such a small chassis.
The MSI GE40 is a great notebook that fills my needs well. The balance of portability and performance allows me to finish my work quickly to get a little bit of play in. If you can cram your programs and games onto a 128GB SSD, you'll find more value in the upgraded version of the GE40. Otherwise both notebooks can stand to have an additional 8GB of memory and a clean install of Windows to maximize its performance and your enjoyment.
I was curious if I could get the thermals down a bit, so I opened up my notebook again to see what kind of job MSI did with the thermal paste. As I suspected, they put way too much on which was hindering the heat transfer from the CPU and dedicated GPU to the heatpipe assembly.
Dis-assembly was not that difficult; 8 philips screws and the fan and heatpipe was easily removed. I cleaned up the factory paste and wiped the CPU/GPU and heatpipe with some isotropic alcohol. I then applied a thin layer of artic silver 5 and put it all back together. Subjectively, the notebook runs cooler. The fan spins slower at idle and comes back down from 100% quicker after playing a game. The palm rest and WASD keys were also a bit cooler. I didn't record before and after temperatures, but there are a couple youtube videos detailing this modification and the tangible results.
If you are comfortable performing this procedure, I wholeheartedly recommend doing it. Your left palm and wrist will thank you.
on July 9, 2013
If you want to have only 1 computer (vs. 1 gaming & 1 portable), and you like to move around with it (even just around the house), then this is definitely the one to get. It strikes the perfect balance between price/specs/portability. I used to have the Samsung 9 gamer from last year (which was surprisingly under-appreciated considering its price, specs and gorgeous screen), but it was a 9 lbs monster that almost never left my desk, partly because of the typically lousy battery life. Funnily enough, 1 year later, this MSI has almost the same performance at half the weight and triple the battery life. So now I take this one out to the library or coffee shop at least a few times a week. And even just around the house, I don't hesitate to bring it to the sofa so I can chat and surf while watching TV. I like my HTC One, but multitasking on Android still sucks. The long-lasting battery really is a big deal. I leave it plugged in overnight and while I'm at work (full charge in < 3 hrs), and then I can use it from the time I get home until I go to sleep, or all afternoon on the weekends. I shake my head when I see people lugging around their power bricks.
I've had the laptop for a few weeks now, and overall I'm very happy with it. I decided to buy it without waiting for reviews because of the good things I heard about Haswell, and I haven't been disappointed. I was a little concerned about fan noise, which can be a problem with many gaming rigs, but it's not a problem with the GE40. I haven't tried gaming on it yet, but I've heard the fan go max a few times, and the noise level is very acceptable. Most of the time, if there's any amount of background noise, the fan isn't noticeable.
The matte screen was a pleasant surprise, I can't stand glossy. The viewing angles aren't great, but this is MY toy, so I don't care, and the colour is good. There is, however, 1 bright pixel, and MSI will only replace it if there are at least 5 bad ones (I didn't buy from Amazon). That's pretty poor by industry standards, especially since MSI has a crazy chart for identifying what is, in fact, considered a bad pixel. Regardless, I only (barely) notice the bright pixel if the area around it is completely black, so it's almost a non-issue.
What IS a minor annoyance is the hinge. No problems when it's open, but there's a bit of bounce when it's closed and I'm walking around with it. I hold it by the battery against my hip with the lid facing out, as I think most people do when walking around with a laptop. Other than that, no complaints.
So, if you want a machine with specs that will last a few years and won't break the bank or your back, you can't go wrong with this one.
on November 22, 2013
IMPORTANT OR YOU WILL HATE THIS COMPUTER: the power profile settings are extremely important. Switching between Power Saver, Balanced, and High Performance make a huge deal. Gaming on Power Saver will make it run terribly. I keep it in the System Tray (bottom right of the Task Bar) so I can easily switch.
UPDATE: I have had this for about three weeks now. I am using it for professional programming in sometimes heavy memory-intensive environments, for school (typing papers, etc.) as well as gaming. After extensive research, in my opinion this is way better than anything Dell, HP, Toshiba, or any of the other "big" name brands could have provided.
UPDATE: It's been about two months and I am still tremendously enjoying this laptop. In fact I think it's one of the best purchases I've ever made. The one complaint I have is that the trackpad's multi-gestures are annoying if you don't change the defaults. By default it has the same "pinch" to zoom in and out as smart phones and if you swipe left or right from the edge of the trackpad the Windows 8 menu comes up. It sounds nice but honestly I keep triggering it accidentally when I type and it just gets in the way. Luckily you can disable it through the ELAN touchpad program that comes with it. The viewing angle is a little annoying but not so bad that I wouldn't buy this again.
UPDATE: I have now owned this laptop for almost 4 months and I can safely say it is by far the best purchase I have ever made and I very, very highly recommend it to anyone interested in a gaming laptop. I do not regret not buying the model higher than this with better performance because it is simply not necessary. Also the battery life on this thing is unbelievable and well worth sacrificing the improvement you get from the higher model (confirmed up to 8 hours if you turn everything off). I cannot say this enough: MSI did an extremely good job balancing performance and normal every-day work. It's hard to believe this laptop could exist.
First, the things I don't like:
-- No back-lit keyboard. This makes typing in low-lit environments difficult until you get the muscle memory for the keyboard, especially with the Home/End/Insert/Delete/Backspace keys.
-- I keep accidentally hitting the \ instead of the Left Alt key which is extremely annoying, especially programming. However I remedied this with a free program called SharpKeys which will let you make that specific \ key into an additional Alt key, making it as if that area is one big Alt key. Do note that there is still a separate \ key in the normal expected position on the top right-ish.
-- The bottom left wrist-rest gets really hot when playing graphic intensive games. It's not so hot that you can't touch it, but it will make your wrist sweat and will become uncomfortable after a while. Most gamers (myself included) will use a separate mouse and keyboard when playing these types of graphically intensive games though. Under normal use there's no problem.
-- The viewing angle is not great. When I move to another position or space, I find I sometimes need to adjust the angle of the screen, but in the end it's not a big deal. If you're doing something with another person on the side, you will probably have to turn the laptop, but you can both see pretty well.
-- It feels a little cheap in some places because in some places it's plastic.
-- Sometimes when scrolling and then clicking by touching the touchpad, I find I have to click a second time.
Now, the reasons I gave this 5 stars despite the notes above:
-- I was worried that the resolution was not 1080p but it actually works nicely given the screen size. The computer itself can support 1080p, so if you plug it into a monitor or TV that supports it, it runs at 1080p with no problem.
-- It's very light for a gaming laptop. At only 4.5 pounds it feels comparable to my wife's Macbook Air. I can easily pick it up with one hand and carry it to another room.
-- Relatively good gaming performance. Don't go into it thinking this is going to be as good as a $3000 gaming computer. If you're willing to sacrifice some quality then you're fine, but it's not so bad that I think it looks horrible. You can't set Anti-Aliasing at 16x for example, you're best leaving it at 2x. Not a big deal for most people.
-- Unbelievably good battery life. With the screen at ~50% brightness (which is very comfortable) and non-gaming, I can get 5-6 hours of constant use, 6.5-7 hours with airplane mode enabled. The brightness makes the most difference it seems. At minimum brightness (in the dark) and airplane mode on I can get up to 8 hours which is just unheard of in any laptop let alone a gaming one.
-- The touch pad and keyboard feel good and operate very nicely, which is important to me, having to type all day. The keys have just the right amount of resistance without feeling mushy or sticky when pressing them, and the layout of the Home/PgUp/PgDn/End/Insert/Delete and F1-F12 keys feels natural. There is a hack you have to do to get the touchpad and keyboard to work at the same time in video games but it's not hard, just follow directions. Also I use a mouse when gaming anyway. Google it.
-- Just the right amount of ports. Three USB ports connects my headset, mouse, and keyboard, HDMI for my monitor, and VGA just in case. Ethernet port, audio jacks and SD reader included as well. NOTE THAT THIS DOES NOT HAVE AN OPTICAL DRIVE. Instead it comes with a smoking fast Solid State drive, as well as a giant 750GB normal hard drive.
-- Boots up in 5-8 seconds. I don't know if it's Windows 8 or the Solid State hard drive but it's incredible.
-- It says only 2.2GHz (lower than the previous model) but I found that it doesn't matter. It feels fast in gaming and normal use. It is automatically changing the speed for you, and 99% of the time it stays well below 1.5GHz even during gaming, which is how it gets such good battery life I think. It also offloads graphics to a built-in Intel graphics chip when not gaming to save a lot of battery as well.
-- Very reasonably priced
Overall I highly recommend this and I'm extremely happy I bought it. MSI did a fantastic job finding a nice balance between gaming and office work. Windows 8 is not bad once you accept the fact that the screen at start-up is just the start menu. Customize it with your favorite programs and apps and put a "Desktop" button there and you'll barely notice the difference between 8 and 7 and its easy to get used to. As such, I can't speak to the performance or quality of running Windows 7 on this laptop, or even how well it will work.
If you're looking for a gaming laptop that doesn't weigh 15 pounds and gets incredible battery life when not gaming, look no further. Seriously.
on June 21, 2013
Never had an MSI Laptop before so this purchase was mainly made on the overall specs of the machine.
With a dual hard drive setup its very fast(SSD 128GB on 6GB SAS + 750GB 7200 RPM drive 3GB SAS) you have enough space to load your os on to the ssd and gaming data ect on the 750GB drive. Running games are very smooth. With a brand new GTX 760M 2GB vid ram it can run most any new games with little to no issue. Comes with one 8GB ram stick so adding additional ram is a snap. Removable battery and slot for optical drive(have to remove ssd drive).
Trackpad and keyboard feel really responsive.(No back-lite on keyboard though..) Screen is very bright and matte display so no annoying reflections.
Running games from battery actually works Ok, I've had some gaming laptops that stutter so much because the GPU/system is not getting enough power but from the looks of this system its able to run on battery without issue(though you will notice a slight fps drop due to the system not using turbo boost as often.)
Not a big fan of the windows 8 install but I living with it until i can dual boot win 7 or Ubuntu. I did backup the win 8 recovery system to a usb disk in case of a re install.
Course this system doesn't have a optical drive so if you need it you can always hook up an external drive to one of the usb ports(2 USB3.0 and 1 USB 2.0). You can order the same laptop without an ssd drive and then it will include an optical drive but i prefer the fast-boot time and launching of apps that run off the ssd drive..
Overall I think this is a great new laptop with new generation intel i7 haswell processor.
on November 5, 2013
I almost gave this four stars, but I love this laptop so much that I had to give it 5. Here is the breakdown:
-Weight. This laptop is so light! I commute daily to school, and I sometimes ride my motorcycle. This laptop is unnoticeable in my backpack.
-Performance. The Haswell processor is so fast, and the GTX 760 hums through any game I throw at it. I get 60+fps on Battlefield 4, with maximum performance.
-Battery. When you are not using the Nvidia card, the laptop auto switches to the Intel graphics. When this happens, I get around 8 hours of battery life while using word processors and web browsing. When the gaming video card kicks in, i get about 3 hours. I think this is fantastic, and love the battery life. In standby mode, I can get about 5 days!
-Heat. One thing that you should know is that MSI sometimes does not apply the proper amount of thermal paste to the CPU and video card. This causes the system to run a little hotter than it should. You can fix it yourself if you have some technical know how, and I plan on doing this soon. I just need to make sure that I wont void the warranty.
-Screen. I rather like the screen that came with the system, but apparently the new GE-40s come standard with a 1080P IPS screen! You can buy this screen and install it for about 120 dollars, which is another upgrade I plan on getting. Its not a very big deal to me, but it is enough to bug me that the newer models are coming out with this upgrade.
I really enjoy this laptop. I would recommend this to any gamer who wants to game on the go without having to lug around one of those 200 pound gaming laptops. This has equal or better specs to those machines, and is so light!
on December 7, 2013
There are good things and bad things about this computer.
Pros - Performance. This thing is blazing fast. Programs load quickly, and browsing happens without a hitch. Streaming video plays perfectly, even multiple streams from different sites (though, one could argue that is a Flash thing, not a spec thing.). Photo Editing and spreadsheets fly by. Haven't really dug into games yet, but I'm sure they will be amazing.
The screen is only okay for me - I have grown so used to a glossy screen over the years, that the matte screen is taking some getting used to. There is reduced glare, but at the expense of some contrast.
My biggest knock on this thing is the Noise. The screen makes a buzzing noise that is audible. There is more fan noise than I'm used to from a laptop. Overall I would give the noise on this thing a 3 out of 5.
The fit and finish on the laptop is average. It's a little on the plastic-y side for my tastes. My previous Dell XPS seemed better designed from a looks perspective.
There is no webcam driver for the built-in camera, so you can't really make any adjustments. It works fine, but that seemed odd to me.
There are some installed programs that seemed like strange bloatware, and BlueStacks Android emulator doesn't work out of the box.
I have also had trouble inputting my Product Serial number to register the laptop.
Windows 8.1 is somewhat painful if you're used to working with Win 7, but that's not MSI's fault, and isn't factored into my rating.
It's better than a lot of windows notebooks out there, but there are a few quirks that keep it from a full 5 stars.
on July 30, 2013
Simply awesome. This laptop is lightning fast. Coupled with windows 8 which boots in as few as 8 seconds. Keyboard is responsive and feels great. Touchpad is OK, but haven't used it much. Screen is bright. Extremely light for a gaming laptop and performs well (not extraordinary) while gaming. It gets pretty hot though, a cooler is highly recommended.
on June 20, 2016
I've been using this laptop for 3 years. And for 3 years it made me very proud of my purchase.
Runs every game up until today, Games are still launching and it still can keep it up.
It's a great personal laptop for every purpose! Because of high performance all the "normal" duties such as Office duties, VMs, Programming, Gaming ( important one ) are easily accomplished!
Too bad, because of really long use, battery's holding less than when it was new...but it still holds for 2 to 3 hours without the power cable.
on November 14, 2013
Pretty good computer! Fast start up, incredible graphics, and the best thing of all: A very affordable gaming-processing laptop!
Cons: Heat.., but not what a good notebook base couldn't dissipate.
on October 18, 2013
Excellent computer I love it... the design, the portability, now I can play on every place without problem and now I can carry it without the people attention.
The computer have 8 gb ram but I want to buy 16, it is not necessary but I think is better to make my work and play properly with some applications opened.