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MSI GX60 Review: Radeon HD 7970M In A $1,200 Notebook!

MSI GX60 Review: Radeon HD 7970M In A $1,200 Notebook!
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MSI's GX60-series notebook is in our lab today. Armed with Radeon HD 7970M graphics, a 15.6" display, and triple-screen output, this is truly a desktop replacement. But can its AMD A10-4600M APU keep pace with gaming platforms armed with Intel CPUs?

MSI's goal in designing and building the GX60 was very straightforward: deliver the highest-end gaming performance for the least amount of money. Obviously, the challenge there is that high-end systems are made with high-end parts, and therefore come with high-end price tags. By swapping out an Intel processor and Nvidia GPU for less expensive parts from AMD, MSI was able to create a more affordable mobile platform.

Cost-cutting aside, the graphics module in the GX60 is still certainly high-end. AMD's Radeon 7970M is one of the fastest mobile GPUs available today. In terms of raw performance, it competes head-to-head with Nvidia’s top-of-the-line GeForce GTX 680M. Mobile GPUs from Nvidia tend to sell for significantly more than AMD's, so going with the Radeon over a GeForce means that MSI saves around $350, yet keeps all of the performance. 

The GX60’s APU also comes from AMD. The Trinity-based A10-4600M has two modules (or four cores), runs at 2.3 GHz, and can hit a maximum Turbo Core speed of 3.2 GHz. While the A10-4600M is a "quad-core" chip, its architecture yields performance closer to a dual-core part from Intel. But using the A10-4600M and A70M chipset translates into further cost savings that can be passed on to the customer. It also means that MSI can enable AMD’s Enduro graphics switching to extend battery life when the 7970M isn't needed.

Under the hood, the GX60 is essentially built around the processor and graphics module. In a 15” chassis, a strong thermal solution is required to exhaust the heat generated by a 100 W GPU and 35 W APU running at full tilt. The notebook's internal layout keeps heat wicked off of those two components away from the hard drive, battery, palm rest, and keyboard. Both the APU and GPU heat sinks are massive, and the unit is equipped with an equally-massive fan that moves quite a bit of air when you need it to, yet remains incredibly quiet. 

MSI paid attention to the details when it defined the GX60’s specs. The 15.6” WLED screen is anti-reflective and sports full HD 1080p resolution. The keyboard is by SteelSeries, makers of boutique gaming peripherals. The built-in networking solution is the Atheros Killer E2200, which routes packets so that games get network priority. MSI’s Audio Boost provides high-quality sound through its interfaces. The built-in speakers are excellent, and include a small subwoofer. To top it all off, the GX60 even comes with a Blu-ray drive. 

MSI didn’t cut corners on peripheral connections either. Three different video output options mean that you can plug the GX60 into most monitors. You also have the option to drive three a trio of displays simultaneously in an Eyefinity array. The GX60 packs three USB 3.0 ports on the left and a single 2.0 port on the right, plus one of the ports can charge other devices even when the machine is powered off. You also get separate gold-plated jacks for headphones/mic/audio-in/audio-out and an SD card reader. The placement of all these connections appears to be well thought-out. 

MSI GX60 System Specs
Processor
AMD A10-4600M quad-core APU @ 2.3 GHz (3.2 GHz max Turbo Core), 35 W TDP
Platform
AMD A70M (Hudson-D3/M3)
Memory
8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 @ 1,600 MT/s
Graphics
AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2 GB GDDR5 w/AMD Enduro and Eyefinity
Solid State Drive
2 x SanDisk SDSA5DK-064G 64 GB mSATA SSDs in RAID 0
Hard Drive
Western Digital WD7500BPKT-22PK4 750 GB 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
Optical Drive
TSSTcorp (Samsung) SN-406AB Blu-ray Disc Combo Drive
Card Reader
SD (XC/HC) and MMC
Display
LG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3 15.6" FHD 16:9 Glossy LED-backlit LCD, 1920x1080
Wi-Fi
Atheros AR1111 WB-EG AGN 2x2 HMC Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Adapter (802.11 b/g/n + BT v4.0)
Ethernet
Atheros Killer e2200 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller 10/100/1000 Mb/s Ethernet
Audio
Integrated Speakers w/Subwoofer, THX TruStudio Pro, and HDMI v1.4 Support
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Webcam
Integrated Webcam / Microphone
Security
Kensington Security Slot
Ports
USB 3.0 (x 3), USB 2.0, Headphone, Mic, Audio In, Audio Out, HDMI v1.4, Mini DisplayPort, VGA
Battery
Removable 87 Wh
AC Adapter
180 W
Weight
7.7 lbs
Dimensions
15.55" (Width) x 10.51" (Depth) x 2.16" (Height)
Warranty
Two Years Limited
Price
~$1,200


On paper, it seems like MSI's GX60 offers a ton of gaming power and features for $1,200. But before we find out if this notebook's spec sheet translates to real-world performance, let's take a tour of the GX60, inside and out.

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Top Comments
  • 10 Hide
    ASHISH65 , April 29, 2013 10:07 PM
    Looks good and helpfull review for laptop gamers!
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    patrick47018 , April 29, 2013 9:09 PM
    Looks promising
  • 5 Hide
    yobobjm , April 29, 2013 9:11 PM
    I own an MSI (with some weird number classification that I can't remember) but it has proved to be a dedicated and powerful gaming laptop. It also has had really no problems other than the glossy finish getting scratched (which doesn't even exist on this laptop) so I would recommend MSI products :D 
  • 1 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , April 29, 2013 9:50 PM
    But does it fit a CableCard?
  • 10 Hide
    ASHISH65 , April 29, 2013 10:07 PM
    Looks good and helpfull review for laptop gamers!
  • 8 Hide
    acktionhank , April 29, 2013 10:24 PM
    Hey Tom's run a few gaming tests again with PScheck forcing the CPU to run at a 2.5-2.7ghz so that it won't throttle itself so much.

    I'd like to see exactly what speeds we'd need to get an A10-4600 running at to reduce these severe bottlenecks.
  • 5 Hide
    Chewie , April 29, 2013 10:52 PM
    Give this a 4 module APU, and keyboard backlighting, and it would really kick butt!
  • 3 Hide
    Chairman Ray , April 30, 2013 12:20 AM
    Great build from Msi!
  • -3 Hide
    silverblue , April 30, 2013 12:27 AM
    Very nice machine. It's a shame that AMD stopped with the A10-4600M and didn't look to produce a higher model as that'd help, however until the HSA initiative really kicks in, the Bulldozer architecture's FPU implementation is always going to be found wanting, and that's without even talking about the sharing issues which Steamroller looks to fix.
  • 0 Hide
    Cataclysm_ZA , April 30, 2013 1:16 AM
    No frame latency graphs from FRAPS? Its not difficult to keep a log of them and produce the graphs for those who are interested. I'd like to see the minimum frame dips for a machine like this one.
  • -5 Hide
    ryude , April 30, 2013 1:22 AM
    The A10-4600M can be overclocked relatively easily, up to 3.6Ghz+. That won't fix the fact that's it's an APU, but it will help a little.
  • 2 Hide
    Tee-Kheang Ng , April 30, 2013 2:19 AM
    There's is a GX60 with a10-5750m richland APU...
    Which the improvement is modestly 10-15% CPU powers, it should alleviate some of the CPU bottleneck...
  • 0 Hide
    DjEaZy , April 30, 2013 2:51 AM
    patrick47018Looks promising

    ... not just that... loooook... there is a windows 7 logo... it looks exscelent...
  • 3 Hide
    Cryio , April 30, 2013 3:39 AM
    This notebook is a ridiculous concept to me. Its greatest achievements are its price and its performance where it matters: maxed-out directX11 games in 1080p, working as good or BETTER in most of the cases than its Nvidia sibling. Its greatest disadvantage being its gaming ability is limited in anything under 1080p (still talking only about games here).

    One hell of a laptop for me, if I could afford when, when I'll go to college this Octomber.
  • 0 Hide
    Cryio , April 30, 2013 3:40 AM
    afford one *
  • -3 Hide
    TheBigTroll , April 30, 2013 3:48 AM
    the apu is the bottleneck. when you compare this to a i7 ivy bridge mobile chip with the same GPU and everything, it performs 50% faster
  • 2 Hide
    sanilmahambre , April 30, 2013 4:50 AM
    Now that's what i call a Budget gaming Laptop

    and again a beautiful in depth review
  • 2 Hide
    mynith , April 30, 2013 5:33 AM
    Interesting heatsink design. Shame really that APUs don't come with L3-cache. If they did, they would show performance not unlike the FX-series. In my mind.
  • -1 Hide
    ojas , April 30, 2013 5:37 AM
    With respect to handbrake: It's getting QuickSync support too in the coming months (i believe it's in the same beta version you're talking about) so I'm not sure if the OpenCL advantage will last for AMD.
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