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

System Behavior And Throttle Testing

AC Power Versus Battery Performance  

Pulling the power cord on the GX60 results in a 50% performance drop from the GPU, while the CPU remains almost unchanged. Although that may seem like a huge hit (and it is), keep in mind that the GX60’s Radeon HD 7970M is still faster on battery power than Nvidia's GeForce GTX 660M on AC power in full turbo mode. Games should still be playable, for the most part, even when you're on the road. 

System Throttling

Running Prime95 and MSI Kombustor at the same time places a very high load on any system, with both the CPU and GPU drawing maximum power while also generating maximum heat. In the GX60's case, this means 35 W for the APU and 100 W for the GPU. If the system is not able to pull 135 W (plus the power needed for other hardware), or is not able to get rid of over 135 W of heat, it will throttle the performance of the CPU, GPU, or both in order to stay within its thermal and electrical specifications. 

In the screenshot above, the CPU is running at full load on all four cores at varying speeds, while the GPU operates at 850 MHz. The fan was set at the full-speed setting. Astoundingly, the power pack draws 170 W from the wall.

Pulling the AC power causes a substantial dip in GPU speed, though plugging the GX60 back in quickly restores full clock rates.

The APU's behavior is a little more puzzling. In the graph above, we fully loaded all of the A10-4600M’s four cores for 60 seconds. Between 20 and 30 seconds, the individual cores start dropping from their Turbo Core maximum of 2.7 GHz and begin alternating between 2.0 and 2.7 GHz, with occasional dips even lower. The APU was only running around 60 degrees Celsius. If 60 degrees is the ceiling AMD defines for this chip, then it's no wonder that MSI's cooling solution is so overbuilt. It needs to be kept as cool as possible in order to maintain its peak frequencies. 

As the graph shows, as soon as the load is relaxed, the A10 immediately returns to 2.7 GHz. During this whole process, the GPU is still under full load running MSI Kombustor, leaving the APU at 50% utilization. The A10 behaves the same when the GPU isn't being used, though. 

MSI's system does well enough in our throttling test. Losing AC power does not trigger any problems in gaming, aside from the observed slow-down. The GPU and APU can each draw full power without straining the cooling system or power adapter. AMD's A10 does drop out of its peak Turbo Core state fairly often, mostly when it gets too hot. 

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    Top Comments
  • ASHISH65
    Looks good and helpfull review for laptop gamers!
  • Other Comments
  • patrick47018
    Looks promising
  • yobobjm
    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
  • flowingbass
    I also own an MSI, a GX660r with a 5870M and a Core i5 480m. The 5870M desktop equivalent is a HD5770. The GPU is quite struggling to play on high in current games, mid-high or sometimes medium (all low on crysis 3 except resolution and textures) is required to maintain playable frame rates.

    I might just upgrade to this and just swap GPU between the two. i5 480m > A10-4600M
    But does it fit a CableCard?
  • ASHISH65
    Looks good and helpfull review for laptop gamers!
  • acktionhank
    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.
  • Chewie
    Give this a 4 module APU, and keyboard backlighting, and it would really kick butt!
  • Madn3ss795
    AMD APU ruins the whole thing.
  • Chairman Ray
    Great build from Msi!
  • silverblue
    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.
  • Cataclysm_ZA
    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.
  • ryude
    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.
  • Anonymous
    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...
  • DjEaZy
    patrick47018Looks promising

    ... not just that... loooook... there is a windows 7 logo... it looks exscelent...
  • Cryio
    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.
  • Cryio
    afford one *
  • TheBigTroll
    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
  • sanilmahambre
    Now that's what i call a Budget gaming Laptop

    and again a beautiful in depth review
  • mynith
    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.
  • ojas
    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.