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

MSI GX60: Portable Power On A Budget

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
ProcessorAMD A10-4600M quad-core APU @ 2.3 GHz (3.2 GHz max Turbo Core), 35 W TDP
PlatformAMD A70M (Hudson-D3/M3)
Memory8 GB Dual Channel DDR3 @ 1,600 MT/s
GraphicsAMD Radeon HD 7970M 2 GB GDDR5 w/AMD Enduro and Eyefinity
Solid State Drive2 x SanDisk SDSA5DK-064G 64 GB mSATA SSDs in RAID 0
Hard DriveWestern Digital WD7500BPKT-22PK4 750 GB 7,200 RPM Hard Drive
Optical DriveTSSTcorp (Samsung) SN-406AB Blu-ray Disc Combo Drive
Card ReaderSD (XC/HC) and MMC
DisplayLG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3 15.6" FHD 16:9 Glossy LED-backlit LCD, 1920x1080
Wi-FiAtheros AR1111 WB-EG AGN 2x2 HMC Wi-Fi/Bluetooth Adapter (802.11 b/g/n + BT v4.0)
EthernetAtheros Killer e2200 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller 10/100/1000 Mb/s Ethernet
AudioIntegrated Speakers w/Subwoofer, THX TruStudio Pro, and HDMI v1.4 Support
Operating SystemMicrosoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
WebcamIntegrated Webcam / Microphone
SecurityKensington Security Slot
PortsUSB 3.0 (x 3), USB 2.0, Headphone, Mic, Audio In, Audio Out, HDMI v1.4, Mini DisplayPort, VGA
BatteryRemovable 87 Wh
AC Adapter180 W
Weight7.7 lbs
Dimensions15.55" (Width) x 10.51" (Depth) x 2.16" (Height)
WarrantyTwo 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.