Benchmarks And Conclusion
We're using our typical "first look" suite to test the MSI GS40 6QE Phantom, including the synthetic metrics PCMark 8, 3DMark Fire Strike and Unigine Valley, along with real-world runs through Metro: Last Light Redux and Bioshock Infinite, both of which possess an in-game benchmarking utility. For battery tests, we adopted the method featured in our EVGA SC17 first look, which uses Tomb Raider.
MSI's GS40 6QE Phantom competes directly with several other laptops we've looked at. The Acer Predator 15 and EVGA SC17 both sport an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980M module, though the Predator 15 wields a standard Intel Core-i7 6700HQ processor, while the SC17 boasts the much more powerful Core i7-6820HK. For an apples to apples comparison, we pit the GS40 against Asus' G752VT, which sports nearly identical specs. Finally, the GS40 faces off against the Y700-15 Touch, an entry-level gaming laptop from Lenovo's IdeaPad line.
For more consistent results, we retested previously-reviewed laptops at maximum fan speed whenever possible. Each one was set to its High Performance power profile at 100 percent brightness.
Synthetic Benchmark - PCMark 8
The GS40 6QE possesses almost identical specifications as Asus' G752VT, but falls short in PCMark 8. Keep in mind that the G752VT's ventilation is particularly robust, and we tested with the fans at full speed. The Asus even pulls ahead of Acer's Predator 15, which sports a smaller cooling system. Otherwise, our GS40 behaves as expected, outperforming the lower-end Lenovo Y700-15 Touch and succumbing to the Predator 15.
Synthetic Benchmark - 3DMark Fire Strike
The GS40's results in Fire Strike come closer to what we'd expect. MSI's Phantom lands in the middle of the pack, losing to the GTX 980M-equipped Predator 15 and SC17, while trading blows with the evenly matched G752VT. Finally, it clinches a victory against the Y700-15 Touch.
Synthetic Benchmark - Unigine Valley
The Unigine Valley test closely resembles what we saw in 3DMark Fire Strike. This time, the Phantom swaps places with Asus' G752VT, though their scores are very close.
Gaming Benchmark - Bioshock Infinite
Similar to the results from our synthetic metrics, MSI's GS40 performs like Asus' G752VT on average. The exception was the Monument Island scene, where the GS40 pulled ahead (but still couldn't come anywhere near the Predator 15 or SC17).
Gaming Benchmark - Metro: Last Light Redux
Metro is extremely demanding, even on high-end gaming desktops. And yet, the Phantom maintains an average frame rate just above 30, which you could argue is the minimum for playable performance. Really, it's those dips down to 11 FPS that kill your experience.
Battery Test - Tomb Raider 2013 Run-Down
We naturally have to change Windows' Power settings for battery testing. This benchmark benefits from Nvidia's Battery Boost, which enforces a frame rate ceiling to prevent wasteful output from burning through the power source. By default, Nvidia sets the technology to 30 FPS.
Before starting the test, we make sure the laptop is fully charged, and that keyboard and accent lighting are either dimmed or completely off. The Balanced profile is selected, and we set Hibernate to kick in once the battery hits 5 percent. We run Tomb Raider's in-game benchmark until the laptop goes to sleep, giving us a minimum frame rate result and an accurate battery measurement.
Unfortunately, the GS40 6QE doesn't stack up well against competing gaming notebooks, though this was to be expected given compact dimensions that make it tough to stash lots of battery capacity.
MSI's GS40 6QE Phantom provides impressive performance at an attractive price. The system we tested contained nearly identical specifications as the Asus G752VT we tested previously, and you wouldn't be able to distinguish between their performance were it not for our chart labels. But the GS40 enjoys a small advantage; at $1600, it's $50 cheaper than the G752VT.
Additionally, the Phantom is the thinnest and lightest gaming laptop we've tested so far. Keeping to the GS line's naming convention, the Phantom is sleek, light and discreet.
There's one important caveat tied to those sexy dimensions and potent benchmark results: modest battery life. Given how much power the system consumes even when it's trying to conserve (if only by virtue of its high-end hardware), you have to expect the 61Wh battery to run out of juice before larger and more accommodating platforms. In the same vein, fast components in a compact enclosure are difficult to cool. The byproduct of that is greater heat density. And indeed, the GS40 6QE Phantom can quickly get uncomfortably warm.
Clearly, MSI had to make compromises to deliver its GS40 6QE Phantom. But with Nvidia's GeForce GTX 970M in a system under 3.5lbs for $1600, we really cannot complain.
Alexander Quejado is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom’s Hardware and Tom’s IT Pro. Follow Alexander Quejado on Twitter.