Notebookcheck

MSI GS40 6QE Phantom Notebook Review

Oliver Moebel (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 01/18/2016

Hot performance dwarf. Skylake quad-core, GTX 970M and a decent 14-inch display: MSI’s device in the pretty narrow segment of ultra-mobile gaming notebooks can meet all the performance expectations. So much performance does, however, require some compromises in other areas.

For the original German review, see here.

There are not many smaller than 15.4-inch devices that can handle very demanding games. It is easier (and less expensive) to integrate powerful GPUs into larger cases due to the power consumption and heat development. Putting a GeForce GTX 970M in a 14-inch chassis on the other hand, requires more effort in terms of power supply and cooling. MSI has risked it and now offers a 14-inch model that does not have to hide behind the larger rivals, at least not on paper. In addition to the previously mentioned high-end GeForce, you get the following components: Core i7-6700HQ, 16 GB DDR4-RAM and a combination of ultra-fast NVMe-SSD and conventional TB HDD. All this is implemented into a nicely designed chassis that weighs just 1.8 kg (~4 lb) – the price for this package is 1700 Euros (~$1851).

You often read that very compact gaming systems are becoming more popular. The fact that the gaming specialists from MSI have now released a high-end 14-inch gaming notebook could be seen as an indication of this trend, but the GS40 is hardly without rivals. The Gigabyte P34W, for example, uses a similarly sized chassis and both the performance as well as the price are in the same ballpark. We have not received a model with the Skylake update yet, so we use the P34W v3. The latter is also equipped with a GTX 970M, but in combination with a Haswell CPU (Core i7-4720HQ). Obviously, there are performance differences compared to Skylake, but the systems can still be compared when we are not only looking at CPU benchmarks. The same applies for the Schenker XMG C405, which we reviewed in the Haswell configuration with a Core i7-4720HQ and a GeForce GTX 965M

The ZenBook UX303UB from Asus is a multimedia subnotebook with a 13.3-inch screen, a frugal Skylake dual-core (Core i7-6500U) and a GeForce 940M. The performance is much lower, but on the other hand, the mobility is much better– and you can get it for less than 1000 Euros (~$1089). It might be an interesting alternative if you are willing to make some performance compromises. If you want even more power, however, you should have a look at the Alienware 15 R2Core i7-6700HQ and GeForce GTX 980M in combination with a 15.6-inch display, available for little more than 2000 Euros (~$2178).

MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Processor
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M - 3072 MB, Core: 924 MHz, Memory: 2500 MHz, GDDR5, 10.18.13.5374 (ForceWare 353.74), Optimus
Memory
16384 MB 
, DDR4-2133, Dual-Channel (2/2 slots occupied), up to 32 GB
Display
14.0 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, LG Philips LP140WF3-SPD1 (LGD046D), IPS, Full HD, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
Storage
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe, 128 GB 
, M.2-SSD + HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630, 1 TB HDD @ 7200 rpm
Soundcard
Realtek ALC899 @ Intel Sunrise Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 USB 3.1 Gen2, 1 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 2 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Mic-In, Line-Out incl. S/PDIF (gold-plated connectors), Card Reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC
Networking
Qualcomm/Atheros e2400 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1525 Wireless Network Adapter (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.1
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 23 x 345 x 245 ( = 0.91 x 13.58 x 9.65 in)
Battery
61 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4 cells
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Home 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 1080p @ 30 fps (FHD)
Primary Camera: 2 MPix
Additional features
Speakers: 2.0 Dynaudio (Nahimic Audio Enhancer), Keyboard: Chiclet (SteelSeries), Keyboard Light: yes, PSU: 150 Watts, Accessories: Cloth transport bag, keyboard cover, quick-start guide, warranty card, driver DVD, MS Office 365 Trial, several manufacturer tools, 24 Months Warranty
Weight
1.84 kg ( = 64.9 oz / 4.06 pounds), Power Supply: 514 g ( = 18.13 oz / 1.13 pounds)
Price
1700 Euro

 

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Case

Top: MSI GS40 | Bottom: MSI GE62
Top: MSI GS40 | Bottom: MSI GE62

MSI follows the design principles of its gaming lineup. The GS40 also has design features that remind us of a sports car – matte black with few red accents is dominated by the G-series logo. Both the lid and the top of the base are made of brushed aluminum, while the rest of the chassis is made of plastic. This is only a visual difference though – the aluminum dents as easily as the plastic surfaces when we apply pressure. 

The display of the GS40 is not very torsion-resistant. Another issue is the display hinges; the panel does not only bounce a lot when you open it, but only stays open when the angle exceeds 10 degrees. This might not be important in practice, but indicates a possible weak spot. At least, there is no creaking and the gaps are very small.

1.8 kg (4 lb) for a powerful gaming device – Gigabyte and Schenker prove that this does not have to affect the stability. The exterior does not suggest a "weak" construction either. The GS40 is not particularly fragile or slim in a direct comparison with the 15-inch MSI GE62, even though all the dimensions are much smaller.

Ports

For its size, the GS40 has a decent port variety. HDMI, two USB 3.0 and one USB 3.1 Type-C (MSI calls it "Super Port") are standard for many modern devices. At the back of the case is also a Mini-DisplayPort; the location is ideal if you want to attach an additional monitor. The port layout at the sides is also very clever: There are no ports at the front, so you are not affected when you use an external mouse.

Left: Gigabit-Ethernet, power, USB 3.0, card reader, microphone jack, headphones
Left: Gigabit-Ethernet, power, USB 3.0, card reader, microphone jack, headphones
Right: USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0, HDMI-out
Right: USB 3.1 Type-C, USB 3.0, HDMI-out
Rear: Mini-DisplayPort
Rear: Mini-DisplayPort

Card Reader

Card reader performance
Card reader performance

The card reader is really slow. We can only measure an average transfer rate of 25 MB/s with our reference card (Toshiba Exceria Pro SDXC 64 GB UHS-II). This suggests that the signal still uses the USB 2.0 standard somewhere along the way. Our results were even slightly lower compared to the card reader of the new GE62, where the verdict was: too low for this price range.

Webcam

integrated webcam
integrated webcam

The camera of the GS40 has 1920x1080 pixels. That the pictures are not razor-sharp should not be a huge problem when you use it as a webcam. The color reproduction is much more important – or do you want to be asked about an unhealthy face color? The camera is actually pretty decent in this respect; the differences compared to the reference picture (taken with a compact camera) are small. Trickier lighting conditions "only" result in a reduction of details in dark areas, but the colors are not affected, both for pictures as well as videos.

Artificial light, indoor: MSI GS40
Artificial light, indoor: MSI GS40
Comparison: Sony Alpha 6000
Comparison: Sony Alpha 6000
Twilight, backlight: MSI GS40
Twilight, backlight: MSI GS40
Comparison: Sony Alpha 6000
Comparison: Sony Alpha 6000

Communication

Wired network connections are handled by a Gigabit-Ethernet adapter from Qualcomm Atheros. Wireless connections according to IEEE 802.11ac (867 Mbps) as well as Bluetooth 4.1 are provided by an adapter from the Killer-series. Both 2.4 and 5 GHz connections were strong during our review period and it did not matter whether the notebook was standing directly next to the router or two floors away with several walls in between. A 1 GB video file in the latter scenario was transferred with 13 MB/s on average without any significant fluctuations. There should not be any problems in practice.

Accessories

As well as the usual quick-start guide and the warranty card, the box also includes a driver and software DVD, a keyboard cover as well as a cloth bag for the notebook. Nowadays, you can call this "generous".

Operating System

MSI ships the notebook with a preloaded version of Windows 10 Home 64-bit. The HDD of the notebook contains the recovery partition, which can be used to restore the system and create a USB flash drive for the setup. A Windows DVD is not provided – and cannot be ordered in MSI's shop either, which was still the case for devices based on Windows 7/8.1.

Maintenance

Hardware
Hardware

You have to loosen eight screws at the bottom to remove the cover and get access to the internals. One of these screws is covered by the warranty seal, but that is not a problem in Germany. Once the cover is removed you can find one M.2 slot, one 2.5-inch slot as well as two memory slots, but the latter are already used by default. It is also possible to clean the fan or replace the internal battery.

Warranty

MSI offers a warranty of 24 months for its notebooks (battery 12 months) – and the GS40 is no exception. The warranty also includes a free Pick-up & Return service. It is not possible to extend the warranty period.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The GS40 is equipped with a SteelSeries keyboard that has a red background illumination. The construction is similar to the larger MSI gaming notebooks apart from the numeric keypad, which is missing due to space constraints. The typing experience on the other hand, cannot quite live up to the usual qualities. Pressure point and travel are very good, but the whole keyboard will bend even under little pressure on individual keys. This unintended bouncing results in a very spongy typing experience.

Touchpad

The "flexible" surface is not such a big problem for the ClickPad. Clicks will also result in a bouncing pad (as well as half of the keyboard), but this "only" appears a bit cheap and does not really affect the workflow. The gliding capabilities for the fingers are good, and touches and gestures are recognized and executed precisely, even at the edges.

Multi-color illuminated SteelSeries keyboard...
Multi-color illuminated SteelSeries keyboard...
...plus Clickpad with multi-touch support.
...plus Clickpad with multi-touch support.

Display

Subpixel array MSI GS40
Subpixel array MSI GS40

MSI has equipped the GS40 with a 14-inch FHD panel from LG Philips. The matte IPS display manages a decent brightness and a pretty even brightness distribution – the luminance drops slightly only in the two bottom corners. There is no screen bleeding when we look at a completely black picture. The panel holds up pretty well compared to the 14-inch competition, except for one important aspect.

292
cd/m²
278
cd/m²
283
cd/m²
289
cd/m²
304
cd/m²
280
cd/m²
266
cd/m²
274
cd/m²
269
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 304 cd/m² Average: 281.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 304 cd/m²
Contrast: 822:1 (Black: 0.37 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 7.47 | - Ø
ΔE Greyscale 6.51 | - Ø
86% sRGB (Argyll) 56% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll)
Gamma: 3.71
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
LG Philips LP140WF3-SPD1 (LGD046D), IPS, 14.0, 1920x1080
Schenker XMG P406
LG Philips 140WF1 (LGD040A), IPS, 14, 1920x1080
Gigabyte P34W V3
AU Optronics B140HAN01.1, IPS, 14.0, 1920x1080
Schenker XMG C405
AU Optronics B140HAN01.1 (AUO113ED), AHVA, 14.0, 1920x1080
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
ChiMei N133HSE-EA3, IPS, 13.3, 1920x1080
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Samsung 4NDDJ_156HL (SDC4C48), IPS, 15.6, 1920x1080
Screen
18%
-1%
9%
19%
-4%
Brightness282266
-6%
277
-2%
267
-5%
394
40%
179
-37%
Brightness Distribution8881
-8%
84
-5%
85
-3%
89
1%
83
-6%
Black Level *0.370.22
41%
0.72
-95%
0.32
14%
0.41
-11%
0.19
49%
Contrast8221282
56%
424
-48%
875
6%
939
14%
947
15%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *7.474.98
33%
2.81
62%
4.75
36%
3.84
49%
6.74
10%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *6.514.08
37%
1.92
71%
5.91
9%
3.79
42%
6.44
1%
Gamma *3.712.512.212.522.232.29
CCT7840 83%5877 111%6384 102%5742 113%6499 100%6465 101%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)5654
-4%
60.4
8%
59
5%
60
7%
38
-32%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)8683
-3%
92
7%
60
-30%

* ... smaller is better

sRGB coverage: 86%
sRGB coverage: 86%
AdobeRGB1998 coverage: 56%
AdobeRGB1998 coverage: 56%

The color accuracy is not ideal ex-works. Average deviations of 6.51 (Grayscale) and 7.47 (ColorChecker) before the calibration are clearly beaten by some rivals, so the result of the GS40 in the table above is quite average. We compared the uncalibrated results to ensure fair conditions between the review units – and the panel cannot quite compensate for the deviations with the high contrast and the decent black value. Calibration can improve the situation significantly: The DeltaE drops to 0.93 (Grayscale) and 2.71 (ColorChecker). The results are vivid colors and richer blacks, so the calibrated display of the GS40 looks quite good.

MSI has now equipped its gaming notebooks with a number of predefined color profiles: You can quickly change the picture settings based on the situation (game, movie playback etc.) via software. Our measurements were performed with the mode "sRGB", which is designed for picture editors and is supposed to provide a high coverage of the corresponding color space. We measured a decent sRGB coverage of 86%, but the AdobeRGB coverage of just 56% will not be sufficient for professional purposes.

CalMAN - Grayscale pre-calibration
CalMAN - Grayscale pre-calibration
CalMAN - ColorChecker pre-calibration
CalMAN - ColorChecker pre-calibration
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps pre-calibration
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps pre-calibration
CalMAN - Grayscale calibrated
CalMAN - Grayscale calibrated
CalMAN - ColorChecker calibrated
CalMAN - ColorChecker calibrated
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps calibrated
CalMAN - Saturation Sweeps calibrated

You can use the GS40 quite comfortably outdoors, even if you cannot find a place in the shade. The high luminance, which is not reduced on battery power, makes this possible.

Outdoor use
Outdoor use
Outdoor use
Outdoor use
Viewing angles
Viewing angles

The content on the IPS display is easy to see from any angle. Colors do not distort, and this also applies to the brightness when you look at the display from the front. Angles from above or below on the other hand, appear significantly darker, even though the brightness is still sufficient.

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
23 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 5 ms rise
↘ 18 ms fall
The screen shows good response rates in our tests, but may be too slow for competitive gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 18 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is better than the average of all tested devices (28.3 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
31 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 12 ms rise
↘ 19 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 172 (maximum) ms. » 14 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is better than the average of all tested devices (43 ms).

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM not detected

In comparison: 56 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 519 (minimum: 43 - maximum: 10420) Hz was measured.

Performance

The MSI GS40 is only available in one configuration, which we have used for this review (the full designation is GS40-6QE16H11): Intel Core i7-6700HQ, Nvidia GeForce GTX 970M, 16 GB DDR4-RAM and a combination of NVMe-SSD and 1 TB HDD. The performance should be sufficient for almost every modern game in high to ultra details. The graphics output in less demanding situations is handled by the integrated HD Graphics 530 of the processor, which is automatically activated via Optimus and ensures frugal video decoding, for example.

 

Processor

The Core i7-6700HQ is a mobile high-end CPU from Intel's current Skylake generation. A nominal clock of 2.6 GHz can be overclocked to 3.5 GHz via Turbo Boost (one CPU core) or 3.3 GHz (two cores) and 3.1 GHz (four cores), respectively. You can also use four additional virtual cores thanks to Hyperthreading. The 14 nm manufacturing allows a slight TDP decrease from 47 to 45 watts compared to similar Haswell and Broadwell chips like the Core i7-4720HQ.

If you compare similarly powerful CPUs, in this case Intel quad-cores with a nominal clock of around 2.5 GHz, the differences between the generations Skylake, Broadwell and Haswell are actually not that big. The i7-4720HQ of the Gigabyte P34W is only a few percent points behind its Skylake counterpart in the Cinebench tests. This changes when we look at the ULV processor of the ZenBook UX303 with just two processor cores so, the multi-core performance is significantly lower.

It is not really surprising that our review processor is on par with identical CPUs in other devices like the Alienware 15 R2, for instance. More powerful chips are currently hard to find. The Intel Core i7-6820HK, which is used in several 17-inch models like the MSI GT72S 6QF, is hardly faster by default – but it can be overclocked by the user.

Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.46 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
49.6 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.62 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
677 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
60.17 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
139 Points
Help
Cinebench R15
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
139 Points ∼76%
Schenker XMG P406
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
141 Points ∼77% +1%
Gigabyte P34W V3
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
130 Points ∼71% -6%
Schenker XMG C405
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
135 Points ∼74% -3%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
Intel Core i7-6500U
129 Points ∼71% -7%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
146 Points ∼80% +5%
MSI GT72S 6QF
Intel Core i7-6820HK
138 Points ∼76% -1%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
677 Points ∼44%
Schenker XMG P406
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
680 Points ∼44% 0%
Gigabyte P34W V3
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
636 Points ∼41% -6%
Schenker XMG C405
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
610 Points ∼39% -10%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
Intel Core i7-6500U
278 Points ∼18% -59%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
677 Points ∼44% 0%
MSI GT72S 6QF
Intel Core i7-6820HK
703 Points ∼45% +4%
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Single 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
1.62 Points ∼0%
Schenker XMG P406
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
1.6 Points ∼0% -1%
Gigabyte P34W V3
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
1.47 Points ∼0% -9%
Schenker XMG C405
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
1.51 Points ∼0% -7%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
Intel Core i7-6500U
1.47 Points ∼0% -9%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
1.67 Points ∼0% +3%
MSI GT72S 6QF
Intel Core i7-6820HK
1.58 Points ∼0% -2%
CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
7.46 Points ∼0%
Schenker XMG P406
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
7.45 Points ∼0% 0%
Gigabyte P34W V3
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
6 Points ∼0% -20%
Schenker XMG C405
Intel Core i7-4720HQ
6.47 Points ∼0% -13%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
Intel Core i7-6500U
3.14 Points ∼0% -58%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Intel Core i7-6700HQ
7.43 Points ∼0% 0%
MSI GT72S 6QF
Intel Core i7-6820HK
7.74 Points ∼0% +4%

System Performance

The combination of i7 CPU, 16 GB DDR4 memory in a dual-channel configuration, powerful GPU and NVMe system drive ensures the smooth operation of the GS40 in practice. Windows 10 is ready after around 8 seconds; all applications are launched without delays.

A look at the PCMark 8 scores does not reveal a big difference between the Haswell and Skylake platforms. Our review unit as well as the Alienware 15 R2 are sometimes slightly ahead of older systems from Gigabyte or Schenker, and sometimes slightly slower.

PCMark 7 Score
5451 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3776 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
4742 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4831 points
Help
PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
5451 Points ∼69%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
6147 Points ∼77% +13%
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ, Lite-On LMT-128L9M
6182 Points ∼78% +13%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U, Micron M600 MTFDDAK512MBF
5162 Points ∼65% -5%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256D
5846 Points ∼74% +7%
PCMark 8
Work Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
4831 Points ∼79%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
5023 Points ∼82% +4%
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ, Lite-On LMT-128L9M
4443 Points ∼73% -8%
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ, Crucial M550 CT256M550SSD3
4813 Points ∼79% 0%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U, Micron M600 MTFDDAK512MBF
4353 Points ∼71% -10%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256D
5011 Points ∼82% +4%
Creative Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
4742 Points ∼58%
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ, Lite-On LMT-128L9M
4895 Points ∼60% +3%
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ, Crucial M550 CT256M550SSD3
4759 Points ∼58% 0%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U, Micron M600 MTFDDAK512MBF
4042 Points ∼50% -15%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256D
4541 Points ∼56% -4%
Home Score Accelerated v2 (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
3776 Points ∼67%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
3371 Points ∼59% -11%
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ, Lite-On LMT-128L9M
4006 Points ∼71% +6%
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ, Crucial M550 CT256M550SSD3
3869 Points ∼68% +2%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U, Micron M600 MTFDDAK512MBF
3320 Points ∼59% -12%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, Samsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256D
3822 Points ∼67% +1%
Discussion

Storage Devices

The Samsung NVMe in our review unit is one of the fastest SSDs you can currently get. The 128 GB drive beats all the competitors in CrystalDiskMark and is even faster than the Samsung PCIe-drive in the Alienware 15 R2. AS SSD determines surprisingly bad results in some of the write tests, but we are not quite sure about the reason. Four seconds is definitely an error – writing operations start without delays in practice. The deplorable write transfer rates with very small files on the other hand, can be reproduced: The Windows Explorer showed 10 MB/s on average when we copied 10000 files in the KB range. You will probably not notice this in practice unless you often copy thousands of small files, but there might actually be a driver issue that is currently being discussed on the Internet.

Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Sequential Read: 1332 MB/s
Sequential Write: 686.6 MB/s
512K Read: 935.8 MB/s
512K Write: 650.1 MB/s
4K Read: 49.57 MB/s
4K Write: 138.8 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 559.4 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 247.3 MB/s
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
Samsung MZFLV128 NVMe
Schenker XMG P406
Samsung SM951 MZHPV256HDGL m.2 PCI-e
Gigabyte P34W V3
Lite-On LMT-128L9M
Schenker XMG C405
Crucial M550 CT256M550SSD3
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
Micron M600 MTFDDAK512MBF
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
Samsung PM951 NVMe MZ-VLV256D
CrystalDiskMark 3.0
20%
-48%
-36%
-44%
-19%
Write 4k138.8110.3
-21%
75.04
-46%
111.3
-20%
90.48
-35%
143.7
4%
Read 4k49.5743.82
-12%
33.13
-33%
33.03
-33%
28.74
-42%
42.62
-14%
Write Seq686.61290
88%
337.4
-51%
496.6
-28%
444.9
-35%
306
-55%
Read Seq13321634
23%
503.7
-62%
517
-61%
484.2
-64%
1213
-9%
AS SSD
165%
64%
98%
62%
Access Time Write *4.2340.042
99%
0.054
99%
0.046
99%
0.064
98%
Access Time Read *0.0620.061
2%
0.094
-52%
0.063
-2%
0.11
-77%
4K-64 Write34.73351.2
911%
256.3
638%
304.54
777%
254
631%
4K-64 Read737.65707.02
-4%
366.8
-50%
384.76
-48%
308.13
-58%
4K Write102.4592
-10%
67.93
-34%
97.58
-5%
76.09
-26%
4K Read45.5439.68
-13%
30.97
-32%
30.61
-33%
26.51
-42%
Seq Write289.111251.98
333%
322.94
12%
475.56
64%
399.94
38%
Seq Read1834.131875.39
2%
486.99
-73%
523.45
-71%
514.03
-72%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
93% / 117%
8% / 26%
31% / 53%
9% / 26%
-19% / -19%

* ... smaller is better

GPU Performance

The GeForce GTX 970M is a mobile high-end GPU, which is used in numerous gaming notebooks. The core runs at 924 MHz and 3 GB GDDR5-VRAM are attached via 192-bit memory interface, so the performance should be sufficient for smooth gameplay even in demanding games. Less complex tasks are handled by the integrated HD Graphics 530, which will be activated automatically.

The 3DMark results show that the performance of our review unit is on par with a notebook with the GTX 970M. It does not really make a difference for the 3D performance if the GPU is accompanied by a Skylake, Broadwell or Haswell processor. A GTX 965M, which can be found inside the Schenker XMG C405, falls behind by roughly 25%, while the GeForce 940M in the Asus is 75% slower. The GTX 980M of the Alienware manages between 10 to 25% more points depending on the setting.

The GPU performance is significantly reduced on battery power, even with the "High Performance" power profile. The GTX 970M only runs at a few hundred MHz; the result is only half of the original performance.

3DMark 11 Performance
9544 points
3DMark (2013) Ice Storm Standard Score
87313 points
3DMark (2013) Cloud Gate Standard Score
21133 points
3DMark (2013) Fire Strike Standard Score
6530 points
Help
3DMark (2013)
1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Score (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
6530 Points ∼28%
Schenker XMG P406
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
6564 Points ∼28% +1%
Gigabyte P55 V4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
6746 Points ∼29% +3%
Gigabyte P34W V3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
6644 Points ∼28% +2%
Schenker XMG C405
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
4851 Points ∼21% -26%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
NVIDIA GeForce 940M
1428 Points ∼6% -78%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
8107 Points ∼35% +24%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
21133 Points ∼65%
Schenker XMG P406
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
21052 Points ∼65% 0%
Gigabyte P55 V4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
20807 Points ∼64% -2%
Gigabyte P34W V3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
21105 Points ∼65% 0%
Schenker XMG C405
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
16148 Points ∼50% -24%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
NVIDIA GeForce 940M
6223 Points ∼19% -71%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
22947 Points ∼71% +9%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
9544 Points ∼45%
Schenker XMG P406
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
9332 Points ∼44% -2%
Gigabyte P55 V4
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
8699 Points ∼41% -9%
Gigabyte P34W V3
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M
9320 Points ∼44% -2%
Schenker XMG C405
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M
7291 Points ∼35% -24%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
NVIDIA GeForce 940M
2488 Points ∼12% -74%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M
10623 Points ∼50% +11%

Gaming Performance

GeForce GTX 970M can handle pretty much every modern game with great graphics. The “Witcher 3”, for example, is still running smoothly with the "High" preset and the native display resolution. Users of the GS40 should therefore be well-equipped for the current gaming year.

The “Tomb Raider” benchmarks roughly support the synthetic benchmark scores, because both the MSI GS40 and the Gigabyte P34W v3 perform very similarly with the identical graphics card and a different processor. And while the slightly slower GTX 965M (Schenker C405) is often still sufficient for complex games, the 940M even has problems with older games.

low med. high ultra
Tomb Raider (2013) 307.5270.318586.6fps
The Witcher 3 (2015) 134.584.638.926.4fps
Fallout 4 (2015) 135.5101.353.543.7fps
Tomb Raider - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:FX AF:16x (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
86.6 fps ∼31%
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ
81.3 fps ∼29% -6%
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
59 fps ∼21% -32%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
16.2 fps ∼6% -81%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
110.8 fps ∼40% +28%
The Witcher 3
1920x1080 Ultra Graphics & Postprocessing (HBAO+) (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
26.4 fps ∼36%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
31.3 fps ∼42% +19%
1920x1080 High Graphics & Postprocessing (Nvidia HairWorks Off) (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
38.9 fps ∼29%
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
54.9 fps ∼42% +41%
Fallout 4
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:T AF:16x (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
43.7 fps ∼34%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
42.2 fps ∼32% -3%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
9.8 fps ∼8% -78%
1920x1080 High Preset AA:T AF:16x (sort by value)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
53.5 fps ∼36%
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
53.1 fps ∼36% -1%
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
11.5 fps ∼8% -79%

Emissions

System Noise

The measurements suggest a comparatively quiet gaming notebook – at least no louder than the rivals (except for the ZenBook with its ULV processor). However, the fan behavior can actually be quite annoying in practice. The fans are usually quiet while idling and you can only hear the HDD. But it gets really loud when the GS40 decides to blow off some steam (which happens every few minutes with the "Balanced" power profile) – the fans will quickly reach 38 dB(A).

The cooling solution is usually not running at steady rpm levels under load. Another problem is the pretty high-pitched noise at higher speeds, which adds to the subjective noise impression. At least, our review unit did not suffer from annoying coil whining.

Noise development idle
Noise development idle
Noise development load
Noise development load
Pink & White Noise (speakers)
Pink & White Noise (speakers)

Noise Level

Idle
33 / 34 / 38 dB(A)
HDD
34 dB(A)
Load
44 / 52 dB(A)
 
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   Audix TM1 (15 cm distance)
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
Noise
1%
-2%
-4%
15%
4%
Idle Minimum *3330
9%
34.2
-4%
29.2
12%
31.5
5%
33.6
-2%
Idle Average *3432
6%
34.3
-1%
34.6
-2%
31.5
7%
33.8
1%
Idle Maximum *3840
-5%
38
-0%
38.8
-2%
31.5
17%
34
11%
Load Average *4447
-7%
43.8
-0%
54
-23%
35.9
18%
39.3
11%
Load Maximum *5251
2%
55
-6%
54.4
-5%
38.2
27%
51.4
1%

* ... smaller is better

Temperature

Stress test: FurMark + Prime95
Stress test: FurMark + Prime95

The GS40 is usually cooler than 40 °C (~104 °F) while idling, but the cooling solution has a hard time to manage the heat under load. One reason is probably the CPU performance, which is hardly affected by throttling and does not drop too far below the nominal clock of 2.6 GHz. This comes at a price though: The chassis warms up to almost 70 °C (~158 °F) over the course of our stress test, which is really demanding for the system. The device does not get quite as hot in practice; however, you should not put it on your lap when you play games. The palm rest stays quite comfortable, even under maximum load.

Max. Load
 56.6 °C56.5 °C57.4 °C 
 50.3 °C53.4 °C49.3 °C 
 33.4 °C33.7 °C35.3 °C 
Maximum: 57.4 °C
Average: 47.3 °C
65.3 °C68.8 °C55.8 °C
54.4 °C60.7 °C54.4 °C
34.1 °C39.5 °C31.4 °C
Maximum: 68.8 °C
Average: 51.6 °C
Power Supply (max.)  59.7 °C | Room Temperature 22 °C | Voltcraft IR-900
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Gigabyte P34W V3
GeForce GTX 970M, 4720HQ
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
Heat
4%
9%
4%
24%
16%
Maximum Upper Side *57.455
4%
45.2
21%
47.8
17%
56.6
1%
48
16%
Maximum Bottom *68.858.7
15%
56.8
17%
60.4
12%
54.3
21%
57.3
17%
Idle Upper Side *36.336.9
-2%
34.6
5%
37.7
-4%
24
34%
31.9
12%
Idle Bottom *41.241.7
-1%
43.6
-6%
44.8
-9%
24.2
41%
33.4
19%

* ... smaller is better

Speakers

We are already familiar with the Dynaudio system of the GS40 from other MSI gaming notebooks. Once again, the sound from the stereo speakers is decent, but it lacks some bass. However, a direct comparison with the GE62 shows that the missing subwoofer does not really make a difference. A better sound can be realized with external speakers, which can be attached via the gold-plated stereo jack or HDMI.

The two speakers are located at the front of the bottom.
The two speakers are located at the front of the bottom.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

the insufficient 150-watt power adapter
the insufficient 150-watt power adapter

The GS40 is impressive with a pretty low average consumption – while idling as well as under load. The only problem is the very high maximum consumption at over 150 watts, which exceeds the nominal output of the power adapter (not counting the efficiency level). We already know about this problem from many MSI notebooks: The battery will drain under maximum load, even when the power adapter is attached. And once again, we can only repeat that this should not happen in this price range – the small additional costs for a more powerful PSU should not be the problem.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.8 / 1.2 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 10 / 14 / 24 Watt
Load midlight 90 / 172 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Metrahit Energy
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
MSI GS60-6QE4K16H21
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ
Power Consumption
-5%
-26%
-28%
59%
-8%
Idle Minimum *1012
-20%
17
-70%
15.8
-58%
3.2
68%
11.4
-14%
Idle Average *1416
-14%
22
-57%
22.8
-63%
7.6
46%
16.5
-18%
Idle Maximum *2422
8%
28
-17%
27.3
-14%
8
67%
22
8%
Load Average *9090
-0%
91
-1%
106.8
-19%
47
48%
94.2
-5%
Load Maximum *172170
1%
149
13%
152
12%
55
68%
192.2
-12%

* ... smaller is better

Battery Runtime

The battery runtimes of the GS40 are reasonable when you consider the powerful components and the small dimensions. Our realistic Wi-Fi test, which uses a script to open websites at 150 nits, determines a good result of 300 minutes. Sure – ULV-based systems like the Asus ZenBook or 15-inch systems like the Alienware 15 R2 with larger batteries manage longer runtimes. The overall results are, however, quite good within its particular segment (14-inch, high-end components).

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 13min
WiFi Surfing v1.3
4h 57min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
5h 02min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 00min
MSI GS40-6QE16H11
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, 61 Wh
Schenker XMG P406
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, 45 Wh
MSI GS60-6QE4K16H21
GeForce GTX 970M, 6700HQ, 47 Wh
Schenker XMG C405
GeForce GTX 965M, 4720HQ, 61 Wh
Asus Zenbook UX303UB-R4100T
GeForce 940M, 6500U, 50 Wh
Alienware 15 R2 (Skylake)
GeForce GTX 980M, 6700HQ, 96 Wh
Battery Runtime
-9%
-26%
-21%
98%
84%
Reader / Idle313275
-12%
213
-32%
997
219%
769
146%
Load6072
20%
61
2%
118
97%
114
90%
WiFi v1.3297197
-34%
157
-47%
236
-21%
410
38%
446
50%
H.264302413
37%
456
51%

Pro

+ enormous performance for the size
+ great display (after calibration)
+ fast combination of SSD and HDD
+ good port equipment
+ decent battery runtime

Cons

- chassis is not very sturdy
- spongy keyboard
- power adapter insufficient
- pulsating fan behavior

Verdict

In review: MSI GS40 6QE Phantom. Test model courtesy of MSI Germany.
In review: MSI GS40 6QE Phantom. Test model courtesy of MSI Germany.

The GS40 is a good compromise between performance and compact dimensions. The few drawbacks are mainly the result of the "Mini-Max" concept, but you can live with them. The (gaming) performance is beyond any doubt – the GS40 can even handle very demanding games. The display is impressive, the power consumption is reasonable and the battery runtimes are quite good.

The light weight affects the stability of the chassis, which flexes quite quickly under pressure (incl. key strokes). The fans also have a hard time to dissipate the heat – maybe they should just run at a steady rate instead of pulsating? This would definitely improve the noise development.

But this cannot change our good overall impression of the GS40. There are not many 14-inch alternatives, at least if you want modern features like a Skylake CPU, DDR4-RAM and USB 3.1. This could change quite quickly (review of the Schenker XMG P406 will follow soon), but right now you could only go for a smaller, but less powerful system, or get a heavier 15 or even 17-inch gaming notebook.

At around 1700 Euros (~$1851), the GS40 is certainly not a bargain, but the pricing is still similar to the rivals.

MSI GS40-6QE16H11 - 03/08/2016 v5
Oliver Moebel

Chassis
75 / 98 → 77%
Keyboard
75%
Pointing Device
77%
Connectivity
65 / 81 → 80%
Weight
65 / 66 → 98%
Battery
81%
Display
85%
Games Performance
88%
Application Performance
91%
Temperature
68 / 95 → 72%
Noise
64 / 90 → 71%
Audio
77%
Camera
63 / 85 → 74%
Average
75%
81%
Gaming - Weighted Average

Pricecompare

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > MSI GS40 6QE Phantom Notebook Review
Oliver Moebel, 2016-01-18 (Update: 2016-01-18)