Review MSI CX61-i572M281BW7 Notebook

Daniel Schmidt (translated by Ariana Brodsky), 01/26/2014

Souped-up. MSI's CX61 multimedia notebook line gets an extensive upgrade. A Haswell CPU and current Nvidia graphics card bring the device up-to-date technologically. But did MSI put real work into fixing the predecessor's flaws, or did they simply switch out the hardware? Read our comprehensive review to find out.

For the original German review, see here.

The MSI CX61-i572M281BW7 is a version of its predecessor with upgraded hardware. Its predecessor did not make a very good impression on us in our tests, partly because the device had weaknesses in the areas of manufacturing quality, display and energy consumption. But the manufacturer once again lays their money on the MS-16GA Barebone and changes almost nothing about the device's outer appearance. This barebone also encases some gaming notebooks, like the Deviltech Fire DTX.

Inside, however, our test device has certainly changed. A new Intel Core i5-4200M now plays the role of processor, and an Nvidia GeForce GT 720M takes on graphics tasks. The working memory was expanded to 8 GB, and the hard drive capacity doubled to 1000 GB. Additionally, the panel now has HD resolution and a matte surface. In short, MSI definitely made some alterations. At 649 Euros (~$880), the notebook's cost is a little higher, but considering its hardware features, the new price tag is reasonable.

The competition is equipped with similar hardware. One of today's most popular notebooks, the Acer Aspire V5-573G (649 Euros; ~$880), possesses a weaker ULV processor, but in exchange its graphics performance (GT 750M) is considerably better. The Lenovo IdeaPad Z510 (starting at 702 Euros; ~$950), on the other hand, utilizes the same CPU as MSI and chose a somewhat stronger graphics unit to boot. Which notebook is best for what kind of user, and did MSI learn from the mistakes they made with the device's predecessor? Our review reveals the answers.

Case

Fingerprints leave their mark on the display lid.
Fingerprints leave their mark on the display lid.
The base unit is very stable, but it also has its weak points.
The base unit is very stable, but it also has its weak points.

The MSI CX61-i572M's case measures 383 x 249.5 x 37.6 millimeters (width x depth x height; ~15.1 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches) -- same as its predecessor. Considering that they share the same barebone, this is not particularly surprising. The manufacturer lists the device's weight at 2.4 kg (~5.3 lbs) without a battery. With the battery, the notebook weighs in at 2564 grams (~5.7 lbs).

In terms of manufacturing quality, unfortunately nothing has changed. Once again, the poor transitions between materials are certainly worthy of criticism. Also, the gaps between pieces of the case on the base unit are not always even. The display's poor resistance to twisting is not much of a surprise, but the notebook's base groans audibly under pressure as well. Additionally, near the fan's input/output the case can be somewhat compressed. A little more stability certainly would not have gone amiss here. Fingerprints are very easily visible on the display lid's plastic surface.

The battery can be switched out, but it is somewhat hard to remove. All in all, we see no improvements in this area. Once again, MSI's material choices and manufacturing quality are no more than average.

Connectivity

In terms of wired connectivity options, nothing has changed since the predecessor model. The optical drive now supports not only CDs and DVDs, but can also read Blu-rays. The drive still only writes to the two older standards. The card reader supports SD cards up to 64 GB in size, but it can also process less common standards like MMC and MS.

Front: SD card reader
Front: SD card reader
There are no connections on the back side of the device.
There are no connections on the back side of the device.
Left: Lock, power, HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, microphone, headphones
Left: Lock, power, HDMI, 2 x USB 3.0, microphone, headphones
Right: Optical drive, USB 2.0, VGA, LAN
Right: Optical drive, USB 2.0, VGA, LAN

Communication

The MSI CX61-i572M can access the internet either over a local network or via WLAN. In an individual test scenario, we used NetIO to measure data transfer rates between the notebook and a desktop PC. A Gigabit Switch served as our connection in the LAN portion of the test, and a Fritz!Box 6360 did the honors in the WLAN portion. Wired, a Gigabit LAN card from Qualcomm provided a good transfer speed. Only on the receiving end could files have transferred a little more quickly, but at an average of 68 MB/s the transfer rate is still respectable.

A Realtek RTL8723AE serves as the notebook's WLAN module. The component supports the IEEE 802.11 standards b/g/n and only transmits in the 2.4 GHz frequency range. But it does this very well. Even at a distance of 20 meters from the router, the connection quality was still good, though the data rates were no longer particularly high.

NetIO (LAN)
NetIO (LAN)
NetIO (WLAN, 2 m from the router)
NetIO (WLAN, 2 m from the router)
NetIO (WLAN, 20 m from the router)
NetIO (WLAN, 20 m from the router)

Accessories

The MSI CX61-i572M's accessories include its battery and a power supply with a power rating of 90 Watts (19 Volts, 4.74 Amps). Besides that, the manufacturer packages a small smorgasbord of quick-start guides and warranty provisions along with the notebook. A comprehensive user manual is saved on a DVD. This DVD also contains all the necessary drivers.

Unlike its predecessor, the notebook is not entirely free of promotional software (bloatware). Trial versions of Norton Internet Security and Microsoft Office come preinstalled -- Norton free to try for 60 days and Office for 30 days. There is also a bulky trial package from Magix for video, photo and audio editing.

But a few useful full versions of software products are also preinstalled. Alongside Corel WinDVD 10, which is necessary to watch Blu-rays, CyberLink YouCam is also available to the user.

Because the Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) operating system is not sitting on a data carrier, we strongly recommend that the user create a recovery copy with tools MSI provides.

Warranty

The notebook and its hardware components are under a 24-month warranty. The power supply and battery have a 12-month warranty. You can purchase a warranty extension to three years directly from the manufacturer for 139 Euros (~$190).

Maintenance

Like its predecessor, the MSI CX61-i572M, has a very large maintenance hatch on the bottom of its case. A warranty seal is stuck over a screw, but damage to this seal does not automatically void the notebook's warranty. Only improper or negligent handling of the components voids the warranty.

The cover is very thin and feels easily breakable -- caution ought to be exercised in handling it. Once removed, you have access to the fan, the WLAN module, the hard drive and the memory banks. One of these banks is open, so the RAM can be easily expanded to 16 GB. Unlike in the Deviltech Fire DTX, which is built with the same barebone, there is no mSATA connection on the motherboard. Anyone who wishes to install an SSD will have to remove the notebook's HDD.

The maintenance hatch gives the user access to the components.
The maintenance hatch gives the user access to the components.
The fan can be easily cleaned.
The fan can be easily cleaned.
The memory can be expanded to 16 GB.
The memory can be expanded to 16 GB.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The MSI CX61-i572M's chiclet keyboard did not change either, and it once again underlines the notebooks gaming ambitions. The small Enter and Shift keys on the right side of the keyboard will cause problems for users who type a lot, at least at first. However, the Shift and Ctrl keys on the left side are very generously proportioned.

The keys themselves measure 14 x 14 mm (~0.6 x 0.6 inches) and are slightly concave. They have a very long and soft travel. The click point, however, is very precise. Even during aggressive use of the keyboard, the keyboard bed hardly yields at all and proves to be very solid. The click sounds are very quiet. The full number block tops off our overall good impression of the keyboard.

Touchpad

The touchpad measures 80 x 50 mm (~3.1 x 2.0 inches) and has a rough surface texture. As a result, fingers tend to hop across the pad and do not glide particularly easily. The mouse arrow still glides very well across the Windows desktop. Input is translated into action quickly and precisely.

The two mouse keys are located on the strip underneath the pad and are somewhat stiff. Still, input is confirmed with both tactile and acoustic feedback. Overall, the input device leaves us with mixed feelings. Compared to its predecessor, it functions more precisely, but long-term the pad's rough surface is uncomfortable.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Finally, the display has Full HD resolution.
Finally, the display has Full HD resolution.

In our review of the predecessor model, the CX61's display was a major point of criticism. In that case, MSI did not select the reliable Full HD panel from the GE 60 line, but instead an HD screen from Samsung. Our current test device, however, possesses a display from the same series as in the GE60-i789W7H from LG-Philips. It has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels (Full HD) and a matte surface. The 15.6-inch panel's aspect ratio comes to 16:9, and at 141 PPI, its pixel density is respectable. Now the device has all the necessary features for displaying HD films.

At a maximum of 248 cd/m², the panel's brightness is very good, and at an 88% similarity across the screen, its brightness distribution is relatively even. We did not observe any screen bleeding or clouding on our test device.

245
cd/m²
240
cd/m²
241
cd/m²
238
cd/m²
248
cd/m²
221
cd/m²
221
cd/m²
240
cd/m²
218
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1 Basic Pro 2
Maximum: 248 cd/m²
Average: 234.7 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 248 cd/m²
Black: 0.38 cd/m²
Contrast: 653:1

The contrast ratio of 653:1 is good, and considerably higher than on the predecessor model. At 0.38 cd/m², the black value is also pleasantly rich. Black appears nice and bold in dark scenes.

On the uncalibrated panel, our measurements with a photospectrometer reveal a visible blue cast that makes the display image appear too cool. Some of the other deviations cannot exactly be counted insignificant either. The mixed colors occasionally exhibit a DeltaE of 12, as does the grayscale. At 77%, the sRGB color space coverage is surprisingly expansive, but the panel is still not suited for professional image editing. For everyday tasks and watching films, however, the display's weaknesses are not bothersome.

The Lenovo Z510's TN display can't hold a candle to the CX61's panel in any area. Only the Aspire V5-573's IPS screen is superior. The Aspire's display excels particularly in the realm of color accuracy. All the competing devices offer Full HD resolution.

sRGB (77%)
sRGB (77%)
Adobe RGB 98 (56%)
Adobe RGB 98 (56%)
ProPhoto RGB (26%)
ProPhoto RGB (26%)
Grayscale (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)
Grayscale (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)
Mixed colors (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)
Mixed colors (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)
Color saturation (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)
Color saturation (uncalibrated, target color space sRGB)

While the predecessor model had a glossy display surface, fortunately the CX61-i572M's is matte. Together with the panel's respectable display brightness and good contrast, the matte surface equips the notebook very well for outdoor use. Even in bright environments, the screen content is still easily visible. Only under direct sunlight is the display image somewhat difficult to see.

The MSI CX61-i572M outdoors.
The MSI CX61-i572M outdoors.
Viewing angles: MSI CX61-i572M
Viewing angles: MSI CX61-i572M

The MSI CX61-i572M's viewing angle stability is surprisingly good. Even though the notebook is outfitted with a TN panel, the image remains relatively stable across a broad range of viewing angles, comparably speaking. Even over 90 degrees along the horizontal, the display content looks perfectly normal. Along the vertical axis things do not look quite as good -- at around 35 degrees the image's colors begin to distort.

Performance

An Intel Core i5-4200M from the current Haswell generation serves as the notebook's performance base. This processor is supported by 8 GB of working memory that only operates in single-channel mode. The small dedicated graphics unit, an Nvidia GeForce GT 720M, underlines the notebook's claim to be a multimedia device. This version is not actually listed on MSI's website -- only a version with a quicker GeForce GT 740M shows up on their page.

HWiNFO64
HWiNFO64
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
CPU-Z
GPU-Z (GT 720M)
GPU-Z (GT 720M)
GPU-Z (HD4600)
GPU-Z (HD4600)
ATTO Disk Benchmark
ATTO Disk Benchmark
DPC Latency (Idle)
DPC Latency (Idle)
DPC Latency (YouTube stream)
DPC Latency (YouTube stream)
System Information MSI CX61-i572M

Processor

The Intel Core i5-4200M clocks at a base rate of 2.5 GHz and has two processing cores at its command. When required, the processor can use Turbo Boost 2.0 to increase the clock frequency to 3.1 GHz (single-core) or 3.0 GHz (dual-core). Because hyper-threading is supported, up to four threads can be processed simultaneously. This catapults the SoC to a maximum TDP of 37 Watts, though the integrated graphics solution (IGP) is already included in this number.

We used the Cinebench R11.5 benchmark to assess the processor's clock behavior. During both single-core and multi-core computations, the processor worked at its maximum rate. The results are relatively high, as expected. The difference between the Acer V5-573G's ULV processor (Core i5-4200U) and that of our review device is certainly substantial, as the Acer processor's performance falls between 16% and 25% lower than the 4200M's.

Good news: The full CPU clock rate is available in battery mode as well.

Cinebench R11.5 (single-core computation)
Cinebench R11.5 (single-core computation)
Cinebench R11.5 (multi-core computation)
Cinebench R11.5 (multi-core computation)
Cinebench R11.5 (multi-core computation in battery mode)
Cinebench R11.5 (multi-core computation in battery mode)
Cinebench R11.5
CPU Multi 64Bit
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
3.23 Points ∼18%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
2.45 Points ∼14% -24%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
3.23 Points ∼18% 0%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
3.25 Points ∼18% +1%
CPU Single 64Bit
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
1.34 Points ∼72%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
1.13 Points ∼61% -16%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
1.32 Points ∼71% -1%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
1.37 Points ∼74% +2%
Cinebench R15
CPU Multi 64Bit
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
298 Points ∼19%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
298 Points ∼19% 0%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
299 Points ∼19% 0%
CPU Single 64Bit
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
120 Points ∼78%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
111 Points ∼73% -7%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
118 Points ∼77% -2%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4469
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
10088
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
6409
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
5892 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
13085 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
6531 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
3.23 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
29.76 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.34 Points
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
35.7 fps
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
298 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
120 Points
Help

System Performance

The MSI CX61-i572M's system performance is quite respectable, once the notebook is booted. Windows 7 runs fluidly, and programs start very quickly. Still, any user who has grown used to working with an SSD will miss it dearly. Unfortunately there is no way to install a second drive in our test device.

PCMark 8 confirms our subjective experience. Compared to its immediate competition, our review device's Home score of 2966 points is only surpassed by the Lenovo Z510 (3091 points) and the HP Envy 15 (3127 points), both of which possess a somewhat stronger GPU. The potency of the GPU happens to tip the scales in this particular case. In the Work and Creative disciplines, the system does not do quite as well. The working memory's single-channel mode is mainly at fault for this, as the computer loses performance without a dual-channel mode.

PCMark 8
Home Score Accelerated
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
2966 Points ∼60%
Lenovo IdeaPad S500 Touch 59372927
GeForce GT 720M, 3337U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB LITEONIT LSS-24L6G SSD Cache
2610 Points ∼53% -12%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
2683 Points ∼55% -10%
Lenovo B5400 MB825GE
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
2949 Points ∼60% -1%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
3091 Points ∼63% +4%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
3127 Points ∼64% +5%
Creative Score Accelerated
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
2772 Points ∼47%
Lenovo IdeaPad S500 Touch 59372927
GeForce GT 720M, 3337U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB LITEONIT LSS-24L6G SSD Cache
2426 Points ∼41% -12%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
2623 Points ∼44% -5%
Lenovo B5400 MB825GE
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
3062 Points ∼51% +10%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
3388 Points ∼57% +22%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
3262 Points ∼55% +18%
Work Score Accelerated
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
3991 Points ∼76%
Lenovo IdeaPad S500 Touch 59372927
GeForce GT 720M, 3337U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB LITEONIT LSS-24L6G SSD Cache
4196 Points ∼80% +5%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
4001 Points ∼77% 0%
Lenovo B5400 MB825GE
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
4719 Points ∼90% +18%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
4426 Points ∼85% +11%
HP Envy 15-j011sg
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
4140 Points ∼79% +4%
Storage Score
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
2063 Points ∼41%
Lenovo IdeaPad S500 Touch 59372927
GeForce GT 720M, 3337U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT012-9WS142 + 24 GB LITEONIT LSS-24L6G SSD Cache
2247 Points ∼45% +9%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
1948 Points ∼39% -6%
Lenovo B5400 MB825GE
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
1899 Points ∼38% -8%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
2800 Points ∼56% +36%
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage7577 points
PCMark 72285 points
PCMark 8 Home2966 points
PCMark 8 Creative2772 points
PCMark 8 Work3991 points
Help

Storage Devices

A conventional, mechanical HDD serves as the notebook's hard drive. The WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0 rotates at 5400 rpm and has 1000 GB of storage space. Around 870 GB remains available to the user after the first system start. The drive is split into three partitions: 552 GB (system), 368 GB (data) and 11.5 GB (recovery).

Unfortunately there is no caching SSD, nor is this a hybrid hard drive, so the drive's access times are quite high. The mass storage space in the Acer V5-573 and Lenovo Z510 is only half as large, but the latter has a hybrid hard drive, and the V5 leaves the user the option to install an SSD alongside the conventional HDD.

In the sequential reading and writing of files, the data rates for the storage solution in the CX61 are relatively fast compared to the competition. But when it comes to reading small blocks of data (4k), our review device loses out to the Z510.

CrystalDiskMark 3.0
Read Seq
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
103.6 MB/s ∼7%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
51.31 MB/s ∼3% -50%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
52.3 MB/s ∼4% -50%
Write Seq
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
101.4 MB/s ∼11%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
114.3 MB/s ∼12% +13%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
57.02 MB/s ∼6% -44%
Read 4k
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
0.353 MB/s ∼1%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
0.507 MB/s ∼1% +44%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
0.206 MB/s ∼0% -42%
Write 4k
MSI CX61-i572M
GeForce GT 720M, 4200M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
1 MB/s ∼1%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
GeForce GT 740M, 4200M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
0.972 MB/s ∼1% -3%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
GeForce GT 750M, 4200U, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
0.577 MB/s ∼0% -42%
WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
Transfer Rate Minimum: 4.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 114.5 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 81.7 MB/s
Access Time: 16.7 ms
Burst Rate: 187.6 MB/s
CPU Usage: -1 %

Graphics Cards

The MSI CX61-i572M has two graphics units at its command. For everyday tasks, the Intel HD Graphics 4600's IGP takes the orders. It clocks at a maximum of 1150 MHz and supports Intel's QuickSync. This GPU obtains its storage from the RAM, which is why the RAM's single-channel mode causes a loss in performance here. This is not a huge problem, however, because Nvidia's Optimus technology hands over more demanding graphics computations to the dedicated graphics unit.

The Nvidia GeForce GT 720M is a DirectX 11 GPU from the lower middle class. It can draw from 2048 MB of its own DDR3 storage and is somewhat faster than the integrated graphics solution. The big advantage of this supplementary GPU is that it takes a load off of the processor, which mobilizes additional performance reserves.

For comparison, we benchmarked the game BioShock Infinite both with the 720M and with the HD 4600. In the medium preset, the IGP reached 17 fps, and the dedicated GPU still managed 31 fps. The latter is almost twice as fast and profits from the additional CPU power.

The 720M does not achieve stellar results in the 3DMark benchmark. But here we can easily see that the HD 4600 profits greatly from the processor's performance. The Nexoc B509II (Core i7-4702MQ) only has this IGP, but in the graphics test it manages 19% better than our test device with its dedicated GPU. Conversely, an HD 4600's performance in conjunction with a slower processor, like in the ThinkPad E540 (Core i3-4000M), is 8% slower. Because their GPUs are considerably stronger, the CX61 does not stand a chance against the two competing systems from Acer and Lenovo.

In battery mode, the GT 720M's performance throttles to a constant 234 MHz. Were a user in need of considerable GPU power and without access to a power outlet, it would be best to switch to the HD 4600, as the IGP still works at full performance in battery mode.

The 720M's clock speed in the Unigine Heaven 4.0: Constant 937 MHz.
The 720M's clock speed in the Unigine Heaven 4.0: Constant 937 MHz.
In battery mode, the 720M's clock rate falls to 234 MHz.
In battery mode, the 720M's clock rate falls to 234 MHz.
In battery mode, the HD 4600 performs at full power and is twice as fast as the 720M in the same setting.
In battery mode, the HD 4600 performs at full power and is twice as fast as the 720M in the same setting.
3DMark (2013)
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Score
MSI CX61-i572M
4773 Points ∼20%
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041
4114 Points ∼17% -14%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
5375 Points ∼22% +13%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
5855 Points ∼24% +23%
Nexoc B509II Ultra
6215 Points ∼26% +30%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Graphics
MSI CX61-i572M
5632 Points ∼7%
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041
5165 Points ∼7% -8%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
7609 Points ∼10% +35%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
9957 Points ∼13% +77%
Nexoc B509II Ultra
6688 Points ∼9% +19%
1280x720 Cloud Gate Standard Physics
MSI CX61-i572M
3112 Points ∼7%
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041
2404 Points ∼6% -23%
Lenovo IdeaPad Z510
2652 Points ∼6% -15%
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
2398 Points ∼6% -23%
Nexoc B509II Ultra
4983 Points ∼12% +60%
Legend
      MSI CX61-i572M Intel Core i5-4200M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
      Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E540 20C60041 Intel Core i3-4000M, Intel HD Graphics 4600, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
      Lenovo IdeaPad Z510 Intel Core i5-4200M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M, Seagate ST500LM000 Solid State Hybrid Drive
      Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii Intel Core i5-4200U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
      Nexoc B509II Ultra Intel Core i7-4702MQ, Intel HD Graphics 4600, Sandisk X110 SD6SF1M-256G-1022
3D Mark
3DMark 2001SE15036 points
3DMark 0320881 points
3DMark 0515643 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
7896 points
3DMark Vantage4859 points
3DMark 111350 points
3DMark Ice Storm43085 points
3DMark Cloud Gate4773 points
3DMark Fire Strike783 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme371 points
Help

Gaming Performance

The notebook's gaming performance is generally only sufficient for playing current games at a reduced resolution and lower details. Hardware-intensive titles, like Company of Heroes 2, do not run fluidly even at the lowest possible settings. Less demanding games, however, play quite well even at medium detail settings. Casual gamers will certainly be able to enjoy this little GPU.

In comparison with the Nvidia GeForce GT 750M, like we find in the Aspire V5-573G (Core i5-4200U, 1.6 GHz), the CX61's dedicated CPU has substantially less computing power. The competing model achieves considerably higher frame rates in our benchmarks. The CX61's stronger CPU makes little difference here. In the CPU-heavy title Grid 2, the MSI notebook comes in at an average of 41% behind the competing device from Acer. The processor is required the most in the low preset, and here the numbers lie closer together, but the V5-573G is still around 18% faster. In games that demand a lot from the GPU, like BioShock Infinite, the difference is even more pronounced. Here the Acer notebook is an average of 68% quicker.

In any case, the display certainly does nothing to spoil the game. We did not observe any streaking.

MSI CX61-i572M
Intel Core i5-4200M, NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M, WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0
Acer Aspire V5-573G-54208G50aii
Intel Core i5-4200U, NVIDIA GeForce GT 750M, Seagate Momentus Thin ST500LT0 12-9WS142
Lenovo G710 59397112
Intel Core i7-4702MQ, NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
Toshiba Satellite P70-A-104
Intel Core i7-4700MQ, Intel HD Graphics 4600, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
GRID 2
41%
-23%
1024x768 Ultra Low Preset105.4124
18%
84.5
-20%
1366x768 Medium Preset53.879
47%
43.9
-18%
1366x768 High Preset AA:2xMS36.557
56%
25.3
-31%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS12.518
44%
BioShock Infinite
68%
1%
1280x720 Very Low Preset55.786.12
55%
56.3
1%
1366x768 Medium Preset30.551.18
68%
30.7
1%
1366x768 High Preset25.543.62
71%
25.7
1%
1920x1080 Ultra Preset, DX11 (DDOF)7.413.18
78%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
55% / 55%
1% / 1%
-23% / -23%
low med.high ultra
BioShock Infinite (2013) 55.730.525.57.4fps
GRID 2 (2013) 105.453.836.512.5fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 21.116.394.1fps
Fifa 14 (2013) 137.769.9fps
Batman: Arkham Origins (2013) 703918fps
Need for Speed: Rivals (2013) 26.520.216fps
X-Plane 10.25 (2013) 80.233.912.3fps
Thief (2014) 21.31310.7fps
Titanfall (2014) 5730.825.4fps
The Elder Scrolls Online (2014) 74.437.921.4fps
Wolfenstein: The New Order (2014) 39.637.213.9fps
Watch Dogs (2014) 33.519.76.2fps
GRID: Autosport (2014) 82.932.515.612.5fps

Emissions

System Noise

The CX61's emits somewhat less noise than its predecessor. Still, the fan runs continuously, even in idle mode, and produces a constant sound pressure level of about 33 dB(A). The whirring of the hard drive is only minimally louder.

Under load, the notebook is clearly audible. It reaches 45.6 dB(A) in 3DMark06 and is louder than its predecessor in this instance. Both the Lenovo Z510 (38 dB(A)) and the Acer V5-573 (41 dB(A)) run more quietly. Under full load (Prime95 and FurMark running simultaneously), our test device hits a sound pressure level of almost 51 dB(A). Compared to the competition, the notebook is loud here. But even during gaming sessions the computer will not actually reach this maximum noise level.

Noise Level

Idle 32.8 / 32.8 / 32.7 dB(A)
HDD 34.4 dB(A)
DVD 36.1 / dB(A)
Load 45.6 / 50.6 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test: CPU @ 3.0 GHz | 720M @ 776 - 864 MHz.
Stress test: CPU @ 3.0 GHz | 720M @ 776 - 864 MHz.

The notebook's surface temperatures in idle mode are completely innocuous and reach a maximum of 29 °C (84.2 °F). The MSI CX61-i572M remains comfortably cool in all areas. You can use it on your lap without any trouble.

Under load, the temperatures rise sharply. Still, the notebook remains comparably cool. Even after running Prime95 and FurMark for two hours straight, the highest temperature we measured was still tolerable -- 46 °C (114.8 °F) on the top of the case. Among the competition, there is no cooler device; the Acer V5-573 even reaches up to 62.1 °C (143.78 °F), though it has a considerably more powerful GPU and a substantially thinner case.

In our stress test, we used Prime95 and FurMark to push the components to their limits for three-and-a-half hours. But here too we see that MSI understands how to cool their product well. The processor reached an average of 86 °C (186.8 °F) and maintained its clock rate of 3.0 GHz throughout the entire test. At 94 °C (201.2 °F), the GPU grows considerably warmer, and not only does its clock rate sink, but it also fluctuates mildly between 776 and 864 MHz.

Max. Load
 41.2 °C46.0 °C31.0 °C 
 32.9 °C38.7 °C31.0 °C 
 30.6 °C34.0 °C29.2 °C 
Maximum: 46.0 °C
Average: 35 °C
28.0 °C35.3 °C42.1 °C
26.0 °C35.7 °C36.2 °C
26.1 °C29.6 °C30.5 °C
Maximum: 42.1 °C
Average: 32.2 °C
Power Supply (max.)  45.4 °C | Room Temperature 21.6 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

The MSI CX61-i572M's two built-in stereo speakers sound somewhat dull. The sound is flat overall, and though bass tones are audible, they clearly lack intensity. The speaker quality is no more than average -- though they can get very loud.

Anyone who wants to work with audio files, or simply enjoy music at a high audio quality, should plug in external speakers or headphones.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The CX61's new, frugal components theoretically ought to finally bring the notebook's energy consumption down to a good level. In idle mode, the power draw fluctuates between 9.4 and 13.8 Watts. The competition's numbers are a little lower, but these results are still reasonable.

Under load, the notebook's energy consumption rises to up to 78.2 Watts. Compared to its predecessor (max. 83.6 Watts), this is an improvement, but it is still a very large number. With its considerably stronger GPU, but also more frugal CPU, the Acer V5-573 reaches a maximum power draw of 77.5 Watts. The Lenovo Z510 has the same processor as our review device, but also a more potent graphics unit. Still, its energy consumption rate peaks at 58 Watts -- substantially lower than the CX61. With its power rating of 90 Watts, our review device's power supply is large enough to provide the notebook with enough energy to run under full load and charge the battery at the same time.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.1 / 0.6 Watt
Idle 9.4 / 13.5 / 13.8 Watt
Load 65.2 / 78.2 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

The CX61 has a 49 Wh battery. The higher energy consumption rates under load already gave us the feeling that the notebook's battery life would not be particularly good this time around. Indeed, the improvements are few. Only in the Reader's test (with the Battery Eater tool) did the battery life rise to a good number -- almost ten hours. In this test, the panel brightness is set to minimum and all wireless modules are deactivated.

The rest of the results are somewhat disappointing and almost all fall short of the competition. The notebook's increased power draw in standby mode (0.6 Watts) is also bothersome.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
9h 42min
WiFi Surfing
2h 48min
DVD
1h 40min
Blu-ray
1h 51min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
2h 19min
Load (maximum brightness)
2h 07min

Verdict

In Review: MSI CX61-i572M281BW7. Test device courtesy of Nvidia Deutschland.
In Review: MSI CX61-i572M281BW7. Test device courtesy of Nvidia Deutschland.

MSI's CX61-i572M281BW7 is certainly a superior notebook to its predecessor. Particularly in terms of performance, the device does well, especially considering that the processor performs at full speed even in battery mode. The graphics unit underlines the notebook's multimedia ambitions, but it could be stronger. The Full HD display is good: It is bright, it displays a rich black, and due to its matte surface, it is well-suited for outdoor use.

Serious points of criticism still include the poor manufacturing quality and comparably high energy consumption rates. The input devices are not among the best either, and the keyboard lacks background lighting -- a feature that the Acer Aspire V5-573 does offer.

If you are looking for a notebook with a good panel and strong application performance, you could have a lot of fun with the CX61. Casual gamers who want to be able to run demanding titles and play on the go should take a closer look at the V5-573. The Lenovo IdeaPad Z510 offers very good manufacturing quality and balanced performance. All three notebooks are lacking in one area or another, but there is simply no way around that in this price class.

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In Review: MSI CX61-i572M281BW7. Test device courtesy of Nvidia Deutschland.
In Review: MSI CX61-i572M281BW7. Test device courtesy of Nvidia Deutschland.

Specifications

MSI CX61-i572M

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM86 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, Single-channel, PC3-12800 DDR3, One slot free, Max. 16 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 720M - 2048 MB, Core: 625 - 938 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, GF117, DDR3 memory, Intel HD Graphics 4600, nvlddmkm 9.18.13.2702 (ForceWare 327.02), Nvidia Optimus
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, LG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3, TN-LED, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
WDC Scorpio Blue WD10JPVX-22JC3T0, 1024 GB 5400 rpm , 870 GB free
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC269 @ Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 1 headphone, 1 microphone, Card Reader: SD/MMC/MS up to 64 GB,
:: Networking
Atheros AR8161/8165 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Realtek RTL8723AE Wireless LAN 802.11n (n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp DVDWBD SN-406AB
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 37.6 x 383 x 249.5
:: Weight
2.546 kg Power Supply: 0.332 kg
:: Battery
49 Wh Lithium-Ion, 6 cells, 11.1 V, 4400 mAh
:: Price
649 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 1.280 x 720 Pixel, 30 fps, Speakers: Two stereo speakers, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, Power supply (90 W), Norton IS 2013 Trial, Corel WinDVD BD, Cyberlink YouCam, Magix Foto Manager 9, Magix Music Maker 16, Magix Video Easy SE, 24 Months Warranty

 

The display lid is made of plastic.
The display lid is made of plastic.
The 15.6-inch display has a matte surface.
The 15.6-inch display has a matte surface.
It has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
It has a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
More buttons make input easier.
More buttons make input easier.
The speakers are more or less average.
The speakers are more or less average.
Stickers reveal the hardware inside.
Stickers reveal the hardware inside.
More specific technological specifications are stuck to the palm rest.
More specific technological specifications are stuck to the palm rest.
The keyboard is optimized for gamers.
The keyboard is optimized for gamers.
There is a plethora of status LEDs.
There is a plethora of status LEDs.
Lefties could wind up short on space when all the ports are occupied.
Lefties could wind up short on space when all the ports are occupied.
There is more space on the right-hand side.
There is more space on the right-hand side.
The base unit is constructed out of thin plastic.
The base unit is constructed out of thin plastic.
There is no mSATA slot.
There is no mSATA slot.
MSI ensures that the notebook will cool well.
MSI ensures that the notebook will cool well.
One memory bank remains open.
One memory bank remains open.
Two antennae are connected to the WLAN module.
Two antennae are connected to the WLAN module.
Access to the HDD is a breeze.
Access to the HDD is a breeze.
The storage: Not particularly fast, but certainly roomy.
The storage: Not particularly fast, but certainly roomy.
The optical drive can be easily switched out.
The optical drive can be easily switched out.
The battery has a power rating of 49 Wh.
The battery has a power rating of 49 Wh.

Similar Devices

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» Review Lenovo G710 59397112 Notebook
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Laptops with Same Screen Size and/or Weight

» Asus GL550JK-CN391H Notebook Review
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Links

Price Comparison

Amazon.com

Show results on Amazon.com

Pricerunner n.a.

Pro

+Fair price-performance ratio
+Great application performance...
+...which is also available in battery mode
+Bright, matte Full HD display
+Blu-ray drive
+Good WLAN
+Gigabit LAN
+Maintenance-friendly
 

Cons

-Poor manufacturing quality
-Input devices take some getting used to
-High energy consumption
-Rather loud under load

Shortcut

What we like

MSI finally treats a device in this series to a good Full HD display.

What we'd like to see

Background lighting for the keyboard would have been great.

What surprises us

The comparatively high energy consumption rates were surprising. The resulting battery runtimes definitely limit the notebook's mobility.

The competition

The competition includes: the Lenovo IdeaPad Z510, Acer Aspire V5-573, Asus N56VB-S4050H, Toshiba Satellite C55-A-1D5 and HP Pavilion 15-e052sg.

Rating

MSI CX61-i572M
04/16/2014 v4
Daniel Schmidt

Chassis
39 / 98 → 40%
Keyboard
56%
Pointing Device
56%
Connectivity
67 / 95 → 71%
Weight
59 / 67 → 83%
Battery
75%
Display
80%
Games Performance
71 / 93 → 76%
Application Performance
73%
Temperature
89%
Noise
73 / 95 → 77%
Audio
40 / 95 → 42%
Camera
38 / 95 → 40%
Average
63%
70%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review MSI CX61-i572M281BW7 Notebook
Author: Daniel Schmidt, 2014-01-26 (Update: 2014-01-29)