Notebookcheck

Review MSI GT60 Dominator Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by A Kammel), 05/09/2014

Game mode: Domination. Following the release of Nvidia's 800-series, MSI revamps its gaming laptop line. While not much has changed in terms of external appearance, the performance levels have been improved considerably. Still, the main selling point of the Dominator will surely be its 3K display.

Fresh meat for gamers
Fresh meat for gamers

For the original German review, see here.

The MSI GT60 is primarily meant to appeal to gamers. Two models exist, one with the GeForce GTX 870M (2PC Dominator) and the other with the GeForce GTX 880M (2PE Dominator Pro), which is faster by 30%.

Those who want even more from their gaming laptop will want to choose the so-called 3K edition, which ships with a WQHD+ display with a massive amount of 2880x1620 pixels instead of 1920x1200 pixels. Our review will show whether this difference is really worth the extra price and the possible penalties in terms of performance.

Two different sub-models of the 3K edition are currently available, one with a combination of an SSD with 128 GB and an HDD with 1000 GB of storage (the GT60-2PE16H11B which costs 2000 Euros; ~$2750) as well as 16 GB of RAM. Our test device (the GT60-2PC81B) skips the SSD and half the RAM with a slightly slower GTX 870M GPU, but also costs 400 Euros (~$550) less, as the table below illustrates. 

The differences end here, though. Both the CPU - a Core i7-4800MQ clocked at 2.7-3.8 GHz - and the optical Blu-ray combo drive are similar in both versions, as is the OS, Windows 8.1 64-bit.

Model GT60-2PC81B GT60-2PE16H11B
Processor Intel Core i7-4800MQ Intel Core i7-4800MQ
Graphics Card Nvidia GeForce GTX 870M Nvidia GeForce GTX 880M
RAM 8 GB DDR3 16 GB DDR3
Mass storage 1000 GB HDD 128 GB SSD + 1000 GB HDD
Optical drive Blu-ray Combo Blu-ray Combo
Display 15.6" WQHD+ Glossy 15.6" WQHD+ Glossy
Operating System Windows 8.1 64-Bit Windows 8.1 64-Bit
Price 1600 Euros (~$2200) 2000 Euros (~$2750)

Case

brushed aluminum
brushed aluminum

Although MSI has reduced the number of glossy elements (the display lid now comes in matte), the GT60 still looks like a rather playful device. We still do not get - from a "Western" point of view - why MSI chooses not to follow the more subtle design language of the GS60/GS70.

In terms of visual appearance, the GT60 has a somewhat cheapish and dirt-prone look to it (especially due to the glossy areas between the keys and around the speaker bars, which gets dusty quite easily), with elegance and a certain high-quality feel being notably absent, although the brushed aluminum lid and palm rest help to rectify this a bit. Then, there is the large footprint, both in terms of weight and size. A height of 5.5 centimeters (~2.2 inches) and a weight of 3.3 kilograms (~7.3 pounds) are both quite a lot for a 15-inch device.

There are advantages to the heavy chassis concerning its stability, such as great torsion resistance of the base unit even when a lot of pressure is applied to it. The only weakness in that regard is the lid, which can be significantly distorted with two hands (then again, this holds true for almost all laptops) in addition to producing color inversions when pressure is applied to the back of the frame.

The (not-quite-silent) hinges work well. Even when the base unit is moved around, the display does not wobble - which it does for most laptops.

Connectivity

The ports have changed a bit when compared to that of its predecessor. Instead of two digital and one analog video outs (HMDI, Mini DisplayPort and VGA), the new model now ships with three digital video ports (HDMI, 2x Mini DisplayPort) capable of driving up to three external displays (a technology MSI calls Matrix Display).

The rest of the ports have remained unchanged. While the SD card reader, the RJ45 Ethernet port and the Kensington Lock may not be much to write home about, four audio ports (enough for a serious surround system) and three USB 3.0 ports are quite exceptional.

Still, they are not placed perfectly. Both on the left and right hand side the ports are located close to the front, possibly becoming a nuisance when using, for example, an external mouse. The Clevo P150SM chassis as used in the One K56-4N offers a more thoughtful arrangement of ports.

Communication

All communication is handled by products made by Qualcomm Atheros. Next to the Killer e2200 Gigabit Ethernet controller, there is a Killer Wireless-N 1202 modem combining Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n into one product. Thanks to the preinstalled Network Manager, all data usage and transfer speeds can be monitored and analyzed.

The modem fared well during our (non-scientific) range tests - even when 10 meters (~33 feet) and several walls are placed in between the device and the router, the Wireless-N 1202 still registered one to three bars.

left: 2x USB 3.0, card reader, USB 3.0
left: 2x USB 3.0, card reader, USB 3.0
rear: Kensington Lock, power connector, RJ45-LAN, 2x Mini-DisplayPort, HDMI
rear: Kensington Lock, power connector, RJ45-LAN, 2x Mini-DisplayPort, HDMI
right: 4x audio ports, USB 2.0, optical drive
right: 4x audio ports, USB 2.0, optical drive

Maintenance

Since a warranty sticker hindered us from opening the maintenance hatch (our laptop was a leased device from an online shop), we cannot offer any actual pictures. On the other hand, we do expect that the innards are quite similar to those of its predecessor where the entirety of them were accessible - not just the RAM modules and the mass storage device, but also the fan system including the vents. Thanks to the MXM architecture, the graphics card can be swapped (at least in theory, installing different-generation cards might be impossible). The same holds true for the CPU.

preinstalled software
preinstalled software

Software

The generous amount of preinstalled software is both a blessing and a curse, with nice tools on the one side (the keyboard illumination configurator called SteelSeries Engine and the system surveillance tool Dragon Gaming Center) and on the other, a much more sluggish system right after boot-up (due to extreme strains put on the HDD) and even later on.

As one of the screenshots below illustrates, the information area of the taskbar is full of programs. It takes some cleanup action before the hardware can play its cards. A bit less would have been better. Moreover, had an SSD be used, this issue would have hardly been noticed.

Accessories

MSI's offerings are top-notch in this regard, ranging from warranty brochures and Quick Start as well as Recovery guides to a driver DVD and an HDD bracket. In addition, the laptop comes with a 180-Watt power adapter (~850 grams; ~1.9 lbs, 16.8 x 8.3 x 4 centimeters; ~6.6 x 3.3 x 1.6 inches) and a 9-cell battery (~480 grams; ~1.1 lbs, 87 Wh).

Warranty

The Dominator comes with 24 months of warranty.

first boot-up
first boot-up
System Control Manager
System Control Manager
Killer Network Manager
Killer Network Manager
Dragon Gaming Center
Dragon Gaming Center

Input Devices

Keyboard

3-zone illumination
3-zone illumination

The Chiclet-style keyboard has been developed in collaboration with the gaming experts from SteelSeries. The layout is unusual, to say the least.

To optimize the keyboard for gamers, several keys have been resized, such as the left Ctrl key, or rearranged, such as the <>| keys and the Windows key, that have moved to the right of the space bar. The exact list of changes depends on the keyboard layout; the German edition even came with a much smaller return key. MSI has definitely succeeded in its goal to make a more gamer-friendly than writer-friendly keyboard.

The haptics are decent, as is the noise being generated by the keys. Pressure point, key travel, the "feel" of the keys (sized 14.5 x 14.5 mm), all of this should be sufficient for most people. Still, this is no Alienware 17 or Clevo P170SM/177SM.

Nice: The GT60 is one of very few laptops offering a 3-zone illumination system allowing for crazy color combinations and making it easy to play in the dark.

Touchpad

Although rather on the small side (77 x 45 millimeters; ~3.0 x 1.8 inches), the touchpad is not bad at all, both in terms of precision and feedback. Its surface (with an aluminum-like finish) offers decent sliding properties.

Of course, the touchpad supports gestures as well. Those who activate all the options the Synaptics driver offers will not only be able to zoom and rotate but also scroll vertically. There is even a horizontal scrolling feature close to one edge of the touchpad.

Opponents of the ClickPad rejoice: MSI has decided to stick to conventional dedicated mouse buttons. However, these require a lot of pressure in order to register a click and work - due to the way they are built - only at the left and right edges.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

As we have already mentioned, MSI sells the GT60 either with a "conventional" Full HD display (1920x1080 pixels) or a much sharper WQHD+ display with 2880x1620 pixels, which takes quite a lot of graphics prowess to be rendered.

The rather demanding 3D action game Battlefield 4 actually ran more or less smoothly with everything set to high (34 fps during the benchmark sequence) thanks to the GeForce GTX 870M. The Schenker XMG P304 on the other hand - equipped with a GeForce GTX 860M and a QHD+ panel - was only capable of rendering Battlefield 4 smoothly in its native resolution of 3200x1800 pixels when everything was set to low.

290
cd/m²
298
cd/m²
274
cd/m²
278
cd/m²
288
cd/m²
261
cd/m²
271
cd/m²
273
cd/m²
252
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 298 cd/m²
Average: 276.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 85 %
Center on Battery: 288 cd/m²
Black: 0.27 cd/m²
Contrast: 1067:1

In desktop mode - just using plain old Windows - the enormous resolution is both a blessing and a curse at the same time. Those who do not deactivate MSI's enormous standard magnification preset (which is possible e.g. during the first system start) will be met by gigantic UI elements, making the display feel more like an HD setup with 1366x768 pixels. So much about the idea of Ultra HD.

On the other hand, without any magnification everything looks tiny. Therefore, in terms of software, 3K or 4K may not be there yet. When it comes to demanding games, a sweet spot seems to be Full HD (1920x1080 pixels), which can be interpolated without noticeable reductions in sharpness.

MSI GT60-2PC81B vs. sRGB (grid)
MSI GT60-2PC81B vs. sRGB (grid)
MSI GT60-2PC81B vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
MSI GT60-2PC81B vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Grayscale
CalMAN: Color Management
CalMAN: Color Management
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: Saturation Sweeps
CalMAN: ColorChecker
CalMAN: ColorChecker

Still, no matter the resolution: The IPS panel made by Panasonic (VVX16T029D00) is quite great. Next to the more-than-decent black levels of 0.27 cd/m², the contrast ratio is superb, too, exceeding 1000:1 (more than most other laptops by far). Its average brightness of 276 cd/m² is also sufficient.

Color accuracy is top-notch. As our measurements with the professional-grade CalMAN software show, the IPS panel offers extreme levels of accuracy (RGB balance, grayscale, saturation...), leaps and bounds ahead of other 15-inch panels such as the LG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3 (used e.g. in the One K56-4N) and actually even better than the IPS panel LP156WF4-SPB1 (Schenker M504).

Still, it is not the perfect panel for professional graphics artists due to the decent, but not great color space rendition values of 79% for sRGB and 58% for Adobe RGB.

Outdoor usage MSI GT60-2PC81B
Outdoor usage MSI GT60-2PC81B
Outdoor usage MSI GT60-2PC81B

There is one major issue we had with the display: Light bleeding in several spots near the edges can become a nuisance during darker scenes. The glossy surface may get annoying even indoors due to the massive reflections that occur.

The viewing angle stability of the Panasonic VVX16T029D00 is superb and much better than most other panels, especially TN panels.

Viewing angles MSI GT60-2PC81B
Viewing angles MSI GT60-2PC81B

Performance

Processor

Haswell
Haswell

The MSI GT60 is quite future-proof thanks to a Haswell-generation Intel quad-core CPU, the Core i7-4800MQ. It is clocked at 2.7-3.7 GHz and thus approximately 10% higher than its famous (and cheaper) sibling, the Core i7-4700MQ. Both 22-nm CPUs come with 6 MB of L3 cache and a TDP of 47 Watts.

The GT60 makes use of the HD Graphics 4600 GPU. Thanks to Nvidia's Optimus technology, the laptop is capable of switching dynamically between the integrated and the dedicated graphics card, saving energy while idle or during light loads.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ Memory
System info CPUZ SPD
System info GPUZ (HD 4600)
System info GPUZ (GTX 870M)
System info HWiNFO
System info HDTune
System info Latencies
System information MSI GT60-2PC81B

Turbo Boost

The Turbo Boost overclocking functionality does not work quite as well as advertised, with the GT60 not always reaching the 3.7 GHz (single-core) and 3.5 GHz (multi-core) which should in theory be possible. Often, no more than 3.1-3.4 GHz is possible, as can be seen by looking at the benchmarks. Still, this is far from a throttling issue - even during the unrealistic stress test including both FurMark and Prime95, the base clock speed has always been reached.

single-core rendering
single-core rendering
multi-core rendering
multi-core rendering
CPU & GPU stress
CPU & GPU stress

CPU performance

Cinebench R15 is a prime example showing the sub-optimal Turbo Boost mode operation of the GT60's Core i7-4800MQ, reaching 639 points during the multi-CPU test, coming in even below the weaker Core i7-4700MQ (643 points @ One K56-4N). The high-end siblings Core i7-4810MQ (680 points @ Schenker XMG P724) and Core i7-4910MQ (697 points @ Schenker XMG P704) are 6-9% faster.

During the single CPU test, the MSI falls in between a 4700-series and a 4810-series CPU (137 vs. 132 vs. 145 points). The Core i7-4910MQ fares best with more than 150 points.

Cinebench R15 - CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
Core i7-4800MQ
639 Points ∼41%
One K56-4N
Core i7-4700MQ
643 Points ∼41% +1%
One K73-4N
Core i7-4800MQ
663 Points ∼43% +4%
Schenker XMG P724
Core i7-4810MQ
680 Points ∼44% +6%
Schenker XMG P704
Core i7-4910MQ
697 Points ∼45% +9%
Cinebench R11.5 - CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
Core i7-4800MQ
7.08 Points ∼40%
One K56-4N
Core i7-4700MQ
6.94 Points ∼39% -2%
One K73-4N
Core i7-4800MQ
7.22 Points ∼41% +2%
Schenker XMG P724
Core i7-4810MQ
7.36 Points ∼42% +4%
Schenker XMG P704
Core i7-4910MQ
7.52 Points ∼43% +6%
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.6 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
7.08 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
54.08 fps
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
83.13 fps
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
639 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
137 Points
Help

Graphics Card

GPU infos
GPU infos

Unlike other GeForce 800 models, the GTX 870M is not yet Maxwell-based, but rather still relies on the slightly older Kepler architecture.

Still, some improvements have been made to make the GPU competitive, boosting the performance of the GTX 770M (GK106 chip) by increasing the 960 shader units to 1344 CUDA cores and improving the core clock speed from 811-862 MHz to 941-967 MHz on the GK104 chip of the GTX 870M.

The rest of the specs remain largely the same. The 3072 MB of 192-bit GDDR5 video RAM are still sufficient, and as the One K73-4N has shown, the GTX 870M is very well capable of coming close to the last-gen champion - despite the fact that the GTX 780M offers 14% more shader units (1536).

GPU performance

The DirectX 11 GPU is definitely a high-end graphics card, with its 4701 points during the Fire Strike test of 3DMark 13 beating a GeForce GTX 860M by 16% in the case of the Maxwell version (3936 points @ Schenker XMG A504) and even 32% in the case of the Kepler version (3174 points @ Schenker W504). The main competitor made by AMD is more capable by comparison, yielding a plus of 13% with 5294 points (One K56-4N). Better still (by 30% when compared to the MSI GT60) is the GeForce GTX 880M (6095 points @ Schenker XMG P704).

The Unigine Heaven 3.0 benchmark yields similar results (1920x1080, high, tessellation normal), with the AMD Radeon R9 M290X this time taking the fourth spot 4% behind the GTX 870M (62.0 vs. 64.4 fps). The GTX 870M lies in between the 880M (81.2 fps, +26%) and the Maxwell-based 860M (49.5 fps, -23%).

Unigine Heaven 3.0 - 1920x1080 DX 11, Normal Tessellation, High Shaders AA:Off AF:Off (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
64.4 fps ∼38%
Schenker XMG A504
GeForce GTX 860M (332.60)
49.5 fps ∼29% -23%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X (13.151.0.0)
62 fps ∼37% -4%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
65 fps ∼39% +1%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
81.2 fps ∼48% +26%
3DMark (2013) - 1920x1080 Fire Strike Standard Graphics (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
4701 Points ∼32%
Schenker XMG A504
GeForce GTX 860M (332.60)
3936 Points ∼26% -16%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X (13.151.0.0)
5294 Points ∼36% +13%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
4664 Points ∼31% -1%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
6095 Points ∼41% +30%
3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
7156 Points ∼32%
Schenker XMG A504
GeForce GTX 860M (332.60)
4946 Points ∼22% -31%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X (13.151.0.0)
6817 Points ∼30% -5%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
7270 Points ∼32% +2%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
8690 Points ∼38% +21%
3DMark Vantage - 1280x1024 P GPU no PhysX (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
23913 Points ∼47%
Schenker XMG A504
GeForce GTX 860M (332.60)
18373 Points ∼36% -23%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X (13.151.0.0)
24205 Points ∼47% +1%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
24065 Points ∼47% +1%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
29698 Points ∼58% +24%
3D Mark
3DMark Vantage24056 points
3DMark 116974 points
3DMark Ice Storm32780 points
3DMark Cloud Gate15688 points
3DMark Fire Strike4312 points
Help

Storage Devices

CrystalDiskMark
CrystalDiskMark

Despite the fact that other GT60 do indeed ship with an SSD we still cannot understand that this device (costing 1600 Euros; ~$2200!) comes without one. After all, it takes a few minutes after boot-up before the system can show its full prowess (all these loading times would be much faster with an SSD).

Still, the HGST Travelstar 7K1000 is one of the best 2.5-inch HDDs with a high capacity of 1000 GB and fast 7200 rpm, leading to above-average (for an HDD) CrystalDiskMark and HD Tune results of 120 MB/s and 111 MB/s respectively during sequential reading. However, a much better performance can be reached by adding an SSD.

HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630
Transfer Rate Minimum: 62.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 146 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 110.8 MB/s
Access Time: 16.2 ms
Burst Rate: 262.6 MB/s
CPU Usage: 2.5 %

System Performance

The non-existing SSD also has a negative impact on our system tests. Instead of the 5000 - 6500 points most high-end laptops reach in PCMark 7, the GT60 only managed to achieve 3425 points. Much cheaper office and multimedia laptops such as the Medion Akoya S4217T (Core i3-4010UHD Graphics 4400) or the Lenovo IdeaPad Y510p (Core i7-4700MQGeForce GT 755M SLI) reach similar performance levels despite much weaker CPUs and GPUs.

PC Mark
PCMark 73425 points
PCMark 8 Home v22706 points
PCMark 8 Creative v24150 points
PCMark 8 Work v23820 points
Help

Gaming Performance

may the games begin
may the games begin

For those who are willing to reduce the display resolution (whenever necessary), most games can be played even with extreme details and MSAA anti-aliasing. Only some highly demanding games such as Far Cry 3Crysis 3X-Plane 10 or Hitman: Absolution call for reduced details.

All other games managed to run smoothly (with more than 30 fps) with 1920x1080 pixels and maximum graphics details. Less demanding titles (such as Tomb Raider, BioShock: InfiniteGRID 2, Dota 2, F1 2013Titanfall) can even be played in the native resolution with medium-high settings.

It may be prudent to keep the GPU driver up to date, as can be seen by looking at The Elder Scrolls Online. The new beta driver 337.50 used by the Schenker W504 (GTX 870M as well) improved the performance by 50% when compared to our ForceWare 332.35 version.

Whether the GTX 880M is worth an additional 400 Euros (~$550), everybody has to decide for him- or herself. The performance boost comes close to +30%.

Battlefield 4 - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4x MS (sort by value)
MSI GT60 Dominator
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
37.3 fps ∼36%
Schenker XMG P304
GeForce GTX 860M (332.35)
28.9 fps ∼28% -23%
One K73-4N
GeForce GTX 870M (332.35)
36.2 fps ∼35% -3%
One K56-4N
Radeon R9 M290X (13.151.0.0)
38.7 fps ∼37% +4%
Schenker XMG P704
GeForce GTX 880M (332.35)
45.4 fps ∼44% +22%
low med.high ultra
Guild Wars 2 (2012) 51.136fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 4829fps
Far Cry 3 (2012) 67.628.6fps
Crysis 3 (2013) 65.627.1fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 133.360.9fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 12452.5fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 59.433.7fps
GRID 2 (2013) 69.858.5fps
Dota 2 (2013) 63.1fps
Saints Row IV (2013) 56.844.1fps
F1 2013 (2013) 9976fps
Battlefield 4 (2013) 93.437.3fps
Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013) 56.437.2fps
X-Plane 10.25 (2013) 2318.8fps
Thief (2014) 48.232.3fps
Titanfall (2014) 59.957.3fps
The Elder Scrolls Online (2014) 46.936.4fps

Emissions

System Noise

Unfortunately, the noise emissions of the GT60 are quite noticeable even while idle (34-35 dB(A)). While this is not yet annoying and helps drown out the clattering noise of the HDD, it is worse than what most of its competitors offer. At least, the fan noise is rather "pleasant", never sounding shrill or suddenly becoming much louder (such as some Clevo laptops).

Under full load, things take a turn for the worse. Instead of holding a constant rotation speed, the noise emission varied between 40 and 48 dB(A) during 3DMark. The latter value is much too high, and will possibly be highly annoying for some. Still, most high-end laptops get rather loud during 3D applications, with the competing One K56-4N (with the attractively priced R9 M290X) reaching more than 45 dB(A) as well. That being said, the fans of the GT60 are actually capable of yielding 52-57 dB(A) under full load - and this is actually without the Cooler Booster functionality, which might lead to a further increase in noise levels.

Noise Level

Idle 34.2 / 34.6 / 35.0 dB(A)
DVD 36.0 / dB(A)
Load 47.8 / 56.6 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

stress test
stress test

The chassis remains reasonably cool, with an average value of 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit) after two hours under full load, including some parts reaching up to 43 degrees (top; 109.4 Fahrenheit) and 56 degrees (bottom; 132.8 Fahrenheit) respectively. However, even during our stress test with FurMark and Prime95 combined, no more than 28 degrees (82.4 Fahrenheit) was reached in the vicinity of the palm rest - a superb result.

When only tasked with running simple video, MS Office or web programs, the entire chassis remains surprisingly cold. Even after two hours of being idle, the laptop never exceeded 25-32 degrees (77-89.6 Fahrenheit).

The components fare worse, however. Both the CPU and the GPU reached up to 90 degrees Celsius (194 Fahrenheit) during our stress test. Still, no throttling occurred.

Max. Load
 43.2 °C41.5 °C28.8 °C 
 43.3 °C35.5 °C28.9 °C 
 27.4 °C27.6 °C25.9 °C 
Maximum: 43.3 °C
Average: 33.6 °C
30.9 °C42.7 °C56.0 °C
30.8 °C30.8 °C46.8 °C
24.5 °C25.3 °C27.0 °C
Maximum: 56.0 °C
Average: 35 °C
Power Supply (max.)  60.5 °C | Room Temperature 24 °C | Voltcraft IR-550

Speakers

SBC
Sound Blaster Cinema

MSI has embedded top-notch laptop sound systems in its laptops for years, even beating the Asus G750 or the Alienware 17 with the harmonic Dynaudio system of the GT60/GT70.

When combined with Creative's Sound Blaster Cinema technology providing a number of sound improvements, the 15-inch laptop yields a well-balanced and rather strong music, video and gaming sound experience. The speakers get loud (with the chassis vibrating) and they include a compact subwoofer, rendering external speakers almost obsolete for non-audiophiles. Great job!

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Despite its less-powerful graphics card, the GT60 requires more Watts while idle than its 17-inch sibling, the GT70 (15-31 Watts instead of 11-28 Watts). Still, this is a decent value for a gaming laptop. Clevo's P150SM barebones with its Radeon R9 M290X requires 15-26 Watts.

Under high loads, the power consumption of all major gaming devices lies pretty much on par: 120 Watts during 3DMark 06 and up to 183 Watts come close to the One K56-4N, and, surprisingly, are not much more than what the GT70 requires (128 / 182 Watts).

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 15.0 / 19.7 / 31.0 Watt
Load 119.8 / 183.3 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Life

Reader's Test
maximum battery life (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
minimum battery life (Classic Test)

Due to the high idle power consumption values, the battery life of the GT60 fails to reach the same heights as its 17-inch sibling. Six hours while being idle and only running the Intel GPU as well as four hours of browsing the web at medium brightness are still more-than-decent values for a gaming laptop. DVD playback can be handled by the GT60 for approximately three hours (maximum brightness).

A gaming session with Nvidia's power-hungry GPU yields a short battery life of just around one hour, with a 30% reduction in terms of GPU performance (0% for the CPU) when the power brick is not connected.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
5h 55min
WiFi Surfing
3h 46min
DVD
3h 08min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 06min

Verdict

powerful high-end laptop with a great IPS display
powerful high-end laptop with a great IPS display

Those who do not mind that Windows has been confined to an HDD (instead of an SSD, which we would recommend) will be happy with the GT60-2PC81B.

Moreover, while MSI's laptop may not be the thinnest and most beautiful device, gaming enthusiasts will rejoice. The high-contrast IPS panel offers natural colors and superb viewing angles while the sound system is no slouch either, offering top-notch sound thanks to the Dynaudio branding.

Performance levels are phenomenal, too. Nvidia's GeForce GTX 870M is more than capable of rendering almost all games with (very) high settings. Also great: The large variety of maintenance options, the ever-cool chassis (although the components themselves get rather hot under load!), the Blu-ray drive and the tons of extras. Even one of these rare keyboards with 3-zone illumination made the cut.

Still, an "excellent" verdict seems out of reach for the Dominator. The touchpad is too small, the design is old-fashioned and the device gets rather loud under full load (especially during 3D games). Some alternatives can be found at the right hand side (see "shortcut").

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In Review: MSI GT60 Dominator, test device provided by notebooksbilliger.de
In Review: MSI GT60 Dominator, test device provided by notebooksbilliger.de

Specifications

MSI GT60-2PC81B

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM87 (Lynx Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, SO-DIMM DDR3-RAM PC3-12800, single channel, 1 of 4 slots in use, max. 32 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 870M - 3072 MB, Core: 941-967 MHz, Memory: 2500 MHz, GDDR5, ForceWare 332.35, Optimus
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 2880x1620 pixel, Panasonic VVX16T029D00 (MEI96A2), IPS, WQHD+, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
HGST Travelstar 7K1000 HTS721010A9E630, 1000 GB 7200 rpm | slots: 2x 2.5 inches
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC892 @ Intel Lynx Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, 3 USB 3.0, 1 HDMI, 2 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: Line In/Out (S/PDIF + 7.1 analog), 4 audio ports in total, Card Reader: SD,SDHC,SDXC,
:: Networking
Qualcomm Killer e2200 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Qualcomm Atheros Killer Wireless-N 1202 (a b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
TSSTcorp DVDWBD SN-406AB
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 55 x 395 x 267
:: Weight
3.278 kg Power Supply: 0.85 kg
:: Battery
87 Wh Lithium-Ion, 7800 mAh, 11.1V, BTY-M6D, 9 cells, 482 grams
:: Price
1600 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: HD (30 fps @ 720p), Speakers: 2.1 (Dynaudio, Sound Blaster Cinema), Keyboard: Chiclet by SteelSeries, Keyboard Light: yes, Power adapter: 180 watts, warranty information, warranty card, Quick Start Guide, Recovery Guide, other information material, mass storage drive accessories, DVD (drivers and tools), CyberLink PowerDVD 10, MAGIX MX Suite, Microsoft Office 365 Trial, Windows Essentials 2012, Norton Security Paket, other tools, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Same old design.
Same old design.
It is easily recognizable, but won't be loved by everybody.
It is easily recognizable, but won't be loved by everybody.
The maintenance hatch can be removed.
The maintenance hatch can be removed.
The GT60 is among the thickest high-end laptops.
The GT60 is among the thickest high-end laptops.
An opening angle of 180° is quite a feat.
An opening angle of 180° is quite a feat.
The lid is made from brushed aluminum.
The lid is made from brushed aluminum.
The same holds true for the palm rest.
The same holds true for the palm rest.
Most of the plastic elements come with a matte coating.
Most of the plastic elements come with a matte coating.
The volume bar and the areas between the keys can get quite nasty due to the glossy finish.
The volume bar and the areas between the keys can get quite nasty due to the glossy finish.
Thus, a microfiber cloth might be necessary to keep the laptop in prime condition.
Thus, a microfiber cloth might be necessary to keep the laptop in prime condition.
The lower part comes with a number of fan vents.
The lower part comes with a number of fan vents.
Two microphones are located at the left hand side of the webcam.
Two microphones are located at the left hand side of the webcam.
There's a dragon next to the MSI icon.
There's a dragon next to the MSI icon.
Warranty sticker + leased device = no photos of the innards.
Warranty sticker + leased device = no photos of the innards.
The manufacturer uses its own keyboard layout.
The manufacturer uses its own keyboard layout.
Dynaudio has helped create the sound system.
Dynaudio has helped create the sound system.
Depending on the active GPU the power button either appears white (Intel) or orange (Nvidia).
Depending on the active GPU the power button either appears white (Intel) or orange (Nvidia).
The touch-sensitive areas have existed for several years.
The touch-sensitive areas have existed for several years.
The keyboard layout takes some getting used to.
The keyboard layout takes some getting used to.
As does the reshaping of some of the keys.
As does the reshaping of some of the keys.
The SteelSeries incorporates a lot of gaming know-how.
The SteelSeries incorporates a lot of gaming know-how.
Good: WQHD+ display. Bad: No SSD.
Good: WQHD+ display. Bad: No SSD.
High-end components made by Intel and Nvidia.
High-end components made by Intel and Nvidia.
Small touchpad with a decent surface feel.
Small touchpad with a decent surface feel.
Three USB 3.0 ports next to the card reader.
Three USB 3.0 ports next to the card reader.
Four audio ports are quite a lot.
Four audio ports are quite a lot.
The optical drive handles Blu-rays.
The optical drive handles Blu-rays.
Kensington Lock connector.
Kensington Lock connector.
Three digital image ports should suffice for a nice multi-monitor setup.
Three digital image ports should suffice for a nice multi-monitor setup.
There is a subwoofer at the bottom of the device.
There is a subwoofer at the bottom of the device.
Including its battery pack, the GT60 weighs 3.3 kilograms (~7.3 lbs).
Including its battery pack, the GT60 weighs 3.3 kilograms (~7.3 lbs).
The power adapter is quite a brick.
The power adapter is quite a brick.
the dragon gaming laptop
the dragon gaming laptop

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Links

Price Check

Amazon.com

Show results on Amazon.com

Pricerunner n.a.

Pro

+Colorful IPS panel with phenomenal viewing angles
+Superb performance levels (CPU / GPU)
+Numerous maintenance options
+Cool surfaces
+Decent battery life
+Top-notch sound
+Brushed aluminium
+3-zone illumination system
+Blu-ray drive
+Nice extras
 

Cons

-High noise emissions under load
-Highly reflective display
-Location of ports
-Tiny touchpad
-Heavy and thick chassis
-Old-fashioned design
-No SSD
-Bloatware

Shortcut

What we like

The Dynaudio system never ceases to amaze us.

What we'd like to see

No SSD in such a pricy device? A strange decision in the year 2014.

What surprises us

How great the 3K panel is.

The competition

Other gaming laptops with a GeForce 800. 13 inches: Schenker XMG P304. 15 inches: One K56-4N, Schenker XMG A504. 17 inches: Alienware 17, Asus G750, Nexoc G728IIOne K73-4N, Schenker XMG P704, MSI GT70.  

Ratings

MSI GT60-2PC81B
06/25/2014 v4
Florian Glaser

Chassis
74 / 98 → 76%
Keyboard
75%
Pointing Device
75%
Connectivity
75 / 91 → 82%
Weight
55 / 66 → 80%
Battery
78%
Display
85%
Games Performance
92%
Application Performance
77%
Temperature
84 / 95 → 88%
Noise
58 / 90 → 64%
Audio
85%
Average
76%
82%
Gaming *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Review MSI GT60 Dominator Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2014-05- 9 (Update: 2014-05-13)