Notebookcheck

Review MSI MS-16GA Barebone Notebook

Florian Glaser (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 06/21/2012

Midrange power. Deviltech proves that high-performance notebooks do not inevitably have to be high-priced with the Fire DTX. Thus, Nvidia's GeForce GT 650M is already installed in the basic configuration for EUR 769. The Ivy Bridge processor and the matte Full HD screen are additional purchase incentives. We will uncover the 15 incher's strengths and weaknesses.

Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

Deviltech is a German company that specializes in custom gaming notebooks. The biggest advantage it provides is the high customizability of the different laptops available from ODMs like MSI and Clevo. This option is not available from OEMs like HP and Asus in Europe.

While the Fire DTX's screen and graphics card are specified, the other components can be customized. To keep the price as attractive as possible, the basic version does not include an operating system. However, Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional and Ultimate are available in 32 or 64 bit versions for a surcharge. The Home Premium version (64bit) will satisfy most users.

It is great that Deviltech considers its international customers. The operating system and keyboard are available in several languages and layouts respectively. Selecting the processor will be more difficult. In addition to a few dual-core models (Core i5-3210M up to i5-3520M), the manufacturer offers various quad-core models (Core i7-3610QM up to i7-3920XM). Considering the price and graphics performance, we would recommend the Core i5-3320M or the Core i7-3610QM, the latter being more future proof.

Both working memory slots can be equipped with 4GB to a maximum of 16GB DDR3 RAM. An HDD, SSH (Hybrid Drive) or an SSD with varying capacities can be installed. The optical drive options include a DVD burner, Blu-Ray player and Blu-Ray burner.

The 15 incher starts at EUR 769 (~$970). A well-equipped version (featuring a quad-core, 8 GB of RAM, a 750 GB HDD & WIN 7 HP) is available for around EUR 1000 thanks to the fair pricing policy.

Case

High-gloss plastic
High-gloss plastic

The case's quality is one of the Fire DTX's weakest points. The 15 incher not only looks quite cheap, but is also extremely susceptible to attracting fingerprints due to the high-gloss plastic. The display's black frame is one of the areas susceptible to fingerprints. The lid, wrist rest and keyboard areas are silver-gray and do lose their sheen pretty quickly.

Our test device's workmanship was also unsatisfactory. A few material transitions (particularly the display) were relatively uneven. We had the feeling that we were dealing with a low-priced EUR 400 (~$500) device. Its 17 inch brother, also based on an MSI barebone (MS-1756 rather than MS-16GA), does not score much better in the build quality stakes. The notebook also had issues with keyboard clatter.

Then again, the 15 incher makes a rather good impression in terms of looks. On one hand, the surface's light and dark coloring present a nice contrast. On the other, a fine line pattern can be seen when looking closer. Design, dimensions (383mm x 250mm x 38mm) and weight (~2.6 kg or 5.73 lb) are nothing extraordinary.

We would say that the case's stability is inconspicuous. Although the lid can be twisted easily, like in most devices, the base unit proves to be quite pressure resistant. The fan grill, the battery as well as the drive area could have some added stiffness. The two hinges are pulled so tight that both hands are needed for opening the laptop.

Despite the listed flaws, only few buyers will deem the overall quality to be unsatisfactory. Clevo's W150ER barebone that also features the GeForce GT 650M (see Schenker XMG A502), is a higher quality alternative.

Connectivity

Interfaces

The interfaces are run of the mill. Two video outs (VGA + HDMI) and two audio jacks (headphone + microphone) are standard in a notebook of this class as are an RJ45 Gigabit LAN port and Kensington lock. Two of the four USB ports support USB 3.0 specifications. A 7-in-1 card reader completes the list.

You will be unhappy about both the fan's waste heat and the unfavorable interface distribution when you want to use an external mouse on the left. Since the ports are located far in front, cable routing can get a bit messy. 

Wireless Communication

The "Deviltech Wireless Card" in our test device is an Intel wifi module. As expected from a modern chip, the Centrino Wireless N 135 module supports Bluetooth and wifi. Bigfoot's Killer Wireless N can be installed for an extra EUR 30 (~$38).

Maintenance

We like the easy maintenance afforded by a single panel. In addition to the hard disk, wifi module and RAM, the fan, processor and the (non-replaceable) graphics card are accessible. In order to reach the hardware, only four screws had to be removed.

Even a layman can replace the hard drive and RAM. However, you should have experience when upgrading the CPU (the cooling system has to be completely removed).

Left: Kensington lock, power in, USB 2.0, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, microphone, headphone
Left: Kensington lock, power in, USB 2.0, HDMI, 2x USB 3.0, microphone, headphone
Right: Optical drive, USB 2.0, VGA, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Right: Optical drive, USB 2.0, VGA, RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet
Installed software
Installed software

Software

Deviltech earns high praise for the clean Windows installation. The reseller has avoided installing bloatware in the system. Not every user will appreciate the so-called S-Bar that boots alongside the operating system in default settings and is mandatory for a few extra functions.

Scope of Delivery

The accessories included in the box are sparse. You get a 540 g (~1.2 lb) 120W power supply, a 300 g (~0.7 lb) battery and a DVD for important tools and drivers.

Warranty

The standard warranty period is 24 months and an additional EUR 150 (~$190) is needed to increase the service period to 36 months.

Input Devices

Keyboard

There is nothing that stands out on the MSI keyboard. The chiclet keyboard deviates from standard layouts. As in the bigger MS-1762 gaming barebone (the One's M73-2N), the Windows key and the <>| keys have been moved to the right of the space bar. The reason for this is to provide an uninterrupted gameplay experience by avoiding the accidental Windows key hits. The single-row enter key is also unusual for the German keyboard layout. Consequently, the modification will annoy prolific typists.

We found the FN functions more useful. Volume and brightness control are quickly accessible because they are placed on the arrow keys. The angular keys are sufficiently sized with 14mm x 14mm dimensions. Although the keyboard is not one of the quietest models, the good typing feel, the key surface and the integrated number pad compensate for this flaw. Five hot keys are located to the left of the power button. They enable turning the wifi module and screen on or off.

Touchpad

The touchpad doesn’t create a good impression on us. The main problem is the rough, dotted surface that feels unpleasant after long-term use and has an unfavorable effect on the gliding traits. The recessed touchpad surface and good feedback cannot compensate for the overall user experience which was simply poor in our opinion.

The touchpad proves to be fairly spongy in practical use. Drops in speed prevent accurate use. Gesture support was not available since the appropriate driver wasn’t installed. Another point of contention is the touch pad buttons that are unusually stiff to click. The large size (74mm x 43mm) spares the touchpad more embarrassment. The touchpad can be disabled easily using a dedicated key at the upper edge.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

The 15.6 inch, non-glare screen is one of the laptop’s highlights. Some users may consider 1920 x 1080 pixels too much, but you get used to the high pixel density in a short time. Especially since the font size can be adjusted using the Windows' system control panel (Start / Control Panel / Display) if necessary. Unfortunately, modern games do not always run smoothly in Full HD resolution with maximum details. Considering the graphics performance, gameplay at 1600 x 900 resolution would be perfect.

266
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
269
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
292
cd/m²
262
cd/m²
257
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
246
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 292 cd/m²
Average: 268.6 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 84 %
Center on Battery: 292 cd/m²
Black: 0.5 cd/m²
Contrast: 584:1

The manufacturer opts for an LED backlit screen from LG Philips. We know the LP156WF1-TLF3, featuring an aspect ratio of 16:9, from HP's EliteBook 8560w-LG660EA. The matte screen stood out with good, though not reference-worthy, readings at the time. With a brightness of almost 270 cd/m2, it trumps over many rival notebooks whose screen brightness range between 180 - 260 cd/m2.

The black value (0.5 cd/m2) leaves little room for complaint. Although dark elements have a slight grayish hue in weak ambient light, games and movies are displayed adequately. This is due to the Fire DTX's high contrast. Most buyers will be impressed the 600:1 contrast ratio. The same is true for the colors that look fairly crisp despite the AR coating.

Deviltech Fire DTX vs. sRGB (grid)
Deviltech Fire DTX vs. sRGB (grid)
Deviltech Fire DTX vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Deviltech Fire DTX vs. AdobeRGB (grid)
Deviltech Fire DTX vs. One M73-2O (grid)
Deviltech Fire DTX vs. One M73-2O (grid)

The screen's matte surface also allows outdoor use. It is possible to work fairly well on the laptop even in intense sunlight. Glare screens tend to display a lot more reflections, as shown in the pictures of Alienware's M17x R4 (similar brightness).

Outdoors
Outdoors
Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA) in outdoor use

Not all notebooks come with high viewing angle stability. Like every TN screen, the LG Philips has problems on the vertical plane (especially from the lower side looking up), but image changes don’t occur horizontally, even at wider angles.

Viewing angles: Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)
Viewing angles: Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

Performance

Ivy Bridge
Ivy Bridge

Processor

As expected, an Intel dual-core or quad-core is optioned as the processor. Ivy Bridge replaces the successful Sandy Bridge line and is manufactured using the 22nm process.

While the dual-cores can process four threads at the same time thanks to Hyper Threading, the quad-core manage eight threads simultaneously. The price for the enhanced multi-core power is higher power consumption (45W rather than 35W TDP). All Core i5 and Core i7 models are capable of automatically overclocking using the Turbo Boost feature.

Compared with the prior generation, the integrated graphics card takes a biggest leap forward. The HD Graphics 4000 performs about 40% faster on average than the old HD Graphics 3000. Nvidia's well-known Optimus technology enables the Fire DTX to dynamically switch between the integrated and the dedicated graphics unit. Consequently, the 15 incher saves a lot of power under normal usage conditions.

Our test device received the cheapest of the new quad-core models, the Core i7-3610QM. 1.4 billion Transistors and 6MB of L3 cache prove that cheap does not mean slow.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CrystalDiskMark
System info HWiNFO
System info GPUZ (HD 4000)
System info GPUZ (GT 650M)
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ Cache
DPC Latency: high rates when adjusting brightness
System information: Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

Turbo Boost

The default clock of 2.3 GHz increased to about 3.2 GHz (single-core rendering) and 3.1 GHz (multi-core rendering) in Cinebench R10. The quad-core manages a maximum of 3.3 GHz.

Single-core load
Single-core load
Multi-core load
Multi-core load

CPU Performance

The Core i7-3610QM is superior to its dual-core sisters in multi-core optimized applications. 6.27 points in Cinebench R11.5 is about twice the score of the Core i5 3320M clocked at 2.6/3.3 GHz (3.1 points in the One M73-2N). Apart from special CPU benchmarks, the average user will hardly notice any differences in performance under normal workloads.

Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4441
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
17528
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
5668 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
21532 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
6.27 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
43.65 fps
Help
GPU info
GPU info

Graphics Card

Nvidia's new GPU architecture, Kepler (GK107 chip) has succeeded in a large number of design wins in the notebook sector. This card falls between the GeForce GT 640M  and the high-end GeForce GTX 660M version. The GTX 680M will soon be the direct competitor to the current leader, the Radeon HD 7970M.

The Fire DTX's moderate price and the relatively slim build naturally don’t allow the addition of high performance GPUs like the GTX680M. Despite the fairly narrow memory bus (128 bit), the GeForce GT 650M is a good choice for slightly more demanding casual gamers. With a base clock of 745 MHz, DirectX 11.1 support, and 384 CUDA cores, the performance comes closer to the GTX660M.

Like Intel's Core-i range, Kepler also features automatic overclocking. The GPU booster works perfectly in the Deviltech notebook. The GT 650M always clocked to the maximum 835 MHz during full load (according to GPU-Z). The 2048 MB GDDR5 video memory stays constant at 1000 MHz.

The process shrink from 40nm to 28nm has led to higher energy-efficiency. Although the GT 650M easily outperforms the old GT 555M, the power consumption is on a par. The PhysX technology (GPU based physics acceleration) and the integrated audio controller (surround sound through HDMI) will likely be familiar to everyone.

7.2
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
7.6
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
7.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
7.2
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
7.2
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
7.9

GPU Performance

While the Unigine Heaven benchmark (1280 x 1024) cannot be rendered absolutely smooth by a GT 640M (23.8 fps in the Acer Aspire M3-581TG), the GT 650M achieves 29.0 fps. The DirectX 11 benchmark runs a bit smoother on a GTX 660M (32.4 fps @ Asus G55VW-S1073V).

The differences are similar in 3DMark 11 (1280 x 720). The Kepler model's GPU score of 2052 points is 19% higher than the GT 640M's score (1731 points), but 11% lower than the GTX 660M's (2298 points).

 

3D Mark
3DMark 0337376 points
3DMark 0522592 points
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
14412 points
3DMark Vantage10084 points
3DMark 112277 points
Help
AS SSD benchmark
AS SSD benchmark

Mass Storage

If you have enough financial resources, you should definitely configure the laptop with a modern solid state drive. In contrast to a conventional HDD, SSDs score with faster boot, load and transfer times. Responses to commands in the OS are quick with no delays and the user experience is vastly better compared to laptops with mechanical HDDs.

Deviltech fit our test device with a 120 GB SATA III model. The 9.3mm slim and 77g OCZ Agility 3 (MLC flash) is touted to have a transfer rate of around 500 MB/s on the manufacturer's homepage. The OCZ Agility 3 comes with the Sandforce SF-2281 controller that has been documented to have several issues concerning its operation. The systems with the SF controller are plagued with the infamous BYOD, random restarts and performance glitches. Subsequent firmware updates have minimized the occurrence of these problems. But until all issues are solved, this controller is going to face a lot of flak.

In fact, the Agility 3 managed just 196 MB/s (sequential read) and 114 MB/s (sequential write) in the AS SSD benchmark. Other SATA III SSDs manage 2.5 times these speeds. The access speed was around 0.3 - 0.4 milliseconds. The SSD at least performed decently with small files.

Overall, we would recommend Deviltech switching to another brand of SSD. The Samsung830 currently holds the title for its great performance, fair price and high reliability (Schenker XMG P702).

OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G
Sequential Read: 209 MB/s
Sequential Write: 143.5 MB/s
512K Read: 198.1 MB/s
512K Write: 142.8 MB/s
4K Read: 26.44 MB/s
4K Write: 63.09 MB/s
4K QD32 Read: 91.51 MB/s
4K QD32 Write: 139.4 MB/s

System Performance

Despite the poor performing SSD, there is no reason for complaint in terms of system performance. The Fire DTX's score of 18697 points competes with stronger high-end laptops, such as Alienware's M17x R4 (18816 points). The same applies to PCMark 7. A score of 4193 points clearly outperforms an ordinary multimedia notebook.

PC Mark
PCMark Vantage18697 points
PCMark 74193 points
Help
Full HD and maximum details not always go hand in hand
Full HD and maximum details not always go hand in hand

Gaming Performance

We have already tested the GeForce GT 650M's gaming performance in Alienware's M14x R2, One's M73-2O and Schenker's XMG A502. The power is basically enough for high details and 2x or 4x anti-aliasing, but not always for the native 1920 x 1080 resolution. Thanks to the good interpolating capability, the picture still looks fairly focused in 1600 x 900 pixels.

While the more expensive GeForce GTX 660M takes a lead of nearly 18%, the GT 640M lags behind by about 25% (in ultra-settings). Casual gamers should be satisfied with the Kepler model in any case. Ardent gamers will have to turn to the upper range.

low med.high ultra
Crysis 2 (2011) 60.119.4fps
Battlefield 3 (2011) 42.333.615.2fps
CoD: Modern Warfare 3 (2011) 68.841.6fps
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 42.824.4fps
Mass Effect 3 (2012) 59.848.1fps
Risen 2: Dark Waters (2012) 42.633.616fps
Diablo III (2012) 96.459.3fps
Dirt Showdown (2012) 55.817fps
Max Payne 3 (2012) 55.150.921.516.3fps
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (2012) 5122.211.8fps
The Secret World (2012) 64.74936.213.8fps

In Comparison

Max Payne 3 - 1920x1080 Very High, DX11 AA:Very High FX AF:8x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
16.3 fps ∼19%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
13 fps ∼15% -20%
Dirt Showdown - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:4xMS (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
17 fps ∼20%
Asus G55VW-S1073V
GeForce GTX 660M / Core i7-3610QM
24.1 fps ∼28% +42%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
16 fps ∼18% -6%
Risen 2: Dark Waters - 1920x1080 Ultra / on AA:on AF:8x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
16 fps ∼19%
Asus G55VW-S1073V
GeForce GTX 660M / Core i7-3610QM
16.3 fps ∼20% +2%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
12.5 fps ∼15% -22%
Mass Effect 3 - 1920x1080 all on AA:on AF:8x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
48.1 fps ∼73%
Asus G55VW-S1073V
GeForce GTX 660M / Core i7-3610QM
49.8 fps ∼76% +4%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
32 fps ∼49% -33%
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - 1920x1080 Ultra Preset AA:8x AF:16x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
24.4 fps ∼28%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
16 fps ∼18% -34%
CoD: Modern Warfare 3 - 1920x1080 Extra, all on, Image Quality: Native AA:4x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
41.6 fps ∼26%
Asus G55VW-S1073V
GeForce GTX 660M / Core i7-3610QM
51.4 fps ∼32% +24%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
33 fps ∼21% -21%
Battlefield 3 - 1920x1080 ultra AA:4x MS AF:16x (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
15.2 fps ∼15%
Asus G55VW-S1073V
GeForce GTX 660M / Core i7-3610QM
18.2 fps ∼18% +20%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
11 fps ∼11% -28%
Crysis 2 - 1920x1080 Extreme (sort by value)
Deviltech Fire DTX
GeForce GT 650M / Core i7-3610QM
19.4 fps ∼19%
Acer Aspire M3-581TG
GeForce GT 640M / Core i7-2637M
12 fps ∼12% -38%

Emissions

System Noise

The system noise is satisfactory when idling and in undemanding tasks. The case fan spins quietly when the notebook is running simple tasks or is idle and Intel's GPU is running, which is not at all disturbing (~31 dB at a distance of 15 cm). The 15 incher should only be slightly louder with a conventional HDD. The soft whirring of the DVD drive can be ignored easily, making movie watching a better experience overall.

The Fire DTX is loud at higher load with the dGPU enabled. The noise settled to approximately 42 dB when running 3DMark 06. Most gaming notebooks are as loud during load. It should not be a problem if you turn up the volume, prefer noise-intensive games like first person shooters, or use headphones. The recorded 48 dB on the chart refers to full load conditions.

Noise Level

Idle 30.5 / 30.8 / 31.1 dB(A)
DVD 38.1 / dB(A)
Load 42.1 / 47.5 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)
Stress test
Stress test (Furmark & Prime)

Temperature

The temperature readings are a mixed bag. We will start with idling where the chassis stays pleasantly cool. Our thermometer recorded about 28°C after two hours of idling which is good. But, you do have uncomfortable levels of heat being generated at full load. After an hour of operation at load, the readings averaged 43°C (top) and 39°C (bottom). Particularly in the WASD area, which is important for gamers, temperatures reached a maximum of 50°C.

It also gets hot inside the laptop. The Core i7 temporarily throttles to 1.2 GHz when Furmark and Prime run simultaneously. The CPU clock fluctuated between 1.5 and 2.0 GHz when we controlled the temperature after half an hour (CPU: ~97ºC, GPU: ~90°C). It was only 1.5 - 1.6 GHz 30 minutes later. However there is no need for fear since this problem should not turn up under normal conditions. All benchmarks were completed faultlessly.

Max. Load
 49.5 °C49.1 °C36.0 °C 
 49.7 °C49.9 °C36.3 °C 
 42.6 °C43.8 °C32.1 °C 
Maximum: 49.9 °C
Average: 43.2 °C
28.6 °C38.0 °C48.9 °C
30.7 °C43.6 °C49.4 °C
31.4 °C45.3 °C36.9 °C
Maximum: 49.4 °C
Average: 39.2 °C
Power Supply (max.)  53.0 °C | Room Temperature 23.5 °C | Voltcraft IR-550

Speakers

The sound system still looks impressive on paper- two speakers above the keyboard and two speakers in the front area, all certified for THX TruStudio Pro.

It would be great if the front speakers did not prove to be superfluous and if they would not generate annoying noises at specific pitches (particularly the one on the left). Although modifying the balance helped in this case, the sound was not as good as we expected. The sound system lacks precision, balance and a strong bass among other things.

However, most contenders do not do a better job. The sound system is just about what is expected for a multimedia notebook. The maximum volume is above average.

Battery Life

Power Consumption

There is no need for reproaching the Fire DTX's power requirement. Thanks to the Optimus technology, the 15 incher is satisfied with approximately 10 – 20W in idle conditions. Multimedia or gaming notebooks that work without graphics switching often need over 30W. The GPU’s consumption at load of about 76W is also reasonable (69 – 88W in 3DMark 06). The consumption varies between 93W (CPU @ 1.2 GHz), 102W (1.5 - 2.0 GHz) and 132W (no throttling) during full load.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.2 / 0.4 Watt
Idle 10.8 / 15.5 / 20.1 Watt
Load 75.8 / 131.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940
Reader's Test
Maximum battery runtime (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
Minimum battery runtime (Classic Test)

Battery Runtime

The laptop could have been a portable solution for most people if not for the battery. A 49Wh battery is rather small and limits the Fire DTX's time away from the mains. But we cannot call the battery life bad. Not every notebook manages over four hours in idle (minimum brightness).

Almost three hours can be squeezed out of the battery when the brightness is set to about 2/3rd and we surf the Internet using wifi. A DVD can be played for nearly 2.5 hours at maximum brightness. The battery life drops considerably as soon as the discrete GPU is enabled. BatteryEater's Classic test determined a runtime of just around an hour.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 25min
WiFi Surfing
3h 08min
DVD
2h 32min
Load (maximum brightness)
0h 51min

Verdict

Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)
Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

We quote "Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast" by Faust in the eponymous tragedy,  that the testing of Deviltech's Fire DTX was. The 15 inch laptop, dwelling somewhere between a multimedia system and a gaming notebook, has its strengths and weaknesses.

In particular, the great non-glare screen has to be highlighted positively. The high contrast, the good viewing angles and the screen's matte surface ensure unmarred media entertainment. However, this is only true when the user connects headphones or external speakers. The built-in sound system is just suitable when on the move.

On the other hand, the manufacturer has done an almost perfect job inside. First, the innards are easy to maintain. Only few devices offer such simple cleaning and upgrade possibilities. Second, the components are perfectly aligned. The array of an Ivy Bridge CPU, Kepler GPU and solid state drive equips the user for almost any situation. However, it is too bad that the graphics card and processor get relatively hot.

Talking about hot, the silver-gray chassis is not exactly cool. As common for gaming notebooks, you have to live with a loud and hot system when running GPU and CPU intensive applications.

The case disappointed us the most. The MS-16GA barebone features an extremely cheap plastic case which shows poor workmanship and sensitive high-gloss paint. You could expect more for a price of over EUR 700 (~$880). The spongy response of the very rough touchpad is another drawback. The port selection (2 x USB 3.0) and battery life (2 - 3 hours in routine use) are rather unspectacular.

In summary, price-conscious casual gamers can risk taking a look. There are hardly any faster laptops for under EUR 1000 (~$1250) to be found. By the way, MSI sells an OEM version called the GE60.

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In Review: Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)
In Review:  Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

Specifications

Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM76 (Panther Point)
:: Memory
8192 MB, 2x 4096 MB PC3-12800 SO-DIMM DDR3-SDRAM (1600 MHz), 2 slots, max. 16 GB
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M - 2048 MB, Core: 745 MHz, Memory: 1000 MHz, boost: 835 MHz, GDDR5, Optimus, ForceWare 295.93
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1920x1080 pixel, LG Philips LP156WF1-TLF3 (LGD0259), Full HD, LED backlight, glossy: no
:: Harddisk
OCZ Agility 3 AGT3-25SAT3-120G, 120 GB solid state drive, empty mSATA slot
:: Soundcard
Realtek ALC892 @ Intel Panther Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 2 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: headphone, microphone, Card Reader: 7in1,
:: Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Centrino Wireless-N 135 (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth
:: Optical drive
Optiarc DVD RW AD-7740H
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 38 x 383 x 250
:: Weight
2.618 kg Power Supply: 0.54 kg
:: Battery
49 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4400 mAh, 11.1V, 6 cells, BTY-S14, 0.3 kg
:: Price
1055 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: HD, PSU: 120 Watt, driver &amp; tool DVD, quick start guide, 24-36 Months Warranty

 

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Silver-gray notebooks are sooner the exception than the rule in the meantime.
Silver-gray notebooks are sooner the exception than the rule in the meantime.
The manufacturer installs a total of four speakers.
The manufacturer installs a total of four speakers.
The front has a multi-in-1 card reader.
The front has a multi-in-1 card reader.
The underlying barebone comes from MSI.
The underlying barebone comes from MSI.
49 Wh are rather poor.
49 Wh are rather poor.
The sharp-edged battery is in the rear.
The sharp-edged battery is in the rear.
Two RAM banks for a maximum of 16 GB.
Two RAM banks for a maximum of 16 GB.
Nvidia's graphics card hides behind various cables.
Nvidia's graphics card hides behind various cables.
Either a dual or a quad-core serves as the CPU.
Either a dual or a quad-core serves as the CPU.
A webcam belongs to the must-have list.
A webcam belongs to the must-have list.
The keyboard's layout clearly deviates from the standard.
The keyboard's layout clearly deviates from the standard.
Internet access is possible via wifi or RJ45 Gigabit LAN.
Internet access is possible via wifi or RJ45 Gigabit LAN.
The left harbors two USB 3.0 ports.
The left harbors two USB 3.0 ports.
eSATA and FireWire are not installed.
eSATA and FireWire are not installed.
The dotted texture affects the gliding capability negatively.
The dotted texture affects the gliding capability negatively.
The touchpad can be disabled easily.
The touchpad can be disabled easily.
Clever placing of volume and brightness control.
Clever placing of volume and brightness control.
We deem the speakers' sound acceptable.
We deem the speakers' sound acceptable.
A few special functions can be accessed directly.
A few special functions can be accessed directly.
An mSATA SSD can be installed optionally.
An mSATA SSD can be installed optionally.
The standard wifi module comes from Intel.
The standard wifi module comes from Intel.
In contrast to the display frame, the screen is matte.
In contrast to the display frame, the screen is matte.
The multimedia notebook does not look flashy or boring.
The multimedia notebook does not look flashy or boring.
The Fire DTX does not have a wide opening angle.
The Fire DTX does not have a wide opening angle.
The high-gloss plastic is naturally quite sensitive.
The high-gloss plastic is naturally quite sensitive.
2.6 kilograms are comfortable to carry.
2.6 kilograms are comfortable to carry.
A cover fastened with screws is on the bottom, as usual.
A cover fastened with screws is on the bottom, as usual.
The lid features a fine line pattern.
The lid features a fine line pattern.
The black elements create a nice contrast.
The black elements create a nice contrast.
The dimensions are typical for a 15 incher.
The dimensions are typical for a 15 incher.
The customer has free access for removing and upgrading.
The customer has free access for removing and upgrading.
Three heat pipes and fan are responsible for cooling.
Three heat pipes and fan are responsible for cooling.
In 2012, it should be a solid state drive - like in this case.
In 2012, it should be a solid state drive - like in this case.
Equally good maintenance possibilities are rare.
Equally good maintenance possibilities are rare.
The case's stability is in the midfield.
The case's stability is in the midfield.
The optical drive dominates the right.
The optical drive dominates the right.
Left-handed users will get the full blast of air when using the mouse.
Left-handed users will get the full blast of air when using the mouse.
In our opinion, the workmanship quality is below average.
In our opinion, the workmanship quality is below average.
The device's looks does not hint at the strong hardware.
The device's looks does not hint at the strong hardware.
The notebook is delivered with a 120 watt power supply.
The notebook is delivered with a 120 watt power supply.

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Price Comparison

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Pro

+High application performance thanks to Ivy Bridge and SSD
+Good gaming performance thanks to Kepler
+Great display rates
+Moderate weight
+Graphics switching
+No bloatware
+Matte screen
+Fair price
+2 USB 3.0 ports
 

Cons

-Interface placement unfavorable for left-handed users
-Unusual keyboard
-Sound errors in one speaker
-Dotted touchpad surface
-Very audible in 3D use
-Sensitive high-gloss finish
-High temperature development
-CPU throttling during full load
-Imperfect workmanship

Shortcut

What we like

Substandard glare-panels are a thing of the past.

What we'd like to see

A smooth touchpad surface and better workmanship.

What surprises us

The Fire DTX offers a great price-performance ratio.

The competition

15 inch all-rounders featuring a strong graphics card. The most serious contender is likely Clevo's W150ER barebone (Schenker XMG A502).

Rating

Deviltech Fire DTX (MSI MS-16GA)
06/15/2012 v3
Florian Glaser

Chassis
72%
Keyboard
76%
Pointing Device
70%
Connectivity
72%
Weight
79%
Battery
74%
Display
86%
Games Performance
91%
Application Performance
96%
Temperature
68%
Noise
76%
Add Points
80%
Average
78%
79%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review MSI MS-16GA Barebone Notebook
Author: Florian Glaser, 2012-06-21 (Update: 2013-06- 6)