Review MSI GE620-i748W7P Notebook
Multifaceted. 15 inch multimedia notebooks have always been popular. MSI's new GE620-i748W7P notebook offers an allround platform based on the Sandy-Bridge technology. The new laptop entices buyers with a quad-core CPU, a middle class graphics card and the Nvidia Optimus technology.
Buyers interested in purchasing a multimedia notebook which offers good performance for less than 800 Euros might find the MSI GE620 to be the ideal notebook for them. This 15 inch model from MSI is available in a variety of configurations, however, in this review we will look at only the top two most important models.
The entry model, the GE620-i547W7P, is available for under 700 Euros at online shops. For this price, the buyer gets a middle-class system: four GB DDR3-RAM, a 500 GB hard disk, a DVD burner and a modern dual-core processor. Intel's 2.3 – 2.9 GHz Core i5-2410M (3 MB L3-cache) offers the average user more than enough performance. The GeForce GT 540M graphic chip takes care of the graphic tasks with ease and comes with DirectX 11 support.
On the other hand, the GE620-i748W7P, which is around 100 Euros more expensive, sports a faster processor. The Core i7-2630QM is a high-performance quad-core CPU, which operates at 2.0 – 2.9 GHz (6 MB L3-cache). The hard disk capacity increases from 500 to 640 GB. The display (1366 x 768 pixels), battery (6 cell) and operating system (Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit) remain the same. To find out whether or not this 15 inch model is worth the money, read on.
The black and grey case is not going to excite users. MSI has picked the cheapest synthetic material surface which looks like brushed aluminium due to the fine line structure on its surface. Close up, the case does not look high-quality and the design is kept to a bare minimum: only two silver stripes (above the keyboard and below the touchpad) adorn the otherwise plain case.
We liked the matt finish which prevents the accumulation of fingerprints and dust particles. Only sensitive areas, such as the display, keyboard and screen borders fall victim to these annoyances. Overall, the case shows good workmanship. The chassis has decent sturdiness: the top and bottom gives way slightly under pressure here and there but overall the case is resistant.
Like many other laptops, the display cover is not well-designed. It gives way noticeably when we press down with both our hands. The hinges are another problem. Although they are stiff (the laptop swings when the display is opened), the screen they are tasked to hold shakes when the bottom of the laptop is moved. Even normal typing can make the display wobble. The notebook measurements (38.3 x 25.0 x 3.8 cm) and weight (2.6 kg) are decent and transporting the notebook should not be a problem.
In comparison to the predecessors, the GE600 and the GE603, the connectivity of the laptop has gotten clearly worse. MSI does not offer an ExpressCard slot, eSATA, FireWire or a modem interface on the laptop. There are only two sound jacks (in and out) instead of four.
However, the integrated USB 3.0 ports deserve praise. External monitors can be connected using the HDMI or VGA interface, and the Kensington Lock can be used to secure the laptop and prevent theft.
We liked the positioning of the ports on the right side, as most of them were placed far back, giving an external mouse enough room to work in. However, on the left side, the opposite is true: most of the ports are placed near the front.
The user can choose between wired RJ-45 Gigabit-Lan or wireless internet. The wireless module picked by MSI (Atheros AR9285) supports WLAN, but not Bluetooth.
The GE620 also has an integrated webcam (16:9), which should deliver a fluid HD picture (1280 x 720 @ fps).
MSI has put all kinds of software on the hard disk. One of the various software pre-installed is the MAGIX multimedia suite. A few of the others include software created by MSI.
For example, the so-called Cinema Pro-Modus is supposed to improve picture and audio quality. The ECO-Engine which offers a variety of energy saving scenarios. The practical, if somewhat annoying, S-Bar which gives the user comfortable access to Fn functions and a few other features.
The disadvantage of all this software is that the notebook is disappointingly slow at the first start-up. After the unnecessary burden is thrown overboard, the notebook picks up the pace and performs well. The System-Recovery software is already available on the computer.
The delivery includes one Driver- & Tool-DVD and various information booklets. MSI placed a Quick Start Guide, a guarantee card (including a fitting book), and a recovery manual for the GE620. Of course the 120 W power adapter and battery are also in the package.
The warranty time is no surprise: 24 months is typical for this category. According to MSI, the laptop can be picked up, repaired and sent back (= Pick-Up & Return).
The input devices are far from good in our book. The keyboard has a nice detached design, with a numeric pad and a decent typing feel. However, there are a few problems with the layout. MSI has changed the positions of the "><|"- and the "'#" keys, and the "Enter" key is only one line big, like in many American or English keyboards. The result: users who are accustomed to the German QUERTZ keyboard will need some time to adjust.
The loud and rickety typing noise is another problem area. The key size of 14 x 14 mm is moderate. The five special keys are worth mentioning. They are placed next to the power button and can not only start the Cinema Pro-Modus and the S-Bar, but also deactivate the display, open the DVD drive and turn on/off the Battery+ option (increases battery life).
The touchpad is one of the biggest weaknesses of the GE620. Like in its big brother, the GT780R, the touchpad of the GE620 is not very precise and can be annoying due to slow response times. Sometimes the mouse even stopped responding. The supported gestures (two and three finger multi-touch input) are also not always properly executed because the touchpad often mistakes the gestures (for example, zooming instead of turning).
The most annoying feature of the touchpad is the knobby surface. The finger can not easily slide on the touchpad and longer use can even make the user uncomfortable. Both mouse keys lack a strong input response, instead they feel spongy when pressed. However, not everything was bad; we did like the measurements of the touchpad (75 x 43 mm). The touchpad can also be deactivated using a Fn combination or via its own status button.
The monitor is standard. The 15.6 inch glare display has a 16:9 format and a LED backlight. The resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels is not high-end but any higher and the graphic card would have been overtaxed.
The picture quality of the Samsung panel (see data sheet) is average notebook quality. The brightness of 197.3 cd/m² is not special - it is neither great nor bad. Indoors the user will have no problems. The illumination is also fine at 85%.
The black value of 1.14 cd/m² is not okay as dark areas of videos and games have a grey tint. The poor contrast of 179:1 is not surprising given the high black value. Despite the glare panel, the colors seem dull, and the sRGB color space is not covered. In short: without an external monitor enjoying films, games and pictures is not possible.
The glare surface of the display can be problematic. Various annoying reflections can appear depending on the lighting and outdoors these reflections can strain the eye. So users who just want to type or surf the internet might want to look at a display which has a matt surface.
The viewing angles are not great. Both vertically and horizontally, any slight deviation can lead to strong distortions in the picture. So it is impossible for multiple users to look at a perfect picture.
Processor: Intel Core i7-2630QM
Buyers interested in getting the best processor for the future should pick a quad-core CPU from Intel's latest Sandy-Bridge generation. The 32 nm Core i7-2630QM is the entry model to the quad-core world. The CPU can be boosted dynamically from 2.0 GHz to 2.9 GHz (depending on temperature and load) using the Turbo Boost function.
Hyperthreading is another important feature which allows the processor to simulate four virtual cores. So the processor can process up to 8 threads simultaneously (4 real + 4 virtual cores). In contrast to the Core i5 models, the Core i7 CPUs have a bigger L3 cache (6 MB vs 3 MB), and the i7 CPUs have around 60% more transistors (995 vs 624 million). Ideal: thanks to the Optimus graphics switching technology the user can switch between the integrated graphics chip HD Graphics 3000 and a dedicated graphics card. According to Intel, the TDP value is 45 W.
The performance of the Core i7-2630QM can leave desktop CPUs behind in the dust. In the Single-Core-Rendering of Cinebench R10 64 Bit, the quad-core delivered a fabulous performance: 4,660 points. This is slightly better than the Core i5-2410M (dual core with 2.3 to 2.9 GHz - 4,537 points) built into the Asus K53SV-SX131V. In the Multi-Core-Rendering the dual-core does not stand a chance: 16,202 vs 9,620 points which is a difference of 68%. The gap widens further in the Cinebench R11.5 64Bit benchmark, where the Core i7-2630QM reaches 4.62 points while the Core i5-2410M can only manage 2.48 points (-46%).
Graphics card: Nvidia GeForce GT 540M
The graphic card for this model is a DirectX 11-ready middle-class model: the GeForce GT 540M (based on the Nvidia's GF108-Chip - Fermi Architecture). The card is equipped with 1024 MB VRAM which runs at 900 MHz. Sadly the memory interface is a mere 128 bit. Although the VRAM is a fast DDR3 model, the memory interface limits the performance.
Still the GeForce GT 540M offers 96 shaders which operate at 1344 MHz. The core runs at 672 MHz. The GeForce GT 540M also offers a wide variety of features, such as, the decoding of HD material (PureVideo HD), delivering HD-Audio via the HDMI port and performing physical calculations (PhysX). The graphics chip is manufactured in the latest 32 nm form, and the heat loss output lies at around 35 W. Overall, Nvidia offers a well-rounded package.
The most important feature of the GE620 is probably Nvidia's Optimus technology. This technology allows the system to automatically switch between the integrated graphics chip and the dedicated graphics card. While the computer is using Office programs or surfing on the internet, the integrated HD Graphics 3000 is working, but as soon as a game starts, the GeForce GT 540M takes over.
This is pure comfort for the user. Nvidia gives the user the option of configuring which graphics unit should be used to run a program. Users can right-click and start the application with the desired graphics unit. In addition, the Nvidia control panel allows the user to create a custom-tailored profile for the optimal performance. Users who do not trust Optimus can instead pick the graphic card which should run all applications. The only problem is that there are some 3D applications which refuse to run on the dedicated graphic card.
The performance of the graphic card is clearly below the level of the processor. In the Unigine Heaven 2.1 benchmark(1280 x 1024, High, Tessellation normal, DirectX 11) the GeForce GT 540M was not fast enough to display a fluid picture. Still the Nvidia GPU is faster than its toughest competition from AMD, the Radeon HD 6650M (Packard Bell LS11-HR-050GE): 13.4 vs 11.9 fps. The GPU score in 3DMark 11 (1280 x 720, Performance Preset) leans in favor of the AMD GPU: 1013 vs 899 points (+13%).
|3DMark 03 Standard||21097 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||15892 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard||8317 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||4463 points|
|3DMark 11 Performance||1019 points|
As expected, the GE620 only has one hard disk slot. MSI has installed a 500 GB HDD from Seagate (WD6400BEVT-22A0RT0) in the laptop. This is a model which notebook producers really like. Still, the hard disk does not set any new performance records as it runs at 5400 rpm and its sequential read and write rates lie around 77 MB/s - a performance which can easily be beaten by a 7200 rpm HDD. The 15 inch model really picks up the pace when an SSD (Solid State Drive) is installed, speeding up the Windows experience.
The performance of the entire system was tested with PCMark Vantage. The multimedia notebook scores 7094 points which are typical for a notebook of this category. The Sony Vaio VPC-F22S1E/B which is similar to our test model, can score higher thanks to its faster HDD and more RAM (8 vs 4 GB): 7488 points (+6% ).
|PCMark Vantage Result||7094 points|
|PCMark 7 Score||2068 points|
The visually impressive Dirt 3 offers hours of entertainment at high details and 2x anti-aliasing. The 1366 x 768 pixels resolution displayed the game well and the notebook delivered a steady 39.8 fps. In comparison: the Nexoc E643 (Core i5-2540M and Radeon HD 6730M) performs 5% faster at 41.6 fps. For ultra details and higher resolutions, the buyer will have to pick a high-end graphics card (the GeForce GTX 570M, Radeon HD 6970M or faster).
|1360x768||High Preset, 2xAA, -AF||39.8 fps|
|1024x768||Medium Preset, 0xAA, -AF||55.7 fps|
In many ways, this game is the #1 Ego Shooter, and as such running the game will require some sacrifices. Very high details and a 1366 x 768 pixels resolution drops the frames to 26.6 fps making the game unplayable. Even with a lower setting ("High") and a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, the Ego shooter still freezes now and then, while on average the frames stay at 37.1 fps. The AMD competition has an equally hard time - the Dell Vostro 3550 (Core i7-2620M & Radeon HD 6630M) ran the game at 33.9 fps (-9%).
|1366x768||Very High||26.6 fps|
Looking at the graphics performance, we conclude that the MSI GE620 is intended for the occasional gamer. The GeForce GT 540M can usually display games with high details in the native 1366 x 768 resolution, but it is usually too weak to add in features like anti-aliasing or higher resolutions. Future games could push the GeForce GT 540M to its limits. In fact, games such as Metro 2033 or Crysis 2, are already capable of bringing the card to its knees. Gamers interested in future value for under 1000 Euros should instead look at laptops with a GeForce GT 555M (like Schenker XMG A501) or Radeon HD 6770M (like HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg).
While the laptop is idle or processing less demanding tasks with the integrated graphic chip, the noise emissions remain at a decent level. The cooler fan runs at a comfortable level and the hard disk remains relatively quiet except for one time when it made a clattering noise.
Under load and with the GeForce graphic card on, the noise emissions rise drastically. The cooler fan turns up to a faster speed and this level of noise could be described as very distracting. The noise might even drown out the sounds of the game depending on the genre and situation. In short: people who are sensitive to noise should pick a different device. Most multimedia notebooks are relatively quieter under load.
31.7 / 32.1 / 33.7 dB(A)
||34.8 / dB(A)|
||44.4 / 47.8 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: Voltcraft SL-320 (15 cm distance)
The temperature emissions left us with mixed feelings. While idle, the case is relatively cool and our measurements showed an average of 28°C - a decent value. However, under load the case heats up fast: a maximum of 49°C above the keyboard and up to 52°C in the region of the cooling system. These are extremely high values, and the hand-rest regions are not exempt: 45°C.
The components are by far worse off. Under full load (Furmark & Prime), the graphics card and the processor easily reached the 90°C mark (HWInfo). It did not surprise us that at that point the Core i7-2630QM lowered its speed down to a mere 800 MHz. CPU throttling has become an issue for more and more notebooks lately.
(-) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 48.5 °C / 119 F, compared to the average of 36.4 °C / 98 F, ranging from 21.1 to 71 °C for the class Multimedia.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 51.5 °C / 125 F, compared to the average of 38.8 °C / 102 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 28.4 °C / 83 F, compared to the device average of 30.9 °C / 88 F.
(-) The palmrests and touchpad can get very hot to the touch with a maximum of 45 °C / 113 F.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 29.1 °C / 84.4 F (-15.9 °C / -28.6 F).
The four speakers and the THX TruStudio Pro technology are impressive but the sound quality is still poor. The sound output seemed artificial and hollow, and voices sometimes frayed. The speakers could give a clearer output, but any pitch range sounds slightly unclear coming out of the membranes. At least the maximum volume is higher than the average found in notebooks. Still, if possible, the user should use external speakers. In comparison, the sound quality of the Dell XPS 15 leaves the GE620 miles behind.
The GE620 requires a lot of energy due to the power-hungry quad-core CPU. When the GeForce GT 540M is active, our measurements showed that the power consumption ranged between 78.7 to 116.1 W. For comparison: the 15 inch Y560P-M61G3GE multimedia notebook from Lenovo (Core i7-2630QM & Radeon HD 6570M) can consume between 54.0 - 114.2 W. In idle mode, the Intel HD Graphics 3000 takes over, lowering the consumption to 12.5 - 18.8 watts.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0.6 Watt|
|Idle|| 12.5 / 18.4 / 18.8 Watt|
78.7 / 116.1 Watt|
Key: min: , med: , max: Voltcraft VC-940
Although this 15 inch model has automatic graphics switching, the run times are still modest. The reason for this is that MSI has only given the laptop a 6 cell battery with a capacity of 49 Wh. In the Classic Test by Battery Eater (maximum brightness and minimum power saving) the battery was quickly depleted, and after 1.5 hours the GE620 needed to be charged again.
Without the Nvidia GPU running, the battery life extends itself. Our test DVD ran for 2.5 hours with maximum brightness and modest energy-saving options, and we could surf on the internet for about 3 hours before the laptop needed to be plugged in. When idle, the run times jump even further, as shown by the Readers Test by Battery, which ran for four hours (minimum brightness and maximum energy-saving).
Overall, the GE620-i748W7P has left us with mixed feelings. The notebook is priced in the region of 800 Euros and the performance it offers is superb for that price range. The buyer can expect to get a gaming notebook with a middle-class graphic card, a potent quad-core CPU for less than 800 Euros. Four GB RAM and a 640 GB HDD are nothing special, but their performance will suffice most users. In addition, Nvidia Optimus helps coax a longer runtime from the weak battery. The two USB 3.0 ports also deserve praise.
The price makes the GE620 very attractive, but in our test, we found various flaws. The meager connectivity, the poorly designed touchpad, and the high temperature and noise emissions are a few of the weaknesses. MSI has a lot of areas it can improve in. To make matters worse, the display cuts a poor figure: the picture is bleak and the contrast is poor. As such, we can not recommend the purchase of this multimedia notebook.