If you're someone who wants a high-performance gaming notebook packed with 1TB of storage, a 1GB Nvidia GTX 285M graphics card and one of the most powerful Intel Core i7 processors currently on the market then you better be prepared to pay close to $2,500. Well, that was before the MSI GT660R arrived in stores. This 16-inch gaming notebook is packed with premium components, a fantastic speaker system and the ability to overclock the CPU and the GPU for $1,700. Keep reading to find out more.
MSI offers multiple configurations of the GT660. Our review unit of the MSI GT660R comes with the following features:
The MSI GT660 series was designed in partnership with Dynaudio to create a gaming notebook chassis that also offers a "true-to-life sound experience." The speaker housing structures, speaker circuits and overall position of the stereo speakers and subwoofer were designed to combine the extreme performance of a gaming notebook with the rich audio performance of a premium multimedia notebook.
Despite the heavy use of plastics, the exterior surfaces of the GT660R are covered in a scratch-resistant coating to improve durability. The screen lid itself is also covered in "MSI Color Film Print Technology" which is essentially in multi-layer printed image imbedded into the plastic. In this case you can see a faint honeycomb pattern in the lid similar to the texture used on the palm rests when you open the notebook.
Screen and Speakers
The 16-inch diagonal TFT display on the GT660R features LED backlighting and a 16:9 aspect ratio with 1366 x 768 resolution. This might just be the single biggest issue that serious gamers have with this notebook. Most 16-inch and 17-inch gaming notebooks have a minimum screen resolution of 1440x900 or 1600x900 ... unless it's equipped with a 3D screen. Since this GT660R isn't being sold as a native 3D gaming system MSI really should have included a higher resolution screen.
That said, we'd give this screen a "good" rating within the narrow vertical viewing angle sweet spot. The backlight in our review unit is even and bright, colors are good at default settings though contrast is a little low. Vertical viewing angles are just as narrow as we typically see with most laptops while the horizontal viewing angles (side view) are nearly flawless.
As previously mentioned, the MSI GT660 series features Dynaudio-branded premium speakers and a built-in subwoofer. For those readers who aren't familiar with Dynaudio, these are the folks who supply car speakers for Volvo, Volkswagen and Bugatti. Like many of the premium speakers on multimedia notebooks, Dynaudio tweaks the audio drivers and equalizer settings to deliver a high standard of sound quality. When I first opened the notebook and tested the speakers I was pretty impressed ... then I noticed that I had left the protective plastic covering the speakers. Once I removed the plastic blocking the speaker grills I was even more impressed. The large stereo speakers and subwoofer produce a fantastic range of highs, midtones and low frequencies that let you hear all the details in your favorite music and hear subtle sound effects in your favorite games.
The Chiclet-style keyboard on the GT660R offers a reasonably enjoyable typing experience and is also fine for hours of gameplay. Individual keys are a little mushy and the center of the keyboard flexes inward under heavy typing pressure, but the individual key action still delivers acceptable feedback when pressed. The typical gaming keys of W,A,S,D feature special red paint to help you quickly identify where your fingers need to be during a game (just in case you didn't already know). Each key is flat with a nice matte texture and a little extra spacing to prevent typos. I was a little annoyed that MSI didn't include an LED backlit keyboard considering that there are multiple decorative LEDs all over the exterior of the notebook. A backlit keyboard would have been far more useful than lights next to the touchpad or under the edges of the palm rests.
Ports and Features
The MSI GT660 chassis offers a fairly robust collection of ports even for a massive desktop-replacement notebook like this. This gaming notebook is packed with two USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port, ExpressCard slot, Ethernet, two video out ports, a media card reader and audio jacks. When so many 17-inch notebooks are starting to lose their ExpressCard slots and limit the number of USB ports to three, it's nice to see a notebook that offers as much connectivity and expandability as possible. That said, we would have liked to see a combo USB/eSATA port instead of a dedicated eSATA port since most people would rather have an extra USB port rather than just eSATA. While we might complain about the fact that the MSI GT660R weighs almost eight pounds it's hard to complain about all the stuff that is packed inside.
Here is a quick tour of the ports on this laptop:
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