MSI GT627 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (52,684)

The GT627 is MSI’s latest 15” gaming notebook with a sleek brushed metal finish and an easy overclocking Turbo button. Housed inside its stylish exterior is an NVIDIA 9800M GS graphics card paired up with an Intel P8400 Core 2 Duo to handle any modern game a user can throw at it. This notebook is targeted against other low-cost gaming rigs such as the Gateway P-series that offers high-end gaming performance for less than $1,300. Just how well does the GT627 stack up against the competition? Read our review to find out.

MSI GT627 Specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 (2.26GHz, 1066MHz, 3MB Cache)
  • 4GB DDR2 memory
  • Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit, SP1)
  • NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GS graphics (1GB GDDR3)
  • 15.4 WXGA Glossy Display (1280×800)
  • DVDRW-SuperMulti
  • 320GB hard drive (7200rpm)
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wireless LAN with Bluetooth
  • 90W (19V) Power Supply
  • Battery: 6-cell
  • Weight: 5.6lbs
  • Size: 14.09″(L) x 10.24 “(D) x 1.06″~1.22″(H)
  • Warranty: 1-year parts/labor
  • MSRP: $1,149

Build and Design
The GT627 has a sophisticated look with a brushed metal finish and red plastic accents. From the outside you might think it was a business notebook (with a splash of color) and not a portable gaming system. Put this in contrast to some of the gaming machines from Toshiba or Dell and you realize MSI was going for a more subdued everyday-notebook look for this rig. One added benefit is you wont feel embarrassed pulling this notebook out in the middle of a business meeting, which the same couldnt be said about some gaming notebooks.

Build quality is great in most areas with some help from the metal exterior but there are some weak areas that should have received some extra support. The display lid stays rigid and solid enough though it is very thin. The magnets that keep the screen lid closed are super strong, needing two hands to pry the display open. The brushed finish holds up to scratches and fingerprints very well, although an encounter with a heavy object might leave a dent. The palmrest shares the same brushed metal finish, but not the same treatment in rigidity or support. It has an unfortunate amount of flex which in some cases pushes against keyboard tray making a clicking sound.

Users looking to upgrade anything from RAM to hard drive should know that MSI puts a Warranty Void if Broken across both the main access panel and hard drive bay. While I can understand the main area that houses the RAM, video card, and processor could be considered off limits, why prevent users from upgrading their hard drive?

Display
The 15.4 WXGA glossy display is perfect for gaming with fast response times and high backlight brightness. Colors were bright and vibrant, and contrast levels were adequate to view detail in dark settings. At full brightness the GT627 was viewable in a bright office setting without looking washed out. In my home I found the brightness level best set between 30-40% for comfortable viewing since my lighting is nowhere near as bright as our office. Viewing angles were average, with a great horizontal viewing range, but limited vertical range. Colors would quickly distort and invert as you would tilt back the screen, or wash out if you angled it closer to you.

Keyboard and Touchpad
The GT627 has a fullsize “gaming” keyboard with highlighted frequently used game keys and a numberpad squeezed in on the left side. I am generally a fan of numberpads on most notebooks, but they are larger notebooks (usually 16 and up) and dont reduce the size of the standard keys to make room. Most keyboards have square shaped keys, including netbooks that use smaller square keys. This typically makes it easy to adapt switching from machine to machine once you get the size-ratio worked out. This notebook has keys shaped more like rectangles which made it really difficult to type accurately. Even after a few days of using it I still had to type visually instead of just by touch unless I wanted to type out a garbled mess. The keyboard had quite a bit of flex and felt as if it was floating above the support structure. This made it feel like you were typing on a springboard. The keys themselves had a moderate throw with a mild click when pressed, and would slightly wobble.

The large Synaptics touchpad worked great once I installed the latest drivers, as the system came with no Synaptics utility installed. Without the utility you cant adjust scroll bar width, customizable tap zones, and most importantly touch sensitivity. Response times were quick with no perceptible lag, even in games that demanded quick movement. The size was appropriate for a gaming machine with enough space to move around without hitting the edges … although I would have preferred buttons with a longer throw. The buttons shared the same brushed aluminum surface with the palmrest with small cutouts for flexing movement. They had shallow feedback with a muted click when pressed.

Performance
The MSI GT627 performs very well in day-to-day activities and holds its own in modern games. MSI squeezed in an Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 processor and NVDIA 9800M GS video card to help give this notebook the performance of most 17 gaming notebooks in a compact 15 form factor. If you dont think the stock performance is enough for your normal routine, you can overclock the system up to 20% with the push of a button. The Turbo feature bumps the frontside bus on-the-fly boosting the processor speed from 2.26GHz to 2.71GHz. In terms of real world performance, while playing Portal at 1280 x 800 on high settings pressing the Turbo button increased the framerate from 120 frames per second (FPS) to 145 FPS. It did this without any delay, needing to restart the game, or causing any instability. Games that are more reliant on raw graphics power like Crysis didnt see any gain in Turbo mode. Crysis on high settings at 1280×800 resolution stayed at 29 FPS regardless of whether the Turbo mode was enabled or not.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

MSI GT627 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz)
33.821 seconds
MSI GT627 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.71GHz) 28.143 seconds
Dell Studio XPS 16 (Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 @ 2.4GHz) 31.827 seconds
Sony VAIO FW (Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 @ 2.53GHz) 30.373 seconds
ASUS M70S (Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.132 seconds
Gateway P-171XL FX (Intel Core 2 Duo X7900 @ 2.8GHz) 30.359 seconds
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 @ 2.50GHz) 31.108 seconds

 

PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

MSI GT627 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GS 1GB) 6,591 PCMarks
MSI GT627 (2.71GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GS 1GB) 7,643 PCMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI RADEON HD 3670 512MB) 6,303 PCMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI RADEON HD 3470) 6,002 PCMarks
ASUS M70S (2.50GHz Intel T9300, ATI RADEON HD 3650) 6,135 PCMarks
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel X7900, NVIDIA 8800M GTS) 7,749 PCMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel T9300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 5,865 PCMarks

 

3DMark06 measures video and gaming performance (higher scores mean better performance):

MSI GT627 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GS 1GB) 8,686 3DMarks
MSI GT627 (2.71GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GS 1GB) 9,137 3DMarks
Dell Studio XPS 16 (2.4GHz Intel P8600, ATI RADEON HD 3670 512MB) 4,855 3DMarks
Sony VAIO FW (2.53GHz Intel T9400, ATI RADEON HD 3470) 2,598 3DMarks
ASUS M70S (2.50GHz Intel T9300, ATI RADEON HD 3650) 3,799 3DMarks
Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel X7900, NVIDIA 8800M GTS) 8,801 3DMarks
Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel T9300, NVIDIA 8600M GT) 3,775 3DMarks

 

HDTune storage drive performance results:

The super quick Western Digital Scorpio Black hard drive decreased game load times and sped up overall system performance with a blistering 92MB/s speak transfer speed and 70MB/s average. The only thing I can recall that was any faster were some of our high performance SSD models.

Ports and Features
Port selection was very good, including three USB ports, one eSata (part of a combo port), firewire, HDMI, VGA, LAN, Modem, and surround sound out. It also included a TV antenna hookup for models equipped with a TV tuner, SDHC multi-card reader, and ExpressCard/54 slot.


Front: IR remote receiver, Indicator lights


Rear: HDMI, VGA, AC Power, TV-Antenna


Left: Kensington lock slot, Modem, Optical Drive, 1 USB, Surround sound ports


Right: ExpressCard/54, SDHC multi-card reader, 1 USB, 1 eSata/USB combo port, LAN

Speakers and Audio
The speakers were below average when compared to most 15 notebooks, lacking any hint of bass and also missing most midrange sound. Peak volume levels were good enough for watching a movie in a small room, but would get drowned out quickly with other background sounds. Headphones would be a users best friend with this notebook, giving higher volume levels and much better audio quality.

Heat and Noise
The MSI GT627 runs a bit hotter than your average notebook while gaming thanks to the NVIDIA 9800M GS graphics card housed inside. While gaming the notebook tends to warm up your lap and wrists enough to make you want to take a break every so often. If you are someone that enjoys gaming with the notebook right on your lap, take note of the exhaust vent temperatures of the notebook under load. I found that the best setup was placing the notebook on a desk surface while gaming and using an external mouse if at all possible. The design isnt inherently bad, just the risk of cramming so much power into a 15 chassis. The external temperatures shown below are listed in degrees Fahrenheit.

In terms of noise the system fans were average for a gaming system; quiet under normal use but louder while gaming. You would probably stand out in a small lecture hall but not in a room with enough background noise.

Battery Life
Battery life was reasonable for a 15 gaming notebook with only a 6-cell battery. The GT627 stayed on for 2 hours and 35 minutes with the screen brightness set to 70%, system on the “balanced” power profile, and wireless active. I would have really preferred a 9-cell battery even if it did stick out the back for the added capacity. The turbo mode didnt play a role in battery life since it could only be turned on while the system was plugged into AC power.

 

Conclusion
Overall the MSI GT627 proved to be a fast gaming notebook with good looks but showed room for improvement in terms of build quality. The keyboard felt springy and didn’t have much support and the palmrest showed considerable flex. Gaming performance is where this notebook showed its true colors, with high benchmarks and good in-game performance. The Turbo feature while sounding somewhat gimmicky did show good results in some gaming situations. MSI would have one of the best gaming notebooks with its great price, great looks, and excellent performance if not for the springboard chassis.

Pros:

  • 17” gaming notebook performance in a 15” package
  • Excellent low starting price of $1,149
  • Useful Turbo feature that overclocks the system
  • Very quick hard drive

Cons:

  • Keyboard is awkward to type on
  • Squishy palmrest


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