- Very good performance
- Extremely impressive speakers
- One-touch overclocking
- Weak battery life
- Glossy plastics
- Thick and heavy
This impressive gaming notebook with one-touch overclocking feature offers a lot of bang for your buck.
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:
- 16-inch 720p (1366×768) display with LED backlighting
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
- Intel Core i7-740QM (1.73GHz) Overclockable
- Nvidia GeForce GTX 285M (1GB DDR3) Overclockable
- 6GB DDR3 RAM 1066MHz (2GB x 3)
- 1TB of storage (two 500GB 7200rpm HDD in RAID 0)
- Super-Multi/Blu-Ray optical drive
- 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth
- 9-cell Li-ion battery with 150W power adapter
- Weight: 7.74 lbs
- Dimensions: 15 x 10.25 x 1.78 inches
- MSRP: $1,699.99
Build and Design
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.
The build quality of the MSI GT660R is a combination of good and bad. The solid main chassis doesn’t squeak, creak, or flex even under significant pressure. Unfortunately, the keyboard suffers from quite a bit of obvious flex under heavy typing pressure and the screen lid flexes inward with ease. The screen hinges are nice and tight, but the heavy use of glossy plastics means that your fingerprints and smudges quickly cover every exposed surface of the notebook and make it look dirty unless you constantly clean your notebook with a microfiber cloth. The metal-reinforced main chassis offers a fair amount of structural rigidity for the plethora of high-performance components inside, but this also adds to the bulk and weight of the notebook.
The bottom of the notebook includes a single, massive access plate for the RAM, wireless cards and the dual hard drives. The battery also clips into the bottom of the notebook underneath one of the palm rests. The three RAM slots are stacked, making use of the extra chassis thickness necessitated by the high-performance graphics card. Despite the thickness and weight of this notebook, the internal layout helps keep the chassis design as thin as possible. My only complaint here is that you have to remove too many screws to get inside the GT660. Considering that the target audience for this notebook is likely upgrade the RAM or hard drives at some point (possibly as soon as they buy it) we would have appreciated it if MSI made it easier to get inside this 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 1440×900 or 1600×900 … 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.
Keyboard and Touchpad
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.
The touchpad itself offers a quality interface with a lightly textured surface and excellent responsiveness. The touchpad itself feels just the right size for the notebook: any smaller and it would have been too small and any larger would have made this notebook even bigger than it already is. The touchpad drivers provide excellent accuracy and minimal lag with a range of options. The touchpad buttons are hidden under a single “rocker bar” and have a shallow press with audible “click” when pressed. I really hate single touchpad buttons but at least MSI was wise enough to put a notch in the middle so you can feel the obvious separation between the left and right sides. Although separate buttons are idea, at least you can fell where the left touchpad button ends and the right button begins.
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: