MSI GX600 Review

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (102,092)

by Kevin O’Brien

The MSI GX600 is a "compact" 15.4" gaming notebook with a 512MB NVIDIA 8600M GT graphics card, and an overclockable Intel T7300 Core 2 Duo processor. This notebook offers a wide range of ports including HDMI, e-SATA, MCX for TV-Antenna, VGA, S-Video, four USB ports, one Firewire port, and LAN/Modem jacks to cover almost any device you have laying around. Probably the coolest feature which I have not seen since my 20Mhz 486 desktop is a Turbo button to overclock the machine on the fly to bump the processor speed from 2.0GHz to 2.4GHz without a restart.

  • Screen: 15.4-inch screen SWXGA (1680×1050, Matte)
  • Processor: 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300 (2.4GHz Overclocked)
  • Hard Drive: 250GB Western Digital hard drive (SATA, 5400RPM)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM (PC5300, 2 x 1GB)
  • Optical Drive: DVD+-R Double layer / DVD+-RW Drive
  • Ports and Slots: HDMI, e-SATA, Four USB 2.0, one FireWire 400 port, ExpressCard 54, VGA, S-Video, one SD card reader, headphone, microphone-in, analog/SPDIF line-out modem, 1Gb Ethernet
  • Wireless: Intel 4965 Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g/n)
  • Graphics: 512MB DDR2 NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
  • Webcam: 1.3 MP
  • Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Dimensions: 14.09" x 10.16" x 1.06-1.26" inches (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 6.25 pounds
  • Battery: 6-Cell 4800mAh
  • Included Carrying Case/Backpack
  • MSRP: $1,599 – $1,699 depending on configuration


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Build and Design

As you might expect with most gaming notebooks, the MSI GX600 likes to be stick out in a crowd. With its glossy black finish, flame decals, and huge MSI logo front and center it really gets noticed compared to other notebooks. The only feature that seemed to be missing was big LEDs to light up the logo, which most lecturers will love not being in their classroom. Overall the design of the notebook is fairly tame besides the decals, which can’t be said with some gaming notebooks.


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Build quality with this notebook is average, but not as durable as I would have liked. Chassis flex is present, noticed when holding the notebook by the palmrest or pressing firmly on different parts of the notebook. The palmrest was probably the worst culprit, allowing so much flex that squeezing the palmrest could activate the touchpad buttons on both sides. This was a first for me, as I have never seen this on any other notebook reviewed to date. Some mild flex was found on the keyboard in various sections, but nothing too severe.


Here are the free accessories that come with the MSI GX600. (view large image)

Screen

The display found on the GX600 is a matte style, which is odd with most gaming notebooks today having the popular glossy type. Usually you see matte style displays on business notebooks, as it helps to cut down on glare reflected back at you while using the notebook. I usually don’t find fault in either style, but some people may want to know this when choosing their notebook. Screen quality is average, with vivid colors in a narrow vertical viewing angle, and inverted/distorted colors with steeper angles. Horizontal viewing range was more than adequate, so sharing the screen for a movie would not be a problem.


Straight view. (view large image)

Tilted forward. (view large image)

Tilted back. (view large image)
 

Brightness levels of the display were more than enough for viewing in a bright office setting, but don’t expect to game while outside on a sunny day. My comfortable brightness level was 60-70% at my apartment, and 90-100% at work. When gaming I always liked to max the backlight out to get any help I could in dark games like BioShock.

Speakers

Sound quality was average for most notebooks, but didn’t compare with other gaming notebooks. Most, if not all bass was missing, leaving you with shallow midrange and high-end tones. This did not really affect gaming, listening to music, or watching movies since you still heard all of the content being played. Volume levels were high enough to allow coworkers to get into your game (even if they were busy doing work).

Headphone jack quality was top notch, and my preferred source of audio when playing games (more like highly suggested). No hiss or static was present, just a nice clean signal.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The GX600 has a full-size keyboard … but it does use some compact keys. The keyboard keys themselves have a nice texture and provide great feedback while typing. It includes a full number pad, but at the expense of making some frequently used keys almost impossible to use in normal typing. One key in particular, the "." key is so small that typing website addresses becomes a labored task. I found myself having to slow down and verify the position of my finger each time I wanted to aim for that key. Placement of the left control key is also in an odd position one over from the left, with the function key taking its place.


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The touchpad surface is very expansive, but can be awkward at times with the large scrollbar region. The scrolling area is not fully defined, so sometimes you can accidentally enter it making the pointer go nuts. The touchpad buttons have shallow feedback, and as mentioned above, can be clicked by pressing the palmrest.

Performance

As a gaming notebook, system performance should rule above all else. Offering a 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT and an overclockable Intel T7300 Core 2 Duo the MSI GX600 was able to play all the new games such as BioShock with ease. The turbo button which could overclock the processor on the fly didn’t help much with gaming, but did seem to help slightly when installing software. Encoding video or music would probably see higher gains with an overclocked processor, over most gaming situations. This was noticed with our 3DMark06 benchmarks, where the turbo button gains were almost non-existent. PCMark05 and wPrime saw a much greater jump in performance, so we knew it did "something." One feature we were surprised to not find in this notebook was a 7200rpm hard drive, as they can greatly help with almost all aspects of system performance.

Below are benchmarks showing system performance in both stock, and overclocked situations.

PCMark05 Comparison Results:

Notebook PCMark05 Score
MSI GX600 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT 512MB) 4,989 PCMarks
MSI GX600 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 overclocked to 2.4GHz, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT 512MB) 5,633 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 2.8GHz, Dual Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT 512MB) 7,148 PCMarks
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 overclocked to 3.2GHz, Dual Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT 512MB) 7,868 PCMarks
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 6,871 PCMarks
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 4,411 PCMarks
Fujtisu Siemens Amilo Xi1554 Review (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1900, Windows XP) 5,066 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600) 4,621 PCMarks
Fujitsu LifeBook N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400) 3,487 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Asus Z84Jp (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia Go 7600) 4,739 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX) 5,597 PCMarks


3DMark06 Results and Comparison:

Notebook 3D Mark 06 Results
MSI GX600 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT 512MB) 3,241
MSI GX600 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 overclocked to 2.4GHz, Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT 512MB) 3,290
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 2.8GHz, Dual Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT 512MB) 8,536
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 overclocked to 3.2GHz, Dual Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT 512MB) 8,572
Sager NP5791 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.20GHz, Nvidia GeForce 8700M-GT 512MB) 4,941
Alienware M9750 (Intel Core 2 Duo T7600 2.33GHz, Nvidia go 7950 GTX video cards with 512MB) 7,308
Sager NP9260 (2.66GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2x Nvidia GeForce Go 7950GTX video cards with 512MB DDR3) 9,097
Alienware m5790 (1.83 GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1800 256MB) 2,625
WidowPC Sting D517D (Core 2 Duo 2.33GHz, Nvidia 7900GTX 512MB) 4,833
Apple MacBook Pro (2.00GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 128MB) 1,528
Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB) 2,183
ASUS A8Ja (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 512MB) 1,973
Dell XPS M1710 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GTX 512MB) 4,744


wPrime

wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, the advantage of this program is that it is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, thereby giving more accurate benchmarking measurements than Super Pi.

Notebook / CPU wPrime 32M time
MSI GX600 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.309s
MSI GX600 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.4GHz) 35.231
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 2.8GHz) 29.477s
Dell XPS M1730 (Core 2 Extreme X7900 3.2GHz) 29.251s
Sony VAIO NR (Core 2 Duo T5250 @ 1.5GHz) 58.233s
Toshiba Tecra A9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 38.343s
Toshiba Tecra M9 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.299s
HP Compaq 6910p (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 40.965s
Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz) 76.240s
Zepto 6024W (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2GHz) 42.385s
Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz) 37.705s
Alienware M5750 (Core 2 Duo T7600 @ 2.33GHz) 38.327s
Samsung Q70 (Core 2 Duo T7300 @ 2.0GHz) 42.218s
Acer Travelmate 8204WLMi (Core Duo T2500 @ 2.0GHz) 42.947s
Samsung R20 (Core Duo T2250 @ 1.73GHz) 47.563s
Dell Inspiron 2650 (Pentium 4 Mobile 1.6GHz) 231.714s


HDTune 2.54
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Windows performance index:


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Game Tests

Bioshock


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Bioshock set to the native 1280×800 resolution of the notebook played flawlessly on the MSI GX600. I used the default detail settings, and never had any problems throughout the first few levels I played. I was able to play Bioshock at 1680×1050 resolution with minimal lag (about 16-18 frames per second).

Crysis


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Crysis was not as friendly as BioShock to this notebook. To even get it to work at reasonable rate, all detail levels had to be set to low, and the resolution set down to 1280×800. Even then frame rates did slow down at time, usually around heavy action.

Heat and Noise

This notebook was fairly tame through our testing, and under normal use was very quiet and cool. Fan noise was minimal or completely off when browsing the web. Fan noise while gaming did spike up a bit, but nothing too intrusive.

The notebook did get quite loud when you enabled the overclocking mode. Almost instantly after pressing the switch the fan would ramp up and become very audible. During game-play the noise would increase even more, even though the turbo mode did not really help much. It’s a cool feature that it can overclock on the fly, but would have been nicer if it bumped the GPU clock speeds as well.
Below are heat overlays of the MSI GX600 listed in degrees Fahrenheit:


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Battery

Compared to other gaming notebooks, the GX600 wasn’t that bad, pulling just over 2 hours on balanced mode, backlight 80%, and wireless enabled. Battery life could have been much higher if a larger battery was used, since this notebook only had a 4800mAh battery, smaller than even the UMPC Asus EEE PC battery.

Input and Output Ports


Front: SD card reader, Line-out, microphone in, and headphone jacks. (view large image)


Right Side: Expresscard/54, e-SATA, MCX Antenna (not used), Firewire 400, two USB, HDMI, Svideo, VGA, and power connector. (view large image)


Left Side: Kensington lock slot, LAN, Modem, two USB, and optical drive. (view large image)


Back: Exhaust port, Kensington lock slot. (view large image)

Upgrades

MSI does not allow you to upgrade this notebook yourself, indicated by a "Warranty Void if removed" sticker covering both the HD access bay door, and the main access panel for RAM/CPU/WiFi. For a gaming notebook this is almost unheard of, since they tend to be part of the crowd most likely to pop open a notebook and upgrade some component.


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MSI officially states the maximum supported RAM for the GX600 is 2GB. However, Intel states the PM965 chipset supports 4GB. In any case, MSI’s official statement is, "Each GX600 has been throughly burn tested before it leaves the factory. Hence, in order to maintain its best performance and stability, we don’t recommend that end users add or swap the memory module."

Conclusion

For a gamer on a tight budget the MSI GX600 offers a great price for a gaming notebook. You get a stylish design that isn’t too over the top, but still offers a unique design to stand out against other notebooks. My gripes are limited to some chassis flex, and lack of upgrade options, but overall it’s still a very good value.

Pros

  • Cool and Quiet
  • Turbo button overclocks on the fly
  • Full-size keyboard with numberpad

Cons

  • MSI doesn’t allow user upgrades
  • Some flex in palmrest and chassis

Editor’s Note: NotebookReview.com and MSI have teamed up to offer you a chance to win the MSI GX600 gaming notebook! Be sure to visit the contest entry page to find out more.


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