by Kevin O’Brien
The PowerPro P 15:3 (MSI MS-1651) is a compact gaming notebook that packs a big punch with a slim 15.4″ form factor. This notebook offers an NVIDA 9600M GT graphics card, optional Blu-ray drive, HDMI out, and all the other bells and whistles that you would want from a multimedia powerhouse. With a sleek and stylish brushed aluminum finish and a starting configuration price of $1,299, should this notebook be on your list of computers to check out? Read this review and find out.
Our MSI MS-1651 configuration:
- Intel Core 2 Duo Processor P9500 (2.53GHz, 1066MHz FSB, 6MB L2 cache)
- NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT with 512MB of GDDR3 discrete video memory
- 15.4″ WSXGA Matte Display (1680 x 1050 max. resolution)
- Genuine Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit) SP1
- 4GB (4096MB) DDR2 800MHz Dual Channel Memory (2 x 2048MB modules)
- 250GB 7200rpm Serial ATA hard drive
- 8x Multi-Format Dual Layer DVDRW
- Integrated 2.0 Megapixel Web Cam
- 6-cell 10.8v 4800mAh battery, 90w power supply
- 3-Year Warranty with Next Business Day shipping paid both ways when purchased as the Power Pro P 15:3 via PowerNotebooks website
Build and Design
The design of this notebook is very nice, with a cool looking silver on black appearance. The screen lid and keyboard palmrest is made up of brushed aluminum, which even includes the touchpad buttons. The media buttons are flush mounted on a matte plastic panel that is entirely touch sensitive except for the main power button. The overall look is very stylish for a gaming notebook, and has nothing too out of the ordinary compared to the lengths some manufacturers go with exotic colors and LEDs.
Build quality is above average with excellent fit and finish. The palmrest is very rigid, helped in part by the top layer of brushed aluminum no doubt. The same rigid surface is also found on the screen lid which feels very solid and gives a great deal of protection to the LCD under it. While I normally don’t enjoy all latchless notebooks because of how weak the tension to keep the notebook closed is, MSI incorporates strong magnets to assist with locking the lid down. You really need to wedge your finger between the lid and palmrest to open it up easily.
One of my more OCD concerns with notebooks is fingerprints and smudges and my first thought was this notebook should hold up pretty well since it doesn’t have a glossy surface. It turns out that the brushed aluminum finish is a magnet for smudges, as all of the little grooves easily pickup the oils on your finger and make the surface appear darker than the surrounding bits. Some of these spots end up being more difficult to wipe off than those found on glossy notebooks. If you are the type who likes to keep a notebook really clean, it would be keen to have a small bottle of cleaner and a wipe stored in your laptop case… well that or wear gloves.
The MSI MS-1651 has a WSXGA+ matte display which is very pleasing on the eyes, but not the brightest screen we have come across. The matte finish is very smooth which doesn’t cause much sparkle on solid colors displays on the screen, such as a white background while surfing the web. Viewing angles are better than average, with a broad sweet spot vertically before colors start to invert. Horizontal viewing angles stay true even while moving to steep angles looking in from the edge of the panel. The overall brightness of the panel is less than other gaming notebooks we have reviewed, leaving a bit to be desired in a bright office setting. Colors appear are clear and vibrant, but not as oversaturated as what you might find on a notebook that has a glossy panel.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard has a fullsize layout, which isn’t always found on a 15.4″ notebook. While the addition of the number pad is nice, the primary section of the keyboard ends up feeling cramped. The standard direction pad is slimmed down, the rightside shift key is the size of a normal letter, and the symbols such as “.” And “/” are abnormally small. The typing surface feels solid when you press firmly on the keyboard, but it has a 1-2mm gap between the keyboard and underlying structure that makes the thing bounce when typed on. The individual key action is smooth with quiet feedback.
The touchpad is pretty large coming in at roughly 3″ wide and 2″ tall. Sensitivity is great at default settings, and the Synaptics settings give you a wide range of adjustment if you want a heavier or lighter touch. The touchpad buttons felt awkward to use, needing more pressure than most touchpad buttons to click. The design is such that the buttons are made up from the same surface as the palmrest, with a cutout to shape the button and let it move independent of the surrounding surface. You end up needing more weight behind your click, and the click itself is hard with shallow feedback.
System performance with the Intel P9500 Core 2 Duo processor and NVIDIA 9600M GT graphics card was great for handling the latest games with tweaked video settings. Portal easily pushed 90-130FPS at the full 1680×1050 native resolution of the display. Crysis while being a much higher tasking games topped out at 29FPS on medium settings at 1280×800 resolution. Synthetic benchmark scores backed up our real life findings, also producing very good scores. The 7200.3 Seagate hard drive helped out quite a bit for fast boot and shutdown times, as well as reduced waiting times for new map loads while gaming.
wPrime is a program that forces the processor to do recursive mathematical calculations, this processor benchmark program is multi-threaded and can use both processor cores at once, it measures the amount of time to run a set amount of calculations.
wPrime comparison results (lower scores means better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|MSI MS-1651 (Core 2 Duo P9500 @ 2.53GHz)||30.185s|
|Gateway P-7811 FX (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz)||33.366s|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (Core 2 Duo T9600 @ 2.8GHz)||27.416s|
|Acer Aspire 6920 (Core 2 Duo T5750 @ 2.0GHz)||44.457s|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Windows Vista 64)||28.978s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (Core 2 Duo P8400 @ 2.26GHz)||34.628s|
|HP Pavilion dv5z (Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80 @ 2.1GHz)||39.745s|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (Core 2 Duo T7250 @ 2.0GHz)||43.569s|
|Dell XPS M1530 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)
|HP Pavilion dv6500z (Turion 64 X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||40.759s|
|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|
|Lenovo T61 (Core 2 Duo T7500 @ 2.2GHz)||37.705s|
|HP Pavilion dv6000z (Turion X2 TL-60 @ 2.0GHz)||38.720s|
PCMark05 measures overall notebook performance (higher scores are better):
|MSI MS-1651 (2.53GHz Intel P9500, NVIDIA 9600M GT 512MB)||6,688 PCMarks|
|Gateway P-7811 FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GTS 512MB)||6,815 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB)||6,587 PCMarks|
|Acer Aspire 6920 (2.0GHz Intel T5750, Intel X3100)||4,179 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB)||6,921 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad SL400 (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9300M GS 256MB)||5,173 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv5z (2.1GHz Turion X2 Ultra ZM-80, ATI Radeon HD 3200)||3,994 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1525 (2.0GHz Intel T7250, Intel X3100)||4,149 PCMarks|
|Dell XPS M1530 (2.20GHz Intel T7500, Nvidia 8600M GT 256MB)||5,412 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1520 (2.0GHz Intel T7300, NVIDIA 8600M GT)||4,616 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X61 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||4,153 PCMarks|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
3DMark06 comparison results:
3DMark06 represents the overall graphics performance of a notebook. (Higher numbers indicate better performance.)
|MSI MS-1651 (2.53GHz Intel P9500, NVIDIA 9600M GT 512MB)||5,757 3DMarks|
|Gateway P-7811 FX (2.26GHz Intel P8400, NVIDIA 9800M GTS 512MB)||9,355 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX18 (2.8GHz Intel T9600, Nvidia 9600M GT 512MB)||4,127 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9500, Nvidia Go 8800M GTS 512MB)||8,791 3DMarks|
|HP Pavilion HDX (2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 2600 XT 256MB)||4,205 3DMarks|
|Gateway P-171XL FX (2.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo X7900, NVIDIA Go 8800M GTS)||8,801 3DMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.50GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||3,775 3DMarks|
|Toshiba Qosmio G45 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA Go 8600M GT)||2,934 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1720 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8600M GT)||2,930 3DMarks|
|Dell Inspiron 1420 (2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,329 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO FZ (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, Intel X3100)||532 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1330 (2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7300, NVIDIA GeForce Go 8400M GS 128MB)||1,408 3DMarks|
|Asus F3sv-A1 (Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0GHz, Nvidia 8600M GS 256MB)||2,344 3DMarks|
|Alienware Area 51 m5550 (2.33GHz Core 2 Duo, nVidia GeForce Go 7600 256MB||2,183 3DMarks|
|Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi 1526 (1.66 Core Duo, nVidia 7600Go 256 MB)||2,144 3DMarks|
|Asus A6J (1.83GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,819 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||794 3DMarks|
Speaker performance on the MS-1651 leaves a bit to be desired in bass and midrange, but it does have adequate volume levels for listening to music or movies in loud areas. The speakers are located near the screen hinges beneath grills built into the touch sensitive media control panel.
The headphone output is clean without any distortion or noise. Volume levels are great even with my larger Sennheiser HD-80 headphones.
Ports and Features
Port selection is very nice for a 15.4″ notebook, offering a wide range of outputs and inputs. One nice feature that is starting to be common on many notebooks is the eSata/USB combo port, which helps cramming more ports in less space. The multi-card reader holds SD cards nearly flush mount and is spring loaded when a card is inserted. One thing worth noting is the half-sized SD card blank used in the slot initially, and its tendency to get jammed into the slot needing pliers to remove.
- VGA and HDMI
- E-SATA/USB Combo : 1
- USB 2.0 : 2
- IEEE 1394 : 1
- Line-In, Line-Out, Mic, Headphone
Front: IR Receiver
Rear: HDMI, VGA, AC-Input, TV-tuner antenna input (where applicable)
Left: Kensington lock slot, modem, optical drive, 1 USB, Line-out, headphone, line-in, microphone
Right: Expresscard/54, multi-card reader, firewire, 2 USB, eSATA, LAN
Battery life with the included 52WHr 6-cell battery gave a surprising 2 hours and 24 minutes with the Vista “Balanced” profile selected, screen brightness set to 60%, and wireless enabled and active. With the optional 9 cell battery it should be possible to get around 4 hours of battery life, which is excellent for a mobile gaming rig.
Heat and Noise
Heat output and noise is pretty normal compared to other gaming rigs, but the aluminum construction does make it feel warmer with better heat transmission through the metal to your wrists. While gaming with the notebook on your lap the CPU exhaust outputs very close to your leg, and after a while feels very hot. While playing Crysis the exhaust temperatures peaked at 135F. During normal non-gaming activity the overall system temperatures were very mild, peaking at 87F around the case. Exhaust fan noise is above a mild whisper at idle and low cooling demand and rises to a semi-loud whoosh when gaming.
The MSI MS-1651 is a sleek and stylish 15.4″ notebook with a great looking brushed aluminum finish. System performance was excellent with the NVIDIA 9600M GT graphics card, and could easily play the latest games as long as you watched the resolution and settings. Build quality was great and the notebook felt very solid with the aluminum finish giving it more strength than standard plastic found on most notebooks. The keyboard could be improved to reduce the trampoline effect you get when typing, caused by the small gap between the keyboard and structure beneath it. System temperatures were great during web browsing and other light activity situations, but felt pretty hot while gaming. Overall the MS-1651 is a good contender in the mobile gaming notebook segment and with a starting price of $1,299 moderately priced against the competition.
- Great brushed aluminum finish
- Solid build quality and sturdy feel
- Great system performance
- Fullsize keyboard (with a few compromises)
- Hard to press touchpad buttons
- Brushed aluminum finish is hard to keep clean
Pricing and Additional Information
The MSI MS-1651 starts at $1,299 and can be purchased from the PowerNotebooks website.