MSI GE620 Sandy Bridge laptop
MSI GE620 review: An Intel Core i7-based laptop with NVIDIA graphics
- Intel 2nd Gen Core i7 CPU, fast graphics performance, 1920x1080 screen resolution
- Build quality not great, touchpad and keyboard could be better, NVIDIA Optimus technology unreliable
MSI's GE620 is a good value performance laptop with a very good configuration. However, it's let down by some build quality issues and NVIDIA Optimus technology that doesn't always work.
Price$ 1,399.00 (AUD)
MSI's GE620 is a 15.6in, 2.6kg, 2nd Generation Intel Core i7–based laptop that's designed to tickle the fancy of gamers and any users who want a powerful-desktop replacement notebook. It boasts a quad-core CPU (with Hyper-Threading, so it can process eight software threads at once) and it also features a mid-range NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics adapter. Unfortunately, it also makes use of NVIDIA's temperamental Optimus technology, which only works whenever it feels like it.
The best part about the MSI GE620 is that it's not expensive considering how much power it packs. It costs only $1399 and for your money you get a very decent set of specifications: It has a 2GHz Intel Core i7-2630QM quad-core CPU, 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, the afore-mentioned NVIDIA GeForce 540M graphics adapter in addition to Sandy Bridge graphics built in to the CPU, a 500GB, 7200rpm hard drive, and a 1920x1080-resolution screen.
Specifications and performance
The GE620 is one of the first 2nd Gen Intel Core i7 gaming notebooks to come through the Test Centre, and its scores in our tests were solid: It recorded a time of just 24sec in the Blender 3D rendering test, and 50sec in the iTunes MP3 encoding test. Its Blender time is super-fast because all eight cores could be used to complete the task, but its time in iTunes isn't as fast as the other Core i7–based Sandy Bridge laptop we've seen to date, Dell's Vostro 3550. This is because the Dell's CPU has a frequency of 2.7GHz compared to the MSI's 2GHz.
For transcoding media, the MSI is perfect. It recorded a time of 48min when converting a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file using AutoGordianKnot. The Dell managed to perform the same task in 51min. All the Sandy Bridge machines that we've seen to date, such as the MSI CR640, Sony VAIO CB Series and Sony VAIO SB Series, have completed this task in under one hour, which just goes to show how much faster laptops have become thanks to the new Intel CPU technology.
Hard drive tasks were also zippy on the GE620, with its 7200rpm hard drive recorded an average transfer rate of 40 megabytes per second (MBps) in our tests. This is much faster than a typical laptop with a 5400rpm hard drive, and also faster than the Dell Vostro which also had a 7200rpm hard drive and recorded 36MBps. It wasn't as fast as the Gateway EC39C slimline laptop though, which has a solid-state drive instead of a conventional spinning drive — it recorded 64.24MBps in the same test.
In the graphics department, the MSI GE620 offers a mixed bag. You can use either the integrated Sandy Bridge graphics or the more powerful mid-range NVIDIA GeForce graphics. NVIDIA's Optimus technology is used to switch between these graphics cards automatically depending on the application that is being run. However, it didn't always work in our tests.
While the NVIDIA adapter was used to run 3DMark06 and record a very good score of 8303, games running under Steam used the integrated Sandy Bridge graphics instead. Even when we tried to force the NVIDIA adapter to run Steam, it reverted to using Sandy Bridge. We were unable to update the graphics drivers as NVIDIA is yet to list the 540M drivers on its site, but hopefully an update can fix this issue. Games running independently of Steam ran fine, and you can expect to be able to run most titles smoothly on this laptop (although some first person shooters may be too slow at the native resolution of the screen).
The MSI GE620 lasted 2hr 8min in our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise the screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. This was using the NVIDIA graphics. You can get over 3 hours out of it when using Sandy Bridge, which is excellent for 15.6in laptop with a Core i7 CPU.
A quibble we have with the configuration is that it has a slow Atheros AR9285 wireless adapter. It's quite pedestrian for a performance laptop, as it only supplies a maximum throughput of 150Mbps (megabits per second) and it doesn't support dual-band operation. But this cost-cutting measure is to be expected considering everything else you get for the price.
The majority of the specifications of the MSI GE620 may be great, but physically it still feels like a cheap laptop. The laptop's body makes noises that it shouldn't in certain spots — for example, the screen's hinges squeak a little, and the chassis 'clicks' when some parts, such as the palm rest, are pressed. We're not fans of its touchpad — it has an annoying texture and the left and right-click buttons share a single piece of plastic, which makes them hard to press.
The keyboard has isolated keys that are not always responsive — you really have to make sure you hit them firmly. There is some extra paint on the W, A, S, and D keys so that you can easily pick them out while gaming, and there is also a number pad. We wish the keyboard was backlit, which would make it a lot nicer to use the laptop in dark environments (especially when gaming).
Around the edges, the MSI GE620 has a DVD burner, Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card reader, microphone and headphone ports, VGA, HDMI, and three USB ports (two of them USB 3.0 and one of them strictly USB 2.0). What's annoying about the design of the chassis is the upside-down mounting of some of the ports — the right USB port, VGA and HDMI ports are all the wrong way up so you have to flip USB sticks and cables before you can plug them in.
The MSI GE620 may have some blemishes in its build quality and user comfort, but this laptop is all about fast performance. If you care about speed, you'll definitely want to know about this laptop. Furthermore, you should check it out if you just want a fast desktop replacement with a high-resolution screen.
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