Despite its reasonably compact size (360 x 260 x 36mm), MSI’s GT640-30UK packs quite a punch. The 15.4-inch screened GT640 is part of MSI’s G family of gaming notebooks: powered by an Intel quad core processor it has a well specified feature list and a price tag to match, but it’s not without its problems.
If you are familiar with MSI notebooks because of the company’s Wind netbook or excellent X-Slim series of notebooks with all their nicely curved designs, then be prepared for a shock, for the GT640′s style (if you can call it that) is very much function over form.
It may have all the styling of a house brick but you can’t knock MSI over the external finish; the black brushed aluminium is well done as are the bright red plastic trim pieces, and at least it doesn’t have the fingerprint-grabbing, dust-attracting gloss finish that is the norm these days. The internal finish would be just as commendable if it weren’t for the chrome cheese grater that for some reason surrounds the multimedia control panel.
With a notebook powered by one of Intel’s mobile Core i7 processors you can be sure of two things; power and a pretty dismal battery life. And the GT640 doesn’t disappoint on either count. The
1.6GHz (up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost) Core i7-720QM gives the GT640 plenty of grunt as shown by its overall score of 4870 in Futuremark’s demanding PCMark Vantage benchmark. The performance would be even better, but for some reason having given the GT640 4GB (the most it supports) of fast 1,066MHz DDR3 memory, MSI then handicaps it by installing a 32-bit operating system, in this case Windows 7 Home Premium which will only access 3GB of memory.
What the processor provides in overall system performance it takes away in battery life, as with a
hefty TDP of 45W it certainly is a power-hungry beast that even a 6-cell 52Wh battery can’t do much about.
When given a heavy usage test (PC Mark Vantage) the battery lasted just 73 minutes, and while playing back a DVD it lasted just six minutes longer. Even when tested with an extremely light load it only just reached the two hour mark. But all of this is a bit academic when you consider the GT640 weighs in at a not insubstantial 3kg (including power brick), so this isn’t a notebook for your average mobile user.
The 15.4-inch screen has a glossy coating which, although providing good colour reproduction and crisp text, does reflect bright light pretty badly and its 1,680 x 1,050 pixel resolution means it is unable to use the built-in Blu-ray drive to its full extent. But this isn’t a problem as there is an HDMI out port so you can plug the GT640 into an external HD screen.
Despite being labelled a gaming notebook, the GT640 is hampered by the choice of graphics chip, namely Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 250M which comes with its own 1GB of dedicated DDR3 memory but is just not powerful enough to play today’s top games at the screen’s maximum resolution. This was amply shown by an average frame score of just 13.5fps when tested with FarCry 2′s built-in benchmark with all the game’s detail settings set to maximum. This means compromises have to be made in both detail settings and screen resolution.
The full-sized keyboard has a separate number pad and some of the keys are marked for gaming purposes, but the keys themselves feel a bit spongy when typing and the Enter key is very small, which makes it hard to find when typing at speed. Another annoying problem is in the keyboard layout, as the Ctrl and Fn keys are swapped around from their normal positions.
For storage there is a spacious 640GB hard drive and you also get a 4-in-1 card reader. To connect to the outside world you get the choice of Gigabit wired Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and three USB ports, one of which is a USB/e-SATA combo.
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