If you want a system around $1,300, you can ask for one that offers good performance on multimedia creation or 3D gaming prowess, but not both. For the money, the MSI GX60 1AC-021US is the gaming rig for your budding hardcore gamer. It sacrifices some raw multimedia CPU power for the high end AMD Radeon HD 7970 GPU, but that tradeoff gives this gaming rig the clout to play high end games at native 1080p HD resolution. Sure, a similarly priced high-end ultrabook is faster editing a photo, but the GX60 will let you see the rain dripping off your game opponent before you beat him at 500-yard distance. That’s worth its weight in frankincense and myrrh. Sure, it’s a specialized gaming system that trades overall multimedia performance for ultimate gaming speed, but in the immortal words of a certain James “Logan” Howlett, it’s the best there is at what it does. Thus, we award it our Editors’ Choice for entry-level gaming laptops.
Design and Features
The GX60 is a gaming rig with performance aspirations, so you’d expect a large chassis with extra embellishments it. It measures about 1.75-by-15-by-10.25 inches (HWD), and weighs a hefty 7.42 pounds. It’s made mostly of black polycarbonate, with chromed accents on the central power button, trackpad buttons, and the area surrounding the 720p HD webcam. The row of backlit touch-sensitive buttons flanking the power button give it a bit of extra visibility, with red racing stripes going across the top of the keyboard deck.
The Steelseries-branded, chiclet-style keyboard isn’t backlit, but the keys are responsive and mostly comfortable to use. However, you may have to do some relearning, as the keys are a little oddly placed. The most unfamiliar (for righties) is the Start key that only exists on the right side of the keyboard. While this is ostensibly done to prevent app switching when in a gaming session, it also means that you may hit the Fn or Alt key instead of Start during day-to-day computing sessions. The keyboard comes with a full numeric keypad, but that also means that the arrow keys are jammed in between the main alphanumeric section and numeric keypad. This could be a problem if you’re used to navigating straight down from enter and shift keys to the arrow keys. Again, it’s a matter of relearning where things are, but annoying just the same. They’re certainly more cramped than the keyboard on the mid-range gaming system Editor’s Choice Asus G75VW-DH72 ($1,899).
Since we’re picking nits, the trackpad is a bit more recessed than it needs to be, particularly for Windows 8 gestures like brining up the Charms bar or getting to the Start screen. If you get a GX60, get used to using the corners for these functions. Besides, gaming is better with a mouse than a trackpad anyway.
The GX60 comes with an AMD A10-4600M processor, AMD Radeon HD 7970M discrete graphics, 8GB of memory, 750GB hard drive, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, a Killer branded Ethernet adapter, 15.6-inch 1,920 by 1,080 resolution display with matte screen, and a Blu-ray player. The Killer-branded Ethernet adapter is supposed to reduce latency when playing online multiplayer games. Some gamers swear by it. We didn’t test the Killer adapter’s claims, but if it helps you keep your cool while gaming, more power to you. Ports on the system are plentiful, including a VGA port, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort, three USB 3.0 ports, USB 2.0 (for a mouse or charging a phone), and a quartet of audio ports. The extra audio ports mean that you can use your gaming headset without having to unplug your external speakers.
The system’s 1,920-by-1,080-resolution screen is perfect for gaming as well as viewing Blu-ray and online HD videos. We didn’t detect any blurring during extended viewing sessions on the system. The multiple video outputs and AMD Radeon HD 7970 graphics can work together to give you a multi-monitor AMD Eyfinity experience. That way you can have the game play surround you to the left and right. The matte coating on the screen helped tame reflections from direct and indirect lighting.
While it’s in the same price range, the GX60 gives you a lot more screen real estate than the ultraportable Editors’ Choice Maingear Pulse 11 ($1,349) and it’s Clevo-chassis brothers, the AVADirect Clevo W110ER ($1129) and former EC Eurocom Monster 1.0 ($1,605). This trio of systems that are built on the Clevo W110ER chassis are limited to a 1,366-by-768 resolution on their 11-inch screens.
Though you’d expect a minimal amount of pre-installed software, the GX60 actually comes with a pretty full set. In addition to the normal Windows 8 build, the GX60 comes with stuff like Skype, Music Maker Jam, PowerDVD 10, TuMetro (a news reader), Office trial, Norton Internet Security (60-day), Evernote, a cookbook app, and Wild Tangent games. In addition to Wild Tangent, the GX60 has a selection of games from the Xbox store pre-installed as well. It’s not a deal breaker, but you will find a lot more programs on this mass market gaming rig than you would find on a system from one of the smaller boutique system builders.
Performance is where the gaming rig lives and dies, and we’re pleased to report that the GX60 is one of the systems you’d want on the game grid. The AMD Radeon HD 7970M discrete graphics on the GX60 is good for playable frame rates, even at the higher 1,920-by-1,080 resolution with all the eye candy turned on. This is a must-have if you’re going to go all out and run multiple monitors, but it’s also a boon for portable play. The GX60 was able to play the Aliens vs. Predator benchmark test at 39 fps and the Heaven benchmark test at 35 fps, both at the highest settings at 1,920 by 1,080. While this isn’t the ultra smooth gameplay found on Editors’ Choice winning high-end gaming rigs like the Origin EON17-SLX
($4,405), the GX60 will cost you a fraction of the price. Basically, you’ll find the ability to play today’s games at full resolution without too many of the sliders turned down from max settings to get a playable frame rate.
While the GX60′s gaming benchmark scores were excellent, the GX60 did fall a bit behind other systems on the overall PCMark 7 test and the multimedia creation tests like Handbrake and Photoshop CS6. This is due to the system’s AMD A10 processor, which isn’t as efficient on these tasks. That said, the system is fast enough to keep a gamer happy during the times he’s not gaming, particularly if it’s his third or fourth system.
The GX60 had decent battery life for a gaming rig. It lasted almost four hours (3:51) on our rundown test. This isn’t enough for a cross country flight, but the GX60 is more around the house portable anyway.
At this price point, you’ll have to choose whether you’re willing to pay for overall performance or for specialized performance (like gaming). At $1,299 you certainly have enough for our Editors’ Choice high end ultrabook, the Asus Zenbook Prime Touch UX31A-BHI5T ($1,199), but if you prefer gaming over portability and a touch screen, then paying $1,299 for the MSI GX60-021US seems like a bargain compared with systems like the mid-range gaming EC, the $1,899 Asus GV75VW-DH72. You won’t get the GV75VW’s multimedia prowess, but if you want a specialized gaming rig solely for its 3D chops, then the MSI GX60 is a very attractive choice, and it even is a better rig at the system’s native resolution. Because of the $600 price difference, we can’t give the midrange crown to the GX60.
Pricewise, the GX60 would replace the Maingear Pulse 11, but that system is technically an ultraportable gaming desktop EC. However, the GX60 is a better gaming rig than the Pulse 11, especially considering the GX60′s frame rates at 1,920 by 1,080 and looking at the comparative 3DMark 11 scores. The MSI GX60 is the gaming laptop we’d recommend at the sub-$1,500 price point. That earns it our Editors’ Choice award for entry-level gaming laptops. Since it can play high-end 3D games at its 1,920 by 1,080 native resolution, it’s the affordable rig we’d buy to hone our 3D gaming skills.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS
Check out the test scores for the MSI GX60 1AC-021US
Compare the MSI GX60 1AC-021US with several other laptops side by side.
More laptop reviews:
|Processor Name||AMD A10-4600M|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||AMD Radeon HD 7970|
|Processor Speed||2.3 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||Blu-Ray Disc|
|Screen Size||15.6 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||750 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc