Gaming laptops are quickly becoming more awesome as time passes. From their early days of awkward chunkiness comes a new generation of high-powered semi-mobile computers that contain everything you need for a good time, in a package you can take over to your mate’s house.
The GX660R is quite manageable in size, and the 15.6in LED-lit LCD screen boasts an impressively sharp image – with a 1920 x 1080 resolution to boot. Though colours lack contrast, the screen itself is perfectly good for watching movies, and the included Blu-Ray drive gives you no excuse not to. Also making its debut here are the Dyna Audio speakers that MSI told us about at Computex some months ago (in our second podcast here), whose biggest drawcard is their origin of manufacture – a car audio design house.
Though we were initially sceptical that internal speakers could have sound we’d actually consider listening to for more than five minutes, much less laptop speakers, we quickly warmed to the GX660R’s impressive sound. Voices in particular are clear and detailed, and the Avatar trailer showed a very convincing sound-stage for a mere 2.0 system. They do get a little muddied when dealing with multi-layered tunes from the heavy metal, rock or techno genres, but games and movies are right at home here – and the volume is more than high enough to fill a small room with sound.
The good news doesn’t end there, with tech specs showing that the GX660R has some mostly-good choices within. An Intel i7-720QM runs at 1.6GHz stock, but Turbo Boosts itself up to 2.8GHz briefly when running single-threaded workloads. The processor is backed up by a somewhat overkill memory allotment of 12GB, with three 4GB DDR3 sticks that will never be completely utilised unless editing HD video. This combination of components returns a Cinebench score of 3790 points when single-threaded, and 10373 points when running multiple threads – exactly where we expect it to sit.
Hard drive space is provided by two 500GB disks that are factory configured to run in a RAID0 stripe, and partitioned to offer two roughly equal spaces. This is easy to miss and assume there are two drives – but if one fails, all the data will be lost on both partitions. Speeds are nice enough, with an average read of 116MB/s and random access of 15.2ms, but a single SSD will trounce that by a large margin – we’d suggest replacing one of the drives and running without RAID if you’re serious about storage speed.
Graphics are provided by what is labelled a ‘5870 Mobility’, but what is in actuality a 5770. As such the performance isn’t what we’d expect from a desktop, and in our Crysis test it pulls only 18.85 average frames per second. On lower settings this is certainly more than playable, though, and it’s close to the best you can get in a lappy. 3DMark Vantage gives a score of P8115.
Physically the lappy isn’t too heavy at 3.5kg, and nor does it get too hot. Running OCCT and Furmark concurrently for ten minutes produced GPU temps of 96 degrees and CPU temps of 76, with a whooshing of the exhaust fan. We noticed that the CPU sat at 1.73GHz the entire time, and the keyboard remained cool enough to touch.
Annoyingly the official mobility graphics driver from AMD refused to install, and as we’d re-installed Windows 7 x64 Pro on the lappy, wireless drivers hosted on MSI’s site refused to function. This is worrying, but assuming you never need to mess with the OS (there are a few out there who like things at stock) and want a fast laptop with great speakers, then this is a great choice that just falls short of an award.