Mar 22, 2015

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro with GTX 970m 6GB Review

INTRODUCTION

SYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS
- Specs
- Dimensions
- Weight

APPEARANCE AND STYLING
- Exterior
- Ports

COMPONENTS
- Inside the laptop
- Touchpad
- Keyboard
- LCD
- Networking
- Storage
- RAM

CPU Intel i7-4710HQ
- Benchmarks
- CPU Speed Evaluation

GPU Nvidia GeForce GTX 970m with 6GB GDDR5 5000MHz
- Artificial Benchmarks
- Game Benchmarks

POWER AND COOLING
- Power Consumption
- System Temperature
- Surface Temperature
- Fan Noise
- Battery Life

CONCLUSION




introINTRODUCTION

MSI entered the thin and light gaming laptop market with their thin and light GS70 17" notebook a couple years ago hosting the GTX 765m. Since then they've added the 15.6" GS60 Ghost with the 860m and followed up with the GS60 Ghost Pro including Nvidia's latest 192-bit Maxwell GPU, the GTX 970m. Where early attempts at thin and light gaming laptops resulted in a hot steamy mess in most cases, this time around, the cool running and low power consuming 970m helps keep temperatures in check, as well as drawing less power.

PowerNotebooks gracefully provided a GS60 Ghost Pro for review to share performance results with NBR members.


systemspecsSYSTEM SPECIFICATIONS

The laptop provided came with the following specifications:

15.6" Samsung LTN156HL01 1080p Matte LCD
Intel i7-4710HQ CPU
Nvidia GeForce GTX 970m 6GB GDDR5 GPU
2x8GB DDR3 1600
128GB mSATA SSD
1TB 7200RPM HDD
Killer 1525 802.11AC wireless adapter
Windows 8.1 64-bit

Laptop Dimensions:
Measured Dimensions: 15.4" x 10.5" x 0.8" (390x265x20mm)
Measured Weight: 4.4 lbs (2.0kg)

Power Supply Dimensions:
19.5V x 7.7A = 150W
Measured Dimensions: 6.5" x 3.1" x 1.0" (165 x 80 x 25mm)
Measured Weight: 1.5 lbs (0.7kg)


apprncAPPEARANCE AND STYLING

The MSI GS60 Ghost Pro is a sleek and sexy looking laptop right out of the box. It is noticeably lightweight, but solid feel with a brushed black aluminum lid and body. An MSI logo and their dragon "G" series emblem adorn the lid of the laptop. The dragon logo lights up by the LCD backlight. Simple stealth facet styling cues run from the outside front towards inboard rear of the lid, breaking up the flat surface for a more technical look. Opening the lid requires some firm pressure, but easily able to do so with one hand without the laptop lifting up.

Like the lid, the chassis is all black brushed aluminum alloy. Subtle use of chrome trim adorns the touchpad and power button. About an inch wide black aluminum bezel surrounds the LCD, with the webcam nestled above it in its expected spot. The clear and powerful DynAudio speakers sit beneath a perforated portion of the chassis above the keyboard with the DynAudio logo proudly pad printed to the upper left.

The power button is lit and acts as an indicator as well as to which GPU is active, blue for integrated Intel and red for Nvidia.

Underneath the laptop, a matte black finish magnesium alloy bottom panel is secured with 15 screws, with one of them covered by a "Warranty Void" sticker. There is some sort of cloth covering the bottom rear edge of the laptop, assuming to separate the hot laptop from one's legs or other body part when the laptop is being taxed heavily. There are few vent holes on the bottom, with the CPU and GPU fan vent slots being the most prominent at the rear edge.

[image=500]http://i.imgur.com/dl3LpTv.jpg[/image]

Ports
Even though this is a thin and light laptop, it comes fully equipped with necessary ports for easy attachment of peripherals. The left side houses the CPU vent, power port, two USB 3.0 ports, headphone and microphone 3.5mm jacks. The front includes a multitude of blue lit status lights. Over on the right side contains another USB 3.0 port, card reader, HDMI 1.4, mini DisplayPort, and ethernet jack. There are no ports on the back, just the CPU and GPU fan vents.

[image=500]http://i.imgur.com/NZLbcRn.jpg[/image]


componentsCOMPONENTS

Inside the Laptop
Removing the bottom panel requires removing 15 screws, and detaching it rearward so as not to damage the clips on the back. Once you remove the bottom panel, the bottom of the mainboard is exposed along with the 2.5" SATA drive (hard drive in this case) and battery which are easy to access and remove or disconnect. However, the CPU, GPU, RAM, and mSATA slot are located on the opposite side of the motherboard and requires complete disassembly of the system to swap the RAM, mSATA drive or change thermal paste of the CPU and GPU. Normally I would disassemble the laptop and try but even with all screws removed, it was still tightly retained, and was not going to risk damaging the machine. I suppose this is the price you pay for a slim laptop. So if you're ordering this laptop, I'd consider opting for the thermal paste, RAM, and mSATA drive you intend to stay with because replacement can be a bit tricky and laborious.

15 screws to remove the bottom panel
[image=500]http://i.imgur.com/9holAQO.jpg[/image]

Panel removed, internal exposed
[image=500]http://i.imgur.com/ByF2ohw.jpg[/image]

Touchpad
The Elan touchpad is good size and a single panel with hard mouse click buttons at the lower corners. The provided drivers support two figner zoom, scroll, rotate and three finger swipe as well as multi finger taps for controls. The pad itself has a matte finish that is easy to slide your finger across. There seems to be some sensitivity issues however where I frequently overshoot my target. I couldn't find any mouse acceleration settings that would circumvent that, but it may just be a matter of getting used to this specific touchpad.

Keyboard
A full multi-color backlit keyboard with numberpad sits cleanly in the center of the laptop with some form of technical font. The Steelseries keyboard supports multi color three zone lighting as is commonly used with MSI laptops, and comes with the Steelseries engine app for easy programming.

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Key travel is average with quiet keystrokes and very little flex. The chassis flexes a little bit with some added pressure but with typing is very structurally sound. I am fickle about my keyboards and had no issues typing on the GS60 keyboard. Numberpad keys are about 3/4 width, so it can take a bit to get used to, but otherwise, it's nice to have the numberpad. The windows key is located to the right of the space bar instead of the typical left side, but this is to avoid accidental press during gameplay.

LCD
Unbelieveable is all I can say. This LCD is the absolute best 1080p LCD I have seen in a laptop. Very high viewing angles, crisp, bright color correct images, and no noticeable ghosting while gaming. Any laptop worth a salt should come with an LCD at least this nice. It is a Samsung LTN156HL01 1920x1080 matte LCD (Windows Device ID SDC324C). MSI did well choosing this LCD.

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Networking
Killer networking components are standard fare with most MSI laptops and the GS60 Ghost Pro is no exception. The Killer NIC and 1525 Wireless AC adapter allow for fast and lag free gaming. When compared with the Intel 7260 or 7265 AC wireless adapters, the Killer wireless maintains a higher throughput and no noticeable lag spikes or interruptions. When compared with the Intel the Killer maintains a consistent 50-55 MB/sec transfer of large file sizes where the Intel varies between 35-45 MB/sec. The Intel is plagued with occasional lag spikes while gaming as well, where the Killer NIC exhibited no lag spikes during long gaming sessions of Battlefield 4.

Storage
There are three storage slots available, two mSATA and one 2.5" SATA drive bay. The mSATA slots can support RAID 0 or RAID 1. This machine came equipped with a 128GB Kingston mSATA drive and 1TB 7200RPM hard drive. The Kinston SSD is respectable although not quite the fastest, but works great for a boot drive over any mobile hard drive.

CrystalDiskMark of 128GB mSATA SSD
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CrystalDiskInfo of 128GB Kingston mSATA SSD
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RAM
Nothing special other than there are two RAM slots that support up to 2x8GB RAM and 1600MHz speed, which this laptop is equipped with.

CPU-Z of RAM
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Speakers and Audio
DynaAudio stereo speakers have great clarity and loudness. They have been great for gaming, movie viewing, and just enjoying music. The headphone jack provided ample volume with no hiss, crackle, squeal or other interference sounds.


cpuCPU Intel i7-4710HQ
Embedded components are the inevitable result of a thin and light laptop and the Intel i7-4710HQ is the soldered CPU in the GS60, comparable to the socketed version i7-4710MQ. The i7-4710HQ is a quad core CPU with 2.5GHz base clock speed with boost up to 3.5GHz with one core, 3.4GHz with two cores, and 3.2GHz with 3 or 4 cores taxed. During gaming, the CPU did not throttle, but during CPU specific benchmarking like X264 and Cinebench, the CPU would throttle some, and drop speeds down to 3.0GHz, which resulted in lower scores when compared with the laptops with better cooling components like the MSI GT72 and Clevo P650SE.

CPU-Z of i7-4710HQ
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The i7-4710HQ can be tuned slightly using Intel XTU to boost clock speeds by 200MHz, as well as undervolt and increase TDP output, although boost time is not adjustable. Tuning the CPU can result in higher clock speeds for longer periods which results in improved performance for the CPU specific tasks like video encoding or video rendering. But the difference typicall results in 5% or less time improvements.

Available XTU options
[image=500]http://i.imgur.com/fJnSYNL.jpg[/image]

Below are the results of the i7-4710HQ at stock speeds compared with another i7-4710HQ in the MSI GT72 and the i7-4810HQ in the Clevo W230SS. Notice the performance of the i7-4710HQ in the GT72 is slightly better, that is due to the CPU dropping core speed due to TDP limitations and temperatures.

Cinebench 11.5
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wPrime 2.10
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x264 5.0
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gpuGPU NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 970m 6GB GDDR5
The GTX 970m is based on the Maxwell GM204 architecture used in the desktop 970 and 980 as well as mobile 980m, resulting in excellent gaming performance is great and running at very cool temperatures, especially for a 20mm thick, 4.5lbs laptop. The GPU and vRAM is soldered directly to the motherboard so it is not possible to replace or upgrade the GPU should one desire to do so.

Details of the GTX 970m are as follows:

Nvidia GeForce GTX 970m
Core Clock: 924MHz boost to 1038MHz
CUDA Cores: 1280
6GB GDDR5 @ 5000MHz on a 192-bit bus with 120GB/sec bandwidth
Supports DirectX 12 and earlier, OpenGL 4.4, OpenCL 1.1

The GTX 970m in the review laptop is configured with 6GB of GDDR5 at 5000MHz. There is an alternate GS60 laptop version that comes with 3GB of GDDR5 RAM if you want to save approximately $100, depending on vendor. Current games shouldn't suffer with the lower vRAM amount, but future games is still unknown but as the new game console games port to PC, they are trending towards using larger amounts of vRAM. Whether this results in performance degredation or not is yet to be seen.

GPU-z for the 970m:
[​IMG]

gpubenchBENCHMARKS
Game and artificial benchmarks were run and compared with the 980m in the MSI GT72 and 860m in Clevo W230SS. The 970m was able to overclock with nVidia Inspector with core at +125MHz (to 1049MHz and boost at xxxxMHz), with vRAM +400MHz (to 5800MHz) for stable overclock. This was also benchmarked for comparison sake.

The benchmarks tested were the following:

860m Stock: 1029MHz Boost to 1097MHz / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 @ 5000MHz
860m OC (Prema Mod): 1309MHz Boost to 1377MHz / vRAM 2GB GDDR5 @ 5800MHz
970m Stock: 924MHz Boost to 1038MHz / vRAM 6GB GDDR5 @ 5000MHz
970m OC: 1049MHz Boost to 1163MHz / vRAM 6GB GDDR5 @ 5800MHz
980m Stock: 1038MHz Boost to 1127MHz / vRAM 8GB GDDR5 @ 5000MHz

Drivers used were 344.65. LCD brightness was 100%, and speaker volume at 50% with backlight keyboard on at full brightness. The GPU maintained boost speed throughout the tests with no indicated drop in speeds noticeable during gaming or as measured by HWInfo64. CPU and GPU clock speeds are shown for a few of the tests below.

artgpuArtificial Benchmarks

3DMark 11
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3DMark Fire Strike
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Catzilla 1.3
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Heaven
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gamegpuGame Benchmarks

Battlefield 4 64-Player Multiplayer FireStorm Ultra 1080p
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BF4 MP is a tough one to measure because of so many variables. Clearly the 970m did well in this benchmark, but if you compared run after run between 970m and 980m the 980m would surely run 20% faster in general than the 970m.

Bioshock Infinite Ultra + DDOF 1080p
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Crysis 3 Very High 1080p
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Final Fantasy XIV High Desktop 1080p
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Grid 2 Ultra 1080p
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Metro Last Light Very High 1080p Tesselation Normal
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Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor
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Resident Evil 6 High (Highest) 1080p
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Sleeping Dogs Extreme 1080p
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Thief Very High 1080p
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Tomb Raider Ultra 1080p (no hair tesselation)
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powercoolPOWER AND COOLING

Power Consumption
A 150W power supply is provided with this laptop, and is almost adequate for heavy gaming loads. When power draw exceeded 155W or so, the battery showed some slow decline. This was marketed as a feature by MSI with earlier versions of their laptops, so that extra power could be used when taxed beyond the PSU, but honestly, it really just shows they provided an underpowered PSU for their laptops. That doesn't leave much room for overclocking, but with such a machine that is likely not the intent of the user.

Note that the power draw measurements shown are from the wall, meaning there is some inefficiency lost at the PSU, 10-15% typically, so actual power draw should be 10-15% less than those listed. 

Peak Power Draw during Artificial Benchmarks:
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Peak Power Draw during Game Benchmarks:
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System Temperature
Temperature measurements were taken during testing for the CPU and GPU and compared with the Clevo W230SS with 860m and GT72 with 980m. For the most part, the 970m remained under 80C at stock speeds, and stayed below 85C with the mild overclock. Fans were not running full speed while gaming, so likely there is room for a little improvement in temps if the fan ramp can be adjusted slightly, granted at the cost of increased fan noise.

CPU Temps CPU Benchmarks
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CPU Temps Artificial Benchmarks
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CPU Temps Game Benchmarks
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GPU Temps Artificial Benchmarks
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GPU Temps Game Benchmarks
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Surface Temperatures
One concern with thin and light laptops, especially with a metal chassis, is how hot the surface can get. Surface temperature measurements on both top and bottom were taken with a laser thermometer both at idle and at load (After 30 minutes loop of Grid 2 "Attract Mode"). There is some cloth added to the bottom rear edge of the laptop, assuming to help keep temps down a bit if it is sitting on your lap. But temps are still quite hot and a bit uncomfortable for resting on your legs if you decide to game with it in that position. Otherewise temps everywhere else are quite cool and reasonable.

Surface Temperature Measurements (CPU @ 85C, GPU @ 85C)
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Fan Noise
There is one fan each to cool the CPU and GPU and are located at opposite ends of the laptop. This clearly helps keep temperatures from one component affecting the other. Thinner fans can result in higher pitch sounds at higher speeds, but overall the tone isn't too bad or distracting when at load. However, at idle the fans were constantly spinning at low RPM even with CPU and GPU at less than 45C, and no way to manually change this.


batterylifeBattery Life
The GS60 Ghost Pro is an Optimus enabled laptop, which means the GPU integrated in the Intel CPU is used in non 3D intensive applications (i.e. desktop work, we browsing, etc), and in turn should result in improved battery life over using the dedicated Nvidia GPU. There is a 55WHr battery included, but note that this laptop came with 13% loss of battery capacity, running at 48W maximum capacity.

Nvidia offers a feature in their drivers called "battery boost" which is supposed to extend the life of the battery while gaming. Essentially it limits the FPS of the game to a pre-configured FPS, which is user selectable. It defaults to 30FPS.

Four battery life tests were conducted:
(1) Idle: power saver mode, wireless off, backlit keyboard off, LCD at 30% brightness
(2) Movie Loop: power saver mode, wireless off, backlit keyboard off, LCD at 40% brightness
(3) Light Browsing: power saver mode, wireless on, backlit keyboard off, LCD at 30% brightness, 4 web flash based web browser tabs refreshed every 1-3 minutes
(4) Gaming: BF4 Multiplayer with Nvidia Battery Boost at 35FPS, gaming mode, wireless on, backlit keyboard off, LCD at 50% brightness

The browsing, movie, idle tests were run to system self shutdown at 5% battery life left. The gaming test was run through 1.5 rounds of Battlefield 4 (started mid round on one and thorugh a full of another) and calculating the power draw over that time. 48346 mWh maximum charge was drained down to 14372 mWh in 34 minutes. So total time to 10% battery life left would be about 43 minutes. The gaming experience was actually not bad at 35FPS.

Battery Life Results
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cclsnCONCLUSION
The MSI GS60 Ghost Pro is an awesome gaming laptop that provides a great very thin and portable PC gaming solution without all the bulk. The LCD is absolute top notch in all respects, as is the all aluminum and magnesium alloy construction of the chassis. A quality backlit keyboard, sound system, solid networking hardware, and most importantly, gaming performance round out an overall excellent package. There are some minor negatives, but really nitpicks, and mostly due to compromises from making it such a thin and light laptop. Namely short battery life, slightly underpowered PSU, constantly spinning fans, uncomfortable hot spots if gaming while playing with it on your legs, and limited user upgrades due to full laptop disassembly required with potential for voiding warranty. In general though, the laptop was a pleasure to use on a daily basis, easy to handle with one hand, and play games without sacrifice to visual quality and still maintaining high FPS, typically over 60FPS easily.

1 comment:

  1. I could not choose a suitable device for a long time. You have a great blog. I read it and chose a laptop with such characteristics. Some difficulties arose with the drivers. But I was advised to install the NVidia driver http://driverscenter.com/manufacturers/nvidia by my friend. I followed his advice, and yet I'm happy with everything.

    ReplyDelete