Introducing the MSI GX60

Gaming notebooks are increasing in popularity, but getting affordable gaming hardware can still be a challenging task. While midrange parts like NVIDIA's GeForce GT 740M and 750M or AMD's Radeon HD 8600M line aren't bad options and will definitely do the job in a pinch, having a good gaming experience generally requires more muscle. Whether you want to boost minimum framerates for smoother play or just turn on all the bells and whistles, a strong GPU is critical. Unfortunately, a strong GPU also costs money.

MSI introduced its first-generation GX60 gaming notebook some time towards the end of last year as a way to bridge the gap. If you were willing to take a hit in CPU performance by using a Trinity-based AMD A10-4600M, you could be served by a very powerful AMD Radeon HD 7970M on the graphics side. Budget gamers on the desktop will often cut CPU budget if it means getting a faster graphics card, and that's the principle MSI is operating off of.

The fly in the ointment is that the gaming landscape has changed substantially since the first GX60. Games like Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, and Tomb Raider are all true next generation titles, requiring a healthy amount of CPU horsepower along with their substantial graphics requirements. As we saw in the first part of our review of the AMD A10-5750M, AMD has made some headway in CPU performance compared to last generation's Trinity chips, but we're still dealing with fundamentally the same silicon.

MSI GX60 (2013) Specifications
Processor AMD A10-5750M
(4x2.5GHz, Turbo to 3.5GHz, 32nm, 4MB L2, 35W)
Chipset AMD Hudson-3
Memory 1x8GB A-Data DDR3-1600
Graphics AMD Radeon HD 8650G
(VLIW4; 384 cores; 533/720MHz base/turbo frequencies)

AMD Radeon HD 7970M 2GB GDDR5
(GCN; 1280 cores; 850MHz/4.8GHz core/memory; 256-bit memory bus)
Display 15.6" LED Matte 16:9 1080p
Hard Drive(s) Western Digital Scorpio Black 750GB 7200-RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive TSSTCorp SN-406AB BD-ROM/DVDRW
Networking Killer Networks e2200 PCIe Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9485WB-EG 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC892 HD audio (THX TruStudio Pro)
2.1 speakers
Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
Battery 9-cell, 87Wh
Front Side -
Right Side Mic, headphone, line-in, and line-out jacks
1x USB 2.0
Optical drive
Left Side Vent
3x USB 3.0
SD card reader
Back Side Kensington lock
AC adapter
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 14.97" x 10.24" x 1.77"
380mm x 260mm x 45mm
Weight 7.7 lbs
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Card reader
THX TruStudio Pro audio
Killer Networks wired networking
SteelSeries keyboard
Warranty 2-year parts and labor
Pricing $1,199

As far as mobile AMD chips go, the A10-5750M is about as fast as it gets. Trinity and Richland did away with the 45W parts you could find in the Llano generation, so we're essentially hoping that the pair of Piledriver modules running at a 2.5GHz nominal clock speed can pick up enough slack to power the AMD Radeon HD 7970M.

That Radeon HD 7970M is essentially the MSI GX60's reason for being. MSI went all-in on the graphics side, and an updated model of the GX60 is due soon that bumps the 7970M to an 8970M. The 7970M is based on AMD's Pitcairn desktop chip: it features 1,280 of AMD's GCN cores running at a healthy 850MHz clock rate, along with 80 texture units and 32 raster operators. Our review unit features 2GB of GDDR5 on a 256-bit memory bus running at 4.8GHz. If you're concerned our test results with the 7970M are going to be outdated when the 8970M-enabled GX60 lands, fear not: the only difference is a 50MHz boost clock on the 8970M. The chip is otherwise identical. Performance-wise, the 7970M and 8970M should stack up somewhere between the desktop HD 7850 and 7870, leaning more towards the 7870.

Where I'm a bit frustrated with the MSI GX60 is in both the memory configuration and the storage configuration. All told this is basically a smaller version of the GT70 chassis, less the backlit keyboard, but MSI opted to only include one DIMM instead of two for the memory, and we're stuck with a mechanical hard disk for storage duties. Thankfully you can get the GX60 for $1,199, which is a pretty good deal for a system with such a powerful GPU at its heart, and that does take some of the edge off.

Since the first part of the Richland review focused on the AMD A10-A5750M with dual-channel memory enabled, we have an opportunity now to compare those CPU results to the stock results of the GX60, which runs in only single-channel mode.

In and Around the MSI GX60
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  • Sabresiberian - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    People can talk about how games don't need powerful CPUs all they want, but the fact is, there IS a minimum requirement, and some games DO make use of the top end CPUs available. The more powerful your GPU, the more powerful the CPU needs to be to allow it room to work.

    This MSI notebook is built using one of the reasons I don't buy pre-built desktops, cutting corners on one part to spend money on another. It's bad design, it doesn't work (at least when the corners are cut to this degree), it makes for a system that is built cheap and shows it in its performance. Shame on MSI, they know better (or at least some of them do - maybe those people aren't in the notebook division).

    "Balance" is the key to computer design, just as it is with many things in life.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    For a while it was true, games by and large didn't really need powerful CPUs. Over about the past year or two that changed and changed *dramatically.* You're getting games that have a tremendous amount of complexity to them; graphics are practically the least of Skyrim's engine's worries, Crysis 3 has an incredibly rich and vibrant environment (despite being kind of crappy), and Tomb Raider is no different. It looks like TressFX takes its pound of flesh out of the CPU *and* the GPU.
  • j_kut - Saturday, July 6, 2013 - link

    Skyrim, Crysis3 and Tomb Raider run all maxed out on the GX60 except for 4*MSAA.
    Only Games not running smooth on this system are MMOs where the CPU is needed for all characters on-screen.

    Being a GX60 owner myself I can totally recommend it, except you wanna play GW2 or similar stuff.
  • YukaKun - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Where's the battery test with just the iGPU like you guys did with the i7?

    We need those numbers for bragging rights :P

  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Battery testing is done with the dGPU inactive via Enduro, so these are the "best-case" battery life results for this particular notebook.
  • Khenglish - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    I know that on optimus systems that the dGPU will still draw a little bit of power even when off. The motherboard still keeps the Vin line active, although the GPU core and memory VR's shut down. I tested this with a multimeter. The fact that the card is still visible to on the pci bus means it's still drawing a little power.

    It's probably only like half a watt, but it's something.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Last I heard from AMD and NVIDIA, it's not even half a watt -- more like 100mW or something in that range. But until we get a system that only has a Richland APU with no dGPU, we can't really test what battery life is like. The GX60 is also a large system relatively speaking, so I'd expect a less performance oriented laptop to get much better battery life with Richland -- same goes for Haswell and IVB laptops.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    There's something else that needs to be addressed, if at all possible...

    The first GX60 had exceptionally poor CPU performance as evidenced by your article eleven days back. From your conclusions, you didn't think that it could have all been down to the CPU (perhaps Enduro was to blame?). So, have MSI fixed that with the second gen GX60, or are we just seeing a (pardon me) turd with go-faster stripes? One or two of the part 1 tests actually underperformed the Trinity prototype which was interesting.

    A comparison between both GX60s would be an eye opener.
  • kwrzesien - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    I'm ready for another page: GAMING PERFORMANCE PART 2

    Add (or replace) the HDD with an SSD and replace the memory with 2x4GB 1866MHz RAM. Rerun all tests and compare the incremental cost to the more expensive Alienware models. I would argue that the best memory and a good SSD with greatly improve the lags in CPU performance and free the dGPU to perform closer to an i7. Definitely not going to catch it, but closer...
  • Wolfpup - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    This continues to be an intersting system. I wish AMD would put out a higher end mobile CPU. Since their A series is roughly 50/50 CPU/GPU, there's no reason they couldn't dump the GPU portion and replace it with another 4(ish) cores, and/or clock things higher with a 45 watt TDP.

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