Closer Look – Exterior
Here is the box that we are greeted with which houses the notebook on review today. This is a little different from the design that we see adorning the Gaming Series’ ranges on the PC components side of things. In the middle we have a much larger version of the MSI dragon dominating the aesthetic. The slogan ‘Top Player, Top Choice’ appears to be one associated with the MSI gaming notebooks. In the top left corner we have the standard MSI logo and the bottom right the standard MSI gaming crest. The same design from the front of the box is carried over to the rear.
Upon opening the box this is the image that we are greeted with. In the center we have a thin cloth bag, complete with MSI gaming crest and the MSI notebook branding. This is a nice little touch of class and helps to keep the notebook dust free. The notebook is then held in place by two cardboard holders, one on each side. The accessories are found in the two compartments, one on the top and one on the far left.
Interestingly despite the consistent all-black theme the laptop upon removing most of the outer packaging was wrapped in a white bag. I’m not sure of the reason for doing this, but again it is adorned with the same MSI gaming crest and MSI notebook branding as the black bag was.
As for the accessories, this is what is inside the box. We have a large fold out MSI notebook quick start guide and some warranty information, a guide to the F3 hot key recovery function, a drive disc and a gaming shield sticker. Within the box is the battery for the notebook itself as well as the mains adapter and power brick.
Here is our first look at the notebook itself. Its is finished in a dark brushed aluminium effect. We then have a nice bright silver MSI badge in the middle which is being flanked either side by a series of red dots which MSI have affectionately called their dragon eyes. It’s a rather attractive design but it’s also admittedly a bit too dark and boring for my tastes.
Moving around to the bottom of the notebook. At the top you can see where the battery is plugged into the notebook. We can also see the vast amount of ventilation that MSI have included on the base in an attempt to keep the notebook as cool as possible. Despite these vents however, the cooling performance as we’ll see later on was admittedly rather bad. Throughout a lot of the bench marks we ran and during short and long gaming sessions alike we were seeing temperatures in the 90s on the CPU and 80s centigrade on the GPU. Personally these thermal figures don’t exactly inspire much confidence, and to make matters worse, the testing was being done in the winter. It does beg the question, if you ran the same tests in summer, would there be heat issues and thermal throttling? I’ve got good money that there probably would be. The problem with these temperatures is exacerbated when it also results in the laptop to creating an awful amount of noise.Even though idle noise wasn’t very loud hitting around 35DB, under full load, the noise from the fans were incredibly loud hitting a rather noisy 46DB. This does pose the question: are small form factor gaming laptops able to accommodate adequate cooling solutions? Based on this, I’m not entirely convinced that a small enclosure can handle the heat.
Moving around to the right side of the notebook. We can see that there are some gold plated headphone and microphone 3.5mm jacks as well as a card reader and USB port. There is also what appeared to be an optical drive, but upon closer inspection there seems to have been no inclusion of one. The exclusion of a physical disk drive is rather perplexing as it is disappointing, given that MSI after all do include a driver disk. The lack of a DVD/Blu-Ray drive is also disappointing since the GE40 could well find itself being used as a portable multimedia notebook for people wanting to watch films on commutes. It does appear that if you are willing to open up the notebook and you can find and optical drive of the right size then fitting one would be straightforward as the blocking plate is easily removed.
Onto the right side of the notebook. We can see that there is the input jack for the power supply and the exhaust for the cooling system. We then have a full size HDMI port for the user to hook up to an external display and also a VGA port. There is then an Ethernet port and two USB ports, bringing the total to three.
If we open up the lid of the notebook we are greeted with a rather nice touchpad and keyboard. In all honesty, the keyboard is very nice to use and arguably the best I have yet come across on a notebook. The touchpad is also quite nice and is in my preferred format of having the mouse buttons separate from the touchpad. The keyboard itself is a chiclet style with reasonable sized keys and good key travel. The only thing I would have like to see implemented would be some sort of back-lighting for the keyboard even if it was just white. Would have given that little extra touch of class and also helpful for night time use.
Just a quick note about the LCD screen. MSI have decided to use a 1600×900 resolution, which in itself is not too terrible considering the size of the screen and the hardware being used. However, the viewing angles on it are quite poor and the contrast ratio being below 200:1 in this day and age is just simply unacceptable. It is just not as crisp and vivid as people will come to expect buying this product, this is one of the areas that I feel MSI have really let themselves down by not including an IPS screen as opposed to the rather cheap TN panel that they’ve chosen to include here. At any rate, it’s time to move onto the benchmarks!