MSI creates some of the best gaming notebooks money can buy. That’s been the case for many, many years. Aside from employing top-class components under the hood, they always deliver a superior level of overall quality in terms of their aesthetic, their construction and their overall design. The GS60 6QE Ghost Pro not only continues that tradition, but squeezes it into a compact, highly portable package. And aside from a few curious missteps, the results are impressive.
Even the packaging of the GS60 screams quality, with the notebook neatly tucked away within a classy black box that will hopefully make you feel a tad better about all that cash you parted with to make it yours. Remove it from its box and you’ll find a brilliantly slim notebook that stands just over 20mm tall. I’ve never really understood the appeal of the smaller 15.6-inch gaming notebooks, but after lugging it all over the place with me to work on my NAG Jam game, I’ve really grown to appreciate the portability of the GS60.
Obviously, the small screen size does make gaming on the display feel cramped. Actually, most of my complaints with the GS60 relate to its display. Don’t get me wrong: it’s an incredibly vibrant, bright screen and the viewing angle is extraordinarily wide (not that it’s big enough for this to matter, mind you). But having such a small amount of screen space, and then making that screen capable of 4K resolutions (bearing in mind it’s not actually 4K, with a native res of 3840×2160) is utterly ludicrous. That’s not to mention the fact that the GTX 970M and its 3GBs of GDDR5 VRAM that drives the GS60 cannot hope to adequately power moderately demanding games at resolutions beyond 1080p.
It’s a deeply misguided design decision, and it likely drives up the price quite a bit. You’re far better off choosing a cheaper model of the GS60 which features a normal 1080p display. But even if you do choose to go the 1080p route, there’s still the fact that MSI touts their Matrix Display tech as making it possible to connect up to three external displays to the GS60 – which is a truly fantastic feature, right up until the point that MSI mentions that you can connect multiple external 4K displays to the GS60. And given that it’s all powered by a single GTX 970M, that’d be like trying to launch a rocket into space using a tractor engine. Just to clarify: running multiple displays at UHD resolutions on the GS60 will be totally fine if all you plan to do is watch movies and work in applications that don’t demand much from the GPU, but attempting to play present and future games at high detail using such a configuration is out of the question.
Running the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark on the GS60 reinforces this. At 1080p, 3DMark spits out a respectable score of 5,969. Run the Fire Strike Ultra benchmark (which tests performance at UHD resolution), however, and that score drops to 1,650. At one point, I swear I actually saw 3DMark shake its head and let out a chuckle, as even the 3DMark results screen makes it very clear that the GS60 is not built for gaming at 4K resolutions.
Other than that, real-world performance at 1080p is excellent. As the first notebook in SA to ship with Intel’s flashy new sixth-generation Skylake processor, you can rest assured that you’re getting top-notch notebook CPU performance here. The super-fast SSD also ensures excellent boot and load times. You’ll be able to run most modern games with all the details maxed out, and the excellent display makes gaming on the move a visual treat. Naturally, the notebook comes with multiple performance presets that’ll let you squeeze every drop of power out of it at the expense of battery life and minimising heat generation– the latter of which is important to keep in mind, because when the GS60’s fans kick into high gear, they’re incredibly loud.
MSI’s once again packed in a SteelSeries keyboard, complete with macro recording and customisable LED backlighting. It’s a pleasure to work with. The touchpad is a different story though. It’s comprised of a single panel with no easily distinguishable buttons, which means getting used to the placement of the left and right mouse buttons requires more effort than it should. Then again, chances are you’re going to be using a dedicated gaming mouse with the GS60, so the trackpad is mostly superfluous.
As is always the case, the Dynaudio audio solution isn’t bad, but I’d definitely recommend either using a set of speakers or a headset with the GS60. It actually supports high-impedance headsets of up to 600 ohms as well, which is a huge bonus. There’s also a Killer DoubleShot Pro (i.e. there’s a Killer-enhanced LAN port and Killer Wi-Fi) network controller, in case that means anything to you. Talking about battery life with a gaming notebook always seems pointless, but just know that it’s as unimpressive as you’d expect. When it’s under a fair amount of stress, don’t be surprised if the battery dies in less time than it takes to watch a movie.
There’s a lot I like about the GS60. Aside from the facepalm that’s inevitably encouraged by its focus on 4K this and 4K that, it’s a powerful, excellently portable gaming notebook that comes with a range of value adds. If you’ve got the cash and aren’t willing to settle for an “average” notebook, it’s definitely worth considering.