MSI GE60 Apache Pro: Subjective Evaluation

On paper, the GE60 Apache Pro gets just about everything right: it has a decent CPU and GPU for performance, sufficient RAM for most users, a decent quality display, and multi-colored zoned backlighting for the keyboard. The HDD storage on the review unit is of course going to make certain benchmark results look bad compared to the other laptops we've tested, but really that's only half of the story. What really sets a laptop apart is how it fares in day to day use; unfortunately, the MSI GE60 has some good and bad results in our subjective evaluation.

Starting with the good, the keyboard is generally the same as what you'll find on the GT70 that we reviewed recently – and in fact the keyboard looks to be the same across the 15.6" and 17.3" GE, GS, and GT line of MSI notebooks. Some people like having the Windows key on the right, some don't, but it's not a big enough problem that I couldn't adapt to using the keyboard – and that's especially true if you use the laptop on a daily basis instead of bouncing between keyboards. I'd still like dedicated document navigation keys (Home and End in particular), but I've beat that drum enough I think.

The touchpad is generally good as well, though I found the right-click action in the corner to be a bit finicky at times (as in, it didn't always register), and the clickpad in general sometimes missed presses. Again, it works well enough that I could adapt to using it, and I do want to mention that I find the GE60 touchpad is much better than the outdated model in the GT70.

Another good element is the display, with a good combination of resolution, contrast, viewing angles, and color quality. Post-calibration the LCD does very well, but out of the box you'll find the colors are certainly off in many areas (including grayscale). While it would be nice to see better color accuracy out of the box, that's usually a secondary concern so I won't harp on this aspect –the colors are better than the GT70 out of box colors, at least, and you're getting a non-TN panel as a bonus (all in a less expensive package). Speaker quality is okay as well – lacking in bass response, and not enough to fill a large room, but in normal use the speakers are sufficient.

Where things take a turn for the worse is the one item I haven't covered yet: build quality. The general design and aesthetics don't really deviate from past designs so there's not much to say. The main chassis is plastic with brushed aluminum veneers, with red accents in a few places. The MSI "Dragon Army" logo is also on the top cover, with the white dragon lit up LCD backlight. The problem is that while the main chassis feels pretty solid, the top cover is very flexible – perhaps even bordering on flimsy. That doesn't inherently mean the display will get cracked or damaged, but compared to other laptops I do feel there's more of a risk that something will happen to the display over several years of use. And really that's my only real complaint with the build quality: the materials for the cover need to be about twice as thick (so really only about 0.5mm thicker) and MSI would clear of any major issues.

If the top cover was the only concern, the GE60 would still be easy to recommend, but there's one other issue: battery life. I'm used to seeing battery life upwards of seven hours for Haswell laptops with a 56Wh or larger battery, but the GE60 falls far short of that mark. In fact, it's similar to what I usually see with Clevo gaming notebooks: around 4.5 hours for light use, or three hours for our heavy workload. I suspect there are plenty of areas where MSI could tweak the BIOS/firmware to improve battery life, but that hasn't happened in the months since the GE60 was first released, so if you're looking at the GE60 now I'd just plan on getting subpar battery life. Since this is a gaming notebook, you'll probably be carrying the AC adapter with you regardless, and at 5.28 pounds (2.4kg) we're definitely well past the ultraportable category. Even so, I've seen similarly equipped laptops in the past that could manage at least 50% more battery life, so I can't help but be a little disappointed.

MSI GE60 Introduction MSI GE60 Gaming Performance
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    The "Mainstream" results are high enough that bumping to 1080p isn't a problem at the settings we use, but then we wouldn't have anything to compare performance against as it's a non-standard setting. If we run one "non-standard" setting, it opens the door to all sorts of other possibilities. Maybe we should use the GFE recommended settings (or AMD's recommended settings) as another item to include?

    In fact, I'll go ahead and run those and update the Gaming page in a bit with results (as well as details on the precise settings used by GFE). If nothing else, it will be an interesting experiment. :-)
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    Page three is updated with 1080p GFE results, if you're interested.
  • nathanddrews - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Thanks for the update, it's very enlightening. A review of GeForce Experience vs Gaming Evolved would be very cool. I know that up until v2.0 or 1.8, GFE automatically targeted 40-60fps with no option to prefer quality (30fps) or performance (60fps) like it does now.

    Hopefully they update the applications for 120Hz or 144Hz users... or maybe have it target your monitor's refresh rate by default instead? Speaking of which, where are the variable refresh 4K 120Hz monitors? ;-)
  • DanNeely - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    First we'd need gpus to implement displayport 1.3 to have the outbound bandwidth. Then until we get another generation of 2x as fast decoder/ldc panel controllers we'll be back to the looks like 2 monitors over MST setup we enjoyed with the first generation of 4k60 panels.
  • xenol - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    If I may make a suggestion, please add thermals to laptop reviews. Not just how hot the components get, but how hot each area gets. My primary concern with these thin gaming laptops is that not only would the run really hot inside, but they'll create pockets of hot spots where I don't want them.

    For example, I had a Dell XPS 15z. Not quite a gaming laptop mind you, but if I fired up a game, the left side of the keyboard would get uncomfortably warm to the point where I had to get a 84-key keyboard so I could play something comfortably.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    My digital thermometer stopped working properly a while back so I haven't been able to provide numbers. I can order a new one but considering we haven't included surface temperatures for years it didn't seem necessary.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    I was able to use a kitchen thermometer from my wife to do some testing. :-) Page 5 has surface temps now if you're interested.
  • LeapingGnome - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    Thank you Jarred. I think surface temps are very important since it is a laptop that many people use in their laps. I appreciate you including them.

    xenol - a good site is notebookcheck dot net, they do a lot of laptop reviews and always include surface temps from 18 areas of the laptop. Their temps for this MSI look to be 3-4 degrees higher than Jarred saw.
  • shtldr - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    I have the laptop. It has solid CPU, GPU and display. I actually thought the display was some exceptionally good TN.
    I bought an SSD together with it to replace the HDD... only to find out that opening the laptop voids your warranty!!!
    Coming from an Acer laptop which had no such c(r)ap, this was a huge letdown.
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    I've heard (but can't personally verify) that such stickers can't actually be enforced by law, but it's definitely annoying when they try to prevent end users from upgrading things like the RAM and storage. You could always email/call MSI and ask them for confirmation that you can upgrade the RAM/storage first and see what they say -- get it in writing, though! :-)

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