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enough that I could adapt to using it, and I do want to mention that I find the GE60 touchpad is much better than the outdated model in the GT70.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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  • thesavvymage - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    in writing is not even always necessary, depending on local laws :) in Washington state, a verbal contract is a VALID contract. No need to write it and sign. There does need to be a third party to verify it though Reply
  • ReedTFM - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    For Americans, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act applies. Just modifying/servicing your product doesn't void a warranty guarantee, unless the producer can show the modification caused the defect. This came about because of car manufacturers were pulling crap like, "Oh look you added an aftermarket exhaust, you voided your warranty and we will not cover the windshield wipers failing."

    With static discharges, however, it will be hard to refute user error, but still, it's always worth making the argument.
    Reply
  • ramj70 - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    I contacted MSI and they said that opening the laptop will to upgrade will not void the warranty. I also bought an SSD and replaced the HDD Reply
  • ruthan - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    Without inbuild 3g modem.. so not for real life. Reply
  • Novaguy - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    There are phone plans that come with data tethering or wifi hotspot options, and I find those work well. Reply
  • Tanclearas - Thursday, July 17, 2014 - link

    No DisplayPort and no G-Sync. This is exactly the class of machine that would benefit the most from it. Even if the claim is that it's too expensive to integrate into the laptop panel (though Nvidia themselves talked about how it's easier on laptops), DisplayPort would have at least allowed for the possibility of using an external G-Sync monitor. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    No, G-Sync is actually a pain in the butt on laptops, for one reason: Optimus. To do G-Sync, you need to have the GPU and display communicate with each other, so the only way NVIDIA can do it is if they get rid of Optimus. But doing that means you just killed battery life as well. There are potentially ways around that I'm sure, but it's the reason there haven't been any G-Sync notebooks yet. I actually asked NVIDIA about it at CES and they basically said as much: "We're looking at ways to implement it, but right now we don't have anything we can talk about." Reply
  • Tanclearas - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    Wow. Interesting. Nvidia's response to AMD's "free sync" demo implied that laptops were easier to implement.

    "However, Petersen quickly pointed out an important detail about AMD's "free sync" demo: it was conducted on laptop systems. Laptops, he explained, have a different display architecture than desktops, with a more direct interface between the GPU and the LCD panel, generally based on standards like LVDS or eDP (embedded DisplayPort). Desktop monitors use other interfaces, like HDMI and DisplayPort, and typically have a scaler chip situated in the path between the GPU and the panel. As a result, a feature like variable refresh is nearly impossible to implement on a desktop monitor as things now stand."

    All of this just raises more questions.

    In AMD's demo, did they have to disable DSG for free sync to work? If not, how does an AMD GPU communicate with the display? If so, then what AMD showed was even more impressive if Nvidia is still "looking at ways to implement it".

    Are there laptops with free sync (officially) coming?

    I am not trying to take things off topic. I just want to reiterate that the reviewed laptop is exactly the class of machine that would benefit the most from G-Sync/free sync. If anything, it is more important for a laptop because you do not ever have the option of replacing the GPU once your framerates start dropping.

    One final (two-part) question. Could a laptop not have the DP connected directly to the Nvidia GPU? Is it not safe to assume that a person connected to an external DP monitor would have access to external power (and therefore not need Optimus)?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, July 18, 2014 - link

    So basically on a laptop if you plug directly into the dGPU, yes, it's easier -- but I'm not sure how much easier we're really talking about. Obviously it can be done with desktop displays with enough effort, the main benefit of laptops being you have multiple inputs into desktop displays with scalers and such. An interesting corollary is that AMD might have an advantage with laptops using AMD APUs -- both the APU and dGPU would be AMD software, so there's no "Intel iGPU" in the way.

    As to the question of when laptops with G/Free Sync are coming, I don't believe any have been announced yet, so your guess is as good as mine. I told NVIDIA that laptops would be great for this as getting >60 FPS on a laptop is rather difficult but ~40 FPS with G-SYNC would still be achievable. We might see this in the next year, or perhaps even earlier with non-Optimus solutions (e.g. ASUS has the G750 without Optimus, so it might be a target for G-SYNC in an update). Of course, the number of displays with G-Sync support is still very small (one or two ASUS are officially available, another ASUS display can be modded by the user; Acer and BenQ have displays coming but they're not out yet.)

    As for the second question: sure, an external G-Sync display could easily be driven by a laptop. But that sort of defeats the purpose of a laptop in large measure. :-)
    Reply
  • Tanclearas - Saturday, July 19, 2014 - link

    At first it might appear that it defeats the point of a laptop, but there is (what I assume a growing) group of aging gamers that require a laptop for business/work, but still want to game at home. I have a Lenovo Y580 with 16GB of RAM, a 240GB mSATA SSD, and the Nvidia GTX 660m. It's great for work, and OK for games, but would be better with G-Sync or free sync. Reply

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