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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  • Death666Angel - Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - link

    "Because the GPU IS discrete it heavily depends on the RAM as there is no "dedicated memory" for the GPU."
    Discrete GPU means that there is an extra GPU connected with the mainboard that has its own RAM supply, like a normal, PCIe desktop graphics card (dGPU). Integrated GPU (iGPU) means there is a GPU on the same package or die as the CPU (it used to mean that there is a GPU on the motherboard, but not anymore since a few years). That GPU has to use the system memory (RAM) in order to operate. You seem to be confusing the two.
  • eanazag - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    The 1866 RAM really helps the iGPU in AMD APUs. The performance bump adding it to this specific machine is going to be less than we would hope. The reality is that if I were purchasing it I would be adding an SSD and RAM. I would go for the 1866 because the CPU supports is, but I wouldn't expect it to compete with Intel. I would just be hoping to eliminate those odd cases where the Trinity version was beating it.
  • CNP-Keythai - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    Thats right. Its surprising to see only one slot for RAM. Also the PC can take only 8 GB, I afraid. None of these make any sense to me.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, June 30, 2013 - link

    There are two SO-DIMM slots on the GX60; only one is populated on this particular model, but as shown the benefits of dual-channel RAM (especially with DDR3-1600 memory) are almost entirely targeted at iGPU usage.
  • eanazag - Wednesday, July 3, 2013 - link

    This laptop supports 4 DDR3 slots for a total of 32GB and the A10-5705M supports 1866 RAM. In looking at the part 1 article numbers, they opted to put two sticks in and performance was better in relation to the previous Trinity generation. I believe including a total of two or four sticks of 1866 RAM should give this machine a boost. That is a question for the customer as the model they received ships with only 1 stick of 8GB @ 1600.

    The concept of this whole notebook is to ship something the end user can upgrade; like the RAM and storage.

    Specs from MSI:
  • tincmulc - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    Is it possible that cpu issues will be mitigated by the fact than both next generation consoles use 8 relatively slow cores? The Achilles' heel of the apu is single thread performance and since new console games will be optimized to run on more slower cores, the cpu part of the apu could finally be used to it's full potential.
  • TheinsanegamerN - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    I'd like to believe that. however, this part is only quad core, and the mobile i7s are quad core with eight thread...they might benefit more. what amd really needs to do is release a 45w part. intel's quad cores are all 45 watt, with the exception of the 3612m. if amd upped the tdp, they could push the cpu clock to something like 3.0/3.9 GHz, which might help make up the distance. or better yet, release the 45 watt model with the a4's gpu, since it would probably only be used in laptops like this. that would give the cpu even more power to work with.
  • Rontalk - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    Yes, future games will run better with slow CPU cores but fast GPU. 1-2 years and MSI GX60 gonna be good gaming machine.
  • Khenglish - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    Dustin how about putting in another memory stick and seeing how much of an improvement there is? This thing needs more CPU power and an extra $35 on memory might make the laptop acceptable.
  • JMC2000 - Saturday, June 29, 2013 - link

    The results with dual-channel mode are in the article, sadly, it doesn't help much.

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