MSI GT60 20KWS18 Nov, 2014 By: Art Liddle
Editor's note: This review is part of a Cadalyst Labs Report. Read "Mobile CAD Workstations Priced Under $2,500" to learn how this model compares to the others included in the product roundup.
This is the first time Cadalyst Labs has reviewed a system from MSI Computer. Its systems are sold by multiple retailers, including Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Xoticpc.com, and Amazon.com, the latter being the least expensive provider we found for the configuration reviewed here.
The MSI GT60 20KWS features a 15.6" LCD-backlit high-resolution (2,880 x 1,620) display screen with a glossy finish. This was the only system reviewed that did not have an antiglare matte finish. The glossy finish produces richer, more vibrant colors at the expense of increased reflection of ambient room light. This is a personal choice — and for those of you who insist on a matte finish, there is another model from MSI that delivers just that, albeit at a standard resolution of 1,920 x 1,080.
The MSI GT60 offers a great display, lots of drive capacity, and good performance with some CAD programs.
The MSI GT60's black plastic and brushed-aluminum case measures 15.6" x 10.5" x 2.1". The system weighs 7.4 lbs, a bit heavier than the other 15.6" systems. Its SteelSeries programmable backlit keyboard lets you adjust the brightness and customize the color of individual parts of the keyboard. The full-sized keyboard features island keys, which I personally prefer, a numeric keypad, and a standard touch pad with a bar along the lower end in place of the mouse buttons. A pair of Dynaudio speakers is located at the top rear. Grills located at the left side, left rear, and bottom are the visible parts of MSI's Cooler Boost 2 system for controlling the system's temperature. It relies on moving large volumes of air through the interior. Fan noise was not a nuisance.
The GT60 is powered by an Intel Core i7-4700MQ processor that includes a 6-MB level 3 cache with four cores and eight threads (virtual processors). It operates at clock speeds of 2.4–3.4GHz, making it the slowest CPU in our review. Some of this disadvantage was offset by the inclusion of the speedy NVIDIA Quadro K3100M graphics card (4 GB GDDR5).
The K3100M card offers another big advantage beyond raw performance: It can drive three external monitors. All can be standard monitors with their own dedicated connections using the GT60's two mini-DisplayPort and single HDMI video connectors. Other external connections include one USB 2.0 port, three USB 3.0 ports (one powered), an eSATA/USB combination port, four audio ports, and an RJ45 network connection. A 3-in-1 card reader (SD/SDHC/SDXC) is included, along with a high-performance Ethernet and Wi-Fi adapter that MSI refers to as the Killer Double-Shot. This provides dual-band support for the 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth 4.0 standards.
Under the hood, so to speak, the GT60 has space for five drives. Three of these are filled with an mSATA 128-GB solid-state drive, a SATA III 1-TB hard disk drive (7,200 rpm, 6 Gb/sec), and a Blu-Ray DVD burner — the only one included in this review. As for RAM, the GT60 includes 16 GB of 1,600-MHz DDR3 system memory; the system maxes out at 32 GB.
For our performance testing, we used a combination of the Cadalyst c2015 benchmark running AutoCAD 2015, and SPECviewperf 11. Per our standards, we enabled hardware acceleration for AutoCAD, turned off the graphics card's vertical sync, and set the screen resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 (32-bit color). MSI chose the Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit operating system.
The MSI GT60's Cadalyst c2015 benchmark scores were as follows: total index = 493, 3D graphics index = 1056, 2D graphics index = 390, disk index = 287, and CPU index = 236. The test results for the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single-sample mode only, were as follows: 62.34 for catia-03, 34.85 for ensight-04, 67.09 for lightwave-01, 107.36 for maya-03, 18.89 for proe-05, 54.48 for sw-02, 54.77 for tcvis-02, and 46.49 for snx-01. The average SPECviewperf score was 56, good enough for third place in this roundup. Due to its lackluster c2015 score, however, the GT60's total combined score was only 549, earning a B for overall CAD performance on our report card.
Finally we come to battery performance. The GT60 includes a 9-cell (87 WH) smart lithium-ion battery. After multiple runs of our battery-rundown test, we found the battery lasted an average of 107 minutes, a bit below average for its size class.
The MSI GT60 20KWS, as configured for this review, costs $2,480 through amazon.com. That price includes UPS ground shipping and a two-year parts and labor warranty with lifetime 24/7 technical support; returns are not allowed, except for defective equipment. With its high-resolution display and large drive capacity, the GT60 has a lot going for it. Its performance with the SPECviewperf suite of tests was impressive, even if its c2015 scores were a bit disappointing. With a faster CPU, the MSI GT60 20KWS could be an all-around contender.