MSI GT627 review
Plenty of power, but the rest of MSI's adventurous gaming laptop proves disappointing.
Few laptops shout about their gaming credentials as much as the new MSI GT627. This is one loudmouth laptop with a bright red strip of plastic wrapped all around the chassis, crimson highlighting on the WASD key cluster, and a row of touch-sensitive media buttons above the keyboard, also surrounded by red lines, circles and dots. There's even a Turbo button that promises off-the-cuff overclocking.
Pressing this button, which takes pride of place in the middle of the blue-glowing touch sensitive panel, is supposed to overclock the 2GHz Core 2 Quad Q900 processor, but we found that it made no difference in our performance benchmarks and it also refused to work when on battery power.
Thankfully, the inclusion of powerful core components meant that the MSI didn't need the ineffectual overclocking to achieve good scores, with the GT627 scything through our 2D benchmarks to an overall result of 1.27. That's only slightly slower than the 1.37 scored by the powerful dual-core CPU in the Sony VAIO VGN-AW11Z/B, and quicker than the 1.1 of the Toshiba Qosmio F50-10Z.
An Nvidia GeForce 9800M GS is included to deal with 3D, and while not able to match the £2,086 Asus W90 for gaming grunt, still offers a decent amount of potential, brushing aside our low and medium-quality Crysis benchmarks (at resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 1,280 x 1,024 respectively) with ease. It was only in our high-quality test, run at a resolution of 1,600 x 1,200, that the MSI faltered, scoring 17fps. Still, there's enough power in the GT627 to handle most modern titles with ease.
Surprisingly, MSI hasn't used the standard 17in or 18.4in screens of most gaming laptops. Instead, the capable selection of components has been crammed into a 15.4in chassis that's far more palatable as a travel companion: a weight of 2.8kg and relatively modest dimensions make for a neat, compact machine.
This approach does have its drawbacks, though. With all of that power on tap the GT627 needs efficient cooling - alas it falls short in this area. The wristrest became uncomfortably hot during extended testing, and the main fan output on the right-hand side of the machine belched out hot air at a worrying rate.
The powerful components also have a negative effect on battery life. While a 15in gaming laptop is far more portable than the average desktop replacement, its 56 minute lifespan in our heavy use battery benchmark suggests than the 5,400mAh battery can't cope with a quad-core CPU and 9000-series graphics running at full pelt. A score of 59 minute in our light use test is even more disappointing; this allegedly portable gaming machine won't last long away from the mains no matter what applications are running.
And there are further disappointments elsewhere. It's undoubtedly been designed to evoke speed and power and style but, instead, it just looks cheap. Build quality isn't up to muster either, with both the wristrest and screen feeling weak and unconvincing when compared to similarly priced rivals, such as the Sony VAIO VGN-AW11Z/B and the cheaper Toshiba Qosmio F50-10Z.
The trackpad is better - we particularly liked the pair of buttons, which are designed around a neat-looking logo - while the keys have a decent positive action, but the layout is a disaster. Thanks in the main to MSI's insistence in squeezing a number pad, it feels cramped: most of the punctuation keys are too small, the Enter key is half height while the Fn and Ctrl keys are, infuriatingly, the wrong way around.