MSI’s PE60 2QE Gaming Laptop Has Decent Performance But A Few … – Forbes

We’re still waiting for Intel's Intel's Broadwell CPUs to arrive en masse for the PC, but it has already made its debut in portable devices in the form of CPUs such as the Core i7-5600u. However, the latter, while donning the Intel Core i7 badge, is still only a lowly dual-core CPU. Finally, we’re seeing examples of the more potent quad-core models in laptops from several manufacturers and one of the first is MSI with its new PE60 gaming laptop.

It’s a 15.6 in machine that retails for £900 in the UK, is slated to hit US shores at between $1,200-1,400. and focusses on bringing a modern, powerful specification to what is a relatively slim chassis at a very competitive price point. You only have to look at its competitors that include Intel quad-core CPUs and GTX 960M graphics to see what I mean – they cost a lot more. At 2.3kg, it’s fairly portable too, although at 383mm/15.1in wide, this does make it on the large side as far as 15in laptops go.

Being part of MSI’s Prestige series, the new PE60 is fairly attractive inside and out, with brushed aluminum covering the keyboard surround and lid. The rest is made up of grey and black plastic, but it feels sturdy enough and certainly isn’t flimsy.

msi-pe60-1Specifications:

  • CPU Intel Core i7-5700HQ
  • RAM 8GB
  • Graphics Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M
  • Hard disk 1TB
  • SDD None
  • Optical drive Yes
  • Screen Size/resolution  15.6in / 1,920 x 1,080
  • Keyboard backlight Yes
  • Weight 2.3kg
  • Dimensions 383 (W) x 260 (D ) x27 (H) mm
  • Operating system Windows 8.1

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The Core i7-5700HQ sports four physical CPU cores and as it sports hyper-threading, this adds an additional four virtual cores to the equation, bringing the total number of threads to eight. These have a maximum frequency of 3.5GHz in Turbo mode.

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The 8GB of RAM is fairly standard in mid to high-end laptops these days and certainly won’t present any bottlenecks – most PC systems still haven’t made the leap to 16GB for the same reason. To power its way through games, there’s an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M, which should be more than capable of playing most of today’s games at high settings.

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The screen uses a 1080p PLS panel, which boasts good viewing angles, vibrant colours and reasonable, if not stellar brightness. There’s no touch screen here, which means the matt surface cuts down on reflections and as a result, it’s perfectly usable outdoors too. There’s a slight gripe here in that the screen isn’t particularly bright, so anything approaching direct sunlight renders things invisible but avoid this and you’ll be fine.

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As you’d expect on a 15in laptop, you get a decent-sized keyboard that’s is backlit with white LEDs and an optical drive too – something that’s missing from most sub 15in laptops. the keyboard itself has some fairly big borders, though, as does the screen, which explains why the PE60 is a little larger than your average 15in laptop.

Now we come to what can only be described as a somewhat poor choice of hardware – the hard disk. At this price, we’d expect some sort of solid state disk, but the result is a laptop that feels rather sluggish in Windows, despite sporting plenty of memory and one of the fastest CPUs currently available in the laptop world.

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You do get 1TB of hard disk space, but in all honesty, the first thing I’d do if I bought the PE60 is put the hard disk on eBay eBay and install an SSD – there’s even an mSATA slot too.

Battery Life

The battery life of a gaming laptop isn’t perhaps as important as that of an ultrabook, but things were a little disappointing with the PE60. It lasted less than an hour in a continuous loop of Unigine’s Valley 3D benchmark, which mimics a fairly demanding 3D game. This isn’t particularly bad, but more disappointing was the PCMark 8 general use test, which automates light tasks such as web browsing and word processing. This was completed with the screen at half brightness and WiFi enabled. Here it only lasted just over two hours away from the mains.

This was completed with the screen at half brightness and WiFi enabled. Here it only lasted just over two hours away from the mains. Even sitting idle, dimming the backlight to minumum brighrness and switching to flight mode only just saw it pass three hours – most of its competitors will last double this and more.

CPU Performance

While battery life was average, CPU performance is off the chart. In Maxon’s Cinebench R15 CPU benchmark, which you can download and run from here to see how your laptop compares, it managed 669 points. This is not only significantly faster than the previous generation Core i7-4710HQ, but it’s quicker than Intel’s current desktop Core i5-4690K as well – a $250 chip.

Graphics Performance

In Unigine’s Valley 3D benchmark, the PE60 scored 1637 at 1080p, no AA and the ultra detail setting. This is nearly 60 points more than Schenker’s XMG C404 laptop ~(see my review here), which had a GeForce GTX 860M and a similar CPU. It performed roughly the same in Bioshock Infinite, with a minimum frame of 31fps – 1fps more than the XMG C404, while reaching an average of 40fps.

However, switch to a demanding game such as GTA V and things aren’t so pretty. The frame rate dropped to single figures at 1080p, even with all the eye-candy turned off. The resolution had to drop to 1,024 x 768 and DirectX to version 10 to get anything resembling playable and even here, the lack of an SSD meant things could be choppy as the game and levels loaded. That said, GTA V is a tough game to run at high settings even on a PC, so we can’t draw too much of a conclusion from this game alone.

It’s also worth remembering that the PE60, like most other gaming laptops, will throttle performance when not plugged into power. This will likely see around a 50% reduction in performance as the laptop tries to prolong battery life and even setting all the power management options to maximum, this was still the case.

Noise, Heat And Ergonomics

While idling and carrying out modest loads, the PE60 is whisper quiet, but the cooling fans soon ramp up under load to become quite intrusive, even drowning out the reasonable speakers on occasions.  Thankfully, the base doesn’t get hot so unlike some other laptops out there, your thighs won’t get scorched.

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The keyboard uses fairly standard chiclet keys, which feel a lot like a membrane keyboard, perhaps with a little more positive feedback and a shorter travel. It was pleasant to use, if a little flat, but most people should get used to it. The backlit keys have several brightness levels and are useful in dimly lit rooms to complete blackness. The touchpad has a smooth, slightly textured surface that presented no major problems and you get dedicated buttons, which many people prefer. These are fairly loud in operation but are spot-on in terms of actuation pressure.

msi-pe60-7Conclusion

There are lots of things to like about the PE60, but also a few shortcomings. The bad news first; there’s no SSD and this is very noticeable if, like me, you’re own laptop and PC are equipped with them. Windows and programs feel sluggish and as I’ve already said, if I found myself owning one, I’d whip out the PE60′s hard disk and install an SSD immediately. Battery life is the other main issue. Even under light loads you’ll be lucky to see much more than 3 hours and even less watching videos or gaming.

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