We had a chance to see the GX600, the world’s first overclocking notebook, in action and after a few weeks playing with it we are ready to share our experience with you. The notebook is one of a kind, but we are sure that many will copy this in the months to come. It is a gamer's notebook with an overclocking feature, which is just a button push away.
Overclocking is as simple as it gets: there's a big red button with the turbo sign on it, and when you press it, you will automatically overclock your CPU from default clock to a much higher value. Our test unit came with Intel’s T7300, which is a 2.0GHz 65nm CPU with 4MB of cache memory and 2GB of system memory and once you press the turbo button it overclocked to an awesome 2.4GHz.
The machine is always stable at 2.4GHz and you certainly get some better scores. The heart of the GX600 is Nvidia's Geforce 8600M mobile GPU with 512MB of memory and at 2.0GHz this GPU can score 2598 points in 3Dmark 06 or 2691 when the machine is overclocked to 2.4GHz. Cinebench will also run significantly faster, but we will come to that.
The MSI GX600 comes in a nice box and you get a nice backpack that really fits a gamer. Depending on the region, there will be two versions of the notebook, one with "tattoos" and one without them, in simple and elegant black. Apart from the nice matching backpack it also comes with a gaming mouse. This is one of the few notebooks that have HDMI and connecting this unit to a HDMI enabled TV is very easy. You simply plug it in and it works; this is the technology that impresses us, as it doesn’t need any effort to make it work. You also get an HDMI cable, something that many manufacturers seem to "forget" nowadays.
The display is really crisp and we are talking about a 15.4-inch WSXGA+ non glare TFT with a native resolution of 1680x1050, which is almost 1080 HDTV but not quite. It is enough for most of you and it is a nice surface to work on. The notebook comes with a Li ion battery with six or nine cells depending on the model, but with a big gaming notebook you cannot expect to work for hours on end without a power plug. We tested both and nine cell battery has 7200 mAH that is enough for one and a half to two hours of normal internet and office work. With Crysis it will run for an hour or a bit more, but if you really want to play you will need a plug.
Naturally, this notebook has 802.11a/g/n and wireless works well, and the notebook is also equipped with a Gb LAN card. To make it more interesting MSI decided to add Bluetooth and eSATA so you won’t miss your desktop and you will be able to connect wirelessly or enjoy your big external storage even with this notebook. The notebook also has an ExpressCard slot if you need it.
GX600 has a 1.3 megapixel integrated camera that works just fine and provides you with great image quality in daylight, but it's not as great in a dark room. No big deal, this is something we expected from an integrated webcam. The notebook also has a 4x1 reader with SD/MMC/Memory stick and Memory Stick Pro; but it was annoying to learn that you need an adapter to make the MS Pro DUO from a PSP or camera fit in the notebook.
The nice touch is that the microphone is integrated and works quite well and Realtek audio has quite good sound quality powered by 4.1 speakers. You get nice sound from an internal subwoofer but this is understandable as there is still some space to squeeze it into a 15.4" model.
It comes with preinstalled Windows Vista Home Premium. Networking and many important features are different compared to Windows XP, but eventually you get used to it. Vista simply looks good, it will make your notebook more desirable, and 2GB memory is enough to make the system run quite well.
Apart from these features, the notebook also has a VGA out, four USB 2.0 sports, microphone and headphones out, modem port, and Firewire. We already mentioned HDMI, LAN port and PCMCI, but we will mention them again as they are great features.
The left hand side has two USB slots, LAN and modem and the most of it is taken by HD DVD or DVD recorder, depending on the version you've purchased.
The right hand side has VGA, S-video, HDMI, two USB ports, small Firewire and antenna connector for TV tuner that comes with some models. The last on the right hand side is a PCMCI slot that can also hide the small media center remote. The TV tuner comes included in some countries, but you better double-check if you will get it, in your country.
The most interesting is certainly the turbo button and there's a background story about it. MSI makes their notebooks in Kunshan factory in China and it designs and makes its own motherboards. It is a two-sided motherboard with an integrated Geforce 8600M GT card and it was not that difficult to add the overclocking features.
The first generation of overclocking notebooks will simply overclock the CPU for an impressive 400MHz, but we would like to overclock the graphics card at the same time, as CPU overclocking doesn’t always affect the game performance, while video overclocking does.
The touchpad is big and easy to use and you have the page scrolling feature. One thing that we've think needs imiprovement is the plastic that MSI used. The finishing simply attracts fingerprints and MSI must do better at least with the next generation. This fingerprinting will make the notebook look "greasy" and this is not something you will find appealing over time.
As most of you will simply have it on your table, it won’t be much of a problem, but you will easily be able to see your friends' greasy fingerprints all over the back side of their notebooks. If you don’t like the tattoo and tribal art that comes with this model, you can get a notebook without it.
We tried a few applications on an overclocked and non-overclocked model. In Crysis and Company of Heroes we tested a non-overclocked model only, as both of these games were GPU only limited.
In Cinebench you gain about 15 percent, which is a nice gain and you can clearly see that you will get faster performance just by pressing a button.
Company of Heroes scores much faster in DirectX9 mode and even at 1280x1024 it's very much playable, with 47.7 FPS, a very respectable score. However, at native 1680x1050, you get less than 25 FPS, but you can only blame the weak 8600M performance in this case.
Crysis is very playble at 800x600 and it looks really good at 1024x768 you score only 27.1; still playable, but not in top notch conditions. After this resolution you simply run out of graphics power and don't even think about turning on FSAA.
You will gain only a few points in 3Dmark06 but PC mark with its productivity test will show you that overall system will run significantly faster when overclocked.
You get more than decent performance from this model and if 2.0GHz is not enough, you simply press the turbo button and end up with 2.4GHz. This is really a nice touch and makes this product stand out among the dozens of other similar models.
Vista looks good on this model and we won’t complain that much about it; some like it, some doesn’t, but it is one necessary evil that will make your notebook look fancy on the inside. From between €950 and €1200 you get yourself a nice gaming notebook with a matching mouse and a nice backpack. The more expensive version will have a bit faster CPU, probably clocked at 2.2GHz and Blu-ray or HD DVD under the hood. We didn't bother to talk about the weak battery life, with 15.4-inch and a great gaming capability you can simply foget about a few hours battery life.
You can play Crysis and all the other games at, at least at 1024x768 or similar resolution and some games like Call of Duty 4 or Company of Heroes will easily go to higher settings and be playable at 1280x1024 or similar. When it comes to notebook gaming at this price point this is the best you can do. MSI will need some time to make itself as an established notebook brand, but we didn't find a thing that we really miss on this notebook.
This is a nice surprise and if you don’t buy brands only and have an open mind, you should definitely consider this one. We believe it’s a really good deal for the money and you get a nice notebook with a great performance for the money. We can highly recommend it and we hope that with the next model you will be able to overclock the GPU, as well.