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I was on a quest to find a gaming laptop on the Atkins diet. After looking over a few choices and narrowing my search I decided to invest in the MSI GS60 Ghost 003. The deciding factor was price. While there are some offerings that are thinner and lighter, the Ghost offered the right hardware for the right price.
The laptop arrived in a somewhat stylish box with red accents. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice this box is. Not often do I look at a product package and admire it's looks. Inside we find the usual things, a large power brick and a driver CD. This line does not feature a DVD ROM so you will need an external device to read physical media. The Ghost was inside a protective cloth sleeve with more of the same fabric over the keyboard. The top of the shell has clear cellophane protecting the brushed black aluminium. This is the best packaging on a laptop that I have purchased so far and I wish that more manufacturers would take a hint from MSI on this one.
With an i7 and a GTX860m under the hood, MSI managed to make this machine thin without the added hassle of having to use dongles for things like ethernet or added USB ports. The demensions are only 15.35" (L) x 10.47" (W) x 0.78" (H) with a total weight of 4.36 pounds. While it doesn’t qualify as an Ultrabook, it really is thin and impressively light.
Outside you’ll find black brushed aluminium with the MSI dragon logo that glows white when the laptop is on. The aluminum picks up fingerprints but they wipe off pretty easily. There are two accent lines that run up the lid, and I’m not particularly fond of the accent work, but it’s growing on me.
Along the left side you’ll find the cooling vent, Kensington lock, the power port, two USB 3.0 ports, and gold plated mic and headphone jacks.
On the front, the Ghost is pretty barren with only the system notification lights along the right side. I did notice the lack of a locking system to keep the lid closed. So far this has been a non-issue but I foresee a time where the lid might come open during transport. This might lead to heat issues if the laptop is not in standby while in a bag. I’m glad MSI didn’t put any ports in this area as I find front headphone jacks, mic inputs and card reader on the front of laptops cumbersome to use.
The right hand side bears a third USB 3.0, SD card slot, HDMI, mini Display Port, a Killer E2200 ethernet jack and another cooling exhaust port.
The back is all cooling. All Business.
Keyboard and Trackpad
Open the lid and you will find a multi-color backlit keyboard from SteelSeries with an almost soft touch kind of feel. The font on the chiclet keys takes time to get used to and while the backlight is commonplace on laptops these days, it isn’t stellar. When the Ghost is on your lap the glow from under the keys is brighter than what shines through to illuminate the font. This makes typing on the Ghost a bit of a pain. The light is really distracting and makes trying to read the already odd font next to impossible. The feel of the keyboard is really good though. It’s not loud, has good tactile response and travel distance. MSI decided to remove the windows key from the left side. It was almost a deal breaker but after playing some games I was able to take advantage of the now larger control key. I do miss using the shortcuts with my left hand though.
The trackpad supports four point multi touch, tapping and has two hidden hardware buttons for left and right click. It’s not a productivity powerhouse but it has a good feel to it and with some setting tweaks it is usable for most everything but gaming.
Under The Hood
The Ghost comes in a few configurations, I opted for the best hardware without the 3k screen. We have an i7 4700HU Haswell chip with four cores capable of 8 threads, a clock speed of 2.4Ghz, turbo boost up to 3.4Ghz and 6MB of L3 cache. 16GB of DDR3 1600, an nVidia GTX860m with 2GB of DDR5, a 128GB M2 type SSD loaded with Windows 8.1 as well as a 1TB 7200rpm drive for extra storage. The is room for another M2 SSD but it requires motherboard removal to install. It’s fast. Really fast.
The panel. Wow this panel. Full 1920x1080 resolution eDP panel. The viewing angles on this are basically 170 degrees in every direction. You can have the display almost parallel with your eyes and still have a viewable image with accurate color. Speaking of color, the panel is vibrant and rich. It’s not over saturated or enhanced with some bloatware, it’s just accurate.
Sound is by Dynaudio and features Realtek HD chip with Sound Blaster Cinema 2 software. The Dynaudio speakers work and sound okay, but what can one expect for a laptop? There are a few bloatware programs installed but those are easily removed and won’t be missed. The software for the keyboard allows you to control the lighting and assign keystrokes and macros to any of the keys.
This laptop is quick. Pretty much everything in Windows is instant. Normally I am able to anticipate where a window will pop up and start to move my mouse towards that location. With the Ghost however, everything is so instant that the computer is waiting on me to make the next move for once. I clocked a boot time of 12 seconds from a cold start straight to the desktop. Add a password to your account and you get to the logon screen in about 8 seconds. Most current titles are playable on high settings and some from a few years ago like Skyrim are playable maxed out. The Ghost scored 17544 on 3dmark Vantage and x1572 on 3dmark 11 with extreme settings enabled. Heat is bearable but the system does get hot after long stints of gaming. Temps reached a max average of 85c. The cooling is adequate for a system of this caliber in such a slim design, though I wouldn't recommend playing games with this directly on your lap. The battery lasts around 5 to 6 hours while surfing the web or working on documents and I didn't even bother to test it while gaming. Bottom line is I won't be playing games on the battery.
I am very impressed with the MSI GS60 Ghost. For a laptop measuring less than an inch thick with the hardware it boasts MSI has created a capable gaming laptop. It stands out in the crowd of heavy desktop replacements and pokes them with a stick, shouting “I’m almost as fast as you, but I didn't eat so many planets for breakfast”. While it fills what I would consider a niche market, it offers consumers another choice in the category. The backlight on the keyboard is the only major gripe I have with the Ghost. It looks great and games great, and I am very pleased with my purchase. With a cost of $1699.99 US, you get exactly what you pay for. High end hardware packed into a thin and light package.
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