MSI GT640-30UK gaming laptop reviewed

Product MSI GT640-30UK
Price £1,257.92

Part of MSI’s G family of gaming notebooks, the well-specified GT640, packs quite a punch fitted as it is with one of Intel’s mobile i7 quad-core processors and a reasonably speedy graphics card. But it does come at a price.

Any notebook that comes with a mobile Intel i7 quad core processor isn’t going to lack anything in the way of performance. Indeed, the 1.6GHz (up to 2.8GHz with Turbo Boost) Core i7-720QM zips along very nicely thank you, scoring an impressive 4858 overall score in PC Mark Vantage.

However, its not all good news as the TDP of the chip is a hefty 45 Watts, which doesn’t do anything for the GT640’s battery life, more of which later.

For some reason best known to itself, MSI has packed the GT640 with 4GB of 1,066MHz DDR3 memory (the most it supports) then handcuffed it by installing a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium, which will only access 3GB of memory.

Design-wise, it does raise a few eyebrows. Yes, the black brushed aluminium with red trim does look appealing, it’s very well finished and at least it isn’t the usual fingerprint-attracting gloss finish oh so beloved by manufacturers. But those used to the nice, curving designs of, say, an Acer Gemstone should look away now as styling is something that doesn’t really bother the GT640 too much.

Opening the lid you are confronted by more brushed aluminium and red which would be ok if it wasn’t for the chrome trim around the multimedia panel that immediately catches your eye; it looks to have been lifted straight off the front grill of a 1970s concept car. Despite a fairly compact footprint (360 x 260 x 36mm) it still weighs in at a 2.7kg on its own, a figure that rises to just over 3kg when you include the power brick - not something you'll want to carry around all day. At least MSI provides a large bag with the GT640 so you can cart it to the nearest LAN party.

The largish chassis allows for a full-sized keyboard with a separate number pad, which is good, but not so good are the keys themselves which seem to have too much travel. This leads to a lack of positive feedback when typing. There are a couple of annoying things about the layout as well, the Ctl and Fn keys are swapped around from their normal positions and the enter key is a small, half-height job which makes it difficult to hit when typing at speed.

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A gaming notebook lives and dies by its graphics and lets just say the GT640 is in the waiting room between realms.

Powered by Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 250M with 1GB of dedicated DDR3 memory, it can handle most modern games but when it comes to the newer titles some compromises will have to be taken when it comes to resolution versus in-game detail and filtering. As an example, when tested at the screen's native resolution with all the in-game detail set to maximum we got a dissapointing 13.12 frames per second when tested with FarCry 2’s built in benchmark.

The 15.4-inch screen’s native resolution of 1,680 by 1,050 means it can’t take full advantage of the built in Blu-ray drive but it’s not a major problem as there is an HDMI port so you can output content to a more appropriate display. More of a problem, however, is the reflective glossy coating on the screen, but the GT640 is hardly alone in that.

Battery life for the GT640 is a bit academic as it weight doesn’t really lend itself to a mobile lifestyle and the power hungry CPU sucks the life out of the six-cell 52Wh battery anyway. DVD playback lasted just 79 minutes while testing it under heavy usage with PC Mark Vantage caused it to give up after just a smidgin over seventy minutes.

Verdict

Make no mistake, MSI’s GT640 is a very quick notebook... but it’s not a killer gaming rig. It is, however, a lot cheaper than many of its competitors with a better claim to that title, but the GT640 would make a half way decent job as a desktop replacement notebook.

Specifications

Processor: Intel Core i7-720QM (6MB SmartCache)

Clock Speed: 1.6GHz (2.8GHz Turbo Boost)

RAM: 4GB PC3-1066 DDR3

Hard Drive: Western Digital 640GB

Screen: 15.4-inch TFT

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTS 250M (1GB)

Networking: Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0 +EDR

OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit

Ports: 3 x USB (1 x USB/eSATA combo), 3 x audio, 1x LAN, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, 1 x 4-pin Firewire, 4-in-1 card reader

Web Cam: 2.0MP

Dimensions (w x d x h): 360 x 260 x 36mm

Weight: 2.7kg