- Build quality, Case and design and looks
- Keyboard and Trackpad
- Sound and Speakers
- General subjective performance experience
- Gaming Performance
- Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling
- Screen / Screen quality
- Competing gaming laptops / alternatives
++ Main reason to consider:
You’re really looking for a compact and lightweight high performance gaming laptop (and good keyboard, TB3 port, M.2 NVMe SSD, 16GB RAM and 2 years warranty)
-- Main reason to avoid:
Thermals handling isn’t great with high noise levels and some throttling under highest load, plus, the build quality is lacking for a premium laptop.
+ Compact and light at around 1.6kg
+ Very comfortable keyboard, in my opinion, with very good feedback, respond and travel depth and sufficient resistance
+ Cooling system keeps the CPU and GPU temps at reasonable levels (although the CPU could throttle)
+ Under load, the hotter parts of the chassis are not the ones that in use usually
+ High contrast and high brightness IPS display with good colors and viewing angles
+ Very good WiFi solution with good stability, low pings
+ M.2 "M" slot, allowing PCIe SSDs, housed by an NVMe SSD
+ Thunderbolt 3 port
+ 16GB DDR4 RAM
+ 2 years warranty
+ Dedicated DAC
+ Simple looks
- Some throttling under highest load of Furmark + Prime95, but not in Crysis 3
- Only 2xUSB ports including the TB3 port
- Speakers can barely make you feel anything inside
- Chassis could get quite hot in hot environment (summer)
- Power consumption for browsing/1080p youtube movie load isn't great
- Two RAM slots occupied
- Noise is high even at low levels of load
- No TPM
The [relatively] new MSI GS40 6QE Phantom is MSI’s flagship small and slim gaming laptop. It’s packed with a Skylake I7, GTX 970M and small measures. Also includes with 16GB of RAM, TB3 connection port, and 128GB NVMe SSD (plus 1TB HDD). For around $1500-$1550 (with coupons), the MSI GS40 provides the same horsepower as some other GTX 970M+Skylake equipped laptops, only in a smaller form factor (that is, if horses can function as GPUs), although it is not as cost effective as other in terms of gaming performance (especially if you include discounts and deals that come from time to time).
The GS40 selling point is its measures and compactness, alongside the high gaming performance and IPS display. Let’s review it and see if it worth anything at all!
|Model||MSI GS40 6QE Phantom|
|Price||As tested, $1540|
|CPU||Intel Skylake I7-6700HQ, 4C/8T, 2.6-3.6GHZ, 6MB cache, CZ-A1|
|GPU||Nvidia Geforce GTX 970M 3GB GDDR5, GM204 (Maxwell II), 1280 shaders, core@954-1037MHZ, GDDR5@1252MHZ, 192-bit bus|
|Motherboard / Chipset||LENOVO Allsparks 5B / AMD CZ FCH|
4xPCI Express x1, 2xPCI Express x4, 1xPCI Express x16
|RAM||Samsung 2x8GB DDR4@2133MHZ M471A1G43DB0-CPB|
|Storage||HDD : HGST HTS721010A9E630|
SSD: M.2 NVMe THNSN5128GPU7 TO 128GB
M.2 : M.2 SATA or PCIe/NVMe 2280 (one)
|Display Panel||In review: LG Display LP140WF3-SPD1 1080p IPS eDP (Monitor\LGD046D)|
|Weight / Dimensions||1.6kg (~3.53 Lbs.) + ~0.5kg PSU|
345 x 245 x 21.8-22.8 mm
13.58" x 9.65" x 0.86-0.9"
(w x d x h)
|Keyboard||Red backlit (3 levels including off)|
|Connection Ports||Right side: 1xKensington key, HDMI v1.4, USB 3.0, Thunderbolt 3 USB Type-C|
Left: RJ-45 (1Gbit), AC power, USB 3.0, SD Card Slot, microphone jack, headset jack (DAC)
|WiFi / Ethernet||WiFi: Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1525 Wireless Network Adapter|
Ethernet: Qualcomm Atheros Ar81xx/Atheros e2400 PCI-E Ethernet Controller
|Speakers / Audio||2.0 Dynaudio speakers|
ESS SABRE HiFi DAC
|Battery||61Wh, 4 cells|
|Bios / EC version (test unit)||E14A1IMS.106 /|
Well, the MSI GS40 body feels all-plastic. I don’t know if that’s true, but it certainly looks and feels as such. It’s not bad by itself. Most of the chassis will bend a bit under high pressure – nothing too bad, but the parts ‘above’ the keyboard and around the hinges do yield under mild and even low pressure. The display’s outer lid is yielding under light pressure, which is a problem and a proper protection is needed if the laptop is carried in a bag, for example. The keyboard’s surface will also yield a bit under typing level pressure.
I also felt the the power plug is not that firm and a bit loose.
So, bottom line, the MSI GS40 chassis build quality isn’t that great, given that it’s a ‘premium’ laptop and there is a need to watch for the display health.
Maintenance and inner parts
Opening the MSI GS40 6QE is not hard and includes something like 8-10 screws. In this version, you’ll see the HDD, M.2 NVMe SSD, ~60Whr battery, two DDR4 slots. The M.2 slot is an “M” key slot and can house a PCIe x4 SSD.
The CPU has two heatpipes and enjoys one dedicated heatpipe which is quite close to the fan. The GPU has three dedicated heatpipe, one of them is pretty big and leads to a dedicated ventilation fins set. The other two of them (the smaller ones) lead to the side ventilation fins set. This is a good configuration of heatpipes because it takes into account a various load scenarious on the CPU and the GPU.
Keyboard. The keyboard quality is actually pretty good. The feedback is very good, and so is the responsiveness. Add to the clear pressure points, sufficient resistance and good travel depth and it makes a keyboard that is very comfortable for typing, with low relative ratio of misclicks and fingers that do not hurt. A little better resistance at the deeper points could make it even better, but that’s fine the way it is. Keys texture could be nicer.
Touchpad. The touchpad is quite average, but with a smooth surface so the fingers don’t get “stuck”. However, it’s not sensitive enough to a point that using it with gloves is a problem (no matter what is the configuration).
MSI really tried to save on the speakers. Two speakers at the front’s bottom provides the waves, but don’t excel in it. Bass is obviously a big issue and barely exists and generally, many kinds of sound that should have been there (even compared to my lousy latitude e7440’s speakers) and that’s true with or without the “Nahimic” software bundled with the laptop. I don’t see why couldn’t they just invest few more dollars and get a little better speakers.
Anyway, there is a dedicated DAC which should be a little plus for head mounted speakers of a kind.
Bottom line, not that great and better not expect too much.
Common performance is very good, probably also thanks to the 128GB NVMe SSD.
Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.
3DMark performance – link to source:
Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.
The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.
As described before, the GPU and CPU has two heatpipes which are connected to two fans. Cool air sucked from the bottom of the machine (hence, it’s important to keep its bottom above the sitting surface) and is thrown from the rear ventilation hole.
1. Idle, power saver mode
2. Gaming : Crysis 3 gameplay. “very high” settings with SMAAx2 For Crysis 3, “High performance” power mode.
3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.
4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1366×768 test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.
Under high load of Prime95 + Furmark, the upper parts of the keyboard get a hotter, especially the right part where the GPU and GPU cooling system is located, but not reaching annoying levels where it matters. The right palm rest also gets a little warmer. Given the small figure of this laptop, the cooling system does a good job. Check my master painting!
Under Furmark + Prime95 load, the I7-6700HQ automatically downclocks to the base clocks. The GPU core also downclocks to around 900-950MHZ. Applying -100mV to the I7-6700HQ core voltages results in higher clocks under Prime95, but with Furmark, the CPU again downclocks after a while, however it takes more time. ThrottleStop 8.00 was of no help with this machine. I think the reason is TDP or some kind of power limitation + MSI’s algorithm, but not temperatures.
While running Crysis 3, the CPU core clocks could keep 3-3.1GHZ and the GPU core its max core clocks of around 1037MHZ.
- Under light load, the laptop was generally quiet, if you set the the MSI power settings “green”. “comfort” or “sport” would result in some noise even under light load, even with 0% load.
- Under high load of gaming or Furmark+Prime95, the fans were very audible.
The GS40 uses the LG Display LP140WF3-SPD1 IPS 1080p display. Colors are good and so are viewing angles with the usual small distortion in colors – remember that these pictures were shot in (non-direct) sublight, so this is part of the reason for the small distortions. Contrast is relatively good and maximal brightness is high. Color accuracy may be lacking, though, relatively to some other higher end displays.
I found no PWM signs in my simple camera-based test, but I might be wrong. If indeed there is PWM mechnism in use for more common brightness settings, then it’s great. I didn’t feel eyes aches when using this screen so it might be just true.
I’m adding the xRite i1Profiler contrast and brightness readings, because they are different from the Spyder4Elite I use:
|Contrast||White Luminence||Black Luminence||Screen Brightness|
Battery performance isn’t that great. The MSI GS40 would quickly spike up its power consumption upon some kind of work load.
Well, the MSI GS40 6QE is a very nice compact gaming laptop. It does most of what you’d except : very good gaming performance, very good 1080p IPS display, reasonable temperatures even under highest load, and it’s compact and lightweight. Keyboard is very good in my experience, at least for most people. The 16GB DDR4 RAM and 128GB NVMe SSD makes it even better and result in a very good experience overall. The Thunderbolt 3 makes it more future proof (hoping for an eGPU) and the DAC is a nice touch for people with good sound systems or $50 earphones (-:
However, some drawbacks. Speakers are one and build quality is the second with outer lid and some other parts of the chassis not being as rigid as you’d expect. The power plug is a bit loose too. The softness of the outer lid could result in some damage to the display under pressure and you’d need some padding and some hard cover to protect it. Battery performance isn’t great under reasonable work loads with power consumption too easily spiking up. Finally, the thermal performance isn’t as great as you’d want and although temperatures remain in the safe and even rather low zone (for such hardware), the noise levels are pretty high even at very low loads.
There are other few small things, but they’re not really that bad – only 2 slots for DDR4 and only 2xUSB ports including the TB3.
So, my conclusion is mixed, though as a compact gaming laptop it does has almost all of it and really almost convincing. Ofcourse, if that’s what you are looking for, and you can handle the noise, then this is a very good laptop for you. If they could just reduce the noise levels, we could forget the rest. Let’s see what the competition has to offer with Gigabytes’ P34Wv5 and then we’ll think it over. OK?