MSI GS43VR Review (GTX 1060, I7)

++ Main reason to consider:

Good option for a small and lightweight gaming laptop, with high gaming performance and some good features (TB3, IPS, keyboard)

-- Main reason to avoid:

Heat, performance/price and VR may be a problem with the Optimus system (but you might be able to use eGPU)

Availability

Current pricing is around $1500 for basic version

Pro : + Excellent gaming performance with a GTX 1060 + I7-6700HQ
+ Relatively compact and lightweight at around 1.8kg
+ 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 GPU throttles a bit)
+ 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
+ TPM 2.0
+ M.2 "M" slot, allowing PCIe SSDs
+ Thunderbolt 3 port
+ 16GB 2400MHZ DDR4 RAM
+ 2 years warranty
+ Dedicated DAC
+ Simple looks
Con : - Performance/price isn't as good as other laptops
- Some GPU throttling under gaming laptop
- Chassis could get quite hot in hot environment (summer)
- Included SSD is not NVMe like in previous model
- Only 3xUSB ports including the TB3 port, one of them USB 2.0
- Speakers can barely make you feel anything inside
- Build quality could be better - hinges and outer lid.
- Two RAM slots occupied
- Noise is high even at low levels of load
More Reviews :

Introduction

MSI GS43VR

So, the new Nvidia GPUs are here and manufacturers start refreshing their lines. This specific version is the GS43VR Phantom Pro-006. The MSI GS43VR is the successor of the MSI GS40 6QE (review here) and it is updated with the GTX 1060 6GB instead of the GTX 970M. It’s basically the same machine – still has Thunderbolt 3, M.2 PCIe NVMe slot, same LG 1080p IPS display, same cooling system as we’ll see later. Even the HDMI is 1.4 and not 2.0. The basic MSI GS43VR model comes with a 120GB SSD SATA drive and not NVMe drive, which is a downgrade.

MSI has added a software tool to control fan control as I don’t remember it from the GS40 review (but maybe I’m wrong).

Let’s see how well it does

ComponentDescription
PriceBasic version: $1500
CPUI7-6700HQ (2.6GHZ-3.5GHZ, 45W)
MotherboardMSI MS-14A3 / Intel HM170 (Skylake PCH-H)
4xPCI Express x1, 5xPCI Express x4, 1xPCI Express x16
GPUNvidia Geforce GTX 1060 6GB GDDR5, 1280 shadars core@1405-1671MHZ, GDDR5@2GHZ, 192-bit bus
RAMKingston 2x8GB DDR4@2400MHZ MSI24D4S7S8MB-8
2 banks of memory available
StorageHDD : WD HGST HGST HTS721010A9E630, 1TB, 7200RPM, 32MB cache, 2 slots total
SSD: M.2 TOSHIBA THNSNJ128G8NY 120GB SSD (SATA)
M.2: 2 slots, 1xNVMe PCIe M.2 SSD

LCD PanelIn review: 1080p 14.0", LG LP140WF3-SPD1, IPS, 30-pin eDP
Weight / Dimensions~1.89kg / 4.61 lbs
345 x 245 x 21.8-22.8 mm
13.8" x 9.65" x 0.86-0.90"
(w x d x h)
Keyboardred backlit, 3 levels including off
Connection Portsright side: Kensington Lock, HDMI (1.4), 1xUSB 3.0, 1xThunderbolt 3 USB-C
Left: RJ-45, power-in, USB 2.0, card reader, microphone jack, headphones jack
Rear: mDP
Camera1080p@30FPS camera
WiFi / EthernetWiFi: Killer Wireless-n/a/ac 1535 Wireless Network Adapter
Ethernet: Qualcomm/Atheros e2400 PCI-E Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Vendor Description: Qualcomm Atheros Ar81xx series PCI-E Ethernet Controller)
Speakers2x2W speakers, front bottom
Battery4 cell, 61Wh
Bios / EC version (test unit)E14A3IMS.102 /
Extra featuresEmbedded TPM 2.0
more details

Build quality, Case, design and looks

I’ll paste the build quality from the previous model, the MSI GS40 6QE:

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.

Looks

The arragement of connection ports is the same as in the MSI GS40 6QE. I’d like another USB 3.0 Type-A port (or at least, instead of the USB 2.0) or, alternativaly, they should have shipped it with some Thunderbolt 3 -> USB 3.1 gen2 hub)

 

Maintenance and inner parts

Maintenance is rather easy. The backplate is easily removed by removing ~10 screws. However, installing the bottom piece again is a little problematic due to some sponge near the battery – nothing too series, but annoying.

MSI GS43VR keyboard

Both CPU and GPU are soldered. The GPU has two dedicated fans and three heatpipes. The CPU has two heatpipes and one fan. It makes sense, because the GPU is hotter with such hardware. I would add one heatpipe between these two in order to share the thermal load.

That’s the same cooling system as the MSI GS40 6RE and internal component arragement (check)

Keyboard and touchpad

From the MSI GS40 6QE:

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).

I woud add that some would appreciate bigger arrow buttons and dedicated and well positioned PGUP/PGDN/HOME/END buttons, perhaps programmers and writers.

Sound & Speakers

Pasting the MSI GS40 6QE speakers description (in short – mediocre):

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

. “

General subjective performance experience

With the Samsung 850 Evo M.2 SSD, the laptop feels very fast.

Added CPU-Z and GPU-Z screenshots.

 

Gaming Performance

Test Methods & Drivers

OS : Windows 10, fully updated

Drivers: Nvidia Geforce 372.70

Synthetic 3D benchmarks

3DMark, Time Spy 1.0, CompuBench and FAHBench performance:

msi gs43vr 3dmark benchmark

computbenchcl fahbenchmark-double fahbenchmark-single time-spy-1-0

LuxMark 3.1 Hotel:
luxmark-3-1-hotel-gtx-1060-only

 

Summarized gaming performance

Performance is relatively good. The Sky M5 GPU clocks remain on their highest. The 6GB VRAM helps a bit in some situations probably, though not so much in 1080p.

msi gs43vr gtx 1060 i7 6700hq gaming benchmarks

Crysis 3

msi gs43vr review crysis 3 gtx 1060 4k benchmarksmsi gs43vr review crysis 3 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Thief

Thief sees some advantage using Mantle API over the DX11. Heavily Vulkan/DX12 optimized games/game engines should see much higher improvements.

msi gs43vr review thief gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Bioshock Infinite

msi gs43vr review bioshock infinite gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Civilization : Beyond Earth

Seems like the performance is a little bottlenecked. The numbers aren’t considerably higher than the GTX 970M numbers

msi gs43vr review civilization beyond earth gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Total War : Warhammer

The new Total War stuff. The 3D engine has been vastly improved and performance is much better than in the case of Total War : Attila

msi gs43vr review total war warhammer dx12 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarksmsi gs43vr review total war warhammer gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Total War : Attila

The new iteration of Total War : Rome II, Attila is a much more demanding game and FPSs are much lower.

msi gs43vr review total war attila gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Metro : Last Light

msi gs43vr review metro last light gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Battlefield 4 Campaign

BF4 campaign benchmark

msi gs43vr review battlefield 4 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

World of Tanks

msi gs43vr review world of tanks gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Elite : Dangerous / Horizons

Elite Dangerous performance near the planet surface has been vastly improved in latest versions of the game. FPSs are much higher than before

msi gs43vr review elite dangerous horizons gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Shadow Of Mordor

msi gs43vr review shadow of mordor gtx 1060 4k benchmarks

Ashes Of Singularity

msi gs43vr review ashes of singularity gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Pascal GPUs finally see some performance improvements from DX12 utilization.

Anno 2205

msi gs43vr review anno 2205 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Fallout 4

The new Fallout 4 is rather demanding, but the benefits of the high graphics presets are not clear to me.

msi gs43vr review fallout 4 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

ARK: Survival Evolved

The new ARK: Survival Evolved is not completely cooked yet, so don’t take these results too hard. The game obviously need some real optimisations, FPSs are really low and it seems that for nothing, more or less.

msi gs43vr review ark survival evolved gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

The Talos Principle

msi gs43vr review the talos principles gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Rise of the Tomb Raider

msi gs43vr review rise of the tomb raider gtx 1060 1080p benchmarksmsi gs43vr review rise of the tomb raider dx11 vs dx12 gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Doom (2016)

The new Doom game. Based on OpenGL 4.5. Not that demanding. The Doom Vulkan

msi gs43vr review doom gtx 1060 1080p dx11 benchmarksmsi gs43vr review doom gtx 1060 1080p vulkan benchmarks fixed

No Man's Sky

msi gs43vr review nms gtx 1060 4k benchmarks

Obduction

msi gs43vr review obduction gtx 1060 1080p benchmarks

Star Wars : Battlefront

msi gs43vr review star wars battlefront gtx 1060 4k benchmarks

Thermals, Throttling & Noise handling

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.

Four tests:

1. Idle, power saver mode

2. Gaming : Ashes Of Singularity benchmark. “Crazy” settings, “High performance” power mode.

3. Prime95 torture test. “High performance” power mode.

4. Prime95 + Furmark on 1080p test, AAx2. “High performance” power mode.

msi gs43vr review thermals in idle and load

The GS43VR does stay under 90 degrees, but the costs are high fans speed and lower clocks, at least in the case of Furmark and Prime95.

Heat

The MSI GS43VR case does get hot under high load, especially around the “F” keys and the center of the keyboard. Same goes to the bottom part. I can’t say that I felt that the heat interfere with my gaming, but it’s an indivdual experience. Bottom line, it’s not a low heat case laptop.

Throttling

As you can see, under Ashes Of Singularity load level, the I7-6700HQ core clock stays around 3.0-3.1GHZ, which is very good, and the GPU stays around 1550-1650MHZ, which is nice, but could be probably higher.

It is interesting to note that according to HWInfo, the GPU power consumption is around 70-80W on average, considerably less than the GTX 1060 usual 110-130W for the desktop part. But, it’s just HWInfo software monitor and it’s probably not that accurate.

 

Throttle CPU average stable CPU MAX GPU
43 53 Idle
2.9-3.1 88 89 Prime95
2.6 88 89 71 Prime95 + Furmark
3.1 78 78 78 Ashes Of Singularity

Noise

The MSI GS43VR fans are easily activated, so even if the CPU/GPU temps are good, you’ll hear the fans. However, it is customizable via the MSI Dragon Center, which is very nice. With fans off for light load, you can have less noise. However, you’ll probably notice the HDD working (I did) and maybe some electrical noises.

Under high load (like gaming), you’ll notice some high frequency noise from the fans, as they spin very fast and it may be the result.

I wouldn’t say that the MSI GS43VR is a quiet machine, also because the body doesn’t block noise that much.

Screen & Screen quality

The MSI GS43VR comes with the same LG LP140WF3-SPD1 as in the previous model. Overall, very good stats. Could be better in terms of color accuracy and maybe color pallete coverage, but generally a good display.  PWM could not be detected (confirmed) and response time is good, but not great (hoping to have some equipment to test this myself soon).

G-Sync is not supported, but that’s probably due to the Optimus system.

ContrastBrightnessBlack levels
760 289 0.38
sRGBadobeRGBNTSC
92 71 69

Battery Performance

I couldn’t get power consumption to get as low as in other machines (usually with the “U” CPUs), but the battery isn’t small and there are few hours of work or movies on battery.

msi gs43vr review battery performance

 

 

Issues

  • I had some lag when starting some programs, like the laptop would get stuck for two seconds, but that has stopped after some driver updates
  • Some issues with DX11 not running well, but I guess it has more relation to the NV/Intel drivers

Competing gaming laptops / Alternatives

  • Currently, as a small and lightweight gaming laptop with a GTX 1060, the options are limited. We’ll probably some Gigabyte option.

    Other laptops with GTX 1060 can be cheaper, with better feature-set thermal performance, including G-Sync, more storage and connection ports and even stuff like better speakers (like the Clevo P650RP6, Asus GL502VM which isn’t that heavy and more)

Conclusion

I’ll try to keep it short. The MSI GS43VR is a nice laptop with good basic features (keyboard, IPS display, 3D performance, enough RAM, SSD). If you want a small and relativelty light weight gaming laptop, this is a good option. However, the laptop has some caveats. The performance/price ratio isn’t the best, chassis heat is high, there is some GPU throttling under gaming load, SSD is not an NVMe. So that’s not the perfect laptop.

I’d recommend waiting to see how good are the competitors and, maybe, whether eGPUs will be available until the end of the year, it could change the MSI GS43VR value, in my opinion.

.

  • whirledpeas

    Hi @cultivated:disqus , which driver did you install to fix the lag/stuttering issue you had? “I had some lag when starting some programs, like the laptop would get stuck for two seconds, but that has stopped after some driver updates”.

    I have the same issue when hitting the action center button on the lower right corner of the taskbar (it slides out from the right). I notice a 2 second stutter/frozen period and the iGPU (lit up red on the power button LED) will switch to the dGPU (lit up amber on the power button LED) and then switch back. It is very annoying and I wonder exactly how you fixed it. This seems to be an issue with Optimus and it affects many MSI laptops.

    Thanks in advance.

    • when have you started using the laptop? I’m not sure what solved it – could be some driver, could be simply windows finishing some initial task (indexing?)

      I would check and update the following drivers, just in case:
      1. Intel Rapid storage
      2. Killer network
      3. Nvidia drivers (don’t think it’s related, but still)
      4. Intel graphics

      • whirledpeas

        I did a fresh install of Windows 10 Pro so no bloatware to start with and this issue still exists. All drivers including Nvidia and Intel Graphcis are Windows 10 stock drivers.

        I have not installed the Intel Chipset Software, Intel Rapid Storage or Intel Management Engine drivers yet. Are they needed at all? What benefit will they bring if they are installed?

        Thanks.

        • 1. Anyway – remove the graphics drivers with DDU and install the latest from Intel and NV, intel first
          2. Yes, needed. Unless you have some version that is updated or more suitable, it’s better to have these because they handle better their respective components/function, in general. Rapid is related to drive management, chipset to the chips (-: I don’t know what every driver does in specific, but you can google it and find related issues. I would install them
          3. If it really bothers you and you don’t want to wait, you can use more in-depth software tools like Process Monitor to monitor the cause for the issue. I would just update stuff including the Windows and give it some time

  • Alejo

    Hi, nice review. I had a question:

    “I had some lag when starting some programs, like the laptop would get stuck for two seconds, but that has stopped after some driver updates”

    Which driver did you update and the problem went away? I am experiencing micro stutters, more often when I click on the battery indicator. Do you also have this issue?

    Thanks for your help!

    • Hi

      I’m not sure how it was solved. I think maybe it is something that is related to the Windows 10. Have you updated Windows? all drivers installed? bios updated?
      It may have been something related to the Win10 search index building, and you just have to wait

      • Alejo

        Hi Junky,

        Thanks for your quick reply. I upgraded all drivers and windows to the latest anniversary version, the only thing missing is the bios. I switched the preferred graphics to Nvidia (instead of auto-select) and now the stuttering is gone!

        • But than the NV GPU will be used when not needed also, no?

          • Alejo

            Yeah completely agree, but it is the only solution I found so far. The other one is having the nvidia logo rolling around on the Nvidia control panel. This is less annoying since I don’t have a window open.

            • you know what? you say that settings all to NV ‘solves’ it. Maybe the Intel GPU is set to low clocks, so:
              1. What power mode are you using? both windows and MSI?
              2. In the power plan settings, check the intel Graphics settings – what does it says?

  • Karl Vagnemark

    Hello,
    while testing this laptop and playing fallout 4, how did you test the FPS?
    I bought this laptop and while wandering around “outside” I get as low as 45-51 FPS and the lowest you recorded was 54, so I do wonder if maybe something is wrong with mine.

    Regards
    Karl

    • Hi Karl!

      1. Maybe I didn’t test it well? I do the same scene over and over in all my tests, around this place:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1hdmAFPfkM

      2. You can send me your save file and I’ll try on my machine

      3. Is your Fallout 4 updated? GPU drivers? what are your settings?

      • Karl Vagnemark

        Hi!
        Fast reply!
        I tested around the main central area with a lot of buildings around. Also inside a building with a bunch of smoke, do you have a mail address I can send the saves to or should I post them here (if I can)?
        Fallout 4 has latest updates and I just clicked “MAX” in the launcher of fallout 4. Running the 372.70 nvidia driver with “Gaming mode” enabled in my power settings.
        Regards
        Karl

        • 1. gaminglaptopsjunky@gmail.com

          2. Maybe there is some throttling in your machine – you can run the very good freeware HWInfo to test it. Run the game and hit “record” on HWInfo (a “+” sign)

          3. Are the ventilation holes blocked?

          • Karl Vagnemark

            Hey!
            Replied via mail.
            Regards
            Karl