Quantcast PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

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  1. #1
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    Default PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    The PowerPro 7:15 is built on the MSI 1656 gaming notebook. It features a high-resolution 15.4-inch display, Intel Core i7 processor, and Nvidia GTS 250M graphics. Read on to see how it fared in our testing.

    A special thanks goes to Donald Stratton of PowerNotebooks.com for sending us this review unit.

    Our PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) has the following specifications:

    • 15.4-inch WSXGA+ (1680x1050) glossy-type display
    • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    • Intel Core i7-720QM (1.6GHz/2.8GHz Turbo Mode, 6MB L3 cache) processor
    • Nvidia GeForce GTS 250M 1GB graphics card
    • 4GB DDR3-1333 RAM (2x 2GB)
    • 320GB 7200RPM hard drive (Seagate Momentus 7200.4/ST9320423AS)
    • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 5300AGN
    • Built-in Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
    • 8X DVD burner
    • 1 Year Parts w/2nd Day Ship & 24/7 DOMESTIC Toll Free Support +Lifetime Labor
    • 6-cell 4800mAh battery
    • Weight: 6.2 lbs.
    • Dimensions: 14.11” (W) x 9.7” (D) x 1.0~1.4” (H)
    • MSRP: $1,634

    The 7:15 starts at $1,347. The options on our test unit consist of 4GB of RAM ($65), the faster 7200RPM hard drive ($25), and Windows 7 Home Premium license ($115). PowerPro notebooks do not come standard with an operating system, which can be an advantage for those that already own a copy or have access to discounted prices.

    Build and Design
    The 7:15 has a classic, nondescript look with no odd curves or shapes. It is rather slim for a 15.4-inch notebook at only 1.0~1.4 inches, especially one packing this kind of power. The notebook is constructed of mostly plastic; the palm rest and back of the lid are brushed aluminum. Fortunately, none of the plastics used have a glossy coating. While glossy plastic might make the notebook look more attractive, we greatly prefer matte plastics because they are more durable and easier to clean. The plastic used is reasonably thick, on par or better when compared to mainstream notebooks from Dell or HP. It makes no cheap sounds when tapped. The aluminum palm rest and lid back have a very solid feeling and are a welcome addition.

    The notebook chassis has small amounts of flex, though nothing out of the ordinary. This again is on par or better than most mainstream notebooks though not as good as a business class machine. There is no flex in the palm rest thanks to the aluminum, and the lid has some of the least flex we have seen thanks to the aluminum backing. Pushing in on the back of the lid still yields ripples on the screen, however. The hinges holding the display to the chassis are strong. The 7:15's fit and finish is good; all parts fit together with even spacing and nothing seems out of place or mismatched. Quality is consistent; overall the build quality is satisfactory.

    Screen and Speakers

    The PowerPro 7:15 has a 15.4-inch display available in one resolution: 1680x1050. It has a glossy surface and CCFL backlighting. The display quality is good; it has plenty of brightness but is a bit shallow on contrast. The picture is impressively clear. Viewing angles are about average, washing out from above and below and showing some color inversion at extreme horizontal angles. The high resolution of this display (1680x1050) is excellent for multitasking and Internet browsing. It is rare to see a notebook with more than 1,000 pixels of vertical space and it is certainly appreciated.

    The 7:15 has typical notebook speakers – they sound tinny and essentially have no bass. Fortunately the notebook offers many audio-out options including HDMI, S/PDIF, and analog.

    Keyboard and Touchpad
    The PowerPro 7:15 has a full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad. The typing experience is satisfactory – keys are communicative with adequate tactile feedback. This keyboard is quiet enough to be used around others without disturbing them. It does suffer from some flex though only under more than normal pressure. The keyboard does not have as solid of a feel as we would like.

    Typing on this keyboard takes a day or so to get used to; the 15.4-inch screen means that some of the keys had to be shrunk in order to fit with the numeric keypad. For example, the right Shift and Backspace keys are about 2/3 their normal size. Additionally, there are some layout discrepancies: the [Fn] and [Ctrl] keys at the bottom left corner are switched, and the Home and End keys are not dedicated but integrated as secondary functions into the [PgUp] and [PgDn] keys, respectively. An interesting aspect of the keyboard is its color coding. The W, A, S, and D keys, commonly used for gaming, are highlighted in red. The Function keys (F1 – F12) and the arrow keys are a dark orange. The color coding is a nice touch.

    The touchpad has a matte surface that is easy to track on with moist or dry fingers. The touchpad buttons are aluminum and part of the palm rest. They are noisier than we prefer and not as easy to find by feel as they should be.

    Ports and Features
    This notebook features an impressive array of ports including HDMI (for connection to HDTVs) and eSATA (a fast connection for external hard drives). A small issue we have with the port layout is that two of the notebook’s three USB ports are located on the right side close to the user; this can get annoying for right handers since cords can get in the way. The status lights are along the bottom of the right palm rest and are clearly labeled. The power button is overly bright.

    All picture descriptions are left to right.

    Left Side: Kensington lock slot, 56k modem jack, optical drive, USB, S/PDIF, microphone, line in, headphone jack.

    Right Side: ExpressCard/54 slot (top), memory card reader (xD, SD, MMC, MS, MS Pro - bottom), IEEE 1394 mini-Firewire, USB, eSATA/USB combo port, exhaust vent, Gigabit Ethernet

    Back: HDMI, VGA, power jack, battery

    Front: Status lights

    Performance and Benchmarks
    The 7:15 produces some impressive numbers in our benchmark tests thanks to its Core i7 quad-core processor, fast 7200RPM hard drive, and 1GB Nvidia graphics card. The graphics performance is impressive by itself however competitors at this price point offer slightly faster graphics cards. The Nvidia GTS 250M graphics card likely has headroom for overclocking, however that is beyond the scope of this review.

    Wprime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):

    PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):

    3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

    gaming benchmark (1280x800 and high settings):

    Need for Speed: SHIFT benchmark (1680x1050 and high settings)

    HDTune storage drive performance test:

    Heat and Noise

    The PowerPro 7:15 has a single exhaust vent on the right side of the notebook. Right handers may find this placement annoying. The fan draws air in through various perforations on the bottom of the chassis, not through a dedicated fan grate below the fan; we prefer this setup since it is harder to block the intake.

    At idle the fan is audible but is easy to ignore since it sounds like a rush of air. This sound increases when the notebook is stressed but there is no motor noise, only the sound of rushing air. The sound levels even at full tilt are very reasonable and can be used near others without disturbing them. The chassis at idle is barely lukewarm; under full load for extended periods the right side around the fan can get hot, mostly on the bottom. HWMonitor results after a few benchmark runs are shown below:

    Battery Life
    While surfing the Internet with minimum screen brightness, our test unit yielded two hours and fifteen minutes of battery life. For a six-cell, 4800mAh battery, this is a reasonable time given the unit has a powerful graphics card and quad-core processor. A nine-cell battery is also offered, which should boost battery life to between three and four hours.

    Operating System and Software
    By default the PowerPro 7:15 does not come with an operating system; ours came configured with Windows 7. We like how PowerNotebooks.com makes the operating system optional; it can save customers money if they already have a copy (or can get one for less than retail). No unwanted software came pre-installed, which is greatly appreciated. Most consumer notebooks come loaded to the gills with trial software and other gimmicks.

    Warranty and Service
    The PowerPro 7:15 comes standard with a one-year warranty, which includes second day shipping (both ways) for service, 24/7 domestic telephone support, and lifetime labor. A three-year warranty with next business day shipping for service (both ways) is optional. This warranty is superior to warranties offered by most large notebook companies.

    The PowerPro 7:15 is a well-rounded if unremarkable 15.4-inch gaming notebook. It has the latest technology including an Intel i7 processor and reasonably powerful Nvidia GTS 250M graphics card. The build quality is good; the brushed aluminum is a nice touch. We like the high resolution screen and input/output port selection. The cooling system is impressively quiet. Overall we found a lot to like but not love and little to complain about. We recommend this notebook to gamers looking for a solid mobile companion.


    • Good build quality
    • Stays quiet, even under load
    • Excellent overall performance
    • Reasonable battery life
    • Good warranty/service


    • Some keyboard layout issues
    • Screen could use a contrast boost
    • Competitors offer slightly faster graphics cards
    • Plain looks

  2. #2
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    again, awesome looking chasis. disapointing price and graphics performance.
    Hardy once told Bertrand Russell "If I could prove by logic that you would die in five minutes, I should be sorry you were going to die, but my sorrow would be very much mitigated by pleasure in the proof". Russell agreed with Hardy wholeheartedly about the delights of proofs.

  3. #3
    Notebook Prophet
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    Agreed, hope NBR gets the newer models review, because they aim to actually impress.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    Thanks for the review! I'm actually interested in this nb. I'm a very light gamer and would love the power of the i7 for design and movie editing. The resolution is perfect because I like the size of a 15" lappy but didn't want to squint with 1920x1080 res. Are there other nb's coming along that's similar? (ie i7, 15-16", 1680x1050)

    Kind regards

  5. #5
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    All right! A new 15.4" 16:10 notebook! Just trow in a 1920x1200 screen and we're all set!

    HP EliteBook 8570w | Core i5-3340m 2.7GHz | 8GB RAM | 750GB 7200RPM HD
    | DVD±RW DL drive | AMD FirePro M4000 1GB GFX | 15.6" 1920x1080 LCD
    | Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 802.11a/b/g/n with Bluetooth

    HP Compaq nw8440 | Core Duo T2600 2.16GHz | 4GB 667MHz DDR2 RAM | 500GB 7200rpm HD
    | DVD±RW DL drive w/ LightScribe | ATi FireGL V5200 256MB GFX | 15.4" 1920x1200 LCD
    | Broadcom a/b/g + Bluetooth

    Extended Signature

  6. #6
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    I always liked the 165x chassis. Not sure about these "w,s,a,d" keys though... unless those glow in the dark?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    Quote Originally Posted by ARom View Post
    I always liked the 165x chassis. Not sure about these "w,s,a,d" keys though... unless those glow in the dark?
    Agreed, this is a nice chassis. The keys don't glow in the dark unfortunately. I thought the color coding was a nice touch.
    Quote Originally Posted by s-one View Post
    Thanks for the review! I'm actually interested in this nb. I'm a very light gamer and would love the power of the i7 for design and movie editing. The resolution is perfect because I like the size of a 15" lappy but didn't want to squint with 1920x1080 res. Are there other nb's coming along that's similar? (ie i7, 15-16", 1680x1050)

    Kind regards
    This is one of the very last 16:10 notebooks you will see, so if you want one I would not wait much longer.

    Even though the GTS 250M isn't top-end it is still better than what is found in the majority of notebooks (better than anything HP offers (GT230M)). It can play modern games just fine - I ran Need for Speed: Shift fluidly at 1680x1050. Additional benchmarks for the GTS 250M can be found here in the PowerPro 10:17 (MSI 1727) review, which has a nearly identical configuration as our test 7:15:

    As I noted I imagine the GTS 250M has quite a bit of overclocking headroom though that was not in the scope of the review.
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  8. #8
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    Nice review Chaz
    Here is another notebook I can look at.


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  9. #9
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    Good review Chaz!

    The GDDR5 version of the same GPU (now called GTS 360M) would do the trick. Doubling memory bandwith is kind of a big deal...

    On the plus side, it's a solid chassis equipped with the age-old 16:10 ratio display, which has remained popular but become difficult to find in currently manufactured notebooks. It's light, slim, has a sharp looking design, and the cooling system handles the i7 and GPU well. It's customizable, upgradeable, and packs premier components like Intel 5300 wireless. I'd dig it, if MSI gives the GPU that needed boost in the next iteration.
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

    I like it alot! The only thing I would want is a WUXGA screen for more screen real estate, but 1680x1050 isnt too shabby.
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