MSi GS63VR 6RF review

Discussion in 'MSI Reviews & Owners' Lounges' started by Mobius 1, Apr 1, 2017.

  1. Mobius 1

    Mobius 1 what is quality control?

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    Hello everyone, this is Mobius 1 (or STR8_AN94BALLER on reddit).



    Today’s review is the MSi GS63VR, this interestingly thin laptop packs some serious heat under the chassis and we will see how everything adds up to the user experience of the laptop.

    My reviews are not sponsored in any way that might change viewpoint of the product. Meaning reviews are 100% straight and no fluff.

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    Standardized chart

    Rating System (Overall for the category): ("0" Rubbish <-> "5" Average <-> "10" Excellent.)




    Well now, shall we begin?









    Why the GS63VR?

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    The GS63VR continues the line of MSi GS series, thin devices that pack a reasonably powerful hardware available at this current time. The GS63 comes with a choice of GTX1060 (this model) or a newer GTX1050-Ti newly announced with the Kabylake models.

    The GS63VR being reviewed packs a GTX1060 6GB, meaning that this laptop is pretty much equal in terms of power to an overclocked GTX980M, or even a stock GTX980N laptop. This makes it an excellent choice for people who need an ample amount of graphical power while still achieving a near ultrabook form factor.





    Build quality: 7.5

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    The GS63VR is made out of thin metal for the entirety of the chassis that makes the laptop somewhat bendable. However, this shouldn’t really be a concern with normal (stationary) usage, where bending is much less noticeable.

    The bending / flex of the chassis starts to get annoying when you have to take the laptop to travel with you though. When the device is not placed on a stable surface (eg: table) and onto your lap, the weight of the overall package combined with your palm rest will cause a noticeable flex onto the chassis.

    Mainly there is an upward flex along a vertical line of the laptop that causes the hinge to hit the bottom chassis when being opened. Also, if your hands are heavy enough or you place the laptop on an uneven surface, sometimes the chassis flexes enough to where it will start interfering with the track pads ability to physically click down.

    In an extreme case, the holes for the side I/O will get bent. I purposively tried to bend the device to its limits and it eventually snapped a thin portion of the RJ45 connector port off (the opening, not the port itself). In general, you should be careful of the I/O as the metal there is very thin and will bend / break easily. This is just another major weak point of the laptops build quality.



    The issues listed above can mostly be fixed by being careful when you are using the laptop. It does take some time to get used to the chassis flex if you are coming from a high-quality product such as a Mac or an Alienware.

    The bottom access panel will easily bend if you pry it up incorrectly or with excessive force, so do be careful.

    However, the chassis flex issues are unnoticeable when you are using the laptop at your desk. Only when you are travelling with it should you be careful.

    I’d give this thing a 7.5 to be honest as the product is durable enough IF you care for it.





    Aesthetic Design (9)

    The GS63VR is minimalistic in terms of appearance and the laptop doesn’t have aggressive “gamer” lines or flashy illuminations, instead it has a very basic form factor and a very slight hint of red trim.

    Discounting the glowing Dragon logo and a few status indicator lights at the front, the GS63VR looks clean enough to be taken into a professional business meeting and not stand out.

    Compared to the gamer-inspired design on the GT/GP/GE series, the GS takes on a more industrial and minimalistic approach, which also attributes to the “Stealth” designation in the official product name.

    By the way, the Dragon logo scratches really easily. MSi has put on an anti-scratch coating in the Kaby Lake models of gaming laptops to help prevent it from being scratched.



    Display housing/hinge (6/8)

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    While the design itself if solid with minimal flex under normal use, the display housing has a problem to where the bottom portion has a chance to hit the chassis when force applies enough force to flex the system.

    The hinges are placed to the right and left of the display assembly, leaving the middle portion unsupported and prone to bending. However, they feel strong enough that I can lift the laptop by the screen and not have to worry about breaking anything. Opening of the display with one finger is possible most of the time.

    Overall, it’s a fairly well built display housing and hinge, especially given the thinness of it.





    Screen panel (**)

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    I can’t really judge the panel here as there are several displays that are used on the GS63.

    This review unit’s display is a LP156WF6-SPK1, a very poor IPS panel. Calibration results in roughly around 56% sRGB, which makes the display unsuitable for general media consumption due to the muted color pallet and possible color banding since the display is only 6-bit panel (262K color).

    However, viewing angles are acceptable, not the best but just enough so that it doesn’t mess up the already limited color pallet of the display when viewed from the side.

    I believe that the GS63 units from the major retailer Best Buy comes with this lower spec screen. Our review unit was shipped with the lower end screen due to PR/agreement complications.

    The “normal” GS63VR should have a 72% NTSC FHD IPS (around 84~89% sRGB after calibration) screen with native 8-bit color. It’d be wise to check with your reseller BEFORE buying this unit so that you can be assured of getting the “better” screen.

    Ideally you want to avoid this lower spec screen and the 4K variant that still uses a Pentile RGBW subpixel panel. This is true on both the Skylake and Kaby Lake versions.

    I would give this panel a 3.5-4 rating, however that won’t be reflected in the review scoring.

    http://www.panelook.com/LP156WF6-SPK1_LG Display_15.6_LCM_parameter_27076.html






    Keyboard (10)

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    Honestly, I am very impressed with the keyboard. As most have said, it is one of the best (if not the best) chiclet keyboard ever put on a laptop. Travel is perfect, the tactile feedback is just right, and the overall typing experience is just a bliss. The keyboard also has surprisingly small amount of flex even for the thin chassis of the GS63.

    I would put this above the Alienware pascal keyboards as they’re extremely similar overall quality wise, but the MSi one edges in terms of overall typing satisfaction and enjoyment.

    The drawback is that the layout is not standard, but you can get used to it eventually. The windows key is shifted to the right side of the spacebar, and for whatever reason the [| \] key is repeated twice. I also don’t like that the right arrow is a part of the numpad. It would be much prefered if the numpad is isolated from the rest of the keyboard.

    In short, the MSi’s keyboard is amazing, however you need to get used to the nonstandard layout.







    Trackpad (3)

    The trackpad (or click pad if you will) is average and it’s usable for basic tasks but I don’t feel very comfortable using it.

    The tracking suffers on low speed, doesn’t pick up the movements accurately and jitters/skips. This might be an issue if you’re trying to select a particular row in an excel document for example.

    The software functionality of the trackpad is very basic and there’s no windows gestures support (eg: three finger swipe up for task view), but you can turn off momentum scrolling (which I really recommend you do).

    Overall, it’s a letdown on the trackpad department and I really wish MSi didn’t drop the ball on the trackpad as the GS63 is such a capable portable machine.





    Grease Magnet / Surface durability (7.5)

    Brushed aluminum surface with minimal accents, allows it to pick up grease easily, although you can also easily clean it. I do prefer that the surface is like this on other laptops, as it really makes the cleaning part enjoyable and not tedious (looking at you Alienware).

    It holds up to scratches fairly well, but the logo does not. I recommend that you get a soft pouch to carry this around if you want the finish to last.









    LED lightning (8)

    The keyboard lighting is zone-based, not per-key based. It looks aesthetically pleasing and is usable for low light conditions. There are three levels of brightness to choose from. Note that the keyboard lights do not “time out,” meaning that they will stay on continuously.

    Nothing really is impressive other than the keyboard. The power button on top is permanently on and is colored red, and there’s indicator lights on the front. I personally think that the indicator lights on the front is too bright when viewed head on and needs a diffuser or just toned down a bit. You cannot turn either of these lights off using the software, but it is possible to turn them off by removing the power cable inside the chassis.

    I’d pass this unit for looking discreet.







    Speakers (7)

    There are two tiny speakers in the front of the laptop, no subwoofer. Overall the sound is pretty clean but does suffer from tiny distortions if you play complex sounds with high volume. It’s usable but I would keep the volume around 75-85% for best performance.

    Due to there being no subwoofer (afaik), the bass is weak so take this into consideration if you plan to listen to music without headphones.

    The grills on top of the laptop does not contain any speakers and their purpose is to be a giant intake grill for the 3 fans and additionally as a hole for the cooling solution to passively dissipate heat.





    I/O (9.5)

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    I’d give MSi two thumbs up for this. For such a thin laptop you get a wealth of I/O and a thunderbolt port to boot.

    An oddity is that it has an USB 2.0 port, which makes me really wonder why MSi included this on the laptop. However, it should make for an easier time installing Windows 7 through USB if you decide to do that.

    The ports are placed towards the front, with the majority ozf the USB3 ports on the left side of the device. This placement is friendly to right-handers and users should have no problem using a LAN cable, audio device, with three USB devices when using the laptop to game. Sadly, the charger port and external video outputs are on the right side of the laptop, a minor misjudgment when placing the ports on the laptop as this will cause interference with the mouse operation of the right-handed user.

    The angled charger cable does alleviate a bit of the issue though.



    Fan noise (7)

    The fan noise on max is not so loud, but the sound is very high pitched. I don’t really mind it but if you have glass eardrums or something, consider that before buying this laptop. The fans max out at around 5300rpm on the CPU and GPU, but I’m not sure which GPU fan is being reported on the software end, since there are two fans on the GPU side.

    There isn’t a physical button or switch to activate max fan, but you can do this through the dragon control software. And when you do activate max fans, you can hear the high pitch sound building up. It may seem strange, but I’ve found this to be very satisfying to hear and experience, maybe because it sounds like a jet engine starting up.

    Also, if you play a game which heavily stresses both the GPU and CPU, max fan is the only way to get decent temps on the GPU. So be prepared to get a second set of eardrums to replace your glass ones.



    Cooling system.

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    Here you can see the picture of the cooling system with three fans and shared heatpipe. You have a dedicated heatpipe for the VRM bank in addition for all of the CPU and GPU cores. This will help the longevity of the system since you have additional cooling on the power delivery system of the component that consumes the most power.

    Retention mechanism is quite good, the CPU gets a very solid aluminum brace to secure it down. But the GPU retention mechanism is quite weak since the only clamping force is using thin sheets of metal. This might contribute to the relatively weak cooling on the GPU. I wish that the GPU retention uses a solid aluminum brace like the CPU, maybe that will increase cooling performance.

    The third fan is smaller and so is the motor.

    The thermal pad is made by Laird, I believe the rated conductivity is 3.2w/mk. They are squishy and compress very well. The thermal paste is just a generic one but it works pretty well to conduct the heat (read below).

    If you have really high ambient temperatures I would recommend you to change out the thermal pads to the 6w/mk arctic blue for a budget replacement. This would allow the power delivery section run a bit cooler.

    Oh yeah, did I mention that the VRM heatpipe is so thin you can carve on it just by using your fingernails?

    There are small gaps in the cooling fins and I think it’s worth taping up with foil tape but I don’t recommend using electrical tape due to the thickness.



    CPU temps (8.5)

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    Tested in a 24c ambient environment.

    The temperature of the 6700HQ inside this unit is actually very good. With a bit of undervolting the CPU didn’t thermal throttle while running a simultaneous load on the CPU and GPU. The stock paste is decent enough to keep the CPU under 91c with minor spikes here and there. At max, there’s only a 5-degree variance between the average hottest and average coldest CPU core.

    Under normal circumstances I do not think the CPU would overheat, given if you properly ventilate the laptop and use max fan speed.

    The CPU did get a nice drop in temps after repasting with Thermal Grizzly Kryonaut with the CPU being only 3-degrees apart from the hottest average core to the coldest average core. After the repaste and burn-in treatment, the heat spike was only up to 85c.

    I specifically didn’t use liquid metal on the CPU due to the unit being a 6700HQ. It is only necessary to cool down this CPU so that it doesn’t throttle while boosting to 3.1GHz. If this was a 6820HK it would be different, as every centigrade of temperature drop would be meaningful when overclocking.

    An odd behavior of the CPU fan is that it does not have a “passive” state, meaning that the CPU fan will continue to spin even if the temperatures on the CPU is as low as 20c. However, under normal circumstances I understand why MSi didn’t allow the CPU fan to be passive being that the heat buildup would eventually overheat the CPU even under basic tasks if the fan didn’t spin.

    Overall a very impressive feat for such a thin chassis, although you might want to take a bit more caution if ambient temperatures are higher and probably consider liquid metal thermal material.



    GPU temps (7)

    Not looking too impressive here, considering that the GTX1060 has already been castrated by almost half of its TDP allowance (MSi allows up to 75w only on the GTX1060). The GPU temps stayed high regardless of the thermal material used even with perfect contact. LM only nets around 2-4c drop in average after burn in with this unit.

    I suspect this would be even worse with higher ambient temps. Generally, you want a temperature threshold of 79c when using Pascal based graphics card. I do not see this happening with the GS63 under practical usage scenarios.

    It’s not necessarily as bad as it sounds though. Pascal has incredible thermal density compared to Maxwell or even Kepler cooling systems as with those it would be less effective as the source of the heat becomes smaller while outputting the same amount of power (more condensed). Consider that when judging the thermal performance of 10-series GPU cooling solutions, especially on a laptop.

    For the GS63’s small form factor and thin profile, I would rate this to be acceptable, but not ideal.



    RAM (8.5)

    You get two slots that can be upgraded to a max of 32GB (16+16). Not quite sure what the maximum speed allowed is on the memory based on the motherboard. The BIOS settings do not have XMP nor memory adjustment section, neither does XTU or the Dragon Center.

    Things here are pretty standard, nothing impressive but nothing is a letdown either. I commend MSi for having upgradable RAM in a thin machine.

    If you want to access the RAM slots, you will need to flip the motherboard over to access it (I will make a guide on how to disassemble this machine later on).






    Portability (9.5)

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    Relatively small for a 15” screen and still packing more punch than most laptops out there. This machine is a very capable device and even with the cooling limitation, the MSi GS63 would serve most users well when they are looking for a powerful machine in a relatively small package.

    One less thing to worry about; there is no need for a compact USB-C dongle due to the wealth of ports available at the GS63’s disposal. I believe the array or ports are more than enough for most users on the go.

    The charger pack is the only downside to this machine, being average in dimensions and weight. But honestly, I am not at all troubled with the “burden” of the charger, although I would warn users with glass bones and wet tissue muscles to be careful when carrying this and the laptop together!



    Battery life (8)

    With undervolting and custom windows power settings, the 56wh battery pack on the GS63 lasts comfortably over 4.5 hours. This is very good for a quad core system with a dGPU packed inside.

    Thanks to optimus, you are able to conserve most of your battery life when not gaming. However, note that all external display outputs will run on the dGPU, if you plug something in the HDMI/DP slot as you will activate the dGPU. This isn’t a bad thing, but I very much prefer this approach compared to hard-locking the machine down to Optimus only.

    I highly recommend if you want long battery life, to uninstall all the MSi default software. You only need the Dragon center and relevant drivers (SD card, audio, etc). The Dragon Center itself also consumes unnecessary power (most likely due to monitoring and what not) when running in the background.

    The battery is rated for 65wh, and occupies most of the internal space inside the chassis.



    Accessibility / ease of service (4)

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    Not so good in this department. If you remove the bottom cover it’s only possible to replace HDD (2.5 in)/battery/WIFI module. If you want access to the M.2 slot, RAM, and heatsink, you will need to disconnect all connector wires and remove three screws to flip the motherboard over.

    It is not an easy task for beginners, as removing the small cables can be quite tricky. Overall I do not think that this is a friendly design for those needing constant access to their hardware.

    If you do not want to do all of the work yourself, there are multiple resellers out there that will upgrade and do a repaste (at a cost) on the GS63. You also have the advantage of not being charged any sales tax depending on where the reseller is located.

    The good thing is that you can remove the fan blades for easier cleaning after removing the fan bracket, if that matters to you.



    Performance (8)

    Stock: http://www.3dmark.com/fs/11644214
    MAX OC (not stable): http://www.3dmark.com/fs/11694620
    As TDP castrated as this unit is, I’d give the GS63 an 8. You will still outdo most GTX980Ms out there, although the slow CPU might be a limitation.

    I still have a mixed feeling about the GS63’s TDP, on one hand the GPU is so limited in terms of performance, but on the other hand you can see that the cooling system is not going to handle more than 75w of TDP draw from the GPU.

    Personally, I think it could be raised a bit further to maybe around 85 or 90w, but the current performance is acceptable.



    Summary:

    Very capable and portable laptop, but a bit expensive than what I think the price should be. Most casual users will be satisfied by the performance and general build quality.



    Pro

    + Portability

    + Overall hardware package is strong

    + Good stock thermal performance

    + Vast port selection

    + Acceptable battery life

    + Pretty good expansion options

    + Manual fan control through Dragon Center



    Con

    + Low TDP on GPU

    + Cooling system might not be adequate for higher ambient temps

    + Hard to disassemble to access RAM and SSD or clean the heatsink

    + Build quality is not that high (lots of flex)

    + Easy to remove "warranty void" sticker due to the suede bottom


    Yes, this isn’t a “hardcore gaming DTR,” but this laptop should be viewed as a very portable machine with decent gaming performance.







    Full galleries

    http://imgur.com/a/s9Jw0

    http://imgur.com/a/zejZh

    http://imgur.com/a/MNGMp

    http://imgur.com/a/mv4ty
     
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2017
    Sammamish, Buffle, Arondel and 10 others like this.
  2. Mobius 1

    Mobius 1 what is quality control?

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  3. don_svetlio

    don_svetlio Notebook Virtuoso

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    Nice review! - I'm honestly a bit surprised at the higher CPU temps at stock - I thought it ran at 85*C CPU and 75*C GPU under a stress test. Thanks for the info - will note that for the future. On a side note, do you have specific Chipset temps? I'm wondering how much that heatpipe over it affects it under heavy load.
     
  4. Mobius 1

    Mobius 1 what is quality control?

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    In the last imgur album there is temp details.

    12 hour run after the Grizzly paste have burned in and stabilized.


    [​IMG]

    So around 70c for the PCH, still safe.
     
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  5. don_svetlio

    don_svetlio Notebook Virtuoso

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    That's good - hopefully that design doesn't pose issues during long term usage.
     
  6. iunlock

    iunlock 7820HK @ 4.7GHz

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    :)

    ::iunlock::
     
  7. CedricFP

    CedricFP Notebook Evangelist

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    Thank you for taking the time to do this review.
     
  8. Papusan

    Papusan BGABOOKS = That sucks!! STAHP! Dont buy FILTH...

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    Same awful TRIPOD HS design. Slightly better TRIPOD cpu HS design than Alienware. But not much more. This has become an epidemic. The next step will be HS welded to the silicon such as IHS on some processors. Why not? Then they can reduce the MB size another notch.

    upload_2017-4-2_4-29-5.png
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2017
    ole!!! and Ashtrix like this.
  9. Mobius 1

    Mobius 1 what is quality control?

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    The tripod heatsink on the GS63 is actually better than the Alienware.

    That tripod assembly is solid 2-3mm think aluminum, so it works better than the flimsy metal tabs that Dell uses for their systems.
     
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  10. jpsm

    jpsm Notebook Deity

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    Saw this unit at a bestbuy and i must say that i was kinda blown away by the build quality. It was not plasticy/flimsy as i pictured it to be. If this thing came w a 1070+120hz panel, id be all over it!

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Tapatalk
     
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