MSI GX640-098US Review

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  1. min2209

    min2209 Notebook Deity

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    Min's MSI GX640-098US Review



    This is my very first review, so please bear with me :) I am open to any suggestions and comments on how to make this review better.

    The MSI GX640-098US 15.4" notebook is a notebook released in early April 2010, targeted at semi-mobile multimedia users and gamers. Featuring an HD Mobility 5850 GDDR5 video card, it is capable of flawlessly handling the vast majority of past and current games with no problems whatsoever. As well, the HD 5000 series has been enhanced to support a wide selection of features ranging from hardware based HD flash video acceleration to the new ATI Eyefinity functionality. In addition, it is rather unique for such a high powered notebook - the weight comes in at a mere 5.9lb with a 9-cell battery, placing it in the lighter group even among its mainstream 15.4" notebook peers.

    Table of Contents
    • Specifications
    • Reasons for and Details of Purchasing
    • First Impression
    • Build and Design
    • Screen and Speakers
    • Keyboard and Touchpad
    • Ports and Features
    • Performance and Benchmarks
    • Heat and Noise
    • Conclusion
    • Pros and Cons

    Specifications


    CPU: Intel® Core™ i5 Processor 430M
    Speed: 2.26~2.53 GHz 32nm, 35W
    Cache: 3 MB

    OPERATING SYSTEM: Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64 bit

    LCD
    Size: 15.4"
    Backlight: WSXGA+ / Glossy Type
    Resolution: 1680x1050 16:10

    CHIPSET: Intel PM55 Express chipset

    GRAPHICS
    GPU: ATI HD 5850 1GB GDDR5, DirectX 11
    Video: Memory 1GB GDDR5

    AUDIO
    Audio: HD Audio by Realtek
    Speaker: Internal Speaker x 2

    SYSTEM MEMORY: DDR3 1066 4GB

    HDD
    HDD Capacity: 500GB 7200 rpm
    HDD Interface: 2.5" SATA

    OPTICAL DRIVE: 8X DVDRW Super Multi Combo

    COMMUNICATION
    LAN 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
    WLAN Built-in 802.11a/g/n WLAN Card
    Bluetooth Built-in Bluetooth™ V2.0+EDR

    Keyboard: 103 keys with NumberPad

    SUPPLEMENTAL DRIVE: Card Reader 4 in 1 Card Reader (SD/MMC/MS/XD)

    Webcam: 2.0 MP Webcam

    I/O PORT
    USB2.0 X 2 (plus one e-SATA / USB2.0 combo port)
    VGA (15-pin, D-Sub) X 1, HDMI X 1
    Mic-in X 1, Line-in X 1, Headphone X 1
    E-SATA+USB 2.0 Combo port X1
    Express card / 34

    AC Power Adaptor Output: 19V DC, 120W/Input: 100~240V AC, 50/60Hz universal

    BATTERY
    Battery Pack 9 cells, 85Whr

    PHYSICAL SPEC
    Dimension: 14.1 (L) x 10.24” (W) x 1.22 (H)
    Weight: 5.94 lbs (9 cell)

    WARRANTY
    Manufacturer Warranty: 3 Year Limited Warranty (include 1 Year Global Warranty)


    Reasons for and Details of Purchasing

    Having used a 15.4" ASUS G1S since 2007, I have decided to look for a lighter, yet more powerful notebook computer. As such, much of this review will be comparing the ASUS G1S with the MSI GX640-098US.
    Among the candidates were the ASUS N82Jv, Asus N61JQ, Asus G51Jx, Asus X83Vp, HP Envy 15 (2nd Generation) and many other portable multimedia/gaming notebooks. However, after considering the price / performance ratio, I came to the conclusion that the MSI GX640-098US is by far the best bang for the buck notebook available in Canada.

    The notebook was purchased from NCIX, who priced it at $1189. After price-matching PC Canada for $1160 (NCIX insisted that PC Canada charges 2% on top of their stated $1139 price), the total came to $1260 after overnight shipping, insurance, and taxes.

    The notebook arrived two days after I ordered it, apparently because NCIX didn't ship it out until the day after ordering ;)

    First Impressions

    The notebook box was securely wrapped in crumpled packing paper encased in a much larger cardboard box, thanks to NCIX. After unwrapping the layers, I came upon the attractive looking MSI G-series box.

    [​IMG]

    Included in the box was the MSI GX640-098US notebook, a 120W power adapter, 9 cell notebook battery, short users manual, and the MSI drivers DVD.

    After unboxing the notebook, I came upon the sleek gadget that is to be my main computer for the upcoming years. Its lightness and small size for a 15.4" notebook immediately struck me, a sense perhaps amplified by the fact that I came from using the rather oversized ASUS G1S notebook. Below are some pictures for you to enjoy; more shall be coming after I finish this review.

    Top
    [​IMG]

    GX640-098US on top of ASUS G1S
    [​IMG]
    From this picture, it is immediately evident that the MSI GX640-098US is indeed much smaller than the G1S :)

    Keyboard
    [​IMG]

    In person, I find the red trim to be actually more attractive than I thought it would be, although this may be subjective. From the back of the notebook, it is difficult to tell that this notebook would be targeted toward gamers, something ASUS and Alienware/Dell have not achieved. The sleek, brushed aluminum back gives the notebook a rather classy look.

    Opening the notebook, I find that the red lines serve to compliment the otherwise dark gray / black chassis quite well, giving it a lively and energetic feel that may be otherwise missing. The touch sensitive buttons at the top of the keyboard as well as the power button are illuminated by blue LEDs. Some may find the power button to be slightly too bright in a dark room, especially when watching movies or playing games.


    Build and Design

    Chassis

    As far as I know, the GX640-098US shares the same chassis with many other MSI notebooks, including the popular GT 627. The notebook seems to be quite well constructed. The brushed aluminum back gives the lid an unyielding form, as I am unable to produce any screen ripping regardless of the amount of force I apply with my finger.

    The hinges are very stable. When moving the table on which the notebook is sitting, the screen does not wobble. The notebook employs a magnetic latch to keep the screen shut. The magnetism seems to be a bit stronger than average.

    Inside the notebook, the palm rest feels equally solid, being made of the same material as the lid. The area above the keyboard is plastic. The silver parts consist of a kind of grated metal sheet, perhaps to assist with ventilation. The two speakers are located at the top left and top right corners under the grated metal sheet. Pressing on the grated metal sheet on top of the speakers does reveal a bit of weakness, but does not seem to be anything unexpected.

    I had been worried that the sides of the notebook may be weakened by the fact that the keyboard runs almost edge to edge (being a 15.4" notebook with a numberpad), but I can now rest assured that this is definitely not the case.

    In comparison, the bottom of the notebook does not feel as solid. As can be seen in the following picture, there is a very large pannel underneath the notebook that covers the entire heatsink assembly as well as the memory and wifi chips. This pannel feels less solid than the rest of the notebook, but is not something I am overly concerned about. I like the convenience of being able to clean out the heatsinks and fan just by removing one pannel, as opposed to the complete disassembly required by many other notebooks.

    Bottom of notebook
    <PICTURE COMING SOON>

    Surfaces

    As mentioned, the entire lid, as well as the palm rest is covered by dark gray brushed aluminum. The rest of the surfaces are plastic, with the exception of the silver metal grating above the keyboard.

    I am happy to say that the notebook does not feel cheap anywhere, with the exception of the slightly less solid bottom pannel. It is unfortunate, however, that the brushed aluminum surfaces have such affinities for fingerprints (or is it the other way around?) that, in order for it to have a pristine look, you may find yourself wiping the surfaces incessantly. It is even more troublesome that the fingerprints do not come off just by lightly wiping it with a microfibre cloth as it would if the surface was simply glossy plastic. I find that some moisture is required to bring back the flawless shine.

    Screen and Speakers

    Screen

    Despite the lack of an LED backlighting, the screen on this notebook is definitely not a low performer. Placing it side by side with the Asus G1S and turning the brightness to maximum, I made the following observations.

    The maximum brightness of the MSI GX640-098US is higher than that of the ASUS G1S. However, compared to other modern laptops with LED backlights, I find that the maximum brightness is about average, and definitely not the brightest I've seen.

    The whites on the MSI GX640-098US is much truer whites than on the G1S, where the whites give off a slightly yellow tint, as can be seen below:
    [​IMG]

    I find that the colors on the MSI GX640-098US is much more vibrant and saturated than those on the G1S. While it does not compare with the LED backlit 23" ASUS MS238H monitor that I have it hooked up to now, I find that viewing pictures and playing games on it to be a pleasurable experience.
    [​IMG]

    The blacks are truly black on this notebook. I find that the light leakage is minimal, whereas on many LED backlit notebooks the blacks simply look like darker shades of gray. While the G1S screen leaks a considerable amount of light at the bottom of the screen, I have observed no such thing from the MSI GX640-098US.

    Viewing Angles

    The horizontal viewing angles on this notebook exceeds that on my G1S, as can be seen below.
    [​IMG]

    Also, the vertical viewing angle from below seems superior.

    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately, it appears to me that the viewing angle from above is not as good as that of the G1S. Keep in mind that my camera is not the greatest either, but you can use it as some sort of reference.

    [​IMG]
    Speakers

    The speakers have been able to astound me with their quality. They are located at the top left and top right corners of the notebook. While lacking significant bass (although some is certainly present!), the speakers are very clear and loud. At even half volume, the speakers have no problem filling a medium sized room with music. Even at maximum volume, little distortion can be detected. Compared with all other laptops I have owned or used, these speakers are by far the best.

    Keyboard and Touchpad

    Allow me to be blunt here: this is the area of the notebook that I find needs improvement.

    Keyboard

    In order to fit a number pad onto the keyboard of a 15.4" notebook, MSI has had to shrink the backspace, enter, and the right shift keys. For some, this may take a while to get used to. As well, the Fn and Ctrl keys are swapped. While I have already gotten used to this, there will be many that will lament MSI's choice.

    The right side as well as the top of the keyboard seems fairly solid, giving good tactile feedback. However, the bottom left area of the keyboard suffers fairly significant flexing. Allow me to define that area by using the following vertices:

    Top left: Q, Bottom left: left Ctrl, Bottom right: right Ctrl, Top right: L

    This trapezoidal shape approximately outlines the area of flex.

    The space bar suffers the most flex, unfortunately. Pressing down on it with moderate strength causes the entire bottom of the keyboard to go down also.

    I am looking to apply the keyboard flex fix for the GT 627, which owners have given high praise for: http://forum.notebookreview.com/showthread.php?t=359411
    This review will be updated once I have applied this fix.

    Touchpad

    The touchpad is about average size, and very responsive. The surface is a kind of find matte plastic, giving good travel at the fingertips without any drag due to moisture buildup.

    The touchpad buttons are extensions of the brushed aluminum chassis. As a result, they do not feel fragile or cheap at all. On the down side, pressing the buttons causes a very audible click - much more so than on the G1S, which more or less has the same type of buttons. This is somewhat compensated by the fact that tapping on the touchpad works very well, so that at least the left mouse button doesn't have to be used too much ;)


    Ports and Features

    Ports

    The MSI GX640-098 has a good selection of ports (please refer to the specifications section). So far, I have not had any issues with any of the 3 USB ports and audio ports that I have used. Bear in mind that the USB ports are all USB 2.0, so that the new USB 3.0 technology is unfortunately not included. To compensate, one of the USB 2.0 port is a USB 2.0 / e-SATA combo port. According to MSI, this port offers users the option of connecting a single cable from an external portable hard drive to the combo port. Both data and power will be delivered: power is delivered over the USB interface, whereas data is delivered over the e-SATA interface. This should offer speeds that compare favorably with USB 3.0 according to other reviews.

    The HDMI port is able to carry both audio and video over the digital interface.


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Wireless

    The built-in wireless chip is an Intel 5100 wireless a/g/n card. I find that the card is very responsive, and can maintain a stable connection with my router. As this is a standard chip, I will not go into great detail about it.

    Webcam

    <this section will be added later>

    Performance and Benchmarks

    The MSI GX640-098US is a blazing fast performer with its i5-430M processor, DDR3 memory, 500GB 7200RPM hard drive, and lastly, but most definitely not least, the HD Mobility 5850 GDDR5 that is the highlight of this item.

    Unfortunately, other than 3DMark06, I do not have any other benchmarks. I'd like to ask our forum members that also have the GX640-098US to kindly provide me with some 3DMark Vantage scores and PCMark scores so that I can reference them in my review.

    Game Benchmarks

    <Coming soon>

    3DMark Scores

    All benchmarks are ALWAYS at STOCK frequencies.

    3DMark06:
    At 1280x1024:
    SM2.0: 4963
    SM3.0: 5665
    CPU: 2629
    Total: 11520

    Unigine:

    [​IMG]

    CPU Benchmarks


    Heat and Noise

    Heat - chassis

    When benchmarking, playing games, or doing software installations, the notebook's keyboard becomes lukewarm, but not hot by any measure. The right palm rest does become warm, but not unbearably so. I suspect the warmth may be due to the fact that the surface is aluminum, which conducts much more heat than the plastic surface of the keyboard.

    The underside of the notebook somehow manages to stay cool to the touch, regardless of the computer's task. This should alleviate potential users' concern that it may burn their lap. However, I would not suggest users to game on their lap - it IS a 15.4" notebook with an HD Mobility 5850, and as such, it requires continuous airflow. Blocking the air intakes with your lap is not a good idea. It also follows that the notebook should definitely not be left on your bed, or any soft surface for use. I often see people putting their notebook on such surfaces as the sofa, the bed, or even the soft inside surface of their notebook carry case. While this may not be much of a problem with mainstream, lower powered notebooks, it would certainly suffocate this powerful machine.

    Heat - GPU
    The following are the maximum GPU temperatures as reported by the AMD GPU Clock Tool when running various games and tests:

    3DMark06: 80C
    Unigine: 82C

    Modern Warfare 2: 84C

    IDLE (Windows High Performance Mode): 59C

    Heat - CPU

    <Coming Soon>

    Noise - Fan

    The fan of the notebook seems to always be on, even when idle. When spinning at low speeds, the fans are not very loud. However, they are certainly audible at higher speeds. The sound of air rushing out is not high pitched, much to my relief. I would not hesitate to bring this with me to a quiet library.

    The air rushing out of the heat vent on the right side, is, as expected, quite warm. Some users may find their mouse hand (if right handed) to become quite sweaty, if placed near the vent.

    Noise - Optical Drive

    The optical drive runs quite silently, compared to many other notebook optical drives I have used.

    Battery Life

    It seems that the battery life came out to be around 2.5 hours with screen set to maximum brightness, MSI Eco active on battery mode, and wifi on. This number is as estimated by Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

    The battery does stick out the back, as it is a rather large 9 cell battery.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The power adapter, is, unfortunately, big and heavy. It is capable of supplying 19V and 6.32A, giving it a power of 120W. It is pictured below beside a portable 2.5" external hard drive:

    [​IMG]

    Conclusion

    The MSI GX640-098US has not disappointed me. At the price point of $1160, I sincerely doubt that I could find anything on the Canadian market that would prove superior to it. The earlier concerns about fragile chassis, bad screen quality, and overheating seem to be unfounded.

    The HD Mobility 5850 delivers graphics performance that would put many gaming desktops to shame. That a slim 5.9lb notebook manages to pack the power of 8lb+ behemoths strikes me as a noteworthy engineering feat.

    Overall, I would definitely recommend this notebook to tech-savvy users. The user should know to clean out the fans and heatsink, and not leave the notebook on surfaces that block the air intakes.

    But above all: the user should not react to the notion of "HD Mobility 5850" with a "huh?" :)

    Pros and Cons

    Pros
    • Blazing fast graphics performance
    • Vivid and high resolution screen
    • Slim and light chassis
    • Very low price point for what it packs
    • Good ports selection
    • Keeps relatively cool

    Cons
    • Keyboard has some flexing issues (fixable with the double sided tape method)
    • No USB 3.0
    • Fan may be a bit noisy for some
    • Red trimming may be too flamboyant for some
    • Battery life is not the best
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2015
  2. barnabe619

    barnabe619 Notebook Geek

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    Thanks ! very good review !
    Could you please take a picture of the keyboard ? It is the only thing that makes me hesitate to buy this MSI.

    And can we switch between the 5850 and the i5 IGP ?
     
  3. atticus182

    atticus182 Notebook Consultant

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    Really nice review, thank you very much!!

    I im just waiting for the battery life before buying it. I hope at least 3hrs while surfing/office.
     
  4. lackofcheese

    lackofcheese Notebook Virtuoso

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    With a PM55 chipset, this won't happen.

    I'm still a little worried about the lower performance others have gotten with 3DMark Vantage at stock clocks, which seems to go away with even a slight overclock. If a 1Mhz overclock, or even an underclock would fix it, it's not really a serious problem, but I'd like to know what the cause is.
     
  5. min2209

    min2209 Notebook Deity

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    Mm ya, I gotta go buy some groceries, eat dinner, etc so hehe this will be completed soon. I am after all a young boy of 20 that has to look after himself now, right :p
     
  6. mdsniper7

    mdsniper7 Notebook Evangelist

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    hey is it 64bit or 32bit
     
  7. Leilora

    Leilora Notebook Enthusiast

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    The OP stated that it came with 7 home premium 64.
     
  8. kingtz

    kingtz Notebook Consultant

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    Great review!

    Would be very interesting to see some BFBC2 benchmarks. :)
     
  9. Luke QC

    Luke QC Notebook Guru

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    Great review !
    I'm guessing you've set the resolution to 1680x1050 on your MSI, but what is the res of the ASUS ? Is it Full HD ? Because everything looks very small on it.
    That's not the case of the GX640, however.
     
  10. min2209

    min2209 Notebook Deity

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    Eh, they're at the same resolution. On the MSI the DPI setting is changed to lower (by me)
     
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