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PowerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Review

Discussion in 'Notebook News and Reviews' started by Charles P. Jefferies, Jan 19, 2010.

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  1. Charles P. Jefferies

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

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    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 <a target="_blank" href="http://www.powernotebooks.com">PowerNotebooks.com</a> 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 &amp; 24/7 DOMESTIC Toll Free Support +Lifetime Labor
    • 6-cell 4800mAh battery
    • Weight: 6.2 lbs.
    • Dimensions: 14.11&rdquo; (W) x 9.7&rdquo; (D) x 1.0~1.4&rdquo; (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.

    <table align="left" border="0"> <tbody> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49254" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49255.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="145" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> Build and Design<br />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.

    <br /> <table align="right" border="0"> <tbody> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49231" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49232.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="192" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> 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.

    <br />Screen and Speakers<br />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.

    <table border="0"> <tbody> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49243" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49244.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="156" /></a></td> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49249" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49250.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="156" /></a></td> </tr> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49245" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49246.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="156" /></a></td> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49247" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49248.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="156" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table>

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

    <table align="left" border="0"> <tbody> <tr> <td><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49227" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49228.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="170" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> Keyboard and Touchpad<br />The PowerPro 7:15 has a full-size keyboard with separate numeric keypad. The typing experience is satisfactory &ndash; 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.

    <br />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 &ndash; 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<br />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&rsquo;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.<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49237" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49238.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="105" /></a>

    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<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49233" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49234.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="113" /></a>

    Back: HDMI, VGA, power jack, battery<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49235" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49236.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="68" /></a>

    Front: Status lights<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49239" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49240.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="78" /></a>

    <!--nextpage--><!--pagetitle:powerPro 7:15 (MSI 1656) Performance, Benchmarks and Conclusion-->

    Performance and Benchmarks<br />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.<br /><br />Wprime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49264.png" border="0" width="520" height="160" /><br /><br />PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49263.png" border="0" width="520" height="160" /><br /><br />3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance): <br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49262.png" border="0" width="520" height="160" /><br /><br />Crysis gaming benchmark (1280x800 and high settings):<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49260.jpg" border="0" width="324" height="255" /><br /><br />Need for Speed: SHIFT benchmark (1680x1050 and high settings)<br /><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49261.jpg" border="0" width="363" height="272" /><br /><br />HDTune storage drive performance test:<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49256" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49257.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="202" /></a><br /><br />Heat and Noise<br />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:<br /><a href="http://www.notebookreview.com/shared/picture.asp?f=49258" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.notebookreview.com/assets/49259.jpg" border="0" width="250" height="297" /></a>

    Battery Life<br />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<br />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<br />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.

    Conclusion<br /> 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.

    Pros:

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

    Cons:

    • Some keyboard layout issues
    • Screen could use a contrast boost
    • Competitors offer slightly faster graphics cards
    • Plain looks
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 29, 2015 at 10:48 PM
  2. tianxia

    tianxia kitty!!!

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    again, awesome looking chasis. disapointing price and graphics performance.
     
  3. catacylsm

    catacylsm Notebook Prophet

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

    s-one Notebook Geek

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    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. Teraforce

    Teraforce Exhausted

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

    ARom -

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

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

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    Agreed, this is a nice chassis. The keys don't glow in the dark unfortunately. I thought the color coding was a nice touch.
    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:
    http://www.notebookreview.com/default.asp?newsID=5422

    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.
     
  8. ladip63

    ladip63 Notebook Consultant

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

    Lynn
     
  9. anothergeek

    anothergeek Equivocally Nerdy

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    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.
     
  10. Thaenatos

    Thaenatos Zero Cool

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

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

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    Agreed - anything with more than 1000 pixels of vertical space is notable these days, considering there is only one 16:9 res on notebooks with that kind of space - 1920x1080.

    My last two notebooks have been 1680x1050, it's nice to see it one last time on a review notebook. :cry:
     
  12. Angelic

    Angelic Kickin' back :3

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    Aw Chaz, don't cry. :(
     
  13. Bog

    Bog Losing it...

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    I fell asleep halfway through reading this review.
     
  14. Thaenatos

    Thaenatos Zero Cool

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    Chaz as always you bring up good points. I can and have developed on my thinkpad, but I find the dell to be ALOT more enjoyable due to the 300 extra vertical pixels. While this notebook only has a WSXGA screen I still find it plenty usable for this size point and matching with a numpad makes it just that much better. The only issue other then the screen that I kinda worry about is the crunched keys and how that would effect feel typing.
     
  15. Charles P. Jefferies

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

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    Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Yeah - when I started typing on this machine it felt cramped (I type on a full-size desktop keyboard 99% of the time) however I got used to it after an hour or so. I don't like how MSI integrates the home and end buttons as secondary keys, I use those keys all the time. Most of my work is text editing so . . .
     
  16. Thaenatos

    Thaenatos Zero Cool

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    Ahh. I primarily use laptop keyboards as I prefer the feel and nature of them over desktop ones. Personally I left the desktop keyboard world around the time the ps/2 non springy ones started becoming popular. My grandfather has an old DIN style mechanical spring loaded keyboard that I LOVE and I ask him for it all the time. Nothing makes me feel more at home (other then certain laptop boards) then a clickity clackity old style.
     
  17. Charles P. Jefferies

    Charles P. Jefferies TG Lead Moderator Super Moderator

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    I type on a mechanical keyboard - Das Keyboard II. ;) 100% blank as well.

    I'm usually very vocal about keyboards if I don't like them. This notebook has a decent if not great keyboard, there is nothing special about it other than the color coding. The MSI 1727 has a better feeling keyboard even though it is very similar to this one; it is seated more firmly.
     
  18. Thaenatos

    Thaenatos Zero Cool

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    Nice! I was worried when they first came out that it would be cramped. Now this DAS is it spring loaded? If so I may look into if for a future desktop build.
     
  19. sgogeta4

    sgogeta4 Notebook Nobel Laureate

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    What a downgrade from the previous generation's 256-bit GDDR3 card to a 128-bit GDDR3 one (though the memory type wasn't explicitly mentioned in the review). If you don't mind Chaz, I would like a GPU-Z screenshot included in the review since nVidia and ATI tend to do a lot of rebadging and have variations among models, so that we know the memory speed, bus width, etc.
     
  20. Bog

    Bog Losing it...

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    Sorry, I didn't mean that comment as a criticism of your writing, I meant to say that the product is very... mediocre.
     
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