With Intel’s Haswell launch officially behind us, we’re getting a steady stream of new notebooks and laptops that have been updated with the latest processors and GPUs. MSI sent their GE40 our way for review, a gaming notebook that’s less than an inch thick and pairs a Haswell i7-4700MQ with NVIDIA’s new GTX 760M GPU. At first glance, it has a lot in common with the new Razer Blade 14-inch laptop that we recently reviewed; on second glance, it has even more in common.

The basic premise is quite simple: pack as much performance as possible into a relatively small laptop, and if you do it right you’ve got a bona fide gaming notebook that doesn’t weigh eight pounds. In this case, MSI has managed to fit a full-blown quad-core Core i7 processor and an NVIDIA GTX graphics chip into a chassis that’s less than one inch thick. The performance is definitely there, with most games easily handling high detail settings at the LCD’s native 1600x900 resolution. Unfortunately, just like the Razer Blade 14, the GE40 has at least one major flaw: the LCD is junk. Yes, it’s a better resolution display than some laptops give you, but we’re talking about a $1400 notebook; we shouldn’t have to compromise on the display.

Before we get into the details of this review, here’s the quick overview of the specifications.

MSI GE40 2OC-009US “Dragon Eyes” (MS-1492) Specifications
Processor Intel Core i7-4702MQ
(Quad-core 2.2-3.2GHz, 6MB L3, 22nm, 37W)
Chipset HM87
Memory 1x8GB DDR3-1600 (11-11-11-28)
(Second SO-DIMM slot available)
Graphics GeForce GTX 760M 2GB
(768 cores, 627MHz + Boost 2.0, 4GHz GDDR5)

Intel HD Graphics 4600
(20 EUs at 200-1000MHz)
Display 14.0" Anti-Glare 16:9 HD+ (1600x900)
(AUO B140RTN03.0)
Storage 128GB mSATA SSD (SanDisk X110 SD6SF1M128G)
750GB 7200RPM HDD (Hitachi HTS727575A9E364)
(One free mSATA port on this model)
Optical Drive N/A
Networking 802.11n WiFi (Realtek RTL8723AE)
(2.4GHz 1x1:1 150Mbps capable)
Bluetooth 4.0 (Realtek)
Gigabit Ethernet (Atheros AR8161)
Audio Realtek HD (ALC269)
Stereo Speakers
Headphone and Microphone jacks
Battery/Power 6-cell, 11.1V, 5900mAh, 65Wh
90W Max AC Adapter
Front Side N/A
Left Side 2 x USB 3.0
Gigabit Ethernet
1 x VGA
1 x Mini-HDMI
Exhaust Vent
AC Power Connection
Right Side Headphone and Microphone
Flash Reader (MMC/SD)
1 x USB 2.0
Optical Drive/HDD Bay
Kensington Lock
Back Side N/A
Operating System Windows 8 64-bit
Dimensions 13.35" x 9.42" x 0.87" (WxDxH)
(339mm x 239mm x 22.1mm)
Weight 4.4 lbs (2.0kg)
Extras 720p HD Webcam
87-Key Keyboard
Pricing MSRP: $1400
Online: $1269

Interestingly, the dimensions are virtually identical to the AMD Kabini system that we reviewed a couple months ago, only the MSI GE40 weighs quite a bit more. Naturally, it’s also substantially more powerful, but at three times the price it ought to be. Everything that we’ve come to expect from a modern notebook is present, and at least on the higher end 2OC-009C model that we’re reviewing, we get hybrid storage with a 128GB SSD and a 750GB hard drive. The MSRP for this model is $1400, but you can currently find it online for $1269.

Outside of the slightly slower graphics card, plus the optional SSD+HDD storage, this is basically a significantly less expensive version of the Razer Blade we recently reviewed—the base model Blade comes with a 128GB and GTX 765M for $1800. We’ll see in a moment how the two compare in terms of performance, though it almost goes without saying that the Blade also has a level of style that the GE40 isn’t going to touch.

There are other differences as well, like the fact that MSI includes gigabit Ethernet. That’s a good thing too, as the included Realtek wireless adapter is the bare minimum single stream 802.11n 2.4GHz solution. Elsewhere, we get two USB 3.0 ports and a single USB 2.0 port (which can be useful for installing operating systems), VGA, and HDMI. The GE40 isn’t geared toward connectivity aficionados, but it should suffice for most users.

Cracking open the chassis requires the destruction of a super lame “warranty sticker—void if tampered” on the bottom of the laptop. So let me get this straight: MSI is shipping with a single 8GB SO-DIMM and leaving a second SO-DIMM slot open (not to mention the empty mSATA port), and the only way you can get at any of the parts is to void your warranty? If MSI actually enforces that option, we’re extremely disappointed; please get rid of the warranty void sticker—if you need to put one in there, put a couple on the CPU and GPU screws and at least let end-users upgrade RAM and storage options!

Other than the sticker, getting at the internals is pretty easy. There are five screws on the bottom cover to remove, and that’s about it—though you have to deal with plastic latches all around the edge of the cover, and my experience is that if you remove/replace the cover more than about five times you’re probably going to end up breaking one or more of the plastic clips. If you want to remove the 2.5” drive (where you could optionally have a slim optical drive it looks like, assuming you can find a compatible model), there’s one more screw underneath the cover that you have to remove. It should be possible to upgrade the RAM, storage, and CPU if you feel the urge. You could try to upgrade WiFi as well—I don’t know if there’s any device whitelisting in the BIOS by MSI; hopefully not, as slapping in a better 802.11ac WiFi adapter would be a handy upgrade.

MSI GE40 Subjective Evaluation
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  • n13L5 - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    I found out that you could install a replacement display meant for the Thinkpad X1 Carbon into Razer's Blade 14...

    Presumably, this would void your warranty, but at least you'd have a decent display.
    Reply
  • jtciti - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    The gigabyte p34g is one that has slipped past a lot of radars. It packs a GTX 760m and is much lighter than the razer or the ge40, however expect a TN screen again

    the p35K has an IPS screen and a 765m, but it is a full 15 inches. (still light at under 5 lbs).

    My only hope is the new retina macbook pro has a 760m or 765m
    Reply
  • Zeratul56 - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    The current retina gets quite warm. I used one to play starcraft and its keyboard it unusable due to how hot it gets under load. The design is beautiful but it does not displace heat well at all. If you intend to game I don't think the retina is the way to go. Reply
  • n13L5 - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    Why can MSI not hire a professional product designer?
    They crank out one embarrassingly awful looking notebook after another...
    Reply
  • n13L5 - Thursday, July 25, 2013 - link

    Jeez, high gloss black went out of fashion years ago...

    Hello MSI! What rock have your "designers" been hiding under?
    Well, we know you didn't hire any actual designers, you're just letting the mail boy make some sketches.
    Reply
  • MarcVenice - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    It totaly baffles me not only that they include such a crappy screen (1080p-panels can be had for like $50, should be even less if you buy thousands of them), but also the glossy plastic exterior. MSI has been doing this for such a long time, you'd think they would understand that this doesn't appeal to the European- or US-market as much as it does to the Asian-market. The only thing they really get right, is the price. Although for me this still has to many downsides. At least the CPU+GPU is a better pairing then their GX60, where the AMD-cpu halfs the gpu-performance because it's so slow. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    1600x900 is fairly appropriate for a gaming laptop at this size.
    It means you're not pushing the GPU as much to get native res.
    Reply
  • hfm - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    Not to mention 900p is also a good fit for the GPU.. 1080p is just too much for a 765M if your top priority is gaming and everything else is secondary. Reply
  • piroroadkill - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Ah, unless you refer to the quality of the screen, which, as I read later, turns out out to be crap.

    1080p is no fix. There are plenty of crap 1080p panels too.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    There still needs to be a more detailed look into the GX60, because the new model barely outpaces the old one, and that had more issues than simply the CPU. It could be an Enduro thing. Reply

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