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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  • hfm - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    Also, the Razer 14 DOES NOT throttle on battery. You can get around 1.5-2 hours of gaming on the Razer 14 from what i've heard. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 18, 2013 - link

    I would be very surprised if the Razer doesn't do something similar to the GE40 on battery power. It's basically the GPU not running at full speed because it doesn't need to in order to hit 30FPS -- so in games like Metro, it will actually run at full speed but in others it won't. Anyway, I did't test the Razer so I can't say for certain, but I've yet to see a GTX notebook that doesn't adjust the GPU clocks/performance down on battery power. Reply
  • Jon Tseng - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Cheers for the response - much appreciated. Sorry for sounding a bit grumpy earlier!

    The reason I ask is I've been getting wildly different estimates of gaming battery life for the Razor 14 all over the web - some websites say 1 hour, some websites say 2-3. It would be good to have some definitely numbers.

    I don't think gaming battery life is /always/ that bad. I can get 2-ish hours gaming on my m11x on battery power. Definitely for classic "gaming laptop luggages" where the battery is effectively a 2 kilo UPS system you're lucky to get beyond 45 mins, but for smaller form factor gaming laptops I think you can do better than that.

    1 hour isn't really sufficient because as soon as you boot up you have a lurking paranoia about the batt meter going down. 1.5+ is where you can have a proper "session" between destinations...
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I can play casual games (think world of warcraft, portal etc) on my X230 for about 2.5h. I'm expecting the haswell version to do slightly better. Note its on a low res screen, hopefully these are a dying breed but every laptop seems to continue to come out with them. Higher res screen is going to use more GPU and battery so it might be a wash. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    That was sort of the point I was trying to make: if you have more than just a CPU with iGPU (or an APU in the AMD world), you can't get reasonable gaming performance and great battery life. Games will max out the TDP of both the CPU and GPU, generally speaking -- though it's possible to throttle the GPUs to help reduce the load, which both AMD and NVIDIA do by default. If you have a 70Wh battery and a CPU/APU that has a 17W-35W TDP, though, you can get 2+ hours. You just won't be running at high detail and 1600x900. Reply
  • adityarjun - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Jarred, please do a review of the Alienware 14 and 17. I think they have started to offer some decent IPS screens with matte options and I would love to read Anandtech’s take on these laptops before making a purchase. Reply
  • realjetavenger - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    +1. Would love to see how the Alienware 14 stacks up against the Razer 14 and this ge40. Reply
  • hfm - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    Here's how it stacks up to the Razer 14.

    1. 768p panel is too far the other direction and it's not high quality, but performance at that res is great.
    2. 1080p panel will be slower than the Razer 14. If you ask me 1080p for gaming on a 765M is not going to give much longevity. The panel itself is above average so if you are planning on doing work on it and gaming is secondary it's probably a better overall option.
    3. I've read the Alienware 14 is hot and loud. Razer 14 is hot, but not that loud.
    4. Alienware 14 is much bigger and 2 lbs heavier.
    5. Alienware 14 can be cheaper or about the same price as the razer depending on config. The razer is only configurable storage size.

    I don't think it's fair to include the ge40 in that discussion as it's outclassed by both of them from a gaming standpoint.
    Reply
  • wrkingclass_hero - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Typo on closing thoughts page:

    MSI tries to pick up the fumble with their GE40, but unfortunately there display happens to be even worse than the Razer Blade 14 panel!

    "there" should be their
    Reply
  • Darkstone - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I think anandtech needs to give more information about the cooling in notebooks reviews.

    For starters, only the temperatures are reported. But i think the temperatures are actually largely irrelevant. It doesn't matter to me if the CPU is hitting 70° or 95° as long it does not throttle down.

    I usually load up prime95 and take a close look at the 'package power' meter in HWinfo. If it ever drops below the TDP, the cooling will get in trouble when running basic CPU-only simulations.

    Stressing the GPU in a controlled enthronement is a bit harder to do. I like RTHDBIBL, but the scene complexity is a bit low for modern GPU's. Maybe try one of unigine's older tests. Im not sure if they support benchmark looping.

    If it can't run prime95 and a GPU stress test at the same time without throtteling on the CPU part, it's probably not up to the task of playing games all day long. That's valuable information, much more valuable than the temperature of the CPU. The GE40 reaches 98° unload load. But at what clock speed is it running? 800 Mhz? 2.x Mhz?
    Reply

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