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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I would have reported throttling had it been evident. The CPU speed is dropping down from max turbo, but it's staying in the rated 2.2-3.2GHz throughout all the testing that I logged. In fact, for Metro Last Light, out of 500 data points over 1000 seconds, there was only one instance of 2.3GHz; everywhere else the CPU close were at least 2.4GHz and the average was 2.8GHz. I won't go so far as to say that the GE40 will never throttle while gaming, but it's definitely doing better than the Dell XPS 15 or Samsung Series 7 managed to do under similar testing. Reply
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Will Anandtech review the Alienware 14 (and 17)? Reply
  • ufranco - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Just a side note , sorry to be off topic, wondering if you would be kind enough to do a review of windows 8.1 on a high dpi monitor to check how windows reacts. Reply
  • adityarjun - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I too would like to read about this. A para is written here http://www.anandtech.com/show/7145/asus-pq321q-fir... I am sure more will be said in the final review. Reply
  • adityarjun - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Just in case you do review the Alienware 17, please do note that it does throttle above 77C. The same goes for my current m17xr3. Despite reading almost every review on the net, i found out about this only after buying it. None of the reviews mentioned this.
    And this is not a throttle that can be ignored by someone like me from India where the ambient temperatures are quite high. I regularly hit 77C and it is a huge pain.
    So in your reviews please mention this.
    Also it would be great if in your gaming laptop reviews you would mention the gpu temperatures for different ambient temperatures (like doing the tests with AC on and then off).
    And, as always, keep up the excellent reviews :)
    Reply
  • kogunniyi - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    You can fix the throttling by flashing a vBIOS or changing the temperature limit in Nvidia Inspector. Besides, the 780m should not reach 77C in the 17 after a good application of thermal paste. Reply
  • adityarjun - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    No you cant.. Flashing vbios allows over volting. The 77C throttle remains.
    A repaste is not enough. My room temps are in the 35C range.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Eek, I cry when the room goes over 23C Reply
  • adityarjun - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Haha.. Visit India during summers :) Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Not going to happen unless I was only in the lowlands for long enough to board a second plane or a train heading for the mountains. Enough elevation can fix sub-tropical heat. :D Reply

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