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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  • cooliend - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    What about the Gigabyte P34G, which is expected to be released in August / September, and may start as low as $999?

    http://www.gigabyte.com/products/product-page.aspx...

    Yes, it's one-to-two months away, but it pairs a 4700HQ with a 760M, in the same sub-1" thick package... with a 1080p display. Of course, it also shares the same, anemic 11.1v battery size...
    Reply
  • superjim - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    According to this youtube video the P34G will be 1080p non-IPS but the 15" P35 will be 1080p IPS (765MX). Either way, a 760M pushing native 1080p isn't going to fare well in most modern games.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwQ-mHueK9U
    Reply
  • cooliend - Saturday, July 20, 2013 - link

    Agreed that 1080p is unlikely to be usable in newer games, but it should be usable for other tasks (older games, video, etc.) and it's always good to have options, especially cheaper ones!

    From the very limited youtube video hands-on looks at it, the screen is supposed to be fairly decent; hopefully it'll be better than those on the GE40 & Razer Blade.

    IPS is nice, but only really addresses viewing angle washout and not a must-have for me. Image quality would be more important, and non-IPS can equal or better IPS panels in image quality - look at the Sony Z for great non-IPS displays (the Sony S13 screens however...).
    Reply
  • mutumutu - Sunday, August 11, 2013 - link

    According to Gigabyte site, P34G will have 14" FHD AHVA display, which is sort-of-IPS from AUO. Notebookcheck tested Clevo W740SU also with 14" FHD AHVA and it had excellent viewing angles and color reproduction although brightness and contrast were only decent. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Thanks, hadn't seen that one yet. With what's currently possible in hardware, these are getting closer to an ideal machine for me (until integrated graphics can do 900p+ gaming @ high settings). I _really_ like the understated design of that one. I'm not saying it's beautiful, but compared to most gaming laptops it looks worlds better. Hopefully the non-IPS panel is of decent quality. Too bad about the tiny 47Wh battery though, that will be a deal breaker. Take the same design, throw in a high quality 3200x1800 panel (game at 1600x900), drop the vga for mini-DP, and put in a ~80Wh battery and I'm sold. I think we'll see something like that soon. At least I hope we will. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Oh, and I don't mean to suggest they'd need to offer that for the same theoretical $999. The $1500+ range is fine. Reply
  • Krafty1 - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Once again...no Thunderbolt. These machines would make great travel video editing machines...if they would include some way to actually stream video into them. (You can convert Firewire to Thunderbolt)
    Better LCD, include Thunderbolt... I'll be ready to buy.
    Reply
  • Freakie - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Streaming video from what? Many cameras just use USB for streaming because even USB 2.0 can handle most streams. Some older cameras do have firewire, it's true, but it can be kind of niche. But if you're oversaturating a USB stream then the camera usually comes with an Ethernet port anyways and the only time that happens really is if you're shooting 4k uncompressed. Kind of sounds like your gripe is more you just wanting something more than needing it? Reply
  • airmantharp - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Thunderbolt is for the storage array that you can't fit in the laptop :). Reply
  • cooliend - Saturday, July 20, 2013 - link

    Better Thunderbolt (and Thunderbolt 2) usage is be external GPU's. Imagine these thin-and-lights sporting a decent 760m, so you can carry it around and game as you want (while plugged in), but then bumping it up to SLI 780s once you get home? Gigabyte's got Thunderbolt on the P35K, but unfortunately not the P34G...

    They just need to fix the inability of eGPU's to output to the laptop screen... though, then again, if you have a eGPU setup, you'd likely have a 21"+ monitor too.
    Reply

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