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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  • GuniGuGu - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Awesome review; Between this and the Razer Blade... only last portable gaming laptop to cover is the Clevo w230st :) Any plans jarred? Reply
  • GuniGuGu - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Also a big point of discussion for the Clevo w230st are the CPU options.. 4700, 4702, 4800 & 4900... It seems most on the forum are recommending the 4800.. but reading this it sounds like even the 4702 can get quite toasty.... Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I think we'll be getting one in at some point in the next couple of weeks -- I'm heading out on vacation, so if Dustin doesn't get one before I return I'm sure I can find one. :-) Reply
  • GuniGuGu - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    Damn, not sure I can wait that long before ordering it... Oh well, would love to see it run through the paces of an in-depth review all the same. Tossing up on the CPU's, the lower TDP of the 4702 is tempting over faster clocks. Reply
  • realjetavenger - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    Actually, I'd also like to see the Alienware 14. This is a direct competitor to the Razer with what should be a much better lcd panel. Reply
  • mountcarlmore - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    The Alienware is more than twice as thick and weighs over 6 pounds, its in a total different class from these latpops... Reply
  • noeldillabough - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    True, but its in still in the running, I'd pick a thicker machine if it was noticeably faster. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, July 16, 2013 - link

    I don't expect it to be much faster at all -- we're still looking at i7-4700MQ with GTX 765M. With that CPU and GPU and a 256GB mSATA SSD + 750GB HDD, the cost is $1800. You also get a 1080p LCD. The display is really going to be the reason to go with the Alienware 14 I think, and to get that you'll have a heavier laptop that's twice as thick. On the other hand, I expect it will run cooler and quieter thanks to the size, but over six pounds means you can readily compare the AW14 to 15.6" options out there.

    The Clevo W350ST is a 15.6" laptop with similar dimensions to the AW14, and with similar components it can be had for around $1500. Not that I expect the Clevo W350ST to be built better than the AW14, but the dimensions are 14.72" x 9.84" x 0.64"~1.68" and it weighs 5.95 pounds where the 14" AW measures 13.31" x 10.17" x 1.58"~1.64" and weighs 6.12 lbs. So the Clevo is wider but not as deep and has more of a wedge shape, and it weighs a bit less.

    Anyway, we're definitely going to see about reviewing the Alienware 14 and 17 as soon as we can.
    Reply
  • hfm - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    From all the reviews and user commentary I've read, the Alienware 14 is definitely not exactly "cool and quiet" some users have complained about how loud it is. Also, be prepared for the Alienware 14 to play games at lower frame rates than the Razer due to 33% more pixels at native resolution. Reply
  • Bob Todd - Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - link

    "Cool and quiet" with these kinds of specs in a reasonably portable machine doesn't really seem possible with the current crop of CPUs/GPUs. Do you want quiet or do you want adequate cooling? I'm not really comfortable at all with a brand new machine hitting 98 degrees Celsius under load, or even the 93 degrees the Blade hit. I'll deal with a louder fan if it means I don't have to worry as much about throttling (or heat induced crashes). Especially on a gaming focused machine where I'd have the sound cranked up a bit or headphones in while using it the way it was intended. Reply

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