Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Grunty Ghosts

Our first suite of the MSI Ghost Pro GS60 4K machines are out and being used by some of the research and teaching staff around the Built Environment. We decided to deploy a set of these after seeing how much grunt MSI had packed into a thin and light laptop. We have users who need enough firepower (including GPU) to run the latest game engines, model large structures and visualise cities.


I have been using one of the machines as my primary device for a few weeks now and can at least comment on a few things.

Form & Design
The MSI machines I often thought of as being very utilitarian, their chassis designs were boxy and inelegant. The GS60 surprised me, being actually quite acceptable with its no-fuss black look in a simple design (I wonder how fancy the gold version looks). The most striking think is the Steelseries keyboard and the groovy gaming lights (which you can configure to be very flashy or more subtle to suit your personality). I actually have my lights slowly pulsing between green and yellow (with the brightness down).
Perhaps it is just the total thinness and lightness that feels so good here, esp when you see what is packed inside. At just under 2kg this 15" machine is a joy compared to the big 17" GPU workstation laptops or monster gaming rigs.

Graphics & Resolutions
This was my first experience with a 4K screen at 3840x2160 and it does look lovely. But then we have to fully enter the world of screen scaling and a weird and annoying world it is too. Many applications can play nicely with scaling, able to adjust the interface size and other things to accommodate super high pixel density like this on a 15" display. Alas some don't understand screen scaling and so their interface become microscopic. These arent obscure apps either, The Adobe Creative Cloud apps and the Origin launcher are the first two that spring to mind. Switching resolutions and screen scaling settings isnt simple either (requiring a logoff) and these issues are compounded if you connect an external display. If you have a nice 4K second monitor then you may be ok, if you have a 1920x1080 monitor then running both high and low res combined with screen scaling is no fun. Sooo what most of us are doing now is just running at 1920x1080 on the GS60 (exactly half the res and at 100% scaling so it is as crisp as possible) - this seems to work like a treat for now.
The colours and visual look of the display itself is good, though there is a large bezel that would have been nicer filled with more screen.
The mighty NVIDIA GTX970M under the hood can only be beaten by the 980M or various dual card configs, none of which you will find in a form factor like this (Notebookcheck benchmarks). With our games and game engines we tend to run at Full HD resolution and then push up the quality rather than trying to run at the 4K res - things look so so pretty.

Speed & Heat
When we push the machine with the realtime engines or game like Inquisition things do get hot, but not as badly as I was expecting based on other reviews. The extra fans kick in and the machine is noisier but it continues to run nicely for me.

So where does that leave us? This is one super little machine, to have something delivering this sort of speed in this form factor is a treat now. Interestingly (and tangentially) there are still lots of folk who love their Apple kit. No question there is lots to love there, gorgeously crafted machines, a tight ecosystem of apps and so much brand loyalty. But our computers are the physical enabler of some wonderful pieces of software and it is the software array for the Built Environment disciplines and beyond that makes the Windows platform so potent for us. With primary tools including Revit, Rhino/Grasshopper, Unreal Engine, 3ds Max, ArcGIS, Lumion, Solidworks, Catia and an armada of technical applications to boot - having hardware that can deliver these things to us nicely is key.

For a more comprehensive review of the MSI GS60 4K, check out Florian Wimmer's review on NotebookCheck

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