MSI GE62 2QD Apache Gaming Laptop Review
Sub £1000 high quality gaming has arrived!
What is the MSI GE62 2QD?Our last MSI gaming laptop review back in November, the 17" GE70 2PE, found a superb machine with a great design and pretty decent specification for the money. MSI certainly look as if they want to dominate the gaming laptop market with a extensive range covering most budgets and available from around £700 right up to the ludicrously highly specified £3500 GT80 with Titan SLI, 32GB RAM and a mechanical keyboard. Whilst we eagerly await a review sample of that particular beast, we have the considerably more affordable 15" GE62 here for review instead.
Coming in at just under £1000, the MSI GE62 2QD Apache is a 15.6" Full HD laptop with what, on paper, sounds to be a fairly generous specification for the asking price. We have a single mid-range Nvidia GTX960M GPU with 2GB of GDDR5, 8GB RAM, a Quad Core Intel i7-4720HQ CPU at 2.6-3.6Ghz and dual storage in the shape of a 128GB SSD and a 1TB HDD. Whilst not the high specification GTX970M graphics we have been accustomed to in our last few laptop reviews, the GTX960M should still hopefully help this laptop to give a good account of itself. Read on to see how it does in our tests....
Design & ConnectionsGaming laptops over the last few years have definitely moved towards a more sleek and refined look compared to the garish flashy design that used to go hand in hand with the sector. The MSI GE62 is no different whilst still giving that edge in the design stakes when compared to other manufacturers. We have an all black finish with a brushed steel effect to the top, keyboard, screen surround and trackpad. It's a fingerprint magnet for sure, but these can be fairly easily polished off. The all black design is broken up by a red flash across the front and rear and the illuminated G series logo to the top of the laptop. As with our review of the MSI GE70, the build quality is excellent with an overall solid feel, strong screen hinges and no areas of flexing to be found at all.
The MSI features seen in the GE70 have returned with their excellent SteelSeries engine. This allows you to heavily customise the keyboard. For example, you can change the keyboard backlighting to over 1000 different colour combinations and pre-set lighting effects. The two that stand out are the Gaming Mode effect that simply illuminates the left side of the keyboard and a rather cool Audio Mode which turns all the backlighting off until you play audio and then the backlighting will dance in time with the music, granted it sounds a bit naff, but does work surprisingly well!
Apart from the colour customisation, almost every key can be customised to a perform a different function. If you fancy the A key to type B instead or have it perform a macro, then the SteelSeries engine has got it covered. It isn't quite the comprehensive engine seen on the GE70 which would allow customisation even further, in a game by game basis. The keyboard and trackpad is comfortable to use and responsive although the layout is slightly different with the Windows key on the right side of the keyboard. This is a great thing if you regularly press this many times a day accidentally when gaming or typing, but if you must have it back on the left side you can simply change it in the SteelSeries keyboard settings. Above the keyboard we have the Cooler Boost button which will increase the fan speeds if you need to cool the laptop down quicker and the SteelSeries button which will cycle through the 7 pre-set keyboard lighting effects.
Compared to the similar screen sized Gigabyte gaming laptops the MSI do come in a lot heavier and thicker. This is by no means a bad thing as our experiences with the last few Gigabyte ultra thin gaming laptops have found the cooling system not really able to cope with the demands put on it. Shying away from the ultra thin arena has also allowed MSI to fit a DVD (not Blu-ray sadly) drive into the chassis. Here the GE62 comes in at 2.4KG and a footprint of 383mm x 260mm and 27mm thick. The connections side of things is fairly standard although perhaps a tad more generous than we are used to. With a single USB 2.0 port and SD card reader to the right side along with the power connection, then to the left we have 3 x USB 3.0 ports, HDMI (v1.4), Mini-Display port, Ethernet connection and the microphone and headphone ports. No additional connections to the front or rear.
Features & SpecsThe GE62 2QD represents the first gaming laptop we have reviewed to creep under the £1000 mark. Despite Gaming Laptops commanding a premium compared to desktop PC gaming, we still get a pretty decent specification for this sub £1000 price point. To start with is a single Nvidia GTX960M Maxwell graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM , 8GB DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz and a pretty speedy Intel 4th Generation Haswell i7-4720HQ Quad Core CPU running at 2.6Ghz ( turbo speed of 3.6Ghz). To cap it off the 15.6" display is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 Anti-glare, along with 802.11ac WiFi, DVD drive, HD webcam (30FPS at 720P) and Bluetooth 4.0.
The review sample arrived with a single 128GB Kingston SSD and a 1TB Hitachi Travelstar 7200RPM 7K1000 HDD. The Kingston SSD appears to be from their SSDNow range, although the exact model fitted did not appear to correspond with any model listed on their website and as such no quoted speeds could be found. Using ATTO Disk Benchmark we received excellent results with an average 552MB/s read and 508Mb/s write. With PC Mark8's Storage test, which uses workload traces recorded from actual programs and is not affected by differences in CPU or GPU performance we get a score of 4787 with a bandwidth of 179.47MB/s. One of the lowest scores we have received in this test for a non RAID system.
The 128GB SSD converts to an available space of 118GB for Windows to use. After the Windows installation and various other pre-installed software that leaves us with 67.9GB of free space. Given the latest games such as GTA5 are approaching 60GB just on their own, you may have to concede to installing just one of your most used games to the SSD and the rest to the HDD which with 910GB of free usable space does have plenty of room spare for them. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get very impressive average result of 8.99 seconds.
Is the display any good?The display here is a 15.6" 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD anti-glare display. Viewing angles as we've come to expect with these modern displays are excellent with a clear image even at around 150⁰. The anti-glare display works very well with reflections non-existent. The display quality is again impressive with excellent colours, clear and crisp text and well defined images. The laptop is capable of outputting a 4K resolution to a compatible display and testing with our 4K TV it did display the resolution correctly. The only problem being that the GTX960M is nowhere near powerful enough for 4K gaming and it struggled with 4K YouTube too.
Using SpectraCal software and our C3 Colorimeter, the maximum screen luminance was detected at 330 cd/m2. The screenshot above shows the pre and post calibration results. As you can see the pre check gave a ColorChecker error of 4.1 (an error level less than 3 is the target) and a Greyscale error of 5.77. Following the successful calibration the ColorChecker error has reduced to a reasonable 2.96 with the GreyScale error down to 4.05. Not quite the malleable screen we saw with our last review of the Gigabyte P34W but a reasonable result nonetheless.
Many thanks to SpectraCal for providing the software and C3 Colorimeter for use with our reviews.
Pre-installed SoftwareAs with our review of the GE70, MSI have certainly not overdone the pre-installed software here. What they have included is gaming focused and welcome additions of which the most useful is the Dragon Gaming Center. This gives an overview of the system status including CPU and GPU usage, temperatures and network speed, quick access to GeForce Experience, Killer Network Manager and XSplit Gamecaster (along with the option to add links to any other programs you choose) plus device settings to turn off the Windows Key and change the performance level.
Lastly, within the Gaming Center we have the excellent Instant Play Feature. Here you can add a single game to the quick launch list (Fn+F4) and then configure the system to suit that game such as altering brightness, gamma, volume and even closing any unnecessary applications or tasks that are running. When that game is then quick launched your configuration will run changing the settings as required to give you the best personal experience; they will then revert back to normal when the game is closed.
Other software of note is the XSplit Gamecaster. Integrated with all the popular services such as YouTube, Twitch and UStream it offers a very simple and easy way of streaming and recording your gaming sessions. Whilst GeForce Experience now includes game recording with their ShadowPlay function, XSplit Gamecaster offers that easy streaming experience and integration not yet seen in GeForce Experience. The final software is the usual free 1 month trial of Office 365, Power DVD 10 and also a 30 day free trial of Norton Internet Security.
Is the sound any good?An area where MSI are definitely pulling ahead of the competition is the audio quality. Compared to some of the much more expensive gaming laptops we have reviewed, the GE62 is streets ahead. The 4+1 speaker system is provided by Dynaudio, a Danish audio specialist company and their various claims of providing high quality sound certainly ring true here. The maximum volume is a little low for our liking (although the Nahimic software can boost this up to 6dB) and the bass could be more present but apart from that the quality and soundstage is superb.
Testing with YouTube, Music, Gaming and Movies the sound is excellent throughout. The awful tinny sounds and other indicators of poor speaker quality are absent here and you are just left with a very impressive onboard sound. Similar to our review of MSI's GE70 this is easily up there with the best audio we have heard on a gaming laptop. Integrated with the XSplit Gamecaster software we mentioned above is the 'Nahimic for MSI' software.
This will automatically detect the start of a recording and process the sound to give a HD audio experience to your audience (if you have one). It also gives plenty of options for 'improving' the sound such as changing the reverb, virtual surround, voice clarity and several other pointless options. The onboard speakers are so good, messing about with the sound is only going to make it sound worse and unfortunately that is exactly what the Nahimic software does. One best to have turned off.
MSI GE62 Battery LifeThe battery here is a 6 cell Li-ion with a 60Wh rating. Not a particular powerful rated battery on paper, but given the lower spec GTX960M GPU compared to the usual GTX970M GPU we see in our gaming laptop reviews we did hope for reasonable results. Unfortunately our results painted a rather poor picture of the battery's performance. With Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting we received only 119 minutes which is identical to that of the GE70 and comparatively a full 128 minutes less than Gigabyte's P34W.
The disappointing results continued with all the other tests we carried out. Whilst MSI are ahead with their audio, they are way behind with their battery life. With our YouTube video test, which is a 4 hour loop of a standard 480P video and with the laptop set to the high performance setting and the screen at 100% brightness, we managed just 106 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that to a still very poor 138 minutes. Testing with a DVD and using the same 50% settings we managed just 117 minutes.
As is the norm with gaming laptops, with the mains power disconnected the gaming performance is restricted with no option to unleash the full power, which with the poor battery life seen above is probably no bad thing as the battery would run out in just a few minutes. The frame rate in game is capped to 30FPS and we managed just 42 minutes from a full battery charge. From flat the battery took 133 minutes to fully recharge.
GE62-2QD BenchmarksOur standard tests as shown in the table below are each run at least 3 times, with the average score taken. The tests were all carried out with the laptop in high performance mode, mains power plugged in and the screen set to 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this laptop we are using Nvidia's 345.05 graphics drivers. The GTX960M is a fairly low performing graphics chip sitting close to that of a desktop GTX740 or Radeon 4890. Using Nvidia's Maxwell technology we have 640 pipelines, a core clock of 924Mhz and memory speed of 2500Mhz.
Benchmark Score Summary
Time to Desktop 8.99 Seconds 9 Super Pi @ 1M 10.56 seconds 9 3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 54244 4 3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 15259 4 3D Mark - Fire Strike 3983 4 3D Mark - Sky Diver 12232 4 Passmark Performance Test 8.0 3619 6 Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 57.54FPS - CPU 6.94pts 6 Unigine Heaven 4.0 643 4 Unigine Valley 1.0 862 4 PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2984 5 PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4787 7
Given those specifications we were expecting significantly lower gaming scores compared to GTX970M systems and that was fairly true across the board, although the results were still more than good enough for stable gaming on high settings. With Battlefield 4 we had a decent 52 FPS on high, 52FPS on high in Max Payne 3 and 73FPS in Sims 4 on the Ultra Settings. PC Mark 8 Home Conventional gave a good result with 2984 and Passmark Performance Test 8 of 3619 but as expected with a much lower powered graphics unit Unigine Valley 1.0 was reduced to just 862 and Heaven 4 of just 643.
1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps) Battlefield 4 High Settings 52 Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 41 Sims 4 Medium Settings 92 Sims 4 Ultra Settings 73 Max Payne 3 High Settings 52 Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 29 COD: Advanced Warfare Maximum Settings 67
System Noise & HeatThe HWMonitor screenshot below shows the maximum temperatures the various system components reached during our benchmark and gaming test sessions. The CPU core temperatures at idle are 45°C and under test conditions these reached a reasonable 87°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching just 74°C.
Another area MSI excels in when compared to the competition is the cooling. We expected slightly reduced noise and heat due to the lower powered GTX960M graphics anyway, but overall our results were excellent. The maximum noise level was just 42dBs during gaming and benchmarking and you certainly don't get uncomfortable with the laptop on your legs for any length of time as we've experienced with some of Gigabyte's gaming laptops. MSI's Cooler Boost 3 system works very well here.
- Great value for money
- Excellent specification for the price
- Impressive keyboard backlighting options
- Awful Battery Life
- No Blu-ray drive
MSI GE62 2QD Apache Gaming Laptop Review
Should I buy the MSI GE62 2QD?Our first review of a sub £1000 gaming laptop has found the GE62 2QD Apache to come up trumps in several areas but it is not without its flaws. Overall we have an excellent specification including a Quad Core i7-4720HQ CPU with a turbo speed of 3.6Ghz, 128GB Kingston SSD, 1TB HDD and 8GB of RAM. Perhaps slightly let down by the decidedly mid range GTX960M graphics although for under £1000 a GTX970M and even a Blu-ray drive may have been pushing things a bit.
The lower performance of the GTX960M showed in our benchmarks and gaming tests, but despite that it still gave us a system that can comfortably play games and give a decent frame rate on high settings. It's not the lightest laptop, coming in at 2.4kg nor is it pretending to be ultra thin at 27mm thick but the extra weight and thickness allows for a pretty damn fine cooling system with noise levels topping out at a low 42dBs, compared to some of the pretty noisy and hot ultra thin laptops we've reviewed recently.
Other positives come in the form of some of the best onboard sound we've heard to date from a laptop, a decent IPS LCD 15.6" display and some very useful bundled software in the shape of MSI's Dragon Gaming Center and the SteelSeries Engine. It's not all plain sailing, though, as the battery life is terrible. The battery lasts just about long enough to watch one average length movie and with gaming you are lucky to get more than 42 minutes at a capped 30FPS level.
What alternatives are available?At £1000 there aren't too many alternatives for a 15" gaming laptop with this specification. One of the closest we found was a bespoke system from CyberPower for the same price and almost identical specification based on a Clevo chassis. For off-the-shelf systems there aren't many available at all at this price point. For £100 more than the GE62 there's the Asus ROG G551 JW with an increased 12GB of RAM, same GPU but no SSD. For value for money, when compared to other systems, the MSI GE62 2QD Apache is a very promising prospect. The poor battery life is more than outweighed by the many excellent features and as such this system is a worthy winner of our AVForums Recommended Award.
Value For Money9
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