What is the MSI GE62 2QD?
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 & Connections
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 & Specs
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?
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.
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?
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 Life
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.
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 & Heat
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 Money
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