MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K Gaming Laptop Review

Stunning 4K display, but not beefy enough for 4K gaming.

by Greg Hook
SRP: £1,599.99

What is the GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K?

4K is high up on a lot of techie’s talking points at the moment, especially with the developments at the 2016 CES in Las Vegas. Whilst on our 4K TV we might actually get something genuinely Ultra HD to view on it this year, other than the odd YouTube video, those with the right computer hardware have been gaming in 4K for sometime now. Whilst it looks amazing, it does require a pretty beefy system with a top spec graphics card and decent CPU backing it up to achieve a playable frame rate.

4K and gaming laptops aren’t something you normally would put together due to the comparatively low performing hardware, but the rather long titled GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K from MSI is looking to change that. For £1,599.99, this 15.6” UHD laptop has a mouth-watering specification including an Intel Skylake i7-6700HQ CPU, GTX970M graphics, 16GB of DDR4 RAM and both a 256GB SSD and 1TB HDD. Read on to see how this 4K beast fares...

Design and Connections

The GS60 6QE follows a very similar theme to several of the other gaming laptops in MSI's range, but with a sleeker and more refined look. It’s an all over black affair this time, even the red trim to the base and trackpad has gone. The chassis is brushed aluminium so, whilst still being a bit of a fingerprint magnet, it does look very stylish. The overall build quality is again excellent from MSI with it all feeling very well put together with strong screen hinges and very little flexing noticeable on the chassis. The screen bezel, however, is not in brushed aluminium, it’s a standard black plastic design which does let the overall look and the build quality down slightly as it makes it feel a bit flimsy with the top corners of the screen flexing a bit too much for our liking. A more rigid material wouldn’t have gone amiss here.
MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K
As seen with MSI’s other gaming laptops, we have a few nifty features such as the full SteelSeries Engine and Keyboard. When you delve deeper into just what it can do, it has a lot to offer. Such as being able to configure every key on the keyboard to perform a different function such as running a macro, opening a program or it could simply be a very evil way of confusing someone completely by swapping all the key functions about! You also have a full spectrum of colours to play with and modes such as the gaming mode which just illuminates the left side of the keyboard in whichever colour you fancy. You can also create a profile and associate it to an individual program. So if you want the keyboard setup in just the right way, and in the right colour, for your favourite game you can do exactly that and when you launch the game the profile is activated. It really does work very well.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

The last section to mention about the SteelSeries Engine is the statistics section. You can run this in the background and it will record all your key presses, actions per minute and show you which buttons were pressed most often, thereby allowing you to setup some kick-ass macros or alter button assignments to improve your gaming even further. The keyboard, itself, feels very comfortable to use and includes a full array of keys which are printed using high grade silver lining which should, in theory, last a lot longer than conventionally printed keys.

It is one of the thinnest of MSI’s gaming laptops that we have reviewed coming in at just 20mm with an overall footprint of 390 x 266mm. It’s also fairly light weighing in at only 2.1kg. As for the connections, to the right we have HDMI (v1.4b), RJ-45, SD card reader and mini display port. Plus, a single USB SuperPort (Type C) which is exclusive to MSI as it combines Thunderbolt3, Display Port and USB 3.1 in a single connector and allows charging power up to 5V/3A and dual 4K external monitors. To the left we have the power connection, audio and 2 x USB 3.0 ports. No additional connections to the rear or the front, which just has the various LED indication lights to the front right. If we were being picky, just 2 x USB v3 ports is a little mean.

Specification

  • OS: Windows 10 64 Bit
  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i7 Skylake-6700HQ (2.6GHz - 3.5GHz)
  • Display: 15.6" UHD, (3840*2160) 4K PLS Wide View Angle
  • Memory: 2 x 8GB DDR4 @ 2133Mhz
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX970M with 3GB GDDR5
A pretty decent specification for £1,599, with the latest generation of Skylake CPUs and DDR4 memory backed up by the reasonably powerful GTX970M (a GTX980M is probably asking a bit too much at this price point!). The 15.6” 4K screen is probably the main attraction of this system. The WiFi is the latest 802.11ac and uses the Killer 1525 wireless adapter, Bluetooth 4.1 and a Full HD webcam (30FPS at 1080P).

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

The storage here is provided in both SSD and HDD formats. The SSD is a 256GB M2 form factor Toshiba THNSNJ256G8NU with quoted speeds of 534MB/s read and 482 MB/s write. With our ATTO Disk Benchmark test we received an excellent 540MB/s read and 457MB/s write. The HDD is a 1TB 7200RPM HGST Travelstar 7K1000 which tested at 139MB/s read and 130MB/s write in our tests. Although not supplied in our review sample, the GS60 6QE can take a PCI-E Gen 3.0x4 SSD which offers read speeds up to a blistering fast 2200MB/s.

Using PC Mark 8'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 decent score of 4957 with a storage bandwidth of 242MB/s. The results here are roughly in line with other laptops with a SSD that we have reviewed. The 256GB SSD equates to 237GB in Windows and arrived to us with 180GB of free space and the 1TB HDD equates to 911GB in Windows. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a reasonable average result of 14.10 seconds, although this is amongst the slowest of the times we have seen, of late, in SSD equipped laptops.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

Is the 4K Display any good?

The screen here is a 15.6" Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution PLS wide viewing angle display. MSI give a claimed viewing angle of 170° and offer 20% more contrast level and 20% more brightness level than a TN panel. The viewing angle was certainly impressive with a clear 4K image still watchable at the 170° angle, although it does tend to make your eyes go a bit funny trying to watch at this angle; it’s more of a tick box than something practical that you might use long term. The PLS panel is a glossy one and as such has no anti-glare coating, so reflections could be a problem in some situations. As for the display quality, the 4K screen is simply a thing of beauty. 4K videos look amazing and the resolution really adds to general use, too, such as web browsing.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

Using SpectraCal software and our C3 Colorimeter, the maximum screen luminance was detected at 236 cd/m2. The screenshot above shows the pre and post calibration results. As you can see the pre check gave a fairly high ColorChecker error of 6.6 (an error level less than 3 is the target) and a fairly decent out of the box GreyScale error of 1.02. Following the successful calibration, the ColorChecker error has reduced to a 4.16 with the GreyScale error down to just 0.85.

Many thanks to SpectraCal for providing the software and C3 Colorimeter for use with our reviews.

Pre-installed Software

On top of the excellent SteelSeries Engine for configuring the keyboard and lighting as mentioned above, we have a few other useful bits of MSI software. The Dragon Gaming Center is probably the most useful. This gives an overview of the system status including CPU, GPU and memory usage, temperatures, battery life, disk usage and network speed. Plus, 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 system performance level.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K
The last - and probably the best if you are addicted to one particular game - is the very useful 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 for that game. They will then revert back to normal when the game is closed.

XSplit Gamecaster is again present which offers a very simple way to record and stream your gaming exploits and is integrated with YouTube, Twitch and UStream. We also get the Killer Network Manager which gives detailed information on network activity, bandwidth usage and blocking access to a particular application if required. The usual free 1-month trial of Office 365 is ready to activate. Thankfully MSI have seen sense and not imposed the resource hogging Norton Internet Security on us.

Is the audio up to scratch?

MSI continue to be a good leap ahead in the audio department when compared to other manufacturers' gaming laptops. That is thanks, in no small part, to the excellent audio system from Dynaudio who are a Danish audio specialist company. According to MSI ‘Dynaudio delivers an authentic sound experience by boosting power amplitude 50% more than the previous generation, meaning a volume increase over 10dBA.’ Whether that means anything or not, these MSI gaming laptops certainly deliver in the audio department.
MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K
A new addition with this laptop and one for the audiophiles out there is the Exclusive ESS SABRE HiFi DAC for lossless, high-quality audio. This supports 24bit/192kbps sampling rate which MSI state will ‘drive your high quality headset from 16ohm to 600ohm which gives highest sound detail, up to 122dBA DNR unmatched by PC, Mac or mobile devices DAC’. Unfortunately, the pair of headphones that came with our smartphone are no match for this system, but it still sounded particularly impressive.

It was initially rather poorly implemented in MSI’s GE62 and then to much better results in their PE60 2QE, but when done well the Nahimic sound technology really does give a noticeable improvement to the audio quality. The sound stage effects and the volume boost work well together to really offer a level of audio quality that we haven’t experienced on any other laptops that have come across our review desk. The Nahimic software also includes an HD audio recorder which works with XSplit Gamescaster and automatically detects the start of a recording and processes the sound to give an HD audio experience to anyone watching, if you are fortunate enough to have one.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

GS60 6QE Battery Life

The battery here is a 6 cell Li-polymer, 12.2v with a 47.2Wh rating. Not the highest rated battery we have seen in a gaming laptop but it does perform fairly well, especially with the Skylake CPU which does offer better battery life, although watching 4K videos does give it a particularly good workout.

Battery Life Tests

Powermark Battery Test 127 minutes
YouTube 4K, High Performance, 100% Brightness 60 minutes
YouTube 1080P, Balanced, 50% Brightness 122 minutes
Netflix 1080P, Balanced, 50% Brightness 105 minutes
Gaming 55 minutes
The results shown above are not the worst we have seen, by any means, but do show the limitations of laptop batteries in such a high powered system. The 4K YouTube test was almost on par with the gaming test in draining the battery in just an hour. As is the norm with gaming laptops, using the battery gives you a heavily restricted system with gaming capped to 30FPS and low settings to even reach that. From flat to a charge of 100% took 130 minutes.

GS60 6QE Benchmarks

Our 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 3840 x 2160 resolution. With this laptop we are using Nvidia 361.43 graphics drivers. The GTX970M is currently the second best mobile GPU which, according to Passmark's Video Card benchmark listing, sits very close in performance to that of a desktop GTX660 or R9 270. Using Nvidia's Maxwell technology we have 1280 pipelines, a core clock of 924-1038Mhz and memory speed of 5000Mhz.

Benchmark Score Summary

Time to Desktop 14.10 Seconds 8
Super Pi @ 1M 11.05 seconds 9
3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 71720 6
3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 20453 6
3D Mark - Fire Strike 6569 6
3D Mark - Sky Diver 18793 6
Passmark Performance Test 8.0 3569 6
Cinebench R15 Open GL 96.57FPS - CPU 678 CB 7
Unigine Heaven 4.0 1139 6
Unigine Valley 1.0 1503 6
PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2938 5
PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 4597 6
As you can see from the results, 4K gaming is a step too far for the GTX970M with only Sims 4 offering a playable FPS. Lowering to 1080p did get decent results in all our test games, with perhaps Max Payne 3 on maximum settings being a little too much for the system still. The other results such as a PC Mark 8 Home Conventional of 2938, Unigine Valley 1.0 of 1499 and Heaven 4 of 1148 roughly compare to similar laptops with GTX970M graphics that we have reviewed. On the whole the game results show that this system, when set to 1080p, is more than capable enough to play some of the latest and older more demanding games on very decent settings.

Gaming Performance

3840x2160 4K Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 High Settings 28
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 22
Sims 4 Medium Settings 63
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 55
Max Payne 3 High Settings 29
Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 26
Metal Gear Solid 5 Maximum Settings 19

Gaming Performance

1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 69
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 90
Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 32
Metal Gear Solid 5 Maximum Settings 54

System Noise and Heat

The 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 were 35°C and under test conditions these reached 69°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching 78°C.

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K

Judging by the excellent CPU temperatures received under load, MSI are definitely onto a winner with their Cooler Boost 3 system employed in this GS60 chassis. With a maximum system noise of 43dBs during testing and 38dBs for gaming it is slightly noisier than others we have reviewed, but not excessively so and definitely not at a level that would cause any annoyance. At idle the system is almost silent with the fans very occasionally whirring away.

Verdict

Pros

  • Beautiful 4K Display
  • High Specification
  • SteelSeries Engine

Cons

  • Not enough USB ports
  • 4K gaming too much for the GTX970M
  • Poor battery life
  • Restricted gaming performance using battery

MSI GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K Gaming Laptop Review

Should I buy the MSI PE60 2QE?


At £1,599.99, MSI’s GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K 15.6” gaming laptop is no minor investment but for those looking to be ahead of the crowd, with a stunning 4K display and a system with a very meaty specification, then the GS60 is definitely one to consider. The system is powerful enough to cope with watching 4K videos, but unfortunately struggles with 4K gaming, the GTX970M is just not up to the task in this regard. Lower the settings to 1080p and you get excellent results across the board.

It’s fairly lightweight, very thin and has some tasty additions such as the excellent SteelSeries Engine to name just one, that are exclusive to MSI and really add to the overall package. Battery life is an issue, yet again, but then it always is with gaming laptops. If you want to max out the system and play games in high settings, then unfortunately you will have to keep it plugged in.

What alternatives are available?


At just shy of £1,600 there are not too many alternatives that match the high specification. 4K laptops are becoming more common such as the £1,100 Acer Aspire VN7-591G with a lower specification GTX960M GPU, half the RAM and older generation CPU or the ridiculously cheap Toshiba P50-T which can be found for under £600 but, apart from the 4K screen, it doesn’t really have anything to offer.

The best alternative we could find was from the custom builders, such as Scan’s 3XS LG15 Carbon G-Sync which has an almost identical specification albeit with a faster CPU and a G-Sync 4K panel and 6GB GTX970M for around £1,570. Compared to this and other systems the GS60 6QE Ghost Pro 4K offers a lot for the money, with many exclusive and useful MSI features. Overall this system is a worthy winner of our AVForums Recommended award.
Recommended

Scores

Screen Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Processing Speed

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value For Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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