MSI PE60 2QE Prestige Laptop Review

Now sub £900 high quality gaming has arrived!

by Greg Hook
Tech Review

Recommended
MSI PE60 2QE Prestige Laptop Review
SRP: £899.99

What is the MSI PE60 2QE?

Gaming with a laptop on anything other than low settings has for a long time been reserved for those with very deep pockets. Whilst just shy of £1000 for MSI's 15.6" GE62 2QD seen in our last laptop review is still a fair chunk of money, it did show us that you don't need to spend £1500+ to get a decent gaming laptop. Overall it performed very well and in most of the games we tested it could cope with high to maximum settings.

Hot on the heels of the GE62 2QD is a laptop from MSI's Prestige Series, the 15.6" PE60 2QE. Available for an even cheaper £899 (and currently with a free MSI Panocam worth £169) this is not being marketed as a gaming laptop, but offers a very similar specification to the GE62 2QD without perhaps all the gaming bells and whistles. We get a 5th generation Intel Broadwell Quad Core CPU, the i7-5700HQ at 2.7 - 3.5Ghz, 8GB RAM, the same Nvidia GTX960M GPU as with the GE62, but no SSD, just a 1TB HDD. Given the very similar specifications we'd expect similar results in our tests which could make the PE60 2QE a very interesting proposition. Read on to see how it performs......

Design and Connections

Coming from MSI's Prestige series the PE60 2QE, despite being far cheaper than all the other gaming laptops we have reviewed, has more of a premium look to it. Excluding the black underside and black screen bezel, the keyboard surround and lid have a very nice brushed effect silver metallic finish to them which sets it apart from the all black designs we've seen previously. Our only gripe here is that it seems a shame the black screen bezel is not in the same silver metallic finish, that would have finished the overall design off very nicely. The usual excellent MSI build quality is present, again, with the laptop feeling very well built, well balanced with the screen open wide, strong screen hinges and only very minor flexing towards the centre of the keyboard.
MSI PE60 2QE
Unlike MSI's gaming laptops, the PE60 2QE is not marketed as one and, as such, does not have the additional gaming features such as their SteelSeries engine. What it does have, though, is a white illuminated keyboard and a handy piece of software called 'Shortcut Manager'. Doing far more than the name suggests, the Shortcut Manager allows you to configure every single key to do any other function such as run a macro, a command, disable the Windows key, or if you fancy completely confusing someone you can change the G key to H or Space Bar to Enter for example. The full sized keyboard is very comfortable to use and responsive and the same goes with the trackpad and buttons.

MSI PE60 2QE

Continuing to shy away from the ultra-thin market which we have seen cause Gigabyte no end of cooling problems, the PE60 has an identical footprint to MSI's GE62 gaming laptop of 383mm x 260mm and 27mm thick and comes in at 2.3kg. We again get a DVD drive but still no Blu-ray which continues to seem a strange omission given the low cost now of Blu-ray drives. The connections are identical to the GE62 which suggests the use of an identical chassis, 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 (one of which is a Super Charger port), HDMI (v1.4), Mini-Display port, Ethernet connection and the microphone and headphone ports. No additional connections to the front or rear.

Specification

Whilst not a gaming laptop as such, the specification you get for just £899 is excellent and using the Nvidia GTX960M Maxwell graphics with 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM we should have a system that can cope with most of today's games on reasonable settings. Compared to the sub £1000 GE62 2QD, this PE60 is only really lacking in the SSD department. Other than that we get the same 8GB DDR3 RAM at 1600Mhz and a more modern (albeit very similar) Broadwell CPU in the shape of a 5th generation Intel i7-5700HQ Quad Core CPU, running at 2.7 - 3.5Ghz. We also get a Full HD 1920 x 1080 Anti-glare display along with 802.11ac WiFi, DVD drive, HD webcam (30FPS at 720P) and Bluetooth 4.0.
MSI PE60 2QE

As mentioned above there is no SSD provided with this system, we just get a single 1TB WD Blue 5400RPM drive which gave a score of 104MB/s read and 105MB/s write in our ATTO Disk Benchmark test. The system can be upgraded to take an SSD up to 256GB along with the existing 1TB HDD. Given the low cost of SSD drives these days, that would be a worthy addition to this machine. 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 fairly low score of 2021 with a bandwidth of just 6.80MB/s. Our lowest result in this test to date, but that's no surprise with the lack of an SSD and just a 5400RPM HDD.

The 1TB HDD is partitioned into two drives and this converts to an available space of 907GB. The C drive of 558GB arrived to us with 508GB free after the Windows installation and other pre-installed software and the D drive of 349GB has 348GB free to use. Plenty of space here, but an SSD drive would be a welcome addition. Manually timed from power on with a cold boot to the Windows desktop we get a decent average result of 11.74 seconds.

MSI PE60 2QE

Is the display any good?

The screen here is a 15.6" Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution IPS LCD anti-glare display. Viewing angles are excellent with a clear image even at around 150⁰. The anti-glare display works very well with reflections diffused to a high level, even a torch shone straight at the screen doesn't cause the anti-glare coating an issue. The display quality is very impressive as we have come to expect from MSI. Excellent colour reproduction, clear and crisp text and well defined images are the order of the day. The system is capable of outputting a 4K resolution to a compatible display and testing with our 4K TV it did display the resolution correctly. As we saw with the GE62 the GTX960M is not powerful enough for 4K gaming and it even struggled with 4K YouTube.

MSI PE60 2QE

Using SpectraCal software and our C3 Colorimeter, the maximum screen luminance was detected at 295 cd/m2. The screenshot above shows the pre and post calibration results. As you can see the pre check gave ColorChecker error of 5.1 (an error level less than 3 is the target) and a GreyScale error of 7.29. Following the successful calibration the ColorChecker error has reduced to a reference level 0.62 with the GreyScale error down to just 1.01. A superb result and certainly suggests that MSI's True Color Technology employed here has some merit, if you can ignore the 'extensive factory calibration' that is supposed to have been done.

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

Pre-installed software

Compared to our previous MSI laptop reviews which weren't bloated by any means, the Prestige Series PE62 has even less pre-installed software. The gaming focused software such as the Dragon Gaming Center, XSplit Gamecaster and the SteelSeries Engine are all missing here. You do get a fairly basic 'System Control Manager' which gives quick access to turning on/off the WiFi, Bluetooth, changing brightness and battery life modes plus the 'Shortcut Manager' that we mentioned above for configuring the keyboard for various macros and commands.

MSI PE60 2QE

We also get the Killer Network Manager which gives information on network activity, bandwidth usage and blocking access for particular applications, if needed. Other than those mentioned that's really about it for any noteworthy pre-installed software. The usual free 1 month trial of Office 365, Power DVD 10 and 30 day free trial of Norton Internet Security are also present.

Is the sound any good?

We've been very impressed with the audio quality of the last few MSI laptops we've reviewed. Compared to their competitors, it definitely seems to be an area they make an effort with. Using the same 4+1 speaker system provided by Dynaudio, a Danish audio specialist company that we saw in the GE62 the quality is again excellent. Testing with YouTube, Gaming, Movies and TV streaming we were impressed throughout.

MSI PE60 2QE

Unlike with the GE62, the included Nahimic sound technology actually gave a noticeable improvement to the sound quality. Not only by giving the volume a boost (by 6dB), but with the Nahimic effects on the sound quality was significantly improved and it appeared to create a much larger soundstage. The Nahimic software also includes a 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. Whilst XSplit Gamescaster is not pre-installed it is readily available as a free download.

MSI PE60 2QE

MSI PE60 battery life

The battery here is a 6 cell Li-ion with a 41.4Wh rating. A much lower rated battery than we are used to, even lower than the 60Wh seen in the GE62 so our expectations were very low with regards to battery life. With Powermark's Battery Test on the Balanced setting we received a result of just 95 minutes, a good 24 minutes less that the GE62 and easily one of our lowest results to date.
The poor battery life results were echoed across the board unfortunately. With our YouTube video test, which is a 4 hour loop of a standard 480P video, the laptop set on high performance and the screen at 100% brightness, we managed just 97 minutes. With the system turned down to the balanced setting and brightness lowered to 50% we increased that slightly to 114 minutes. Testing with Netflix and using the same 50% settings we managed a slightly better 127 minutes, not quite enough for one film at today's 2 hours plus length that they seem to be.

MSI PE60 2QE


Gaming performance under battery power alone is significantly restricted as appears to be the case with all laptops of this type. The power settings cannot be altered and games will be restricted to a maximum 30FPS. With a full battery charge all we managed to get was a poor 44 minutes. If you fancy gaming with a laptop then it seems it has to be plugged in to get the best performance and to game for any length of time. From flat to recharge to 100% took 114 minutes.

PE60 2QE 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 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this laptop we are using Nvidia 347.88 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 11.75 Seconds 8
Super Pi @ 1M 11.19 seconds 9
3D Mark - Ice Storm 1.2 51980 4
3D Mark - Cloud Gate 1.1 16807 4
3D Mark - Fire Strike 3916 4
3D Mark - Sky Diver 12180 4
Passmark Performance Test 8.0 2478 4
Cinebench 11.5 Open GL 55.76FPS - CPU 6.61pts 6
Unigine Heaven 4.0 630 4
Unigine Valley 1.0 858 4
PC Mark 8 - Home Conventional 3.0 2986 5
PC Mark 8 - Storage Test 2021 4
Given the very similar specification compared to the GE62 we expected results to be almost identical and on the whole the gaming and benchmark performance between the two systems came out very similar with perhaps a couple of exceptions. With Battlefield 4 we had a more than playable 52 FPS on high, 36FPS on high in Max Payne 3 and 70FPS in Sims 4 on the Ultra Settings. PC Mark 8 Home Conventional gave a good result with 2986, Unigine Valley 1.0 of 858 and Heaven 4 just 630. The main difference was with Passmark Performance Test 8 where we recieved just 2478, compared to 3619 in the GE62, most likely down to the lack of SSD.

Gaming Performance

1920 x 1080 Resolution FPS (Fraps)
Battlefield 4 High Settings 52
Battlefield 4 Ultra Settings 38
Sims 4 Medium Settings 90
Sims 4 Ultra Settings 70
Max Payne 3 High Settings 36
Max Payne 3 Maximum Settings 30
COD: Advanced Warfare Maximum Settings 51

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 are 48°C and under test conditions these reached 90°C with the Nvidia GPU reaching 73°C.

MSI PE60 2QE

MSI have certainly cracked the cooling of their laptops. Compared to the huge issues we've found with some of Gigabyte's machines, the Cooler Boost 3 system employed by MSI which uses three heat pipes for the graphics card and 1 for the CPU works very well. During out tests and gaming the maximum noise level was an excellent 34dBS, the system fans do stay on quite a while after the tests and gaming have finished but this is a small price to pay to get such a quiet and cool system. At normal times with the system idle the fan noise is barely noticeable.

Verdict

Pros

  • Decent specification for the price
  • Nice looking silver design
  • Great build quality
  • Superb onboard sound

Cons

  • Poor battery life
  • No SSD
  • No Blu-ray drive

MSI PE60 2QE Prestige Laptop Review

Should I buy the MSI PE60 2QE?


A sub £900 laptop that can play recent games on high to maximum settings? That would have been unheard of before MSI's 15.6" PE60 2QE came along, but that's exactly what we get here. Available for £899 this laptop offers very decent value for money. The specification hasn't been sacrificed to reach that price either, with an Intel 5th generation Broadwell Quad Core i7-5700HQ CPU, 1TB HDD, 8GB of RAM and a mid range GTX960M graphics chip, though perhaps a Blu-ray drive would have sweetened the deal even more.

With a very similar specification to MSI's GE62 2QD the performance for gaming and in our benchmark tests gave almost identical results showing that MSI have created a system that can play games on high or even maximum settings and using the same superb cooling system of the GE62 we have a very quiet system, even under load. It certainly isn't ultra thin or lightweight, but the last few Gigabyte laptops we've reviewed have shown what happens when you try and squeeze too much into an ultra thin shell.

The onboard sound system is superb and the display uses an excellent IPS LCD panel with MSI's True Color Technology which we calibrated to almost reference levels of quality. There isn't the gaming bells and whistles that you'd get with MSI's gaming range of laptops, but then those are not essential anyway. Unfortunately battery life is again an issue, with just a 41Wh battery, we barely managed 44 minutes for gaming (capped at 30FPS) and under 2 hours with YouTube.

What alternatives are available?


We struggled to find any alternatives for the £1000 GE62 2QD, but in the computer world it doesn't take very long for prices to fall and this is evident in other systems now available. A different version of this PE60 2QE is available with a less powerful i5 CPU for only £800 with everything else identical, plus even cheaper is the recently reduced £730 Acer Aspire V-Nitro VN7-591G offering an almost identical system although with a less powerful i5 CPU and no DVD drive. Compared to other systems MSI's PE60 2QE still offers excellent value for money when you weigh up all the features and benefits, despite again seeing a shocking battery life and as such is a worthy winner of our AVForums Recommended Award.
Recommended

Scores

Screen Quality

.
9

Sound Quality

10

Processing Speed

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Build Quality

.
9

Value For Money

.
9

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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