MSI GE62 6QF Apache Pro user review


#1

MSI GE62 6QF Apache Pro user review

Note the exact tested model is GE62 6QF-007UK. This is sold in the UK, and there may be variations in specification for models sold elsewhere.

Introduction

This is a 15” gaming laptop, and will be primarily judged as such. If you want a laptop for another purpose, you might need to look elsewhere.

As background, my last laptop was also bought for gaming in the 15” form factor. It was several years old and struggled with modern games, so it was time to replace it. I wanted to stick with this screen size, as a balance between what you see, and how much fun it is to move around. For me a 17” was a bit much to carry about, even if 15” is no ultra-portable. After much searching I settled on this MSI.

This laptop was purchased in December 2015.

Physical considerations

The lid top and surface around the keyboard is finished in what looks like black anodised aluminium, giving it a nice feel. The rest of the laptop is mostly your standard black plastic. On the lid you get the MSI logo and a “Gaming G Series” badge which wouldn’t look out of place on an Italian styled supercar.

On the left side is a collection of various port. Kensington lock, network, USB 3, HDMI, DisplayPort, USB 3, USB C, mic and headphone 3.5mm sockets. So a good selection there.

The right side has the DVD drive taking up a large part of the space, leaving only room for another USB 2 socket, SD card reader, and power connector.

There are no connectors on the rear. There are two vents for cooling.

The front has three LED indicators. Because it is sloped, you can’t actually see them with the laptop in a normal use position unless you catch some reflection off whatever surface the laptop is on.

The bottom has a selection of air vents and not a lot else. Unlike every other laptop I’ve ever owned, you don’t have access to anything like the hard disk, ram, and the battery is not removable. It looks like you have to remove the whole base cover to access anything, but spoiling the party is a warranty tamper sticker. If you value the warranty, you will not be changing any components yourself. For what it’s worth, the DVD drive is a possible exception to this and may be removable without breaking the seal. I haven’t tried.

Keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard looks great, and feels typical for a laptop. The main part itself is near enough standard size, but the number pad has been put on a diet and is a bit thin. The cursor keys have been squashed in place. The function keys are also rather shorter than standard. You get physical page up and page down buttons too, not hidden away with function key access.

This is a UK keyboard, as you’d expect for a UK model, but they didn’t go the whole way. It is in effect a US layout keyboard with the UK symbols on the appropriate keys. You still have the US half height return key, with a couple keys moved around due to that. This isn’t likely to affect most gaming, but may be a friction point if you will also be using a proper standard UK keyboard elsewhere.

Of note, the left Windows key has been moved to the right of the space bar to prevent accidental pressing while gaming. In its place you get the function key to activate the special functions. I understand it can be mapped back to the left if you really want to, but haven’t tried it myself since I rarely use it anyway.

The keyboard backlight can be varied in brightness and colour, but the colour is roughly limited to 3 banks, left, middle, right. If you want to program individual keys different colours, this is not the keyboard for you.

The touchpad material is textured to match the panel around it, but is made from a slightly different material. There is still the vertical texture to it. There is a large surface. Note even if you try and turn everything off in software, there is some acceleration to the pointer movement which I personally don’t like, preferring a true linear response.

Towards the top-right of the keyboard are 3 more buttons. One toggles between standard and high speed fan modes, in case you feel like extra cooling. The standard fan mode varies speed according to temperature as you would expect. The next button toggles effects on the keyboard. Presumably this could be programmed but I haven’t looked into it. And finally there is the good old power button.

Display

This is a 15” 1920x1080 HD display. The finish is matte which gives a great image and no reflection problems that you get from glossy displays. Viewing angle is excellent with minimal shifts with vertical or horizontal angle. This is something you do not have to worry about.

Colour gamut is claimed to substantially cover sRGB. I don’t have a test for it, but it looks good, and less than my AdobeRGB display on my old desktop. You get a good range of brightness and contrast. The supplied software includes a colour tool where you can choose between different profiles. Personally the only two I feel I need are sRGB, and anti-blue. The latter setting cuts the blue output, which is believed to influence sleep patterns if used at high brightness late at night.

I don’t know what the claimed response time is. In practice, I don’t notice any problems with ghosting or similar.
http://www.lagom.nl/lcd-test/
Above link is a handy site I found to quickly checking how a display performs. The test was performed with the laptop in sRGB mode at max brightness

Quick contrast test: pass
Clock/phase ok
Gamma – red maybe slightly high but others ok
Gradient – slight fine banding visible. If I compare against my desktop monitor I see it is smoother although not quite banding free. This is suggestive of a limited colour depth requiring some kind of dithering to get 8bpc output.
Black level test –If I concentrate really hard, I can just about make out level 7 so we’re not able to resolve the lowest levels here.
On white saturation things are better. I can make out level 253, but not 254.
Inversion (pixel walk) test is fine in small version.

I will mention at this point, in one of my games I did notice an odd effect. In Elite: Dangerous, I was flying towards an Earth-like world. What I found was a banding pattern in some of the sea areas, which moved around as the view did. I took a screenshot, and I could reproduce this effect outside of the game also. After further investigation, it appears to be sensitive to green channel spatial dithering patterns. My best guess is the panel doesn’t have the full bit depth required and has to resort to dithering in some form. It appears the game rendering engine produces a dither pattern in its output which is not visible normally, only when you magnify the output. If you scale the image at all, the banding disappears presumably as the dither is broken up. This part of this game is the only place I have noticed it so far, so it doesn’t appear to be a major problem. Still it is something to be aware of.

Sound

There are built in stereo speakers somewhere under the laptop, directed through vents on the front edge. These are capable of a decent volume level. Quality is ok for a laptop. You’re not going to replace a hi-fi with it, but if you want to make a noise it is sufficient.

The sound comes with Nahimic software. This allows you to apply effects to the sound, such as bass boost, frequency leveller, virtual surround, volume boost, reverb and voice clarity. It comes with three customisable profiles for music, gaming and movie. Or you can turn it off. In general it does add an extra richness to the sound from the laptop, but it sometimes seem to struggle at higher volume playback. This appears to be a weakness of the software, as disabling it gives a more consistent if less rich sound.

It also comes with microphone processing settings which I haven’t tried.

GPU

This uses Optimus to seamlessly switch between the built in Intel HD Graphics 530 to save power, or the Nvidia GTX 970M when you do need to push harder.

Clocks under load were reported by GPU-Z to be 1037.4 MHz core and 1252.8 MHz memory, so there is a bit of a core boost over standard, but ram is at stock speed.

The 970M actually uses the same core as the desktop 970, but with less units active, and lower clocks. How fast it is will depend on exactly what is limiting. Ram bandwidth is slightly higher than on the 960 due to the bus width more than offsetting the reduced clock. So the stock 970M should be a bit faster than a stock 960. Of course, most of those on the market are factory overclocked, so the typical 960 may well be as fast as the 970M in practice.

Comparing the 970M against the 970, performance will be lower, depending on what’s limiting, and not considering possible factory overclocks.

Past experience had shown that decent performance is possible from the GTX 960 at 1080p resolution and 60 fps. You might not be able to have all eye candy on maximum in that case but will still be in the upper realms of in game pre-set configurations.

How about some benchmarks I hear you say? Well, I don’t have a desktop 960 available any more, and it isn’t exactly fair to run it against a 980 Ti! If anyone has a specific benchmark that is free to download and run, I can do so on request.

Side note: one of my hobbies is photography. I tried to install DxO Optics Pro, but it kept BSOD during install when detecting GPU functionality. After much tinkering, I suspected it may be getting rather confused by the GPU switching. Could I force the 970M to be active? I ran a benchmark in the background while running the install, and that did the trick! It installed fine and has been fine since. For powered use, I’d actually prefer to disable the Intel GPU anyway and just leave it fixed on the nvidia. I don’t know of any way to force this.

Connectivity

Wireless connectivity is provided by Intel dual band wireless AC 3165. This is rated for speeds up to 433 Mbps which is plenty for internet things. If you need a bit more speed for local transfers, you can plug a cable into the Killer e2400 gigabit Ethernet. Bluetooth is also included.

I haven’t tested the transfer rates but connections to my Asus AC router are reliable and stable.

Storage

The laptop has two storage drives in it.

Firstly there is a Toshiba THNSNJ128G8NU 128 GB SSD. This gives peak read speeds to about 550 MB/s over SATA, so doesn’t make use of the extra bandwidth potential from the M.2 interface. To be fair, the difference from a faster SSD isn’t very noticeable outside of benchmarks so that isn’t really important.

The second drive is 1 TB regular hard disk, part HGST HTS721010A9E630. This peaks around 130 MB/s. Looking it up, this is a 7200rpm 2.5” drive from around 2013.

I can’t but feel the fitting of a 128 GB SSD is penny pinching too far. At a point, to save a little money you give up too much potential, and that line has been crossed here. At retail prices, the cost of a 240 GB SSD is hardly much more than 128 GB class drives, and would offer much more flexibility. I’m sure a large OEM would get far better pricing than at retail, so the differential could be lower. With a 128 GB drive, you’re going to be forever debating if you want to install software on the SSD or the hard disk. Given that this laptop is not a budget model anyway, the small extra cost for a 240 GB SSD I feel would have been welcome by buyers and potential buyers. As mentioned earlier, you can’t access the SSD without breaking the warranty sticker, so you have to think twice about buying a replacement and fitting your own.

The 1 TB hard disk feels fast enough, although of course it is no SSD. It does provide a bulk storage solution. The only open question I would have is, if it might be overall better to have gone for a hybrid drive. That is one that that also includes a quantity of NAND such that for data on it, you get SSD like performance.


#2

CPU and ram performance

The included CPU is the current latest generation known as Skylake. The i7-6700HQ is a 4 core, 8 thread processor, running a base speed of 2.6 GHz and can turbo up to 3.5 GHz.

This is backed up with dual channel DDR4 running at 2133. Overall this is a potent little package and you’re not going to get much faster easily in a laptop.

One of the reasons for choosing this laptop model is that it does use the latest Skylake processors from Intel. The older Broadwell and Haswell CPUs can still be found in other models. If you’re going to buy a laptop that should last for some years, you don’t want to be held back by having older technology than needed.

Again I haven’t run any particular benchmarks here, but can do freely available ones on request.

Cooling

One of the concerns about any laptop has to be the cooling potential. This isn’t something to be overly concerned with here. Even running Prime95 and Furmark, the CPU and GPU temperatures don’t get much beyond the 70’s C. The fans do spin up and make some noise which is largely unavoidable in this form factor. If you use the fan boost mode it goes even faster, but doesn’t make a big difference to temperatures, in the ball park of a couple degrees or so.

After running for a while, the surface to the left of the touchpad does get a bit warm so there’s something going on under there. It doesn’t get uncomfortably hot. To investigate this further, a thermal imaging camera was used.

With the laptop left idle for a while, it still warms up. The touchpad gets to 39C (with a room temperature at the time of 23C). It feels warm but not excessively hot. The vent on the back shows a similar temperature.

Under load, things get hotter. I tried a mixed combination of GPU and CPU loading and above are examples of the temperatures I was seeing. The temperature under the keyboard gets to 49C and the vent closest to the camera shows 53C. You can also see the table behind the laptop showing heating from the hot air. You don’t feel the temperature from the keyboard area since the plastic doesn’t hold much heat and you don’t spend a long time in contact with it.

Conclusion

Overall I find this has a good balance of features for the price as is, but some small changes would update it from good to excellent. In particular, a bigger SSD would be an obvious choice. Alternatively give the owner access to the drives to replace them without losing warranty status.

The LED indicators on the front could be moved somewhere where you can actually see them in use. And there were some quirks presumably due to Optimus so the option to force it to only use the nvidia GPU would be welcome to avoid that. The screen banding issue is rare enough not to be a concern, but still it would be better if corners weren’t cut to allow it to occur in the first place.

If I didn’t have this and was looking for a gaming laptop today, would I still get it? I haven’t checked if anything else new has come out since then to make me change my mind, or if pricing has shifted much, but in principle I would still buy it now.


#3

Great review Mackerel. As you say, they shouldn’t have skimped on the SSD, as they are readily available and prices are getting down to a reasonable level. The Dell XPS13 small form laptop has a strip SSD about the size of a stick of desktop RAM, but is 512gb in size and has similar data transfer speeds to yours. No need for a 2nd drive in most cases, but you could always add a multi terabyte external drive if required and with USB3 transfer rates, should suit most purposes.


#4

The laptop does have a M.2 SSD, but not a particular big or fast one. On my desktop build I also have a M.2 SSD, a 512GB AHCI PCIe (as opposed to NVMe). Now, it was seriously not cheap, but it does about 2 GB/s sustained! Random is no better than average though. Hence I’m not complaining about the speed of the laptop SSD, just that they didn’t put a 240GB+ one in. Externals means something else to break, lose, misconfigure or whatever. The built in 1TB HD will suffice as I will pick and choose what to install. After the warranty period has expired, I might then swap it for a 1TB SSD or bigger if affordable at the time. I’d also be tempted to replace the M.2 drive but doing a direct copy over will be interesting…


#5

nicely written, I’m in the market for a new machine and while I don’t really need it to game - buying a “gaming” machine does tend to give the performance I am used to. Business class laptops just don’t seem to cut it.

I’m considering this one at the moment, http://www.johnlewis.com/asus-zenbook-pro-ux501-laptop-intel-core-i7-12gb-ram-1tb-256gb-15-4k-uhd-aluminium/p2515296

I want to see it “in the flesh” though as I’m quite picky with keyboards as I use them lots :lol: the joys of coding :slight_smile:

I’m also very interested in the latest CES promoted Razer Blade Stealth that uses a funky USB-C and thunder whatsit to allow the Razer Core, essentially offloading GPU work to an external box. Pre release price estimates put it in the same ball park as the zenbook, no price info yet on the “core”, the external unit, so would probably work out more expensive overall


#6

The Asus, the keyboard in the photo is a US one, so definitely worth a look. I had a similar problem with endlessly debating the Corsair keyboards. All the images I could find showed US, but I was reassured that was a generic image they used and they did in fact have UK layout ones. Never did order one…

The Razer… looks nice, interesting, quite likely expensive!

Actually I’m a bit surprised with my latest work laptop which I also got in December. It’s a Dell something or other 12-inch I think. Really tiny (ideal for flights) and battery lasts ages. Last gen upper-midrange Broadwell i7 (no Iris Pro though) seems to do ok. Just no 3D-ness to speak of. I even dropped it once - the first time I dropped any laptop, ever. Slipped out of my hand when having a really bad docking day, fell at least couple of feet to hard surface. Didn’t take more than a slight scratch! I’ve not been a historic fan of Dells in the past but they do seem to be improving.


#7

yup, that’s what is bothering me. Went instore yesterday and they were honest enough to say simplest thing is to order it then if it’s not right, return it.

They generally don’t put laptops of that price on display, the MacBooks that were in store were quite literally glued to the display!


#8

Following on from this, I’ve just had an advert sent by email from Ebuyer about another MSi gaming laptop, that would suit those who don’t need quite as much power.
http://www.ebuyer.com/737456-msi-gl62-6qc-gaming-laptop-9s7-16j612-065

For only £630 it looks like a reasonable starter gaming laptop, that obviously hasn’t got the grunt of Mackerel’s unit, but could be a good one for most games.


#9

The problem here is, how low can you go? 940M graphics… haven’t looked it up but it must be below a desktop 950 and already there you’re into questionable territory if you want decent quality and framerate at 1080p. Sure you can turn things down, but I suppose the bottom line question is, would it be much better than intel integrated? If not, then pretty much any laptop above bargain basement could do.

I really feel most so called gaming laptop makers don’t give good balances. They spend too much on the CPU, not enough on the GPU. I would rather have for example an i3 and put that cost difference into the GPU, as for most games that would give a far better experience.


#10

The problem here is, how low can you go? 940M graphics… haven’t looked it up but it must be below a desktop 950 and already there you’re into questionable territory if you want decent quality and framerate at 1080p. Sure you can turn things down, but I suppose the bottom line question is, would it be much better than intel integrated? If not, then pretty much any laptop above bargain basement could do.

I really feel most so called gaming laptop makers don’t give good balances. They spend too much on the CPU, not enough on the GPU. I would rather have for example an i3 and put that cost difference into the GPU, as for most games that would give a far better experience.


#11

While passing, I’ve gave in and updated the drives on the laptop. The 128GB M.2 SATA SSD is now a 525GB Crucial MX300. The 1TB HD is now a Sandisk 480GB SSD. So, overall a reduction in capacity but more than enough for games and SSD all the way.

Replacing the HD with SSD has also slightly reduced temperatures on the left wristpad area which is a hotspot and complained about on MSI’s forums in this laptop family.

I’ve also been eyeballing the Pascal successors to this laptop. They’re no doubt faster but pricing is higher than ever too…


#12

Laptops will always suffer from heat until someone works out a way to liquid cool them or some other form of active as opposed to passive cooling. The only other way is to lower voltages to reduce another source of heat. Not heard of anything that will do in recent times.


#13

This isn’t the CPU or GPU cooling. Under the left wrist location is the 2.5" drive bay, and the heat there is mainly from whatever drive is fitted. The cooling on the laptop is adequate for the GPU, and isn’t that bad for CPU (I wouldn’t crunch 24/7 on it).


#14

What about an SSD in place of the 1TB HD? That would certainly run a lot cooler than a rotary drive. Yes you would lose some storage space, but 480gb SSDs are readily available at reasonable prices now and installing a drive might be easy to do without affecting your warranty. If you require data storage only and not game files, network the laptop to a NAS to free up space on the machine. Is that an option?