You don't need to have inherited a small fortune to nab yourself a neat gaming rig. MSI's already spawned several ace gaming laptops that won't cost you the Earth, and now it's flogging the GE620, a 15.6-inch laptop that packs a second-generation Intel Core i7 processor, 4GB of RAM and an Nvidia graphics chip, all for around £800.
This is a machine built for gaming, but you wouldn't know it at first sight -- the GE620 looks rather, well, boring. The plain grey splashed across the lid and wrist rest hardly gets the blood pumping, and it's only when you notice that the W, A, S and D keys have been painted a stand-out red that you realise this is a gaming beast.
The dull design won't suit those seeking a gaming laptop slathered in glowing LEDs, but we can see the GE620 appealing to gamers who also need a normal computer for work. You could run your boring PowerPoint presentation during the day, and then break out the energy drinks and fire up Call of Duty for a monster fragging sesh once everyone else has left the office. Think of it as a gaming laptop in disguise.
We wouldn't describe this laptop as very portable. In fact, it's fairly beefy, measuring 383 by 38 by 250mm, and weighing a substantial 2.4kg. Still, if you've got an accommodating rucksack or satchel, you could still lug it around with you.
Gaming is a treat on this machine, thanks to its potent array of components. It includes a second-generation, quad-core, 2GHz Core i7-2630QM chip, 4GB of RAM and an Nvidia GeForce GT 540M graphics card.
The GE620 scored an impressive 8,613 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, and a whopping 9,322 in 3DMark06, which ranks a PC's polygon-mangling abilities. Those are impressive scores, and actual gaming proved equally encouraging -- this laptop ran Assassin's Creed 2 with the graphics set to max without breaking a sweat, and the frame rate rarely dropped below 35 frames per second. We expect this machine will handle the latest titles well, although you might have to dial back the settings slightly when running cutting-edge games.
The components inside the GE620 make it a rock-solid multimedia laptop. Everyday multitasking feels very fluid, and high-definition video plays smoothly. Our only gripe is that, when running games, we found the fan noise to be rather loud.
The laptop's battery life is reasonable. In the Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the laptop's CPU at a constant 100 per cent, the battery lasted a fraction under 2 hours and 8 minutes before conking out. You can expect longer battery life with more cautious usage.
The trackpad itself is decent enough, but the click buttons are unpleasantly stiff, and will quickly tire out your thumbs if you're doing much Web browsing. We'd recommend slapping a mouse into the side of the GE620 and using that instead.
We've got mixed feelings about the keyboard too. It feels sturdily put together, but sports some very shallow keys -- sometimes it's hard to tell if you've even pressed them. The enter key is really small too, which could prove frustrating.
The 15.6-inch display is decent but no more -- colours fail to shine as brightly as they could. Our version had a 1,366x768-pixel resolution, which is fairly standard, but the MSI website states that a 1,920x1,080-pixel version is also available. That will probably make games look crisper.
The problem is that we've been spoiled recently -- some other MSI laptops boast truly gorgeous and really vibrant displays. So, while the GE620's panel looks good, it didn't blow us away.
Around the edges of the GE620, you'll find an HDMI port, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, an Ethernet jack, a VGA port, a multi-format card reader and three USB ports, two of which support USB 3.0.
A DVD rewritable drive resides on the right-hand side of the laptop, and a webcam sits above the display. There was a 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drive inside our machine, although 640GB and 750GB versions are also available. The whole shebang trots along on Windows 7 Home Premium.
The MSI GE620 looks dull, and its keyboard and trackpad aren't brilliant, but it really delivers when it comes to performance. Overall, it's a quirky but cool machine.
If you've got some extra cash, you'd do very well indeed to examine the face-meltingly powerful Medion Erazer X6811 too.
Edited by Charles Kloet