MSI isn't a company that shies away from high-end, gaming-orientated computing devices. Its latest effort, the GT640, is a 15.4-inch laptop that comes with a high-performance, quad-core CPU, gaming graphics and some questionable desktop wallpaper that claims it's the 'world's fastest quad-core notebook'. We're sure Alienware will have something to say about that, but, if you're interested, the GT640 is available to buy now for around £1,300.
The GT640 isn't very easy on the eye. In fact, your optical nerve might sting a little once exposed to the laptop's garish red detailing, cheesy chrome highlights and general air of being a prop from a 1980s Battlestar Galactica episode. MSI, if you're reading this, please tell the bloke who designed the GT640 to take a long, hard look at himself in the mirror. A long, hard look at a calendar wouldn't go amiss, either -- we think he'll find it's no longer the '80s. And, no, we're not being sexist -- a woman would never have gone for this design.
Kind of a big deal
The GT640 is a large machine. Its 360mm by 26mm by 260mm chassis will be a tight squeeze in anything other a large rucksack, so it's just as well MSI includes one -- along with an optical, weight-adjustable gaming mouse -- in the box. Don't expect an easy ride when taking it to your local LAN party, though -- the GT640 weighs a hefty 2.7kg, and this figure climbs to over 3kg when you throw the large power brick into the equation.
MSI uses the space on the GT640 to good effect. It has three USB sockets (one of which doubles as an eSATA port), HDMI and D-Sub VGA video ports, a 4-pin FireWire port, a four-in-one memory-card reader and an Ethernet jack.
The machine's impressive girth also allows for a full-sized keyboard with a separate numerical keypad, but it's not particularly comfortable to type on. The keys have slightly too much travel, so entering text can feel like trekking through a muddy field -- on your fingers. The enter key is only half-height, which makes it difficult to find while touch typing, and the Ctrl and Fn keys at the bottom left corner are the wrong way around. We're firm believers that the Ctrl key should always be placed on the bottom left -- as is the case on desktop keyboards -- not the Fn key.
The GT640 has an ample 15.4-inch screen with a fairly high resolution of 1,680x1,050 pixels. It's not quite high enough to make the most of the Blu-ray drive nestling in the left side of the machine, but there's always the option of outputting the visuals to a 1080p display by way of the HDMI port. We think this is a good course of action, as the screen's image fidelity is rather disappointing. It appeared to us to lack sufficient contrast, with graphics looking slightly washed-out. Whichever way you choose to watch your movies, though, you should be aware that the GT640 doesn't ship with Blu-ray playback software -- you'll need to buy this yourself.
The GT640's default Windows wallpaper claims it's the 'world's fastest quad-core notebook'. We'll tell you now -- it's not. Its Intel Core i7-720QM processor and 4GB of RAM give it plenty of power, and it achieved an impressive PCMark05 benchmark score of 7,933, but that's not a patch on the 8,724 achieved by the Alienware M17x in August 2009.
We were rather hoping the GT640's 3D performance would validate its audacious claims, but, alas, this wasn't to be either. Its Nvidia GeForce GTS 250M racked up 9,001 in 3DMark06, which, while extremely impressive, isn't a patch on the 13,771 scored by its Alienware rival.
Despite its claims, the MSI GT640 is most certainly not the world's fastest laptop, quad-core or otherwise. It is, however, fast enough to handle just about anything you throw at it, including games. Significantly, it's also notably cheaper than many of its rivals. If you can put up with its questionable looks and various other foibles, it's worthy of consideration.
Additional editing by Charles Kloet