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MSI GS60 Ghost Pro mini review and upgrade log.

Discussion in 'Project Logs' started by 15th Warlock, Apr 26, 2014.

  1. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Hello guys, I just got a new gaming laptop, the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro, and I wanted to share with you how I upgraded it to 16GBs of RAM and repasted the GPU and CPU with a new TIM:

    The hardware specs:

    CPU: Intel Core i7 4700HQ at 2.4~3.4GHz
    VGA: 3GBs GeForce GTX 870M (Kepler 1344 CUDA cores @ 941MHZ~967MHz boost)
    Chipset: Intel H87
    RAM: 12GBs Kingston 1.35V DDR3L 1600MHz (8GBs+4GBs)
    OS SSD: Toshiba 128GBs M.2 SATA
    Data HDD: 7200RPM 1TB
    Weight: 4.36lbs
    Screen: 1920x1080 15.6" IPS LCD
    Wireless: Intel 7260 Wilkins Peak 2 (2x2 802.11 ac)
    LAN: Killer Gaming Network
    OS: Windows 8.1 64bit
    MSRP: $1799

    First of all, the GS60 Pro is, out of the box, an amazing little laptop, truly capable of running any current game (as of Apr 2014) maxed out; I went for the GTX 870M powered model with the 1080p display, there's going to be a 3K display model, but I think that at 15.6" you really don't need such high resolution for gaming, and I seriously doubt any current mobile GPUs can push so many pixels with details maxed out on most games.

    The laptop features a Mg-Li alloy enclosure that's surprisingly light, and weights only 4.36lbs, it also has a superb IPS LCD panel with excellent gamut, viewing angles and bright colors, it has a 141 DPI resolution, and an antiglare matte finish.

    The keyboard was designed by steelseries, is back lighted and has a full numeric pad, its keys have a satisfying travel and response time and you can actually change the lighting color from the steelseries control panel, and even choose lighting effects like having different parts of the keyboard light up with a variety of different colors depending on the audio that's currently playing.

    The audio is served by four small speakers, designed by Dynaudio, and powered by the Sound Blaster Cinema 2 codec, the speakers sound nice, with no distortion, but like almost all ultrabook class speakers, they are serviceable at most.

    At first I thought the grill on top of the keyboard was a speaker grill, but it's actually an intake for the cooling fans, noise emissions from the fans are very low until you start gaming and the discrete card turns on, then the RPMs ramp up, but it was never distractingly loud, the fans make more of a woosh sound, than a jet taking off sound like certain discrete cards out there; under extended gaming sessions the bottom of the laptop can get very warm, but it appears the cooling system achieves thermal equilibrium before any throttling happens.

    Battery life is average, I managed to get 4.5 hrs when browsing using 40% brightness, the laptop features Nvidia's Optimus tech, so the IGP serves all display functions until you go into a game, then the 870M takes over; I was able to play TESO for a little over 52 mins on battery, enabling the battery boost from the Nvidia control panel only added 3 minutes when gaming, I would rather let the 870M render without limits than cap the framerate at 30FPS for 3 more minutes of gameplay, but YMMV.

    Overall, it's a very nice looking piece of hardware and it has a premium brushed aluminum finish to it, if it wasn't for the MSI Gaming logo, it could easily pass for a premium ultrabook, but don't be fooled by the looks, this puppy packs quite a punch.

    The frame is not as solid as the unibody Macbook or the Razer Blade, but the built quality is reasonably good for the price, the screen has a little bit of flex, but feels solid considering how thin it is. The lid is emblazoned with MSI's "Gaming" logo, and the little dragon lights up with when the laptop is turned on.

    The laptop came in a nondescript cardboard box that contains both a carrying sleeve with the MSI logo stitched to it, and the actual, more nice looking box:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The 1080p model comes with only 12GBs fo RAM, working on a single channel configuration, I decided I could try to squeeze a bit more power from it:

    I found basically all games I've tried so far run at the native resolution out of the box, no need for scaling, the screen is so gorgeous and 1080p has such pixel density on a 15.6" display you hardly need any antialiasing, but you can certainly enable it if you want to; games like Crysis 3, Titanfall, TESO, BF4 and COD: Ghost look amazing on this display:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Getting to the RAM and SSD is a very complex procedure, but par for the curse for an ultrabook class system, please remember that opening your laptop may void your warranty, I just wanted to share the procedure, but do not encourage doing it, if you have this laptop and want to upgrade it do it at your own risk!

    By Trama's request, I'm uploading pics showing the screws and connectors needed to remove in order to access the opposing side of the motherboard. Disclaimer: I do not endorse people accessing the interior of the laptop, you risk: a) loosing your warranty if you break something and/or b) bricking your expensive toy. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.

    This is not an easy task, if you have experience building PCs or dissembling laptops and/or cell phones it might be easier for you upgrade the laptop, otherwise I would recommend not doing it! The screws are marked by yellow circles, and the connectors by red circles:

    [​IMG]

    To disconnect the ribbons, all you need to do is lift the locking mechanism with your fingernail, and pull the ribbon using the short tab at the end of it. Once you gently remove the board you'll see one extra connector:

    [​IMG]

    This connects the audio to the board and you need to reconnect it before assembling your laptop again, I found it much easier to reconnect if you remove the battery pack before you do, it goes here:

    [​IMG]

    Once you have access to the back of the motherboard you can upgrade it to your heart's content :)

    [​IMG]

    This Kingston RAM module runs flawlessly, at the right timings, voltage and clocks when paired to the 8GB module already present in this system, this is imperative if you want to enable dual channel operation (which unfortunately is not available out of the box due to MSI's puzzling choice of a 8GB+4GB configuration for the RAM)

    [​IMG]

    These are the GPU and CPU dies after cleaning the paste MSI uses, which IMO is very effective, but by using Gelid GC-Extreme I was able to achieve temps that where 4-8 degrees lower compared to the original paste:

    [​IMG]

    Now for the results, before repasting my GPU was reaching 92 degrees and the CPU 91 degrees on extended gaming sessions, after repasting, the max temps I've seen are 86 degrees for the GPU and 89 for the CPU, which I find pretty reasonable considering how thin the enclosure is on this laptop.

    [​IMG]

    The 3DMark 11 scores before going dual channel at default settings were:

    6761

    After going dual channel at default settings:

    6952

    And finally after a bit of OCing for the 870M:

    7366

    [​IMG]

    I apologize for the generic VGA details on the first two results links, for some reason sysinfo didn't work properly for my first 3DMark 11 runs until I updated to the last version before the final run.

    As for 3DMark 13, out of the box:

    4283

    After going dual channel w/ 16GBs of RAM:

    4303

    And finally, after OCing the 870M:

    4607

    [​IMG]

    I find it truly remarkable that such a thin laptop can reach the performance of last year top models based on the 780M, such laptops weight at least twice as much and in some cases are 2x to 3x as thick at this notebook. Granted, the 780M can be OCd to even higher levels and possible runs cooler in such enclosures, but I would've never imagined so much performance could be packed on this form factor.

    Now, for the cons: the tracking pad is kind of unresponsive, and doesn't feature physical buttons, making it only good for browsing and other menial tasks. Also, the 870M runs very hot, although in my case I never saw it throttle; MSI sells also a 2GB 860M model that's about 30~40% slower than the 870M model, but runs at much lower temps, if has the exact same hardware features, so if you plan to only do some light gaming, you should probably consider that model, it still has enough power to run most games maxed out with AA turned off.

    In conclusion, I think you guys would agree to the fact that this is an amazing notebook, light, thin and it packs quite a punch; the cooling system reaches thermal equilibrium before any throttling occurs, even when OCing my GPU to 1013MHz, I had MSI's AB running in the background at all times and the GPU never lost any performance, not even after playing games for over 3 hours and then running multiple benchmarks on it, in my mind, you can't go wrong with the Ghost Pro in terms of performance, portability and price.


    UPDATE: Flashing the VBIOS on the 870M to enhance the boost algorithm, improve load temps and prevent throttling:

    Sen7inel took the time to modify the original 870M VBIOS so it runs at a lower voltage (either -50mV or -75mV) while altering the boost algorithm so the card is permanently clocked at 967MHz! All at lower temps to boot!

    This guy is a genius, check the first post for this instructions, bear in mind that flashing your vbios may in fact void your warranty, and potentially brick your card/laptop, neither me nor Sen7inel hold any responsibility for any issues that may arise from the use of the modified VBIOS images he created, here is an exact quote from his original post found here

    I prefer this version of NVFlash for DOS. There is a Win version out there, call me old school but I had good results in DOS and prefer it.

    I'M NOT RESPONSIBLE IF YOU BREAK YOUR LAPTOP USING
    MY VBIOS OR FOLLOWING THIS PROCEDURE. DO NOT PROCEED IF YOU'RE NOT COMPUTER SAVVY, DO NOT UNDERSTAND, OR ARE NOT COMFORTABLE FLASHING FIRMWARE.

    * * * 870M ONLY, THIS WILL NOT WORK WITH AND/OR MAY BRICK 860M EQUIPPED LAPTOPS * * *

    You'll need:

    1. USB thumb drive (back up your files, they will be deleted)
    2. My modified vbios GS60_870m.zip ( .zip contains two versions, one undervolted -50mV, the other -75mV, both clocked at the stock turbo speed of 967MHz )
    3. GPU-Z
    4. NVFLASH for DOS

    Instructions:

    1. Ensure laptop is pugged into the A/C adapter

    2. Make a backup of your vbios with GPU-Z

    3. Create a USB DOS boot disk thumb drive

    4. Stick the contents of the NVFLASH download .zip and the vbios .rom file in the root folder of the thumb drive

    5. Change boot mode from UEFI to LEGACY in bios

    6. Boot to DOS off the USB thumb drive

    7. Double check you're still plugged into the A/C adapter [​IMG]

    8. Flash with the following command: nvflash -6insertromnamehere.rom at this point

    9. Ensure version and ID match ABORT IF YOU SEE A VERSION/ID MISMATCH OR ERROR, last chance to back out

    10. Y at prompt if everything looks good DO NOT TURN OFF OR UNPLUG THE LAPTOP

    11. Once NVFLASH displays the UPDATE SUCCESSFUL prompt, turn off the laptop, then back on, change boot mode back to UEFI in bios and you're done!

    Use the same procedure to return to your backed up stock vbios or try my other voltage version

    Enjoy [​IMG]


    Thus end the instructions posted by Sen7inel, I give full credit to him for this awesome tweak, and can verify the procedure works and my temps have dropped to 85 degrees max while keeping full boost clocks!



    A little background: I was in the market for an Ultrabook class notebook, as my venerable 17.3" Samsung Series 7 Gamer weights over 9 pounds, and when traveling I usually carry the power brick, my DSLR and a Kindle 8.9 Fire HDX on my backpack, along with a couple portable consoles (3DSXL and Vita) and their respective chargers, when adding all that weight I'm lugging around almost over 20lbs.

    I had preordered the new Razer Blade 14", but received an email from Razer informing me the original Apr. 4 delivery date had been moved to the 16th, then another email saying they would not ship on the 16th but in May, so I cancelled my preorder and purchased the GS60 Ghost Pro from Newegg last Sunday, and the laptop was at my doorstep on Monday! :rockout:

    I hope you guys like my small update, and if you have any questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to let me know ;)
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2014
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  2. Kursah

    Kursah

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    Nice review! :toast:

    I wanna review my budget Dell 3540 at some point...but man-o-man to be able to afford a sweet gaming lappy like that! Very impressive performance, and amazingly light for something powerful enough to for sure fit in the desktop replacement category.
     
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  3. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Thank you! :toast:

    Yes, I would consider it a desktop replacement, the days when we use to make fun of the "gaming laptop" moniker are far behind us, hope you decide to get this particular model if you decide to upgrade, you won't regret it :)
     
  4. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Updated my original post with a bit info on audio, battery life, MSRP and the keyboard, and uploaded a few more pictures, please let me know what you guys think :toast:
     
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2014
  5. t_ski

    t_ski Former Staff

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    Repasting a new lappy, voiding the warranty in the process is hard-core. Send that leftover 4GB dimm to me ;)
     
    Crunching for Team TPU
  6. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    I've done it to my last 3 gaming laptops, all three of them still work, MSI also states they'll honor the warranty as long as they don't find anything broken inside the laptop if you ever need to send it back for warranty service :)

    I will keep the Kingston SO-DIMM in case I ever need to use the warranty, but I have an extra 1600MHz Corsair Vengeance 4GB SO-DIMM I'm willing to sell, do you live in the US?

     
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  7. trama09 New Member

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    How much think the battery life will improve if you remove the HDD? Or replace it with say, a Samsung 840 Evo?
     
  8. t_ski

    t_ski Former Staff

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    Most of the benchmark-site reviews on this seem to say no difference in battery life when replacing an HDD with an SSD.
     
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    Crunching for Team TPU
  9. Kaynar

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    I am glad to see they improved on the keyboard and stopped having super-glossy cheap plastic as main material for the laptop. Also, FINALLY and IPS on a gaming laptop. YEY!

    Edit: I can't seem to find which model has the IPS 1080p display, can you please show me a model that is available in the UK?
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2014
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  10. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    I don't know what model number is sold in the UK, but here in America the 870m 1080p model is the GS60 Ghost Pro 052

    I've seen a couple of people replace their 7200RPM drive for SSDs at the notebook review thread, and unfortunately neither of them reported any major improvement in battery life as t_ski mentioned :(

    The good news is the mechanical drive is a standard 2.5" notebook drive and it's also easily accessible without the need to remove the motherboard for an upgrade :)
     
  11. Constantine Yevseyev

    Constantine Yevseyev

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    Nice review! Can we have GPU-Z screenshot, by the way?..
     
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  12. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Thank you :)

    And here you go:

    [​IMG]
     
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  13. NationsAnarchy

    NationsAnarchy

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    Nice review + upgrade log mate. A great laptop indeed. Get this if you don't want to break your bank to get a Razer Blade lol
     
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  14. trama09 New Member

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    Would it be possible to make a video showing how to get to the other side of the motherboard? I think my balls will finally drop after I see someone do it.
     
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  15. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    I'll post a link to an awesome video review posted by gentech computers, they are authorized MSI resellers and can even upgrade your laptop while keeping the factory warranty ;)

    I also updated the first post with instructions on how to flash the VBIOS posted by Sen7inel in the note book review forum!

    Sen7inel took the time to modify the original 870M VBIOS so it runs at a lower voltage (either -50mV or -75mV) while altering the boost algorithm so the card is permanently clocked at 967MHz! All at lower temps to boot!

    This guy is a genius, check the first post for this instructions, bear in mind that flashing your vbios may in fact void your warranty, and potentially brick your card/laptop, neither me nor Sen7inel hold any responsibility for any issues that may arise from the use of the modified VBIOS images he created :)
     
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  16. trama09 New Member

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    I assume you're talking about this video:

    Which is great and all, but I doesn't really show exactly how to get to the other side of the motherboard :(
     
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  17. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Yes that's the one, unfortunately you're right :( I just could swear they showed how to flip the board but I just watched it and they don't :(

    I'll try and take a video over the weekend, the only thing you really have to worry about is disconnecting all the ribbons and unscrewing the board from the chassis once you have access to it, hopefully I can do that over the weekend :)
     
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  18. Kursah

    Kursah

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    A buddy of mine with last year's MSI G70 series with i7, ssd +hdd, + GTX770 claims he gained just over an hour removing the HDD and going with just the SSD for general use (word processing, web browsing, etc). This is after he was hit by a car on his bicycle and the laptop had some minor case damage. I am very impressed with MSI lappys after that. It's been a tank, still feels solid. I can't verify his claims, but he still says it to this day. He runs Windows 8.1 + Ubuntu 14.04 dual boot on his 128GB SSD.
     
  19. puma99dk|

    puma99dk|

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    i wish i could afford a laptop like this, but it would be a waste, if i can't connect my 2k screen x:
     
  20. trama09 New Member

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    That'd be awesome if you do! Please take your time, I am in no rush :) Thank you so much in advanced though!
     
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  21. trama09 New Member

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    Sorry if I sound needy, but to make it easier, can you just take a picture of the motherboard and circle the connectors I need to detach in order to get to the other side of the motherboard? After taking a long look and scribbling some notes, I think I can see what I need to do. But still haven't sacked to do it yet. Thank you in advance!
     
  22. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Hello Trama, sorry I haven't updated this yet, I've been using my GS60 for the 10th anniversary WCG challenge, so its been working at a 100% the past few days, that and the fact that I've work 6 days weeks for the last two weeks :p

    But you might just get your wish, I was actually planning to repaste my CPU tomorrow as temps have been hovering around 92 degrees since I started crunching with my CPU, hopefully I can update the thread tomorrow after I have the chance to open it again :)

    Take care and thanks for following this thread :)
     
  23. trama09 New Member

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    It's all good! I completely understand that you have a life outside of this. I actually start my first big boy job tomorrow (Monday). So good bye college downtime/ breaks haha.

    That sounds awesome! I look forward to it and learning how you do it! Please don't let me rush you, I can definitely wait.

    Thanks for everything you've done on this thread! You're one of the main reasons why I got this laptop a couple weeks ago!
     
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  24. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Hey Trama! I'm glad to hear you got a GS60, please share your thoughts on it, I couldn't be happier with my Ghost Pro, but I want to hear what other people think :)

    I'm gonna take mine apart today and will upload the pics hopefully tonight :)

    EDIT: Just a quick update, I opened my lappy, took some pics and will upload them, repasting the CPU was a success, I went from the mid 90s at 100% load to the mid 80% :)

    [​IMG]

    I think I used too much TIM the first time around! will upload the pics for the interior later tonight ;), in the mean time, back to crunching :rockout:
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2014
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  25. 15th Warlock

    15th Warlock

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    Trama09, I uploaded the instructions by editing the original post, please let me know if you have any questions, good luck!
     
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