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MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 2QE (GTX 970M)

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What's Hot: Insanely powerful gaming laptop with top benchmarks in a slim 15" Ultrabook chassis. SteelSeries programmable RGB backlit keyboard, fast Killer networking, great specs and appointments for the price compared to other gaming laptops. Pleasing design that you can take to work.

What's Not: No touch screen, short battery life.


Reviewed December 30, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

I've been reviewing tech hardware for more than a decade. The MSI GS60 Ghost Pro with NVIDIA GTX 970M graphics is one of those landmarks I've dreamed of: finally desktop level gaming performance in a 15.6" Ultrabook package. The 4.2 lb. slim Ghost Pro might look and feel like a high end Ultrabook at first blush, but it's really a full mobile powerhouse inside that packs the guts of a 17" Asus ROG or Alienware 17 into a package that you can carry easily and without reservation. In case you're wondering, my next landmark moment is when we can play, without compromise in frame rate or quality, today's most demanding 3D PC games on a Windows tablet. Razer tried making a gaming tablet, but it wasn't there yet. Maybe in another 2 or 5 years.
Speaking of years, gaming laptops are painful investments: they're terribly expensive and they don't age well. Not that they fall apart quickly--quite the opposite. But for specs obsessed gamers, they often fall short of handling the most difficult games at the highest settings in just a year or two. It's mostly the graphics card that doesn't age well; Intel's laptop CPUs haven't made great performance leaps forward in the past 3 generations, and frankly few programs ask them to. The NVIDIA GTX 970M with 6 gigs of DDR5 VRAM, is god in a box. It's that huge generational leap forward that's promised every year, but usually doesn't turn out to be all that. In this case, it is all that: the GTX 970M and 980M are truly amazing advancements both in performance and in reduced heat and power consumption. Like 40% performance improvement, if we're talking the GTX 860M vs. the 970M. And the 970M generates much less heat, the bane of the 870M and above in the last iteration of the Ghost, MSI Stealth and 2014 Razer Blade. MSI is a gaming brand that makes enthusiast graphics cards and motherboards for desktops as well as gaming and CAD workstation laptops. They work closely with NVIDIA and were one of the first to release the 970M, and they certainly did a great job of it here. There's enough horsepower here to run new games nicely in two years. Heck, the model we have for review, which isn't even a high end configuration, beats my early 2014 Falcon NW Tiki gaming desktop in benchmarks by a few thousand points.

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

What You Get Standard with the MSI Ghost Pro

We look at the MSI Ghost Pro GS60 2QE-064 in this review and it has a list price of $1,899. The $1,699 Ghost (not Pro) model has the capable NVIDIA GTX 860M graphics card that you'll find in several slim gaming laptops. For $200, you want the 970M--it's that much faster. The older Ghost Pro shipped with the Core i7-4700HQ or 4710HQ CPU and GTX 870M graphics--get the cooler, quieter and faster new 2QE model line covered in this review. The Ghost Pro 064 has Killer E2200 Gigabit wired Ethernet and Killer WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, a 128 gig SSD (boot drive) and a 7200 RPM 1 terabyte HDD. It has 3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, mini DisplayPort, an SD card slot, 3.5mm stereo out/SPDIF and a 3.5mm mic jack. Like many serious gaming laptops and mobile workstation class laptops, the machine runs on the quad core Intel 4710HQ 2.5 GHz CPU with Turbo Boost to 3.5 GHz. It has 16 gigs of RAM (some configs have 8 or 12 gigs). The base model has a really lovely matte Samsung PLS (like IPS) 1080p display that I heartily recommend. For around $100 more you can get a 3K display (IGZO technology, glossy) and there's a 4K display option too. Sorry, touch screens aren't an option. An RGB backlit SteelSeries keyboard is standard as is an Elan trackpad. MSI gaming laptops have their Dynaudio sound system with SoundBlaster Cinema 2 software. Tweak the audio settings a bit and you'll enjoy rich, clear and loud sound.

Design and Ergonomics

Though the GS60 Ghost Pro isn't as classy looking as the Razer Blade or HP Omen 15, it's nonetheless a good looking and sleek machine. This isn't the MSI Dominator with the chunky and clunky plastic looks that fit well with the Asus ROG and Alienware lines, it's a monster machine in an attractive Ultrabook's clothes. Of course that MSI red dragon badge on the lid hints that you're not just jockeying spreadsheets, but it's still tame enough to take to work. The LEDs are confined to the keyboard and power button inside, and you can set the keyboard to single color backlighting or turn it off if you want to look serious at work. Work is important here: clearly if you're buying this laptop, you need something that can travel and likely do double duty as your gaming rig and work machine on the go.

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

The lid and keyboard deck are brushed black aluminum, and the lid is moderately fond of fingerprints while the keyboard deck stays fairly clean. This is a good looking laptop with a distinctive style, and its understated design should age well. We wouldn't complain if it had an even more chic look, but MSI's raison d'etre is making powerful laptops for significantly less money than Alienware and Apple, and seriously posh looks cost money. Though slim at 19.9mm, the Ghost Pro feels rigid with no flex, creaks or crude seams. The display bezel isn't exactly small, but that's because it has to match the size of the laptop's lower half, which is larger than average for a 15" notebook in terms of footprint because MSI includes a number pad (more common on roomy 17" laptops) and they needed room for the powerful internals and dual cooling fans.

It's not Quite a Toaster

Speaking of fans, the Ghost Pro's two fans are at the back corners, one for the CPU and another for the GPU. The good news is that they won't cross pollute each other with heat since they're discrete. The fans pull cool air from the grille above the keyboard deck and side vents and push it out the rear, away from you. MSI is experienced at cooling gaming hardware but the first gen Ghost Pro 2PE from spring 2014 with the GeForce GTX 870M was a hot and loud beast when pushed hard. The surprisingly cooler NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M allows for a cooler and quieter machine. While the old Ghost's bottom could get literally burning hot at 160F, the Ghost Pro's gets less hot (140F) when gaming hard for an hour. MSI has glued felt pads glued to the bottom to insulate you from the heat to prevent burns (the vent grilles in between the felt pads are still too hot to touch). I recommend a laptop cooler or lap desk to keep you and the laptop running cooler, and I use one with all gaming laptops when playing games. The fans are certainly audible when gaming, and that's the price you pay for such a slim design. They're well-tuned and sound like a louder rendition of the fans on 17" thick gaming laptops with no whine or turbine wheezing. Relatively speaking, they're not loud and are silent when doing productivity work. You'll hear them spinning quietly when charging the laptop and doing work. Given how little room there is for cooling and thermal dissipation, the MSI Ghost Pro is impressive.

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

No one wants a gaming laptop whose CPU and GPU run so hot that their life might be shortened. The Ghost Pro's CPU generally stays in the 60's Centigrade when playing the most demanding titles like Battlefield 4 and Far Cry 4, and the 50's when processing 1080p or 4K video or playing slightly less killer games like The Sims 4 and Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Productivity tasks like MS Office and web browsing are so easy for the quad core full mobile i7 CPU that the CPU typically runs at 34 to 41C. Those are very healthy and safe numbers all around, and thermal stress shouldn't shorten the MSI's life. Graphics temperatures for the dedicated GPU are typically in the 70's centigrade and reached 80C once in a while in a 72F room when playing the harshest games. When playing easier titles like The SIMS 4, Mass Effect 3 and Tropico 5, GPU temps were in the high 50's to mid 60's. Again, very safe, though higher than thick gaming laptops like the Alienware 15 or Asus ROG G751 running the same GTX 970M.


If you like touch screens, this isn't the laptop for you. If you want a slim and powerful machine with a touch screen and don't require one of the top graphics cards available, consider the HP Omen 15 with a 1080p gloss IPS touch screen or the toasty 2014 Razer Blade. Alternatively there are traditional chunky gaming laptops from Asus in the ROG line that combine a touch screen with top specs. We have the 2K-resolution model with a 1920 x 1080 matte Samsung-made PLS display. This is an excellent panel with wide color gamut, an impressive 344 nits of brightness (it seems even brighter since glare won't reduce visibility), IPS-like wide viewing angles and a good 700:1 contrast ratio. I really like this display and I think it's the sweet spot for resolution relative to screen size. You can actually run it at 100% scaling without going blind, and you won't have to fight games that handle scaling poorly (an issue with higher resolution displays that often forces one to drop resolution down to 1080p before playing or living with insufferably tiny Windows icons and text). But for those of you who crave more resolution, say to edit 4K video, MSI offers a 4K model for around $200 more. Be warned that as of this writing, NVIDIA's graphics driver limits the 4K panel to a 48Hz refresh rate, which some might find too low (60Hz is the usual laptop display refresh rate). The 3K panel is glossy and is IGZO technology, which is quite nice. It adds $100 to the price tag.

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro color gamut


Performance CPU and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M

All MSI GS60 Ghost Pro GTX 970M configurations run on the quad core full mobile 47 watt Intel Core i7-4710HQ 2.5 GHz processor with Turbo Boost to 3.5 GHz. That's the same CPU you'll find in other 15 to 17 inch powerful laptops. It's a strong Haswell 4th generation CPU and we're fine with it. It's got more than enough oomph to handle games, video editing and export, compiling code and crunching huge spreadsheets. If you're looking for computational strength, this is about as fast as you'll get in a laptop. We didn't experience thermal throttling when gaming or doing other demanding tasks like exporting video.

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro

The NVIDIA GTX 970M is a beast of a graphics card, and for the first time, it actually uses less power and generates less heat while making serious performance gains over previous generation NVIDIA graphics cards. On synthetic benchmarks, this is one of the fastest mobile GPUs we've seen, bested only by the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M that only appears in full size gaming laptops. The 970M is about 40% faster than the capable higher middle end GTX 860M, and it uses the new Maxwell architecture. It actually significantly outscored the desktop GTX 760 in my gaming tower and was able to drive games at higher settings too. Every game we tested, including the most demanding new titles like Dragon Age Inquisition, Far Cry 4 and Battlefield 4 ran well with all settings on high and AA enabled (45 to 60 fps @1920 x 1080). Even older pigs like Crysis 3 flourish on max settings. Watch our gaming demo video to see it in action. Our machine has 6 gigs of DDR5 VRAM, which is honestly overkill for today's games run at 1080p. If you connect a 3K or 4K external monitor via the mini DisplayPort, you might find use for some but not all of that VRAM. But hey, it's future proof. Oddly, the 3K display version of the Ghost Pro ships with 3 gigs of VRAM. For those who use HDMI, the laptop also has an HDMI port and you can drive multiple monitors. The machine has NVIDIA Optimus for switchable graphics, so you can use the less power hungry Intel HD 4600 graphics when doing productivity work or streaming full HD video.


PCMark 7: 6006
PCMark 8 Home: 3929
wPrime: 8.0 sec.
Unigine Heaven: 73.8 fps, score: 1858. GPU temp: 82C.

3DMark 11: P9112, X3224

3DMark Tests:
Fire Strike 1080p: 6508
Ice Storm Unlimited: 129,133

PCMark 7 Benchmark Comparison Table

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 2QE-064 (GTX 970M) 6006
Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 6115
HP Omen 15 5843
Lenovo Y50 Touch Core i7-4700HQ, GTX 680M Kepler, HDD 2874
Dell XPS 15 5805
Alienware 18 Core i7-4700MQ, GTX 770M, HDD 3754
Asus ROG G750JX ( i7-4700HQ, GTX 770M) 3804 (6131 w/SSD)
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14 (upgraded to SSD boot drive) 4603
Microsoft Surface Pro 3 Core i5 5111

MSI GS60 Ghost Pro SSD speed


Upgrading the Internals

The Pro is available with 8, 12 or 16 gigs of DDR3L RAM in two standard SODIMM RAM slots that support dual channel. The machine has two M.2 SSD slots that use mSATA protocol (MSI went with mSATA so they could ship some models with two SSDs in RAID0). There's a 2.5" slim height SATA drive bay and ours came with a 7200 RPM Hitachi 1 TB drive. Our configuration has a single 128 gig SSD that's used as the boot, aka C drive and the D drive is the 2.5" HDD. You can easily upgrade the HDD to an SSD by removing the bottom panel, though you'll have to destroy the tamper-proof sticker over one of the Phillips head screws. MSI's stance on breaking the seal seems to vary by country in terms of warranty, with the US rule being as long as you don't break something when opening your laptop, the warranty remains in effect. Speaking of opening the machine, you'll need to pop off the back hinge area cover before you can remove the bottom panel, and the snap-fit ears on the rear edge of the bottom panel are easy to break (don't worry, the cover still stays on fine even if you break one or two off).

The bad news is that while the 2.5" drive bay is readily accessible, the motherboard where the M.2 and RAM connectors live is upside down facing the underside of the keyboard. So you'll have to remove a bunch of ribbon cables and other bits to remove the motherboard to upgrade these parts. Sigh. Unless you're well versed in laptop disassembly, you're better off ordering the configuration you actually want.


Deals and Shopping:


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro Video Review


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro (GTX 970M) Gaming Demo Video


Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 vs. MSI GS60 Ghost Pro Comparison


We're glad that MSI continues to include Killer networking hardware (that's really the name, and it's an Atheros product division). Both the e2200 gigabit Ethernet and 1525 dual band WiFi 802.11ac modules are Killer, and the MSI comes with their gaming network prioritization software. Honestly, that software often falters with JavaScript errors when it benchmarks network performance for me, but maybe you'll have better luck. If you have a decently fast network, their network prioritization software isn't terribly important. In our tests, the MSI with Killer Wireless AC on our 802.11ac network yielded some of the fastest connections and throughput we've seen. We didn't have a single drop out and range was impressive. Bluetooth 4.0 is also on board.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The SteelSeries programmable keyboard is one of the best you'll find on a laptop in terms of macro customization options (you can program most any key) and tactile feel. Though travel isn't very deep on this thin laptop, it's better than most Ultrabooks on the market. The keys feel responsive yet damped and precise. It behaved perfectly well in a variety of games with no ghosting or missed key presses. Backlighting is zone programmable with left, center and right zones. RGB backlighting means a rainbow of colors are available. The power button lights in blue, with red indicating charging and amber indicating that dedicated graphics are active.

The Elan trackpad? In general we'll take Synaptics any day over Elan, but at least they're trying. Compared to MSI trackpads from two years ago that were crazy-making, the average size buttonless trackpad on the Ghost Pro is bearable. It's fine for single touch gestures, though it doesn't track diagonal movement as well as we'd like. Multi-touch gestures like two-finger scrolling require that you precisely position your fingers parallel to the side edges of the trackpad-- no angles allowed! Sigh. Get a mouse.

Battery Life

Here's where we stop heaping praise on the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro: it has typical short gaming laptop battery life. Granted, there's not a lot of room for a giant battery in a super-slim 4.2 lb. notebook, and the quad core CPU is full mobile 28 watts, not power-sipping Ultrabook ULV 15 watt territory, but we wish battery life was better. Given how mobile this machine is, I dream of having it significantly outlast a 3 hour flight... but that's not gonna happen. Even when doing productivity work at a still ample 33% brightness with WiFi on, the most we managed was 3.75 hours. When streaming full HD 1080p video from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video, we averaged 3 hours at 50% brightness with keyboard backlight at its lowest setting. That's par for the course for powerful gaming rigs, but poor compared to today's Ultrabooks in this size class. All productivity and streaming video tests were run using Intel HD 4600 integrated graphics. When gaming and using NVIDIA graphics, we managed two hours, which is actually better than some big gaming laptops. If you need longer runtimes, consider less graphically powerful gaming laptops like the HP Omen 15 (4.75 hours productivity use), the Dell XPS 15 or the 15" Retina MacBook Pro.

We didn't encounter power throttling, and the big 150 watt Delta power brick provided enough power at all times. This isn't a tiny Ultrabook power adapter, but it is a bit smaller and lighter than some gaming laptop chargers on the market.


Unless you need all day battery life and chilly surface temps when gaming, go buy one now. Really. If you can afford it, there's even a cost saving rationale: you won't need a highly portable laptop for work and a separate gaming machine. It's all things to all people: a work machine, travel companion and amazingly powerful gaming laptop. Again--if you don't need all day battery stamina and you're OK without a touch screen. You'll be hard pressed to find a thin and light laptop that can game with the big boys like the MSI GS60 Ghost Pro 2QE. The graphics currently outclass anything Lenovo, HP and Razer offer. Asus offers some nice ROG (Republic of Gamers) laptops with the NVIDIA GTX 970M and 980M, but they're 8 or 9 lbs. and much bigger. The Alienware 15 is enticing since it offers similar CPUs and graphics in a (thermally) cooler package, but it weighs 7 lbs. and is considerably thicker. The GS60 Ghost Pro can handle software development, serious number crunching with huge spreadsheets, video production and anything else you'd throw at a powerful desktop. It's not cheap but you definitely get your money's worth here, and it's an investment that should last both in terms of build quality and specs (MSI also includes a generous 2 year warranty). If you prefer something with a 17" display but the same slim and light design, consider the MSI Stealth Pro that's otherwise similarly appointed.

Price: $1,899 as tested


Related Reviews:

HP Omen 15 vs. MSI GS60 Ghost Pro Comparison

MSI GS40 Phantom Review

Razer Blade Review (2016)

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MSI GT72 Dominator Pro G Review

Origin PC EON15-X Review

Dell XPS 15 Review (late 2015 with Infinity display)

Alienware 15 Review

HP Omen 15 Review

Asus ZenBook Pro UX501 Review

Lenovo Y50 Touch Review

15" Retina MacBook Pro Review

Alienware 18 Video Review

Asus ROG G750 Review


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro


MSI GS60 Ghost Pro




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Display: 15.6", 1920 x 1080 matte PLS display (2K). 3K and 4K displays also available, all non-touch. Intel HD 4600 integrated graphics swithcable with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970M 6GB DDR5 (Maxwell) dedicated graphics. HDMI and mini DisplayPort.

Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable.

Performance: 2.5GHz Intel 4th generation Core i7-4710HQ processor with Turbo Boost to 3.5 GHz. 8, 12 or 16 gigs DDR3L 1600MHz, 1.35v RAM in two RAM slots. 2 SSD M.2 slots (mSATA protocol) with 128 gig SSD (various configs available including RAID0) and one 2.5" SATA drive bay with 1 terabyte 7200 RPM drive.

Size: 15.35 x 10.47 x .78 inches. Weight: 4.2 pounds.

Camera: 1080p Webcam.

Audio: Built-in Dynaudio stereo speakers with SoundBlaster Cinema 2 software, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack/SPDIF and 3.5mm mic jack.

Networking: Wired Killer E2200 gigabit Ethernet, Killer AC N-1525 dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0.

Software: Windows 8.1 64 bit.

Expansion and Ports: 3 USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, 3.5mm stereo out/SPDIF, 3.5mm mic jack, mini DisplayPort and SD card slot.



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