MSI GX660R-060US Review

A good gaming notebook with plenty of bang for your buck.


The MSI GX660R gaming notebook is the sequel to last year's popular GT660R. This 15-inch gaming notebook packs a fast Intel Core i7 processor, ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 graphics and a 1080p screen. Should this be your next mobile gaming machine? Keep reading to find out.

MSI offers multiple configurations of the GX660R. Our review unit of the MSI GX660R-060US comes with the following features:

15.6-inch 1080p (1920 x 1080) display with LED backlightingWindows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)Intel Core i7-740QM (1.73GHz) OverclockableATI Mobility Radeon HD 5870 (1GB DDR5) Overclockable6GB DDR3 RAM 1066MHz (2GB x 3)640GB (320GB x 2) 7200rpm HDDSuper-Multi/Blu-Ray optical drive802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth9-cell Li-ion battery with 150W power adapterWeight: 7.74 lbsDimensions: 15 x 10.25 x 1.78 inchesMSRP: $1,599.99 ($1,399 street price)

Build and Design
At first glance, the new MSI GX660R looks identical to the GT660R we reviewed in 2010. In truth, little has changed with this gaming notebook beyond the use of a higher resolution display, a different hard drive setup, and a slightly newer ATI graphics card. Honestly, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The new GX660R uses the same thick chassis loaded with ports, features the same speaker system from Dynaudio, and it can handle just about any game you throw at it with high detail settings and a 1080p resolution. Combine that with an average street price around $1,400 and you've got a good gaming laptop at a fair price.

Getting down to the details of the design, the exterior plastics are covered in a scratch-resistant coating to improve durability. The screen lid itself is also covered in "MSI Color Film Print Technology" which is essentially a multi-layer printed image imbedded into the plastic. In this case, you can see a faint honeycomb pattern in the lid similar to the texture used on the palm rests when you open the notebook.

The main body plastics don't squeak, creak, or flex even under significant pressure, but the keyboard tray still suffers from obvious flex under heavy typing pressure like the GT660R we reviewed last year. The metal-reinforced main chassis offers a fair amount of structural support, but this also adds to the bulk and weight of the notebook. Overall, the GX660R looks good but the heavy use of glossy plastics means that your fingerprints will show up everywhere.

The bottom of the notebook includes a single, massive access plate for the RAM, wireless cards and the hard drive bays. The battery also clips into the bottom of the notebook underneath one of the palm rests. The three RAM slots are stacked, making use of the extra chassis thickness necessitated by the high-performance graphics card. Despite the thickness and weight of this notebook, the internal layout helps keep the chassis design as thin as possible. Once again, my only complaint is that you have to remove too many screws to get inside this notebook. Considering that the target audience for this laptop is likely to upgrade the RAM or hard drives at some point (possibly as soon as they buy it) I'm sure those customers would appreciate it if MSI made it easier to get inside.

Ports and Features
Again, the GX660R is largely unchanged from the GT660R so you'll find the same massive collection of ports. This gaming notebook is packed with two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, eSATA port, ExpressCard slot, Ethernet, two video out ports, a media card reader and audio jacks. I'm happy to see the ExpressCard slot and four USB ports considering that an increasing number of desktop-replacement notebooks are cutting out the ExpressCard slot and limiting the number of USB ports to three in order to make the notebook lighter. Sure, the MSI GX660R weighs almost eight pounds, but most frequent travelers aren't going to buy this laptop ... it's for gamers who will usually stay in one spot while gaming.

Here is a quick tour of the ports on this laptop:

Left side: Heat vent, two USB 3.0 ports, 4-in-1 (SD/MMC/MS/XD) card reader, one USB 2.0 port, and ExpressCard slot.

Right side: Audio jacks, one USB 2.0 port, and optical drive.

Front: Activity lights

Back: Security lock slot, power jack, RJ-45 Ethernet, VGA, eSATA port and HDMI.

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Toshiba Satellite A665: Our Deal of the Week


The 16-inch Toshiba Satellite A665 with Windows 7 Home Premium is a fairly new desktop replacement laptop by Toshiba--and right now it's being sold for $685 for a total of $155 off the list price on Amazon.

In our benchmark tests, our model did significantly better than the Dell Inspiron 15R and the Sony VAIO EA in terms of overall system performance. Keep reading to find out if this is the notebook for you.

The Satellite A665 comes built with an Intel Core i5-460M processor at 2.53 GHz with Turbo Boost technology, 4GB of RAM and 500GB of hard drive space. This multimedia notebook will be able to multitask and perform quite decently based on our tests.

For $45 more, you may choose the A665 model with NVIDIA GeForce 310M graphics (512MB GDDR3 of dedicated memory). We tested it in our labs and found it did much better than the graphics card in the Sony VAIO EA and the Dell Inspiron 15R.

The 16-inch 720p (1366x768) display with LED backlighting got a "very good" on our review. We also mentioned that the contrast on the screen is sharp and clear.

We also had some good things to say about the built-in speakers that are located above the keyboard. We said that the audio is "surprisingly rich" and that the notebook is able to provide an "excellent" range of high, mid, and low tones.

The 6-cell 48Wh battery was tested by us and delivered four hours and twelve minutes of mobile power.

Check out our full review for the full scoop on this desktop replacement by Toshiba; including a list of full specifications, information on its build and design, a full benchmark assessment, and more.

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Chance to Win a Lenovo Notebook or Netbook in Sweepstakes


Lenovo is currently holding a "thanks for being a fan" sweepstakes where you can enter now for a chance to win a 14.1-inch ThinkPad T410 X1 notebook or one of three IdeaPad S10-3 netbooks until March 29. The total value of the prizes is $2600. 

To enter, first become a fan of Lenovo on Facebook or follow Lenovo on Twitter. Next, visit Lenovo's sweepstakes page and fill out the short entry, providing the required information on the form. Winners are chosen at random electronically, and you can only enter once.

We had great things to say in our review of the grand prize, the ThinkPad T410. Our review model received an overall system score of 4 1/2 stars out of 5, and it got a higher score than the HP EliteBook 8540p in terms of overall system performance (PCMark05). We said the notebook performs "very fast" thanks to the Core i5-540M on our model, 4GB of RAM, and the fast 320GB Seagate HDD at 7200rpm.

We also said that it has great battery life (6-cell or 9-cell battery), has increased upgrade capabilities, and that it has an excellent port selection. It comes equipped with dedicated and integrated graphics cards; NVIDIA NVS-3100M, or Intel GMA 5700MHD.

The 10.1-inch IdeaPad S10-3 netbook with Windows 7 Starter comes in two models which are practically identical, save the processor. The two CPU types that come with the netbook are the Intel Atom N455 and the Atom N450. Both models are built with Intel GMA 3150, 1GB RAM, a 250GB HDD, and a 6-cell Li-Ion battery pack.



HP ProBook 6545b

In the past year or two, we’ve seen a number of vendors redouble their efforts to reach small businesses with low-cost, feature-filled notebooks. HP already made a huge splash earlier in the year with its ProBook 4510s and 5310m, the latter being our favorite small business system of 2009. Now the 15.6-inch HP ProBook 6545b ($799 as configured) offers a few features its ProBook brethren lack: discrete ATI graphics, a pointing stick for navigation, and a wide array of legacy ports. Like many AMD notebooks, this one doesn’t offer much battery life, but if you’re looking for a machine to use in or around the office that offers a good combination performance, durability, and security, the ProBook 6545b is a sound investment.


At 5.8 pounds and 14.6 x 9.8 x 1.4 inches, the ProBook 6545b is portable enough for a 15.6-inch business notebook, but it’s certainly not the lightest in its class. The Lenovo ThinkPad SL510 (15.0 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches) and HP ProBook 4510s (14.6 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches) are both a tad larger, but weigh 0.2 pounds less. The Dell Vostro 1015 (12.8 x 9.8 x 1.5 inches) also weighs less at 5.3 pounds.

The 6545b won’t win any beauty contests, either. Its black plastic body and faux silver plastic lid and deck are tasteful but somewhat bland. The ProBook 4510s, with its shiny black deck and rubberized keys, looks more modern and attractive. On the plus side, this notebook is built to last; the 6545b features a magnesium alloy support structure and metal alloy hinges.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The 6545b’s keyboard offered impressively strong tactile feedback with no noticeable flex. Using the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we were able to achieve our typical 80 words per minute and 1 percent error rate. Normally it takes us a couple of tries to get used to a new keyboard and lower our error rate down to 1 percent, but with this notebook’s highly responsive keys, we were comfortable from our very first stroke. The keyboard also helps protect the notebook from spill damage, as a layer of mylar film underneath its base collects any liquid that seeps through the keys and funnels it through a drain hole in the bottom.

The ProBook 6545b offers both a pointing stick and a touchpad. Though the pointing stick’s indented shape isn’t as comfortable as a ThinkPad’s TrackPoint, it was still very accurate and pleasant to use. Those who prefer a touchpad will be pleased with the 6545b’s offering. Though it’s not the largest, we found it to be highly accurate, and the two discrete mouse buttons offered just the right amount of resistance.


HP Mini 311 (Verizon Wireless)

Up until now, we’ve been hesitant to recommend 3G netbooks sold through wireless carriers or retailers. We like the convenience of built-in mobile broadband, but $59.99 per month is a lot pay for connectivity on a secondary PC. The HP Mini 311 is different. This 11.6-inch netbook ($199 through Verizon Wireless with a two-year contract and $100 online discount) not only has a bigger screen than other subsidized models, but it features Nvidia Ion graphics, providing plenty of muscle for Windows 7 Premium. Ion also gives you the ability to enjoy high-definition video and mainstream games, and you can even edit movies at a pretty fast clip. This version of the Mini 311 has shorter battery life than its XP cousin, but if you want a slick ultraportable that lets you connect anywhere, it’s a good choice.


The Mini 311 combines elements from several of HP’s larger notebooks: its black lid (also available in white) bears HP’s Swirl pattern. A black speaker grille unobtrusively lines the front edge of the chassis, and the silver deck, keyboard, and touchpad remind us of the company’s Pavilion Series.

Measuring 11.4 x 8.0 x 1.3 inches, the Mini 311 is roughly the same size as the Acer Aspire 1410 and the MSI Wind U210. We were glad to see that HP’s battery is integrated with the chassis, and doesn’t jut out the back. With a weight of 3.2 pounds, this machine is easy to carry.

Keyboard and Touchpad

The Mini 311’s square silver keys practically abut each other, and are slightly indented to provide a resting place for your fingers. Typing on the keys was comfortable, and we were up to our normal speed almost immediately. Despite the keys’ smooth surface, our fingers did not slip.


Below, the silver touchpad is amply sized for an 11-inch netbook. At 3.3 x 1.5 inches, it’s almost the same size as that on the Toshiba mini NB205. Unlike the NB205, however, the 311’s touchpad has some friction, an issue we’ve had with other HP notebooks. In other words, navigating the desktop isn’t as smooth as it could be. The two mouse buttons are decently sized, but we found them to be slightly stiff to press toward the outer edges.

Display and Audio

The 11.6-inch display on the Mini 311 has a resolution of 1366 x 768, which makes it easier to view Web pages and documents without having to scroll. The glossy display has excellent horizontal viewing angles; we could see the screen clearly from nearly 90 degrees to either side, though tilting the screen forward resulted in a rather quick image reversal.

Along the front edge of the notebook is a black speaker grille that hides Altec Lansing stereo speakers, which provide better sound than we’re used to from netbooks. While listening to Oasis’ “Live Forever,” sound was on the tinny side, but we heard much more bass than is typical of systems this size. Still, we could hear the Mini 311 from a few feet away without straining.

Ports and Webcam

There are no surprises when it comes to the port selection on the Mini 311. On the left side is a USB 2.0 and HDMI port; on the right is Ethernet, VGA, two USB 2.0, headphone/mic, and a 5-in-1 memory card reader.