MSI GP62 2QE Leopard Pro review
+ Broadwell brings improvements over Haswell processors
+ finishing doesn't attract fingerprints
+ keyboard by SteelSeries
+ subtle design
+ aluminium palmrests and keyboard surrounds
- TN screen is cold out of the box; limited viewing angles
- no keyboard backlighting
- built-in speakers sound tinny
- DDR3 VRAM bottlenecks the GTX 950M GPU
The last MSI gaming notebook we reviewed was a behemoth both physically and performance wise. It also doesn’t come cheap, and that level of performance will cost north of RM15 999, which is beyond the means of most gamers. MSI of course knows this and has a range of notebooks that will fit into the average gamers’ budgets. Today we will take a look at the MSI GP62 Leopard series, a more budget-oriented gaming notebook for the masses. Now when we say it is budget-oriented, of course certain corners have to be cut to make it fit into a certain price range, and we are here to see if MSI did a good job with the MSI GP62 2QE Leopard Pro and cut all the right corners but left what makes a true gaming notebook intact.
All black with the Dragon Army shield smack dab in the middle of the top lid with the MSI logo above it the GP62 doesn’t look out of place if placed beside one of its stronger brethen. MSI did away with the aluminium found on its more expensive models and used a smooth plastic material for the top lid. The Dragon Army logo doesn’t light up here.
The bottom of the MSI GP62 is plain with a lot of vents to help with cooling and some very grippy rubber feet that will help prevent the GP62 from sliding around the table even when during the heat of combat.
The rear only has a single vent on the left side, and a little red line across the middle, and that’s all to see on the rear of the GP62. The lack of huge vents is a slight disappointment to me, as I like them big and I cannot lie.
Opening it up, we find the 15.6″ screen which is framed by thick matte black bezels. The palm rests are made of a smooth sandblasted aluminium and adds a touch of premium to this entry-level gaming notebook.
The appearance of the GP62 is very similar with its pricier siblings, albeit a little toned down.
|CPU||Intel Core i7-5700HQ @ 2.7 GHz (up to 3.5 GHz)|
|RAM||16GB (2 x 8GB) 1600 MHz DDR3L|
|GPU||NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 2GB DDR3|
|Storage||1 x 128GB Toshiba HG6 M.2 SSD|
1 x Toshiba 1TB 5400 RPM SATA III 6.0Gbps HDD
|Software||Microsoft Windows 8.1 Pro|
358.87 WHQL NVIDIA Game Ready Driver
MSI Dragon Gaming Centre
Killer Network Manager
|Connectivity||Intel Wireless-AC 3160 and Killer™ E2200 LAN|
3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0
SD card reader
|Display||15.6″ WLED TN FHD (1920 x 1080) Anti-Glare Display|
1 x Mini-DisplayPort v1.2
1 x HDMI 1.4
|Audio||Stereo speakers (two speakers per channel)|
1 x 3.5mm microphone input
1 x 3.5mm audio output
|Power||120W AC adapter, 6 cell battery (non-removable)|
|Dimensions||38.8 x 26 x 3 cm|
NOTE: The unit we are testing is an engineering sample, certain specifications may differ from those available in the market.
The Leopard Pro I am testing came with a SSD slotted into the sole M.2 2280 slot in it, and I can say SSDs really make a whole lot of difference. I was informed that the models in the market do not come with a SSD, but has a faster 7200 RPM hard disk drive than the 5400 RPM one in my review sample. In any case, the team at Pokde.net always recommends SSD for everyone, as the difference can be as clear as night and day.
Moving on, the i7-5700HQ is a member of the Broadwell family, and packs the Intel Graphics HD5600 iGPU. For the sake of comparison, we did benchmark the iGPU along with the dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M.
While we see an improvement over last-gen’s HD4600 iGPU, the performance is still very lacking when compared against the dedicated GPU. The GTX 950M is a mid-range GPU but still beats the HD5600 iGPU, hands down.
The GTX 950M is actually based on the same GM107 silicon that the GTX 860M/GTX 960M are based on, except for slightly slower base clocks. However the use of DDR3 VRAM is a little worrying as it will most definitely limit the available memory bandwidth.
Interesting to note is that the GTX 950M in my review sample actually has faster boost clocks than the stock GTX 860M (1098 MHz) and actually is in spitting distance of the stock GTX 960M’s boost clocks of 1176 MHz. Perhaps the performance hit taken due to the DDR3 VRAM can be mitigated through faster core clocks?
The Broadwell CPU is a clear upgrade over the older Haswell parts. I have previously noted in the review of the GT80 that the Haswell i7 4720HQ is marginally slower than the desktop i7 3770, and now the i7 5700HQ in the Leopard Pro is faster than the i7 3770.
According to CPU-Z benchmarks it is also faster than the AMD FX-8150 desktop CPU, which could either mean that Intel has done a good job packing immense performance into their mobile CPUs, or AMD is really in dire need of a new CPU to level the playing field.
Enough with the synthetic benchmarks, lets see whether we can actually play games on this gaming notebook. In light of the fact that this is a budget gaming notebook, we will test the more intensive games twice, once at native resolution and the highest graphics preset available in game and once again at NVIDIA optimized settings.
Defense of the Ancients 2 is a very popular game among casual gamers and pro gamers alike, and if a laptop is unable to hit above 60 fps in DotA 2, it really doesn’t deserve the title of gaming notebook at all. The GP62 faces no issues here at all, and DotA 2 is very playable.
This is another game that isn’t really graphically intensive, but is still an extremely fun first person shooter. Even with maximum graphics the GP62 pushes out an average of 117 fps, which is very playable in my book.
Battlefield 4 was released sometime back in 2013, but as you can see at the highest graphics preset BF4 is still a little overwhelming for the GTX 950M in the GP62. 28 fps is sluggish and made it extremely difficult to aim and shoot the enemy. Using NVIDIA optimized settings, quite a lot of eye candy was sacrificed in exchange for a much higher fps. As I have noted in the MSI GT80 Titan’s review, a higher fps does seem to make it easier to aim.
Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain has wide swaths of desert plains and hills, and you spend most of your time sneaking around in dark places, so I guess the graphical load isn’t as bad with this game. The GP62 pushes out 27 fps at maximum graphics, but considering that I played in the story mode, it was actually quite smooth. Using NVIDIA optimized settings, The GP62 managed to hit MGS 5: TPP’s 60 fps cap. Visually I couldn’t really differentiate between NVIDIA optimized settings and the highest preset.
The heavy-weight of my game benchmark suite, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt brings the GP62 down to its knees with an average fps of 15 fps at native resolution and Ultra presets. The game was extremely unplayable and I gave up trying to play it at maximum settings as it was torturous trying to move around while staring at what looks more like a slideshow. Turning on NVIDIA optimization, the resolution was dropped to 1366 x 768, and most graphics settings were set to High. Even then, 51 fps is still insufficient to enjoy Witcher 3. A much more powerful (and pricey) GPU is needed for proper enjoyment of The Witcher’s well crafted story and environment.
Temperatures were quite well maintained, with no component overheating. The CPU does occasionally hit 93°C during gaming sessions and stop boosting for a moment before returning to full boost, but overall performance is unaffected. I believe the real bottleneck in the GP62 is the GDDR3 VRAM, as it actually shares the exact same core as the GTX 860M and 960M, and the only difference I can see is the slower VRAM.
The body may be almost entirely made of plastic, but it doesn’t really affect the overall feel of the laptop. A slight flex is observable if you press the lid behind the screen hard, but that’s about all the weakness that the chassis of the GP62 shows. The much more manageable weight and size also makes it a lot more portable than the back-breaking GT80 Titan. However its thickness of 3 cm means it won’t slide into any bag like an ultrabook would.
MSI didn’t skimp on a proper gaming keyboard for the GP62, and it gets the standard keyboard by SteelSeries. The left Control key and Shift key are enlarged while the Windows key is moved over to the right side, which optimizes the layout for gaming. You do not want to accidentally jump out to your desktop in the middle of a intense firefight, do you? The keys require little force to actuate but still maintain a level of tactility so you will know you have pressed a key. They have a nice sandblasted texture to them, reducing the need for cleaning off fingerprints and improving the feel of the keys all in one shot. Good move, MSI. The keyboard doesn’t get any backlighting whatsoever though. The touchpad works just as it should but I doubt a gaming notebook’s touchpad will ever see much action during its lifespan. The keys of the touchpad are a tad too loud and sounds hollow when pressed.
The GP62 also comes with the Cooler Boost feature that makes the lone fan go full throttle. About the fan, at full blast it makes a whooshing sound that reminds me of optical drives accessing a disc. The fan noise is not loud at all even at full speed, and during my usage with Cooler Boost off, it rarely has to be spin up to its maximum speed.
Three USB 3.0 ports populate the left, along with the Killer E2200 LAN port, HDMI port, miniDP and the usual audio jacks. MSI still keeps the audio jacks separate, making it a good match for gaming headphones with separate connectors for microphone input and audio output.
A rarely found optical drive reader is found on the right, and to be honest I find it a little weird that MSI is still including an optical drive with their notebooks. I would have preferred more USB ports and a lighter weight without it around, but some might actually find it useful. A USB 2.0 port on the right is sensible as I don’t have to run my mouse all the way from the left ports like with certain notebooks. A standard SD card reader and the charger port are also located on the right.
The screen is a little cold out of the box, but a little color calibration with the windows utility fixes it and it does look quite nice if viewed from directly in front of it. The matte finishing of the display prevents distracting reflections in dark scenes while gaming. However being a TN panel, it does show apparent color shifting when viewed from obtuse angles.
Audio pumped out of the stereo speakers located on the front edge of the GP62 is plenty loud, but really lacking in bass. Gunfire sounds tinny and unrealistic. Voices are very clear though, so it does work quite well with movies that have a lot of talking and very little action.
So, this is where I will answer the question “did MSI cut too many corners with the GP62?” My answer would be no, MSI did remove a lot of niceties like a backlit keyboard, IPS display, built-in subwoofer and also the aluminium panels found on its pricier siblings, but those are all stuff one can still game without. It is still a true gaming notebook through and through, albeit one will have to play more intensive games at lower settings. However, if you can afford the higher-end GE series, the improvements in terms of gaming performance, cooling, display and audio quality and also a more solid build are hard to ignore. If you can’t though, then the fact that the newer Skylake-packing GP series will come with a GTX 950M with GDDR5 VRAM instead of the GDDR3 found in the Broadwell-equipped GP range should make you happy, so if you want better performance but not willing/able to pony up the cash needed for a GE series, the Skylake variants are preferable over the Broadwell models.