MSI GS40 Phantom review – a G60 in a smaller package


  1. LeBerduk

    January 6, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    First of all, this is a great review. This is the only decent review I found for the laptop. Thank you a lot.

    I have a question about emission. You reported max 58.5C surface temperature and max 86C (CPU) internal temperature. In contrast, the Razer Blade 14 is reported to have only max 51.6C surface and max 90C internal temperatures ( Razer Blade 14 seem to have overheating issues if you look at user reviews (e.g., gs40’s surface temperature seems to be considerably higher compared to laptops of the same class (Aurus X3, P34V). Does it mean that gs40 may have the same overheating issues? Is it possible that internal temperature of gs40 may be higher than reported here because 58C of surface temperature feels a bit too much for me?

    • Derek Sullivan

      January 6, 2016 at 10:15 pm

      I didn’t see any throttling with the GS40, as it was well below the thermal limit at 86C. I’m not sure if the Razer Blade throttles either because 90C is also under the 970M thermal limit. If by overheating, you mean it gets really hot, that’s just the nature of having a thin laptop with a powerful GPU. There’s really no way around that except by having a good ventilation lineup or a thicker chassis. I never had the new Razer Blade so I can’t compare Apples to Apples, but what I can tell you is the amount of heat pipes in the GS40 are more than in the Razer Blade, which probably accounts for some of the internal temps being lower. Also, the intakes aren’t primarily on the bottom like they are in the Razer Blade, so playing while it’s on your lap isn’t going to affect the temperatures as much. You should also take into consideration that I did all my testing on my lap and notebookcheck probably did not, so there might be some differences in our readings there.

      One more thing – unless you balance the laptop on one knee, you won’t feel that 58.5C. That’s literally a single hottest spot smack in the middle of the top portion and the temperature drops big time moving just a cm away from it. Manufacturers typically ignore cooling that spot since it’s typically not in contact with your knees. I played lots of games on my lap and found it tolerable. I even find the GS60 tolerable though, so I might just be immune to it. Of course, I had the 870M versions of both the Razer Blade and the GS60 at one point, and they were both frying pans – so coming from that, I’m a little biased.

      • LeBerduk

        January 6, 2016 at 10:35 pm

        Thank you for your excellent reply. I think you are correct. I did some more research, and it seems like gs40 indeed is good at keeping internal temperature low. It is just that are at the center where heat leaks to the surface. It may result in sweaty hands during prolonged gameplay but probably will not adversely affect longevity of the laptop.

  2. David

    January 11, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    Thanks for the review! I am currently debating between the GS40 and the new P34Wv5. Are you planning on reviewing the new P34W anytime soon?

  3. Rick70

    January 26, 2016 at 3:25 am

    Beyond performances i’ll never buy an MSI machine anymore. I live in Taiwan and have bought a GE72 Skylake. It never worked due to constant blue screens popping up all the time, Bad memory configuration, Hardware issues etc. popping BSODs like a Xmas tree. MSI refuses to change it because for them the machine is “OK”. At those prices i’d rather go with something else. Sorry for the rant but this brand doesn’t take quality checks and service seriously. This shows in the endless queue i had to endure when i went to take my PC to the service center. Lucky me i got a chance to exchange that scrap with anything i want, by kind concession of the shop.

    • Derek Sullivan

      January 26, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      That’s a shame. I personally haven’t experienced bad customer service but it could be because I live in the US. They fixed my coil whine on my GS60 within 9 days. But you are where HQ is so you’d think it would be better there…

    • lmingll

      January 31, 2016 at 5:00 pm

      Yes I am getting consistent BSOD on my (two-week old) GS40. Might be driver updates with Windows 10 but I need to use this as a live performance machine, so that’s a big NO for me…

      Plus the keyboard did some very strange keyboard sticking (like mentioned in the review above, where I’d just type something and it would repeat a letterrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr for no reason.)


  4. Jimbo

    January 31, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Great review.
    I bought the gs40 from exotic pc. Speakers aren’t a big deal to me, if I’m gamming I’m using headphones, but yes, they are horrible.

    One thing I disagree with –I actually think the keyboard is pretty darn good I’m used to a Lenovo think series keyboard, so I was expecting to be disappointed. I hate chicklet keyboards .. the only one I’ve every been able to touch type on successfully was the MacBook and the razer. I found the feel, feedback, spacing, and overall quality of the gs40 keyboard to be fantastic. I went from years of touch typing on a t-series Lenovo the gs40 keyboard with very little adjustment (aside from everyone putting the ctrl and fn keys in the incorrect spot, as opposed to Lenovo’s placement, where God intended them to be). So, to anyone considering this laptop, I don’t think the keyboard is a negative — I actually think it’s a positive.

    anyway, I as for the logo — that was a huge deal for me as well. Ibought mine through xoticpc, and they did a vinyl wrap for an extra $30 that just covers the logo. I think it looks great, and I have no problems brining it into client meetings or using it in business settings. the wrap is neat, covers only the logo, and completely blocks any glow from the screen backlighting.

    Last thing I want to mention that wasn’t in the review– this is one of the few laptops out there that have thunderbolt 3. This was also a big deal for me– thunderbolt 3 was a massive deal at CES, and we’re starting to see commercial thunderbolt 3 docks with e-graphics, networking, etc. TB3 will be on just about every skylake laptop in the near future, and if you’re considering a laptop, I wouldn’t even think about getting one without this port.

    • Jimbo

      January 31, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      also, another thought — If for whatever reason you’re looking for the highest-performing 14″ laptop, and also want something lightweight, and actually need something that is useful in everyday business, this is imho, is one of, if not the best laptop– I drag this everyday into work for the past two weeks, plug it into into an old thunderbolt dock (which will be replaced with a tb3 dock as soon as they come out). even if I didn’t have a tbolt dock, it has enough connections to support three simultaneous external monitors.

      It’s hands-down the lightest skylake 14″ laptop out there.. 3.7pounds. No other laptop out there offers this combination– saeger offers skylake and similar connectivity (no tbolt though) but is a masasive 5 pounds. You mentioned gigabyte, which I gave serious consideration to, but it doesn’t have a thunderbolt port (a serious omission imo), and from reviews I’ve read, has throttling issues (which I would have confirmed for myself, but the lack of t-bolt was a deal breaker for me). The razer sure is a nice laptop, but they don’t have a skylake model yet, and the 14″ model they do sell doesn’t have Ethernet, thunderbolt, and a few other ports included on the MSI.

      anyway, the MSI to me hits a niche not hit by anything else out there… it’s crazy light, has a massive amount number of outputs, runs cool under everyday use, and again, I disagree with you on the keyboard .. I think it’s a joy to use (maybe you had a bad sample)?

      I just wish MSI would realize this and produce this laptop with a more subdued tone — the logo on the back really was a deal breaker for me (imaging running into court with a flaming dragon on your laptop..), but the vinyl wrap from exotic really gets rid of the issue.

      I agree that the dynaaudio/keyboard by steelseries labels are a little gaudy.. IK had assumed they a glazed sticker or something, you were able to get this off with acetone on your gs60? did it mar the finish at all?

      • Derek Sullivan

        January 31, 2016 at 6:10 pm

        No, I don’t even notice it anymore. It’s been heavily used though and probably needs a good wipe down though. :) If you do it, start small though – maybe with the “sound by” just so you know what it will look like.

      • Patrick

        December 19, 2016 at 4:51 am

        Hi Jimbo, can I ask, you mention putting wrap on the GS40 to hide the logo?
        What company does that?
        I am consdering a GS40 for business use but want to hide the logo.

        Thanks Pat

      • jimbo

        December 19, 2016 at 10:27 am

        xoticpc. or something like that.
        I'm using it right now, wrap is still on with no problem. I take it to court, to clients, with the wrap it actually looks very sedate and unassuming.

        But get the updated version of it — they're selling a 14" with a 1060 nvidia card. Still the same processor (6700) I think, which is still top of the heap for laptops.

      • jimbo

        December 19, 2016 at 10:29 am

        also, if you're getting this, one fantastic upgrade — get the razer power supply. It works perfectly with the MSI, and it is about half the size and weight. The power supply that ships with the MSI is almost comical how large it is. the Razer is almost svelt — and it has no problems keeping up with the MSI's power demands. I would consider it a must-have if you're going to be doing any kind of business travel with the MSI. the Razer power supply is expensive though — I think I paid $120 or $150 for it.

      • Stephane

        December 19, 2016 at 12:13 pm

        Be careful with power supply, the MSI one delivers more amps.
        I have a slimier power supply that I use in the office, but if I launch games the power supply is not powerful enough so battery is discharging even if I am on my power supply. (msi gs63).

      • Jimbo

        December 19, 2016 at 2:48 pm

        not just any power supply, I'm specifically suggesting the razer power supply.. I've used this playing games, with discrete graphics running full tilt, and it charges just as well as the MSI version, barely heats up, and is half as heavy and half the size. But you get what you pay for — like I said, it's $150 I think

      • Patrick

        December 19, 2016 at 4:44 pm

        Thank you much appreciated,
        I do understand what stephane is referring to, basically if the current draw exceeds the capacity of the adapter.

    • Derek Sullivan

      January 31, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Yeah, I didn’t mention Thunderbolt because at the time they weren’t advertising it as such and I had no way to test the bandwidth. Nice to know that’s what it really is. That gives me hope that the Gigabyte P34W and others with the 10GB/s usb type-c connection might be as well – they just haven’t gotten it certified yet.

      Don’t get me wrong. As I noted in the review, I don’t think the keyboard is that bad. I just think it’s a step down from the GS60 which is unfortunate. I was also able to touch type on the Razer Blade and Macbook Pro pretty easily and could also do the same on the GS60. Minus the odd key placement on the GS60, I liked all three pretty equally. But the GS40 just didn’t measure up and I’ll admit I was certainly expecting the same performance considering it carried the same branding and is made by the same manufacturer.

      There is a chance I god a dud – especially considering the sticky, clicking tab key.

      • Omer Abbasi

        February 17, 2016 at 9:19 pm

        I just received one of these today and had the tab issue. Seems like a manufacturing fault with some machines?

  5. jimbo

    January 31, 2016 at 7:35 pm

    Derek — all good.
    the current version of gigabyte, clevo, and aurous all have usb c, but I’ve confirmed that non are implementing the t-bolt3 standard on them.

    The reason MSI never advertised tbolt3 in the beginning was that they were still getting certification— but if you look even at their early specifications, the “superport” was always advertised as 40gb/s. Clevo, aorus, and gigbyte all say their ports are “10gb/sec,” and I have emails from all except clevo confirming their “c” ports are only implementing usb3.1, and not tbolt3. I’m sure this will change with future releases when manufacturers realize how amazingly useful this port is going to be.

    Also, if you want, I can forward you a pic of the lid of my gs40 with the vinyl wrapped logo. Really completely changes the laptop, imo.

    • yal

      February 21, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      I’m seriously considering this and would appreciate very much if you would post the pic with the vinyl wrap, as I’d be using it for scientific purposes where 32GB RAM and a video card would be great, but bringing it into scientific meetings….requires a serious look.

  6. Rendell

    April 2, 2016 at 5:40 pm

    Great review! What ssd would you recommend to replace the hdd?

    • Derek Sullivan

      April 3, 2016 at 12:44 am

      Honestly, unless you’re really trying to maximize the performance of repetitive tasks and seconds are valuable to you, most of the 2.5″ SSD perform really well and about the same these days. For me, I use a Samsung 840 Evo 1TB. There are better options out there now but that one has suited me just fine.

  7. Stephane

    June 15, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Hello ,
    Thanks for the review.
    Now that you have handled the new razer blade 2016, would you prefer it?
    There is a significant price difference ( looking at the balde with 512 ssd).

    My 3rd option being the Dell XPS 15, a real 15 inch screen in the same size laptop… but tot he cost of a gtx960. Any idea if Dell will upgrade anytime soon?

    • Derek Sullivan

      June 15, 2016 at 4:06 pm

      If money was no object, I would never choose the GS40 over the Razer Blade. You’re getting what you pay for with both though. That extra price bump buys you a touchscreen, better battery efficiency and a more portable design. Of course you lose disk options by going the Razer route as well. I think I could certainly live with the GS40 if I had to save the money.

      I actually just put up a XPS 15 vs Razer Blade article you might be interested in reading. It might help you further in your decision. See here:

      • jimbo

        June 15, 2016 at 6:08 pm

        Not sure I agree with this Derek– Razer vs. MSI still depends on how you’re going to use it:

        * I’m not sure I agree with you on battery life. Everything I’m reading is that the new razer with the touch screen is getting horrible battery life. driving that 3200×1800 touch screen pretty kills battery efficiency, and if you compare that to the battery life MSI is getting now with the newer roms, it’s not much of a contest. (not to mention that the razer screen pretty much also requires scaling in widows, which is still wonky imho.)
        * The MSI has a wired Ethernet port, 2 usb 3.0 ports, 1 usb 3.1 type c, hdmi, and thurnderbolt. The Razer lacks Ethernet, and has no usb 3.1, and no sd ports. NOt a big deal if you’re just looking for a gaming laptop, but if you actually need to do serious work, lacking these ports is a big deal.
        * The MSI manages to pack all of this into 3.5 pounds. The razer weighs 4.25 pounds. Again, a huge deal if you’re looking for a dual-use laptop.

        If you’re looking for a real dual-use laptop, the msi is hands-down the winner. It weighs less, has more useful ports, and has the same performance. I don’t see how the razer is “more portable”. both have the annoying addition of a wonky logo on the lid, but at least with the MSI you can have it vinyl wrapped.

        just to be clear, I’m not an msi phan-boy– I looked hard at the RAzer, and to be honest, tried everything I could to justify getting it-I would have been more than happy to pay for it. it is simply a beautiful, stunning laptop. But the lack of ports and weighing in almost a pound heavier than the msi were deal breakers for me. But again, this is all very subjective. I travel a lot, and carry this thing around everywhere. An extra pound here and there adds up. The razer is hands down the prettier of the two, so if you’re looking for something that’s a good gamer, I think the Razer is superior, but it just doesn’t cut it as a dual-use lappy.

        And by the way, the charger for the Razer is amazing– it weighs half as much as the MSI charger, and is smaller (and doesn’t trip circuit breakers on airplanes like the MSI charger). If you go with MSI, do yourself a favor and pick up a charger from the Razer store.

      • Derek Sullivan

        June 15, 2016 at 6:59 pm

        Yeah, I agree, the lack of ports on the Razer is kind of annoying. The weight difference isn’t all that much different though. I put the GS40 on a scale and got just over 4 lbs. Add in the chargers and I bet the GS40 weighs more than the Razer Blade. On top of that, the lid flexed and there was more plastic on the GS40, so that kind of explains why the weight is a little less. But again, you’re getting what you pay for in build quality.

        I can’t really comment on what you read on the battery life though- I just don’t know what they tested. I’ve tested the battery on both laptops pretty thoroughly and I didn’t think the GS40 was all that great. I changed my testing protocol a little since then, but on the two similar tests in both reviews, the Razer Blade performed better. Also keep in mind that the GS40 has a 2.5″ 7200rpm HDD, which consumes 1-3W depending on its usage. Add in the typical MSI 5-15% battery wear and it’s even worse than they advertise. There’s not many professional reviews out there on the GS40 unfortunately. Notebookcheck tested the battery and got similar results to what I did, with the 2015 Razer Blade testing slightly better in two categories(again, I don’t know how they test things).

        I’m also under the opinion that touch screens aren’t all that power hungry as people say they are. I’d like to see some real hard data on how much power they actually consume. From what I understand, it’s pretty much the same as a trackpad when it’s not in active use, which is almost nothing. On top of that, resolution no longer is the only driving force behind power consumption of panels. Sharp IGZO is very different than LG IPS, and it could very well be that 3200×1800 Razer panel is more efficient than the GS40’s FHD panel in some ways. They both utilize different backlighting and power saving firmware features, so it’s very difficult to say for sure which is better other than running battery tests at certain brightness levels.

        I don’t know. The GS40 isn’t bad by any means – I just wouldn’t pick it over the Razer Blade. If it was the GS60, it would still be a difficult choice for me but the GS40 didn’t seem as nice to me as the GS60, in my opinion. It felt cheaper than the GS60 and that keyboard issue I had was also pretty disappointing.

      • Stephane

        June 15, 2016 at 8:27 pm

        Thanks. I just read that comparison article.
        I actually bought a msi gs60 6qe 4k and returned it because of screen bleeding. It was huge in size for a 15 inch laptop. Light thin but big, more like a 17 inch.

        It all comes down to small things.
        Msi gs 40 is cheaper and lighter. A bit bulkier. And I read crappy speakers. For 1500eur
        Razer blade has a great touch screen better finish. But in Europe it cost 2999 European for 3k screen
        Dell xps is great packs a 15 inch 4k touch screen that is great for 2500 eur but a gtx960m.
        And msi gs60 is just too big for a 15 inch,appart from that a great laptop for 1500 eur.
        In the end the price difference in Europe makes me tilt towards the msi gs40,with xps as second choice for screen size.

        Thanks for your insights.
        Too bad msi has such big screen breezel and xps does not pack a 970m.

      • Stephane

        September 26, 2016 at 5:27 am


        I ended up Buying the MSI GS63.
        It has a 15 inch 4k screen ( in my version) and is smaller than the GS60
        It packs a nvidia 1060

        So far I am very happy about it.
        The review I read are good. The fan is only noisy if you play games and the gtx1060 kicks in , otherwise the noise level is good.

        I have played elderscroll online in high quality at 4k (custom in fact, i removed antialising and pushed some other settings higher)
        It runs fine nearly always above 50fps.

        The form factor is perfect for me too ( it fits in all my previous laptop bags).

        The gs63 is just 14.9 x 9.8 x 0.69 inches so unless yo uneed a touch screen this is a great lap[top.

        Yes it runs hot in the bottom while playing, so you need a desk or a support and while you play it is noisy ( but not anoyingly noisy.. and I play with headset anyway).

        I hope this comment shelps you choose the right machine for you.

  8. jimbo

    June 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    fair enough. I’ve been living with mine for quite a while now– the msi has gone overseas and cross country multiple times. the weight really is a big deal to me. the lack of ports on the razer, in addition to the weight is another deal breaker. there’s nothing as frustrating as going into a conference room with crappy wifi, and not being able to plug in without a dongle. on the other hand, yes, it is very annoying that razer can make a world class, almost “slim” charger, and msi can’t, but I just add that to the price of must-have accessories for the MSI.

    I Forgot about the spinning drive on the MSI, I opted for a 512g ssd from exotic, so that could be why I’m getting such fantastic battery life. There really is, IMHO, no reason to go for a spinning drive at this point.

    I really do think you got a bum sample from msi — I’ve tried the ms60 and the 40’s keyboard, and thought both were stellar (not to say the razer is not– it’s amazing). AS I said previously, I had a Lenovo keyboard for years, my desktop is a das keyboard (no markings, of course), and I also use a northgate omnikey. I’m pretty picky with keyboards, and the GS40 is way above average Imo (but, I do agree the razer is better)

    Maybe I’m nitpicking here, I just wouldn’t say there’s “no” circumstance in which you would go for the gs40. The razer is without a doubt what I would chose for a full-on portable gaming laptop. But if you need something that you’re going to need for work and for gamming, the razer is just too annoying.

    One more thing, there’s very little in the way of customizing you can do on the Razer. No exotic pc, I don’t even think you can opt for a different hard drive than what they give you. And forget about upgrading memory, it’s all soldered to the board.

    Anyway, both are great laptops. But for me, even where money was no an issue, I still went with the gs40.

  9. Chris

    July 8, 2016 at 4:02 am

    but is it still relevant today to buy one of those knowing that Nvidia 10…series are going out soon ?

    • Derek Sullivan

      July 8, 2016 at 11:06 am

      It’s a tough choice, knowing the 10xxm series is coming soon. The GS40 is an unknown at this point. The GS60 and GS70 are actually being replaced by the GS63 and GS73 but there are no indication of a refreshed GS40 coming anytime soon. I expect a late fall/winter release. If you can’t wait that long, then I’d say pull the trigger and get one now.

  10. jimbo

    July 14, 2016 at 6:46 am

    you’re ALWAYS going to be facing that issue. I bought a haswell-e 8 core for my desktop last year, and NVidia 980s. I could have waited a year for the new 10-core chips coming on line soon or the NVidia chips. Buy now, and there’s still something coming down the road. It never ends.
    The Nvidia 970m is a great chip — from personal experience, plays just about anything you can throw at it at full settings.

    Now, with al that said .. If it were *me*, and I had a decent, working laptop, I’d wait until the end of the year and get the NVidia 10. these laptops are bleeding edge, and you pay for it. you may as well get the best. I don’t regret buying the 970m version, and I’m not going to run out and upgrade, but if you can hold off, I think it’s worth it.

  11. Ahmed

    September 25, 2016 at 12:25 am

    I’m wondering if it would work with an external GPU, something like the core from Razer or the Asus ROG XG station 2

    • Derek Sullivan

      September 25, 2016 at 6:46 am

      Others have reported it works fine with the Razer core

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