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Under the hood is where things get interesting. Though graphics are always far more important than processing power in a gaming notebook, the GT627 certainly has its CPU bases covered, fitting in an Intel Core 2 Quad Q9000 processor. Despite being a relatively low-end Core 2 Quad CPU (running at 2.0GHz and with only 6MB of cache compared to 12MB for the 2.26GHz Q9100) its four cores should still make short work of multi-threaded applications and will give some gaming advantages in high-profile titles like Crysis that feature support for more than two processing cores
Unfortunately, the installed 32-bit version of Windows Vista Premium won't take full advantage of the 4GB DDR2 RAM the system comes with, but at least it's there for when you decide to upgrade to Windows 7 64-bit. Storage is adequately handled by a 320GB 5,400rpm drive, though it's a pity it's not a faster 7,200rpm model. MSI hasn't skimped when it comes to wireless, with Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0 plus EDR both on board.
Next we come to the paramount component of any gaming machine: its graphics. Here MSI has elected to stick with the slightly older 9800-series, but it's an able performer and probably contributes to the lower than expected price. Specifically the card here is a GeForce 9800M GS, which comes in below the GT and GTX but does sport a full gigabyte of RAM.
This led to some decent performance at the screen's native 1,680 x 1,050 resolution. Our usual laptop benchmark of TrackMania Nations Forever sped by at a blistering 101fps average on medium detail, while Call of Duty 4 returned a very playable 43.66fps average (35fps minimum) at maximum detail with AA turned off. For comparison purposes, the Rock Xtreme 620, which combined a 2.80GHz CPU with a 9800M GT, managed a higher 49.7fps in Call of Duty 4 at the same settings and with two samples of anti-aliasing, but carries a £470 price premium over the MSI's £1,290.97.
Crysis is still a game that can stress out high-end desktops, so it's no surprise it brought the GT627 to its knees. Its slower processor combined with the GS graphics card led to an unplayable 13.8fps average at high detail settings, forcing us to drop the resolution down to 1,280 x 800 and detail down to medium to get a playable 36.3fps average (20fps minimum). Again to compare the Rock 620 gave 30.7fps but at high detail.
As with most gaming notebooks, the MSI's cooling does kick up a notch as soon as you start a title (during normal use such as browsing the GT627 is really quiet), but though it becomes audible the Rock Xtreme 620's annoying whine is blissfully absent.