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MSI GT627-246UK 15.4in Gaming Laptop - MSI GT627-246UK
Getting onto the 15.4in 16:10 screen, it's actually surprisingly good. Not even close to the same level of good as the RGB LED backlit Dell Studio XPS 16, mind you, but good for the average notebook panel. It managed to resolve more dark detail than many in DisplayMate's greyscale test, while colour production is pleasingly vibrant. Text production is also very sharp and despite a little colour shift viewing angles are above average.
The only real negatives are the almost-inevitable glossy coating and slightly uneven backlighting, but the scenarios where you'll notice this are rare. It's not a display for image manipulation or anything requiring colour accuracy, but should be adequate for entertainment.
Unfortunately, the MSI's speakers can't match its screen's performance. Bass sounds tinny and general production lacks depth or definition. However, not only can you hook up analogue surround sound systems, but using either external speakers or headphones you'll get the benefits of Dolby Home Theater, which goes one step further than Dolby Sound Room in offering Dolby Pro Logic II decoding to produce up to 7.1-channel audio from a two-channel source.
When it comes to battery life, the GT627 does quite well for a gaming machine. With a similar six-cell battery to MSI's EX620, its performance is eerily similar, with both machines providing exactly two hours and 24 minutes in MobileMark's Productivity benchmark. This beats the Rock, though in the intensive DVD-test MSI's machine fared less well with exactly an hour and a half, which the Rock beat by eight minutes.
Software consists of the usual assortment of DVD/CD-burning and Blu-ray-playing software, together with trial Norton Anti-Virus and Microsoft Office programs, so the last remaining factor for our consideration is price. Everything considered the GT627 scores rather well here: it's not easy to find a quad-core system with these kinds of features for under £1,300 at the moment. Whether it's the best system for hardcore gamers is another matter altogether; by sacrificing 'unnecessary' add-ons like the Blu-ray drive and (in some cases) OS, and going for a dual-core CPU, one can get a GeForce GTX 260M or even 9800GTX instead of the 9800GS (from custom builders such as Rock or Novatech), which should give your games a definite performance edge.
As usual, MSI provides a laptop which while not without its share of flaws does provide good value. A strong all-rounder, the GT627 offers quad-core processing, 9800-series graphics, a slightly above average screen and decent battery life, as well as an attractive set of extras that include a bag and competent gaming mouse. This leaves just the questionable styling, which admittedly is quite a hurdle, but if you're prepared to be pragmatic there's plenty to enjoy here.