The MSI GE620’s keyboard may feature red gaming-focused decals, but otherwise it’s fairly unassuming. It uses chiclet-style keys, with a pretty shallow action. A little more travel in the keys would afford the laptop a more satisfying typing experience.
The layout also takes a little getting used to. In order to give the numerical keypad due prominence – as something used extensively in games – several keys towards the right of the ‘board have been chopped down. The Enter button, right shift and Backspace keys are all pretty dinky, and will result in many a mis-fired key press during the first few hours of use. If you’re out for an all-purpose laptop rather than one that’ll be used a lot for gaming, this is something to consider. There’s no keyboard backlight, but that’s no surprise in a powerful sub-£800 laptop.
That said, as with any muscle memory quibbles, the custom layout is something you’ll soon get used to unless you’ll be constantly flipping between this keyboard and one with a standard layout – a work laptop or desktop, perhaps.
The display is a little less gaming-optimised than the keyboard. It’s 15.6in across, but has a 1,366×768 pixel resolution rather than a more desirable 1080p screen available on a smattering of laptops around the £800 mark, the Asus N53SN a key example. Still, these laptops either cost at least £100 more or offer lesser specs.
Viewing angles are above average, helped in use by the limited motion of the screen hinge, which locks at around 135 degrees, before the worst effects of contrast shift really kick in. Maximum brightness is, like the screen performance in general, decent but not spectacular.
Arguably making bolder claims about their performance are the conspicuous speaker outlets below the display. Ignoring the current trend of getting in bed with a big audio brand, like HP with its Beats laptops, the GE620s audio claims are limited to the THX TruStudio Pro software. This offers equalisation, small speaker sound optimisation and faux-surround. It won’t turn a bad speaker setup into a good one, rather tailoring the sound to make the most of a compromised setup.
The MSI GE620’s internal speakers are not hugely loud, but also don’t distort as a result. There’s naturally no real bass here, but some lower-mid warmth makes for a reasonable substitute. The sound is boxy, with little treble sparkle, but this prevents a tinny or harsh sound. This laptop plays it safe, and in this case that’s perfectly ok.
Its trackpad is similarly unambitious. Rather small and of the same finish as the chassis, it doesn’t beg to stand out. The pad’s surface is textured with tiny dimples – initially less comfortable to glide across than a more subtly-textured surface, but it offers a good level of friction that partly makes up for its small size.
The button bar is a single two-tone bar, and has an unusually large dead zone in the middle – about 2cm’s worth. This is a little large in our opinion. Above the trackpad, there’s a disabler button, which comes in very handy when using the laptop on a train.
Of course, if you are just going to read PDFs and gawk at Excel files on the way to work with the MSI GE620, you’re looking at the wrong laptop for the job.