The GE40 is an uncommon blend of performance and portability that had, before now, not yet been accomplished to this extreme. It’s safe to say that it offers enough power to run even modern titles on medium settings (and some even higher) without many fluidity concerns. That’s a respectable feat for a 14-inch notebook weighing just 4.3 pounds; this is near-Ultrabook territory we’re talking about here.
Construction-wise, it is indeed evident that some concessions were made in order to keep the weight low and the profile thin. For starters, the great majority of the unit is plastic, and while it seems durable enough for most purposes, it’s nothing as high-grade as that which you will find on a ThinkPad or a Latitude. The bottom of the notebook and the display lid seem most vulnerable of all, though neither comes off as flimsy—just lightweight. As is a common trend in the industry, the display lid and palm rest are coated with a single piece of brushed aluminum, an addition which not only yields aesthetic benefits, but some durability as well. If it weren’t for some high-maintenance glossy plastic trim around the screen and keyboard, the GE40 could almost be described as having a high-end appearance. The red “devil eyes” on the back of the display lid, meanwhile, are purely a matter of taste. I like a little less evil in my laptops, but to each his own (heh).
Elsewhere, the GE40 sees mixed success. The touchpad and keyboard both feel great—but it’s too bad that some of the most important keys are shrunken and misshapen, producing some unfortunate learning curves littered with unavoidable typos. The LCD is also a bit disappointing, with middling brightness and cheap-TN-grade viewing angles. Color and contrast also appear quite weak, but at the very least, the finish is matte. Battery life, meanwhile, is seriously impressive, with over 8 hours possible under minimal load and just under 5 hours with regular web surfing at comfortable brightness levels. In a lot of ways, this feels less like a gaming PC and more like an Ultrabook—until you fire up your favorite DX11 title and can manage to enjoy it on Medium or High settings, that is.
The one true drawback to all of this is perfectly predictable: try as MSI might, it’s simply impossible to cram this much power into such a small chassis without pushing the very boundaries of physics and thermal dynamics. And thus, in spite of the relatively aggressive cooling design (with plenty of fan noise to go along with it), heat is still of paramount concern. We recorded high temperatures of up to 98°C and 87°C for the CPU and GPU respectively during our full load stress test—and temperatures during real-world gaming within 10°C of that—which is enough to make anyone nervous. CPU throttling was only consistent during our synthetic stress testing procedures (GPU throttling was actually never an issue), but regardless of that, this can’t be good for the life of the parts in the machine. It’s with that significant qualifier in mind that we say that—if you’re up to managing heat when necessary (keeping those vents clean, and perhaps even using a cooling pad for extended gaming sessions), and you don’t mind some risk to the parts—for $1,300, the GE40 is about as portable a powerhouse as you’re going to find today.