Wolf in sheep’s clothing? MSI GT680-055AU notebook review

The MSI GT680-055AU gaming notebook has excellent specs but the appearance really didn’t work for us. Bright orange LEDs have been crammed in all over and while appealing the high gloss finish of the keyboard the 15.6in HD screen and the surrounding bezel is distracting. The matte areas are unimpressive and the case and screen have a worrying amount of flex in them. Overall the build quality is really ordinary. The speakers looked cool but are acceptable rather than extraordinary. Fortunately the chiclet keyboard works very nicely; all keys have low travel and the layout is normal. The touchpad is acceptable but the buttons have an odd rough pattern. Although the included MSI mouse feels cheap it’s serviceable enough.

Gaming is well taken care of by the T680. A potent Intel Core i7-2630QM (2GHz) processor and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 460M are enough for new games like Portal 2 on the highest settings. A preposterous 16GB of RAM has been crammed in which while appreciated is kind of extravagant. Overall the GT680 pulls in a very strong PCMark Vantage score of 12675. Battery life is a reasonable three hours and 20 minutes in power saver mode but for serious gaming the GT680 should be running on mains power.

The specs continue to impress. A 750GB hard drive is supported by a 120GB SSD. Windows 7 Professional is installed and the boot times are very quick as a result. There is a dizzying array of ports: two USB 2.0 two USB 3.0 5-in-1 card reader ESATA HDMI Gigabit Ethernet VGA and a quartet of audio jacks. The finishing touches are a Blu-ray burner Bluetooth 2.1 and 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi.

I want to unreservedly recommend the MSI GT680-055AU but for all the good stuff it has inside the outside simply doesn’t match up. The build quality and glossy surfaces detract from what would otherwise be a stellar product. Many will buy it for the specs alone but just as many will opt for a similar specced notebook with the looks to match.

Available from MSI retailing for $2499.
APC rating: 7/10