Micro-Star International (msi) have been known for many years, first for their very good motherboards used in many a Custom built overclocked computer. Then more recently for their powerful but lightweight “gaming” laptops. Now they are looking to push into the “professional” market with a range of mobile workstations for 3D Modeling and the CAD market.
My first real change to have a look at the new professional product was at SOLIDWORKS World 2015 where they had a stand (I believe for the first time). On display was the new “soon to be released” WT72 – 17.3″ Intel Core i7 – 4720HQ 2.6-3.6GHz LaptopAt a similar time Teniya Chen – from the Notebook Division in Taiwan was soon to be in Australia and we were fortunate to be able to arrange msi to display and present the “CAD” laptops at the Sydney SolidWorks User Group. It was whilst we were making these arrangement that Teniya made the offer of a trial of a WS60 model. A offer too good to pass up!
Within a few a days an “Engineering sample” had arrived with the following specification:
- Processor: Intel Core i7 – 4710HQ 2.5GHz
- Memory: 16GB DDR3L 16ooMHz
- Graphic: NVIDIA® Quadro® K2100M GDDR5 – 2GB
- Display: 15.6″ HD (2880×1620) Wide-view
- Storage: 128GB mSATA SSD & 1TB HDO (7200rpm)
- Keyboard: SteelSeries Full color LED back light (Adjustable)
- Audio: Dynaudio
The first thing you notice is the weight (or more correct the lack there of) The specifications quoted a mass of 1.9kg (4.2lb). On my digital scales I have the laptop at 1.6kg (3.5lb) and the Power Supply at 0.45kg (0.99lb). As a direct comparison Dell quotes an almost identical mass for a similar specified M3800. (M4800 and HP ZBook have specified masses of 2.9kg (6.4lb) and the Lenovo M540 at 2.5kg (5.5lb))
With a 15.6″ Display and dimensions of 390 x 266 x 20mm (15.4″ x 10.8″ x 0.8″). The right hand side is supplied (front to rear) with USB 3.0, SD Card Reader, HDMI, Thunderbolt 2 (mDP) and LAN connectionsWhilst the left hand side is supplied (front to rear) with HP-in, Mic-out, USB 3.0 x 2 and the DC power connection. Noticeable by there absence are VGA connection and a Disc drive. These are by today’s standards old technology and I doubt that they would be missed (or desired) by many today There are two notable sign on the face panel, both crediting product partners. Keyboard by SteelSeries. Audio by Dynaudio The Keys have a nice soft touch with good feedback and full colour back lighting. The back lighting is adjustable. The keyboard back lighting is divided into sections and these sections can all be changed to suit. I do like back lights on keyboards and was at first a little disappointed that the back lighting would not display white. Despite white being on the colour wheel, it’s display was more yellow than white. Instead I settled for the second darkest blue and after living with it for a couple of weeks I found that I was preferring it more than a traditional white. I’m not convinced on the multi-colour back lights, maybe that more of a statement on my age!
I also liked the “little more quirky” than standard Font used on the keys! There was a little more shape and style to the font. Whilst this would never be a deal maker or breaker, to me I liked the different approach. Whilst the weight and style is one thing, at the end of the day it is all about the performance. So lets have a look at both some benchmarks and something that we can compare those benchmarks to. I My day to day work computer is a IC3D custom built desktop with a Intel Core i7 – 4790K Haswell Overclocked 4.3GHz – Liquid (Sealed system) Cooled processor. On the SolidWorks Benchmark Test “Share your Score” there are not many better.
Starting with the Microsoft Window Experience Performance rating the msi WS60 has a score or 7.1 (max 7.9) my IC3D a 7.3. Interesting is the processor speed the WS60 – 7.7 compared to the IC3D – 7.8. With similar RAM they both have 7.8 and as both have solid-state drives they both rate at 7.9. It is only the graphics that pull the ratings back with the WS60 – 7.1 and the IC3D – 7.3.
So how does that relate when we run the SolidWorks Performance Benchmark Test (WS60 results top, IC3D below). The number are somewhat expected, the IC3D with a much faster processor (36% faster time) but interestingly that does not equate to the I/O (opening time) where the figures show only a 10% difference. Also to the rendering time where again there is only around a 12% difference. A common Rendering Benchmark is Rob Rodriguez – Axis Cad Solutions “Speaker for Render Benchmark” which can be found on Charles Culp – SWtuts site (WS60 results top, IC3D below) WS60 – 4minutes/25seconds compared to the IC3D – 3minutes/8seconds. That again relates to the faster processor speed of around 30%. However you would still have to be happy with a rendering time of under 5minutes.I was interested to see what results we would get by putting the WS60 under some more stress (with some more heat from the cores running at a 100% for longer) with a more difficult render. It’s been a while since I’ve played with Mark Biasotti – Porsche Carrera GT ( SolidWorks Doesn’t Do Trains Planes and Automobiles ) but it is an ideal model with more bump from the leather and aluminum textures.
Setting the size to 1920 x 1080, Scene – Reflective Floor Black, Edit the Environment to Studio Room, Lights ON in PhotoView and a final render setting of Best. (WS60 results top, IC3D below) The WS60 – 16minute/59seconds whilst the IC3D – 14minutes/21seconds. Instead of seeing an increase in the percentage time, it proved not to be the case, with only a difference of 15%.
Lets look at a few more practical application by opening a few Assemblies and see if they equate similar to what we saw in the SolidWorks Benchmark Test. Whilst I was playing with the Porsche I recorded a few opening times, 25.6MB Assembly with a 170 parts. The WS60 on average opened the Assembly in 32.8seconds whilst the IC3D took on average 29.1seconds. This proved to be around 12% which is similar to what we saw in the SolidWorks Benchmark Test.
Moving up in size to an Assembly of 103MB and 1569 parts. On average the WS60 opened the Assembly in 49.7seconds, the IC3D on average 45.2seconds. Once more we see the WS60 within 10% of the IC3D performanceWhilst at no means are these extensive test the msi WS60 proves itself to be quite the incredible machine. With only limited time spent using SolidWorks (2015) on the WS60 the only “issue” I found was that I needed to back the screen resolution off from the recommended 2880 x 1620 to 1920 x 1080. With the the resolution at 2880 x 1620 the icons and fonts in SolidWorks were way too small (for these aging eyes) With only limited adjustment available to the icons and fonts in SolidWorks 2015 the only thing to do was to bring back the resolution. However with the “proposed” new User Interface for SolidWorks 2016 and with the (discussed) greater ability to scale up the new icons this should not be a issue in the future. I understand that this was one of the main reasons for SOLIDWORKS to move away from the current icons.
Although my time spent with the msi WS60 was reasonably limited I found it to be more than a capable machine. If you are in the market and have the need for a professional CAD mobile workstation you should at least consider the msi range of laptops and put them in the mix before making any final decision!
Contact you local msi dealer for further information on model range and price.
Now where can I get my hands on a WT72 ………