9600M GT Graphics and display
The key ingredient to the GX630’s gaming credentials is without a doubt its GeForce 9600M GT graphics processor.
The GeForce 9600M GT is one of NVIDIA’s most popular mobile GPUs due to its combination of price and performance. The chip sports 32 stream processors clocked at 1250MHz, while the rest of the graphics core runs at 500MHz. Paired up to the 9600M GT is 512MB of 800MHz (1.6GHz effective) GDDR3 memory with a 128-bit memory interface.
Based on these specs, the 9600M GT compares most similarly to NVIDIA’s GeForce 9500 GT on the desktop. The 9500 GT features 32 shaders, just like the 9600M GT, and it runs at 550MHz core/1400MHz shaders. Both GPUs also feature a 128-bit memory interface with 800MHz GDDR3.
The 9500 GT isn’t exactly the fastest chip on the block, but as we demonstrated last summer it is capable of running today’s latest games with playable performance as long as you’re willing to compromise a little on the graphics settings. Most games should run fine with midrange settings.
Also keep in mind that the GX630’s 15.4” display maxes out at 1280x800. This prevents the 9600M GT’s 128-bit memory interface from becoming a bottleneck as you’re capped from running at higher resolutions where the GPU is constrained by its available memory bandwidth.
When comparing specs between various inexpensive gaming notebooks from other manufacturers, it’s important to keep in mind that MSI opted for the full spec 9600M GT
GPU, and not the 9600M GS, which runs at slower clocks and usually ships with DDR2 memory. It’s an easy mistake that we see a lot of people make that can reap a significant difference in gaming performance.
In terms of upgradeability, the GX630 relies on NVIDIA’s MXM standard, so technically the system’s graphics could be upgraded if the user chooses to do so. In reality though we don’t think this is feasible for anyone outside of MSI’s own labs, as MXM cards are few and far between on the open market, plus you’d need to ensure that the GX630’s cooling would be sufficient for the GPU you’re upgrading to. Graphics upgradeability is a feature that the system manufacturer needs to offer in order for it to truly be a viable solution for gamers and unfortunately at this point MSI doesn’t offer it. Fortunately we had no problems upgrading to NVIDIA’s latest publicly available ForceWare 179.48 driver for notebooks released last month.
NVIDIA deserves huge kudos for delivering the world’s first universal driver for notebooks. This is a feature that’s absolutely vital in today’s age where many of the latest games don’t run properly, or run with poor performance if they don’t have the proper graphics driver. Previously gamers would have to wait months for their manufacturer to provide new drivers, if a new driver was made available at all, so NVIDIA’s decision to provide universal driver updates to the public on a regular basis is of huge importance for any gamer shopping for a new notebook.
The MSI GX630 relies on a 15.4” TFT LCD display with a max res of 1280x800. Obviously 1280x800 is a bit on the low end of the resolution spectrum, particularly on a 15” notebook, but considering the $800 price tag of the GX630 it’s another concession MSI had to make in order to hit such a low price point.
In terms of performance, the display performs adequately enough for basic gaming and movie watching, but we certainly weren’t blown away by the display’s visuals. Viewing angles were pretty narrow, making off-axis viewing pretty much impossible if you want to watch a movie on the display with a number of friends. The glossy nature of the screen contributes to the problem as well, although honestly glossy screens are common among all notebooks nowadays. Fortunately we didn’t spot a hint of ghosting in any of the games we played.
Overall we’d rate the display as pretty average for this class of notebook.