The past generation of MSI gaming laptops (including the MSI GT725) featured a subtler brushed-aluminium design, but MSI has gone back to the drawing board with the GX660R, and it's produced a bolder look.
The grey, mottled plastic palmrest looks good and contrasts nicely with the black of the keyboard. The shiny black lid boasts some aggressive contours that are a little reminiscent of Asus' G51, although doesn't quite manage the sinister cool of Alienware's M17x.
As is traditional for a gaming laptop, the GX660R features a wealth of flashing lights dotted around the chassis and lid. While you can program whether you want the lights to flash or not, there's not nearly the customisability that the Alienware M17x offers with its Alienware FX software.
All this may be a bit too much for some, and there's no doubt that the GX660R rests at the garish end of the style spectrum, but we have to say we quite liked it.
Build quality is decent, and the GX660R is certainly a laptop you can take on your travels without worrying too much about sustaining damage on the road. The solid plastics also provide great protection for the laptop's internal components, while the thickness of the lid does the same for the panel.
As mentioned above the GX660R features some nice design touches which might sound insignificant, but actually count for a lot.
Older laptops such as the MSI GT740 featured an indented Control button on the keyboard – not the regular location for the key – and the laptop's vent for expelling hot air from the system used to sit on the right hand side of the chassis.
MSI has rectified the key issue, and the GX660R's Control button now sits on the end of the row, replacing the Function key. MSI has also moved the hot air vent from the right side of the chassis to the left.
The thinking behind this being that most gamers use an external mouse, which previously got very hot positioned so close to the air outlet. Obviously, this doesn't work so well for left-handed gamers.
Fnatic, the professional gaming team MSI sponsors, asked that the company make the palmrest cooler during use. As a result, a special fan button – called Cooler Booster technology by MSI – has been included above the GX660R's keyboard, which can be hit if you need to cool the system down, and we found it works, enhancing comfort and usability well.
Having said that, the noise the fan system produces is substantial, but shouldn't be a problem if you game with headphones on.
The GX660R features a 15.6-inch screen with a Full HD 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution. Detail is excellent, while colour vibrancy and brightness are also impressive, ensuring your games and multimedia look great.
A shiny screen coating is in place, and does produce irritating reflections in bright light, but since this is a machine most likely to be used indoors, that shouldn't be a problem.
Our one main complaint with the GX660R lies with the keyboard. MSI has used a chiclet-style design, with each key poking up through a hole in the chassis individually, yet there's still quite a bit of flex in the board.
This not only means it's quite noisy to use, but also that it isn't as responsive as we'd like, which is a problem seeing as, if you're gaming, it's important that your every input is accurately read. There is a nice touch in that the WASD keys aer painted red, making them easy to locate in a rush.
A key selling point for the GX660R is the Dynaudio-designed speaker system. Dynaudio make high-end audio systems for recording studios, the home, and specialist automotive customers such as Bugatti.
MSI claims that instead of simply cramming some Dynaudio-approved speakers into the laptop, the company has been involved from day one in the designing of the GX660R so that – in the same way Asus has done with the forthcoming NX90 – the speakers are specifically designed to work produce the best sound possible from the GX660R's chassis.
And it shows. In an area of laptop design that has been criminally ignored over the years, the GX660R produces the best sound quality we've heard from a 15-inch laptop.
We're not saying the laptop will replace your high-end hi-fi system – it won't – but in a world where digital content is being consumed on laptops and PCs increasingly often, you won't find much better quality.
All genres of music we tested – from hip-hop through to classical – sounded great, with the middle and high-end especially impressing. We'd love a little more bass from the built-in subwoofer, but that's being picky.
The GX660R boats the latest in connectivity as well. Down the left side of the chassis you'll find two USB 3.0 ports and one USB 2.0 port, as well as a 4-in-1 media card reader and an ExpressCard slot.
Down the right side of the chassis is a further USB 2.0 port and the Blu-ray (read only) optical drive. On the back of the chassis sits a USB/eSATA combination port, the VGA and HDMI out and a Gigabit Ethernet connection.