Date Joined: 12/07/05
Pros: - Excellent build quality. Aluminum surrounds the touch pad and keyboard keys. The hinge is strong and both the keys and touch pad are very responsive, unlike my old Asus G73JH laptop which sometimes wouldn't register keystrokes or touch pad interaction from time to time, even when it was new.
- 2x SODIMM slots, but only 1 is being used. To have a matched pair of memory, I removed the factory 8GB module and installed a 2x8GB Crucial DDR4-2133 pair for 16GB of RAM.
- Empty M.2 slot. I added a 500GB Samsung M.2 drive to install the OS and applications on an SSD. This is fantastic as it allows for 1.5TB of SSD+HDD space.
- Using a SanDisk 32GB USB drive, MSI's Recovery software is easily backed up to an external drive. The recovery partition is around 18-19GB, so a 32GB USB drive is necessary. I used this drive to do a factory recovery to install the OS/system apps to the Samsung M.2 drive, then used the (free) EaseUS Partition Master software to delete the *5* partitions from the factory 1TB drive and format as a single large 1TB HDD for data/files/etc.
- The i5-6300, GTX 960M, and M.2 SSD work well to play The Division when portable gaming is necessary. It won't get 60fps on ultra settings, but that wasn't the point. It plays smoothly on a mix of low/medium settings.
Cons: - As others mentioned, you will void your warranty to do any upgrades, even RAM. For me, this wasn't intimidating at all, and was a similar experience when upgrading my Mac Mini a few years ago. There is one screw hidden behind the "Warranty Void If Removed" sticker that you must remove to get to the internals of the laptop.
- Even if you're willing to void the warranty, getting to the internals has a couple tricks.
- The factory HDD is formatted into 5 partitions. Windows partition manager can't combine the two drives into one due to a recovery partition being between the two logical drives. I used EaseUS Partition Master to make one large 1TB drive after adding the M.2 drive for OS/apps.
Overall Review: This is an excellent laptop for those looking for a sub-$1000 laptop for portable gaming. Sure, you won't run The Division on ultra settings at 60fps on a GTX 960m, but it can play the game quite well on a mix of low & medium graphics settings.
Steps to disassemble the laptop for RAM/M.2/HDD upgrades:
- Be willing to void your warranty. Know what you're doing. Fully test all features of the laptop BEFORE voiding your warranty. I used it for a week with stress testing benchmarking apps while checking all ports and wireless connectivity with various programs before deciding that it was ready for long-term use as a modified laptop with no warranty.
- Close the laptop.
- Pry off the flat, long, thin plate between the hinges. Start with the corners at the back of the laptop at the inside of the hinges.
- Turn over the laptop and place it on a cloth - no sense in scratching up the back of the laptop as you work on the other side.
- Remove all the visible screws, plus the one hidden by the Warranty Void If Removed sticker.
- Now remove the optical drive. It will slide out (with a little force at the SATA connector) since you removed the one screw on the back plate that holds it in.
- Remove the 3 flat black screws that were hidden behind the optical drive. These are the last screws holding the back plate to the laptop frame.
- Lift the back plate up at the optical drive side, then slide it out and away from the opposite side of the laptop to take care of how the ports (headphones, mic, etc) are poking through that side of the back plate.
You're done and can now do hardware upgrades to RAM, M.2, and HDD. Installation is the same steps in reverse order. I would make sure everything works, including all the steps below if you're reconfiguring the OS to M.2 and partitioning the HDD before screwing in the back plate again. Just place the backplate in the right spot and let the laptop "sit" in it while you're doing the OS recovery to M.2. You don't need the optical drive installed.
To install the OS on the M.2 drive and make the HDD one large drive, do the following:
- Get a clean 32+GB USB drive, preferably USB 3.0. (I used a SanDisk 32GB USB 2.0 and it took some time due to 18-19GB of data to transfer.)
- Use the MSI Recovery software to create a USB recovery drive. You can't miss this software as it pops up the first time you boot the laptop. It's in the Start menu if you've dismissed that prompt and it never pops back up.
- Install the M.2 drive. I temporarily removed the HDD at this time as I considered installing a SSD as well, but decided to stick with the factory HDD after I had the M.2 drive configured and running perfectly.
- Boot from the USB recovery drive to begin the recovery process on to the M.2 drive. (If you removed the HDD, it will boot from USB by default. You may need to press DEL when booting to select the USB drive as boot drive in BIOS if you still have the factory drive installed.)
- Reboot into BIOS and make sure your boot priority is M.2, then USB. You're not going back to booting from other devices.
- After installing the OS to the M.2 drive, keep the 32GB USB Recovery drive in a safe place. You will need to use this for recovery if you follow through with the next steps to configure the HDD as one large data drive instead of an OS/recovery/data partitions. USB devices are much less prone to failure over time than a HDD anyway if they're stored securely.
- Install EaseUS Partition Master (free), or other partitioning software.
- Install the factory HDD, but be sure to boot from the M.2 drive since they'll both have the OS installed. If you set your boot order in BIOS correctly, this isn't an issue.
- Use partitioning software to delete all *5* partitions on the factory drive. You will be prompted to reboot during this process to remove the boot and OS partitions, so do so when prompted.
- Now partition and format the factory HDD as desired. I created a single partition of max size to fully use the 1TB of storage space as one large data drive.
It has been running flawlessly for a couple weeks now, and I couldn't be happier with this purchase. $800 laptop + $160 500GB M.2 SSD + $73 16GB RAM is an excellent PC. You could cut some corners and go with 128/256GB M.2 and adding a single 8GB RAM module to the factory 8GB module that exists if you're more concerned about budgeting upgrades.
Here are the newegg products I purchased that I can confirm work perfectly in this laptop (prices may vary):
1 x ($159.99) SAMSUNG 850 EVO M.2 500GB SATA III 3-D Vertical Internal SSD Single Unit Version MZ-N5E500BW
1 x ($72.99) Crucial 16GB (2 x 8G) 260-Pin DDR4 SO-DIMM DDR4 2133 (PC4 17000) Laptop Memory Model CT2K8G4SFD8213
If there is demand for it, I'll install some monitoring software and give more of a gaming performance review with specific graphics settings for smooth play in the future.
Pros: I spent quite awhile looking for 24GB of memory proven to work with the Rampage II Extreme X58 motherboard, which only supported 12GB when I bought it ~4 years ago. I flashed my BIOS to the latest firmware (2101) to ensure the widest memory compatibility first. So far, the memory passed memtest86 at stock settings with no problems - 9-9-9-24 @ 1.50v 1600MHz, which were picked up on auto settings by the BIOS. No work is necessary in manually picking settings just to get running - these were plug-n-play.
Cons: None.. yet.
Overall Review: I have the i7-965 Extreme, so I'll work on RAM overclocking tests after revising my watercooling system. I'm upgrading from 6x2GB (12GB) of Corsair Dominator DDR3-1600C8.
Keep in mind that more sticks and larger memory modules usually do not overclock as well as a few smaller memory sticks, so I'm not attempting to break any records.
24GB is for having a 12GB RAMDisk and 12GB of memory.. I'm waiting on an upgrade when 128GB RAM is supported on a future motherboard to really take advantage of a large RAMDisk.
Pros: I bought the drive to reduce lag in WoW due to hard drive thrashing - especially in cities like Shattrath and battlegrounds like AV. A single OCZ Core 64GB drive has been a MAJOR upgrade over a RAID0 Raptor array for hosting the WoW/Data directory to read game files during runtime. I have a standard WoW install on regular hard drives, but I have the WoW/Data directory stored on this SSD, which is symlinked to the correct location on the standard hard drive. I have eliminated the hard drive bottleneck in high random-read areas - all the player/world objects and textures that need to be read from the hard drive in these busy areas. The best upgrade I've done for this game.
Cons: None, if you use it for what it's made for - blazing fast random access times for reading non-sequential data.
Overall Review: You have to understand the benefits and disadvantages of using SSDs. They are fantastic performers for random reads of data, but fall behind on write speed. With a limited number of writes in the lifetime of SSDs, they're better used as data hosts for databases that don't change often - such as game data files.
Pros: Quiet, cool, low power consumption. Excellent for media/data storage.
Cons: Do NOT attempt to use this drive for your OS, gaming, or real-time applications that may need to access the drive periodically. I was having an issue with 1-2 second freezes every few minutes while web browsing & gaming, and it was due to the IntelliPark feature of this drive. I now have two of them, and only use them for media storage. I use other drives (WD Caviar, Raptor, and Seagate Barracudas) for OS/gaming/application drives.
Pros: Passed 24 hour MemTest86 at 954MHz 5-5-5-15 @ 1.9v, and still has more overclocking headroom. I'm extremely pleased with the speed and voltage at these timings, especially for 2GB sticks. Great bang for the buck.
Cons: Although it passed MemTest86 Tests #1-7 over a span of a little more than an hour at 800MHz 4-4-4-12 timings @ 2.15v, a 24 hour MemTest86 run revealed 2 errors. Errors were reduced with each voltage increase from 1.9v to 2.15v, so it's possible that it could have passed the 24 hour test at 2.2v. I'm not satisfied with that voltage/stability risk being at the edge of reasonable limits, so I'm sticking to CAS5 timings for now. I don't have a need for trying to get CAS4 at 800MHz when my cpu/mobo are looking for around 900-1000MHz out of RAM:FSB 2:1.
Overall Review: Mild overclock at all stock voltages: E6750 @ 3.2GHz, Abit IP35 Pro - BIOS 14, 4GB (2x2GB) Corsair XMS2 DDR2-800C5, MSI 8800GT 512MB OC, SeaSonic 600W PSU, Antec 900, Tuniq Tower, WinXP. Still in the process of stress testing components for overclocking - expecting to get a minimum of 3.6GHz, 450MHz FSB, and DDR2-900C5 with safe temperatures & voltages.
Pros: Since this CPU runs at an 800MHz bus (DDR2-400 RAM speed), it is easily overclockable with inexpensive RAM. The E6XXX series has a 1066MHz bus, requiring a minimum of DDR2-533 RAM, and up to DDR2-800+ for high-end overclocking. Since the E4300 has a 9x multiplier (compared to the E6300's 7x), it scales better for overclocking on less expensive memory and motherboards.
Cons: Price is high as the CPU is just released - the E6300 is a better buy at the moment. The price should drop at least thirty to fifty dollars within the next few weeks.
Overall Review: Some numbers to compare the E4300 and E6300:
E4300 stock @ 200MHz bus (DDR2-400) = 1.8GHz
E6300 stock @ 266MHz bus (DDR2-533) = 1.86GHz
E4300 OC @ 266MHz bus (DDR2-533) = 2.4GHz
E6300 OC @ 333MHz bus (DDR2-667) = 2.33GHz
E4300 OC @ 333MHz bus (DDR2-667) = 3.0GHz
E6300 OC @ 400MHz bus (DDR2-800) = 2.8GHz
E4300 OC @ 400MHz bus (DDR2-800) = 3.6GHz
Keep in mind that 3.6GHz may not be possible with your current CPU cooler or motherboard, but 3GHz is easily attainable at 333MHz bus with nearly all motherboards and memory.
Pros: Easily the best keyboard I've used for the following reasons:
- Flat/low profile
- Soft & quiet keys
- 18 G(macro) keys, with 3 selector buttons for a total of 54 macro keys. Profile manager allows switching between sets of 54 macros.. practically limitless combinations available.
- Windows key switch. Turn on/off the Windows keys (between Alt/Control keys). Excellent for playing games.
- Blue illuminated keys. Select between low/high/off blue illumination from keys and LCD.
- Programmable LCD. With C++ knowledge, display whatever you'd like on the 160x43 pixel LCD. The LCD has its own 4 buttons that can be used within your own LCD applets for switching pages, selecting options, etc.
- Media center controls. Volume, play, stop, etc. for controlling your media player.
- 2 USB 2.0 ports.
Cons: The plastic is slightly flimsy - when I press the LCD control buttons near the top of the keyboard, the whole keyboard flexes. It's not a problem while typing though..
- Would have liked to have the option of a separate toggle for LCD illumination, instead of sharing the toggle button with the keys as well.
Overall Review: I wish I would have bought this keyboard a long time ago - great upgrade and worth the price.
- The keyboard has been revised. The problem of key color rubbing off has been eliminated with the current model.
- Doesn't have the "performance" upgrades of the RXXXr TXXXXXXXa, but the extra features definitely make up for it. I didn't notice any extra benefit in gaming with the TXXXXXXXa..
Pros: Extremely fast, especially in a striped RAID 0 array. I've used them extensively in builds for nearly 3 years with no failures - at least 50 different Raptor drives. No other non-SCSI hard drive array can surpass the performance of the Raptor series. At this price for two of them, every non-economy machine should have them for the OS and performance critical applications.
Cons: Size at 36.7GB each. However, in a striped RAID 0 array for transfer rate performance, the array appears as a single 74GB drive.
Overall Review: The secondary storage (hard drive) is the slowest component in the machine for most tasks. Every non-economy machine I build has a minimum of two 36.7GB Raptors for high-end performance out of a logical 74GB C: drive. If money is less important, two 74GB or 150GB drives are used. Do not underestimate the impact that a striped RAID array of 10k rpm drives can have. 74GB is more than enough space for the OS, performance critical applications and a few games. Use a larger and slower secondary drive for other games, music, videos, etc.
Pros: Plug & play installation on my Dell Inspiron E1505. Why pay twice as much to upgrade to 1GB through the manufacturer for generic memory when I could buy quality memory for half the price?
Overall Review: Patriot is up there with Cxxsair, Kxxxston, Cxxxial, Mxxxkin in quality - at this price, it's a deal.