Review: MSI WS60

Introduction and design

Mobile workstations pack plenty of raw performance under the hood, but often come in thick, boxy designs. This is only half true of the $2,299 (£1,550, AU$3,035) MSI WS60, a mobile workstation that takes its inspiration from slim, sleek Ultrabooks.

MSI is marketing the WS60 to designers, claiming that it is the “best laptop for CAD & 3D modeling.” With the performance to back it up, the sleek brushed metal design of the WS60 gives the notebook a lot of desk appeal when compared to competing mobile workstations, making the WS60 feel right at home in a designer workspace.

With a 15.6-inch display, competitors to the WS60 include the Dell Precision M3800 at $2,234 (£1,505, AU$2,862), Dell Precision M4800 at $2,079 (£1,400, AU$2,665), HP ZBook 15 G2 at $2,999 (£2,020, AU$3,845), Lenovo ThinkPad W550s at $1,133 (£765, AU$1,455) and Lenovo ThinkPad W541 at $1,232 (£827, AU$1,613).

For a larger screen size and an even more powerful graphics chip, the 17-inch HP ZBook 17 G2 is an excellent alternative. Those who prefer to live within Apple’s ecosystem can also choose the $2,499 (£1,685, AU$3,205) MacBook Pro 15-inch with Retina display.


If the power of mobile workstations makes them analogous to pickup trucks, then the sleek metal trim of MSI’s WS60 gives it the sheen of a sports car. And nowhere is this more true than on the lid of the WS60.

MSI WS60 review

Unlike the ThinkPad W550s’s boxy utilitarian design, the WS60 is cloaked in a black, brushed metal shell. The laptop’s lid showcases the MSI logo and a shield emblem with green insets. The shield and the lid’s contouring are reminiscent of the aerodynamic hood of a Lamborghini.

MSI WS60 lid

Most competing workstations with the WS60’s power are both heavier and thicker than MSI’s brushed metal design. The Dell Precision M4800 is 2 pounds (0.91kg) heavier that the 4.36-pound (2.78kg) WS60, weighing in at 6.36 pounds. HP’s more compact ZBook 15 G2 is a little lighter than the Precision M4800 at 6.13 pounds (2.78kg), but is still considerably heavier than the WS60.

The added weight really makes a difference for road warriors and business travelers. I find the weight of the WS60 more manageable when carried in a shoulder bag all day.

These rivals are also thicker than the 15.35 x 10.47 x 0.78-inch (38.99 x 26.59 x 1.98cm) measurements dimensions of the WS60. The Precision M4800 has a 1.37-inch (3.48cm) thick body, while the ZBook 15 G2’s frame comes in at 1.2 inches (3.05cm) thick.

Dell’s sleek Precision M3800, a mobile workstation that borrows its premium, tapered design from the company’s flagship XPS 13 Ultrabook, comes closest to WS60’s dimensions, weighing 4.15 pounds (1.88kg) and carrying a thickness of 0.71 inches (1.8cm). Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is similarly portable at 4.46 pounds (2.02kg) and 0.71-inch (1.8cm) thin.

MSI WS60 review

The black brushed metal case does a decent job repelling dirt and fingerprints, unlike the rubberized coating on the lid of the ThinkPad W550s. However, I found that compared to the silver metal of the MacBook Pro or the matte carbon fiber shell of the $949 (£645, AU$1,255) ThinkPad T450s, the black paint does a terrible job of concealing oils from your skin.

Also, unlike the solid unibody metal construction on the lid of the Precision M3800 and the MacBook Pro, I noticed quite a bit of flexing when pushing on the lid or even when opening the laptop by just grabbing a corner of the lid.

The hinge where the lid is attached to the WS60’s body is constructed of plastic. Although I encountered no issues with the choice of material here, the hinge doesn’t feel as sturdy when pressed compared to the MacBook Pro or the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s.

MSI WS60 review

Opening the lid reveals a capacious 15.6-inch matte display. MSI offers options for full HD 1080p resolution as well as 3K, but neither choice will give you a touchscreen.

The brushed metal finish continues on the laptop deck, but MSI uses a plastic composite material for the undercarriage.

An array of bright, white LED lights adorn the front right side of the laptop. The lights quickly notify users about the state of the laptop, along with connectivity status. Even though the lights are visible when the lid is closed, I had to open the lid to determine what they mean, as the identifying symbols are printed on the edge of the keyboard dock, not on the front of the laptop.

Although there are plenty of ports on both the left and right sides of the WS60, there isn’t a mechanical docking connector on the undercarriage like on the ThinkPad W550s and W541. This means that unless you buy a separate third-party hub, you’re limited to the three USB 3.0 ports on the laptop. The good news is that there are dual digital video output ports so you can drive two displays straight from the WS60 via the on-board HDMI and Thunderbolt (mini DisplayPort) ports.


The WS60 houses a keyboard designed by SteelSeries. The programmable backlit keyboard comes with blue lighting and stylized fonts to identify each key.

Like the keys on the MacBook Pro, the keys on the WS60 are flat and not concave. Although there is decent key travel – the WS60 keyboard offers more travel than a MacBook Pro keyboard, but less travel when compared to the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s – the keys feel stiff and less springy, compared to the MacBook Pro, when pressed.

MSI WS60 review

I found the keyboard comfortable, but I still preferred the MacBook keyboard for its springiness. Lacking the loud clicking noise of the MacBook keyboard, the keys on the WS60 are quieter when typing, and I noticed that certain keys on the keyboard are stiffer than others.

Additionally, I noticed that when I am typing hard and pushing down on the keys, the keyboard deck flexes a little, a phenomenon that’s not present on the ThinkPad T450s or the MacBook.

For those who work a lot with numbers, a dedicated number pad sits to the right of the keyboard, a feature typically reserved for business-class workstations and notebooks.

Although a dedicated number pad offers instant utility when working with financial spreadsheets, the narrower width of each key, compared to a dedicated desktop keyboard, made it difficult to use. Even after a week of using the WS60, I found myself making mistakes entering data using the number pad because of the shrunken key size.

Unlike enterprise-grade workstations like the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s, the W550s, and the W540 and W541, MSI doesn’t offer a spill-resistant keyboard. The ThinkPad keyboard comes with channels that drain underneath the laptop, a convenient feature for accident-prone mobile users who work on cramped cafe tables.

Specifications and display

Continuing with the sports car analogy, MSI doesn’t disappoint with fast processors, powerful discrete graphics, and plenty of storage on the WS60. There is a lot of horsepower here, and the WS60 doesn’t betray its workstation heritage.

Despite its modern specs, the WS60 feels like a machine stuck in the past, like a retro car. Unlike its contemporary rivals, MSI doesn’t offer a touchscreen option for the WS60, and the only OS configuration you can select is Windows 7 Professional. The latter feature shouldn’t be an issue given that Microsoft offers a free upgrade path to Windows 10 this summer, but the lack of a touchscreen may be a dealbreaker for some.

Here’s how the unit sent to TechRadar for review was configured:

Spec sheet

  • Processor: 2.5GHz Intel Core i7-4710HQ (quad-core, 6MB cache, up to 3.4GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2100M (2GB GDDR5 video memory)
  • Memory: 16GB RAM (DDR3L, 1,600Mhz)
  • Storage: 128GB SSD and 1TB HDD (7,200RPM)
  • Screen: 15.6-inch, 1,920 x 1,080, non-touch
  • Camera: 1080p webcam
  • Battery: Six-cell internal
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Ports: HDMI, Thunderbolt, 3x USB 3.0 (one always-on charging port), Gigabit Ethernet, memory card reader, microphone, headphone
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional

Because Intel doesn’t offer quad-core Broadwell processors yet, manufacturers like MSI and Lenovo are using the previous generation quad-core Haswell CPUs on their latest workstations to deliver the most power possible.

The WS60 lacks the enterprise-centric features found on the business-bent ThinkPad W550s, like military specification testing, dedicated docking connector, a water-resistant keyboard and optional fingerprint scanner. This makes the MSI notebook feel more like a consumer laptop than an enterprise workstation. If your business requires these features, you may want to look elsewhere.

Where the WS60 shines is storage. Despite its slim body, users can configure the WS60 with up to two solid state drives in addition to a 1TB hard drive.


Even though the WS60 comes with a large 15.6-inch display, the large side bezels dwarf the display. Whereas the bezels on the 15-inch MacBook Pro (without Retina display) measure roughly 0.5 inches (1.27cm) all around, the top and side bezels on the WS60 are approximately 0.75 inches (1.91cm), making it 50% thicker. The bottom bezel is even larger at nearly 1.25 inches (3.18cm).

Despite the size of the bezels, they do little to protect the display. On our review unit, when I gripped the top bezel to tilt the display, I notice the LCD panel exhibited a rainbow effect near the pressure point.

MSI WS60 review

The entry level $2,299 (£1,550, AU$3,035) configuration that TechRadar Pro tested comes with a standard full HD resolution display. Users who work with CAD and 3D modeling may want to splurge for the optional 3K display. That optional upgrade is similar to what Lenovo offers on its ThinkPad W541, a model that directly competes with the WS60 given both have similar processors, graphics, screen size and resolution.

A downside of the WS60’s display is that the screen doesn’t tilt far enough back to lay flat. When compared to Lenovo’s ThinkPad W550s, this limitation means that for casual sharing of content on the screen, participants would have to huddle in front of the laptop rather than being able to glimpse what’s on the display from around a table.

MSI WS60 maximum display tilt

With a 327 nits-rated screen, the display is bright with a high level of contrast. The Samsung PLS panel – similar to LG’s IPS screens – displays colors vividly with wide viewing angles. The WS60’s full HD non-touch display appears slightly brighter than the ThinkPad W550s’s 3K touchscreen.

I found the brightness was most comfortable at around 50% indoors under normal office ambient lighting, and between 70 and 80% outdoors under shaded conditions.

The lack of a touchscreen option would be a forgivable oversight had MSI equipped the WS60 with a more accurate trackpad. I found that the cursor movement was jumpy and not as accurate with the non-glass trackpad, a situation that made me yearn for a touchscreen to tap to make quick selections.

Benchmarks, performance and battery life

With quad-core processing power and a powerful Nvidia graphics chip, the MSI WS60 blazes through performance benchmarks. Benchmark results are similar to systems equipped with a quad-core Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and Quadro K2100M graphics from Nvidia.


  • PCMark 8: Home: 2468; Work: 2729
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 1 hour and thirty-five minutes (50% screen brightness)
  • 3DMark: Fire Strike: 1,670; Cloud Gate: 9,630; Sky Diver: 5,987
  • Cinebench: GPU: 55.71 fps; CPU: 411
  • SpecWPC: Media & Entertainment: 3.04; Product Development: 2.71; Life Sciences: 2.72; Financial Services: 2.03; Energy: 2.79; General Operations: 12.23


Configured with a similar processor and an identical discrete graphics processor to the ThinkPad W540 and W541, the MSI WS60 delivers similar performance. Both systems posted benchmark scores within a similar range.

Interestingly, although the Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics on the WS60 is more powerful than the Quadro K620M graphics on the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s, the Cinebench benchmark for GPU performance on the ThinkPad W550s is slightly higher than the WS60. Whereas the WS60 received a score of 55.71 fps, the ThinkPad posted a score of 59.74.

MSI WS60 review

Where we see a more dramatic difference is in processor performance, as the 411 score from the WS60’s quad-core Intel Core i7 processor readily beats the 279 score posted from the dual-core Intel Core i7 Browadwell processor on the ThinkPad W550s.

With dedicated graphics processors, 3DMark scores for the WS60, ThinkPad W540 and ThinkPad W550s all beat the Ultrabook category average. Scores for the Fire Strike, Cloud Gate, and Sky Diver tests for the ThinkPad W540 and MSI WS60 are nearly identical, as both systems share similar CPUs and GPUs.

Given the weaker performance of the Quadro K620M graphics on the ThinkPad W550s, scores for the WS60 on all three 3DMark tests are higher than the ThinkPad, which posted marks of 1,443, 6,499 and 4,818, respectively.

MSI WS60 review

The SpecWPC benchmark scores posted by the WS60 are within range of the benchmarks delivered by the ThinkPad W540. This is unsurprising given the similarities between the two systems. However, where things get interesting is that the WS60 generated a much higher general operations score of 12.23 compared to the 4.29 result from the ThinkPad.

In general, both systems performed considerably better than the lighter ThinkPad W550s. Excluding the significantly higher general operations score on the WS60, the remaining SpecWPC scores were almost 50% higher than the ThinkPad W550s.

A downside with having this much power in a mobile workstation is that heat must be controlled to keep performance smooth. Thankfully, even while working with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Premiere for a few hours with the WS60 on my lap, heat did not appear to be an issue.

What is an issue, however, is the loud fan noise on the WS60. Unlike on the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s where the fans would only kick in if they are needed during processor-intensive tasks, the WS60’s fans are always spinning, making it about as loud as a muscle car in the computing world.

MSI WS60 review

In my use of the WS60 working with spreadsheets, performing light Photoshop edits, encoding family videos shot with a basic camcorder, and streaming video and music, I noticed no lags. The WS60 handled Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and a range of Win32 desktop apps without any issues.

Given the strong performance of the Quadro K2100M graphics, the WS60 should be able to satisfy even demanding users working with large image and video files.

Battery life

Typical of many mobile workstations, the strong performance of the WS60 comes at a cost to battery life. If you need a workstation that does heavy lifting, the battery life trade off may be acceptable.

Using PCMark 8’s battery test, the WS60 achieved a battery life rating of one hour and thirty-five minutes.

MSI WS60 review

Because the WS60 only comes with a sealed internal battery, users expecting to do long hours of work should be prepared to be tethered to a power outlet, and carrying the sizeable charger is a necessity.

Unlike Lenovo’s ThinkPad mobile workstations with Power Bridge technology for hot-swappable batteries, a depleted battery on the WS60 cannot be replaced on the go for a freshly charged one.

With the raw power of the WS60, this means that you’ll be able to get a lot more done if you’re running graphics- and processor-intensive software on the WS60 – like 3D modeling programs – but you won’t have a lot of time to finish your tasks before the battery dies.

The WS60 seems to be geared more towards users who may need a desktop replacement or those who migrate from office-to-office where a power outlet is readily available. Road warriors, frequent travelers, and field workers not within range of a power outlet may want to look elsewhere if they need a powerful mobile workstation with stamina.

In my real-world usage test, I found that the WS60 lasts for three hours and thirty minutes with the brightness turned to 50% while running multiple Chrome browser windows, performing infrequent Photoshop edits, and streaming about an hour of video in the background. Battery life drops significantly with heavier Photoshop editing and video encoding tasks.

MSI WS60 review

Although battery life appears weaker compared to a similarly configured ThinkPad W540 that my colleague Kevin Lee reviewed last year, stamina delivered by the WS60 is on par. Kevin’s ThinkPad was equipped with a three-cell internal and a removable extended six-cell battery, whereas the MSI WS60 only has an internal six-cell pack.

Still, the stamina of the WS60 is about a third of the advertised battery life on the MacBook Pro with Retina display.

If you don’t need the raw performance delivered by a quad-core CPU and strong mobile graphics processor, then the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s more than makes up for the small sacrifice in power for much longer battery life.


The WS60 packs a lot of performance into a thin and sleek package. However, that performance doesn’t come cheap.

Starting at $2,299 (£1,550, AU$3,035), the WS60’s entry level price starts a lot higher than some of MSI’s competitors, but you do get a lot more in the base configuration. Lenovo’s W541 starts at just $1,232 (£827, AU$1,613) after discounts, but you’re getting a weaker processor, less RAM, and a more meager Quadro K1100M graphics chip along with just a single 500GB hard drive.

We liked

The WS60 delivers fast performance and plenty of power in a stylish case. The mobile workstation is a heavyweight performer disguised in the body of an Ultrabook.

Given that the WS60 delivers comparable performance to the Lenovo ThinkPad W540 and ThinkPad 541, the lighter weight and slimmer body of the WS60 makes it a better companion for traveling.

If you’re working with large files, the option to configure the WS60 with a dual-solid state drive design and a hard drive makes this a great choice for those who work with large design files.

And even though the Nvidia Quadro K2100M graphics isn’t tuned for gaming, the GPU delivers more than the integrated graphics inside most ultrabooks, like the Lenovo ThinkPad T450s. Gamers will find gaming performance satisfactory, and the Dynaudio-tuned speakers help to keep sound effects loud and crisp.

We disliked

To keep the design thin and light, MSI made some compromises with the WS60. The system doesn’t come with the security features, nor the added durability that enterprises may seek.

The WS60 lacks a fingerprint reader, the military specification testing for durability for use under different environmental conditions, short battery life and a sealed battery that can’t be swapped on the go. A missing touchscreen option and a fickle trackpad create the perfect storm for a frustrating input experience.

Final verdict

The WS60 is a solid mobile workstation that delivers plenty of performance. But unless you’re in the market for a machine with high desk appeal, there isn’t much that sets the WS60 apart from the competition.

Sure, the WS60 is thinner and lighter than some of its competitors, but that comes at a cost to battery life. And in making the WS60 thin, MSI eschewed some of the enterprise-centric features such as a biometric fingerprint reader and spill-resistant keyboard.

Despite its excellent performance, the WS60 feels like a notebook stuck in the past. Limited to Windows 7, lacking a full touchscreen, and equipped with a trackpad that delivers mixed performance, users may be better off finding similar specs and more modern features at a similar price elsewhere.