Disclaimer: Examiner was provided a review unit to test and evaluate courtesy of MSI
The MSI Phantom GS406QE is full of surprises. Upon first glance at a tech spec sheet you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no way that kind of performance comes from that form factor without melting the veneer off your desk, or your skin directly. The Phantom GS406QE could be considered a desktop replacement for those yearning for a mobile powerhouse that fits in a slim form-factor while delivering excellent results, or could be considered the perfect companion for your battlestation desktop at home, whilst you endeavor abroad. The Phantom GS406QE is an excellent example of MSI nailing tenets of design, functionality, and performance from the first impression, and the pleasure of use only increases more with time.
MSI is known for some of the best hardware around, be it their stellar GPU wing, incredible motherboards, or their fantastic range of notebooks ranging from monstrosity (the good kind) to sleek stealth productivity powerhouse, and everything in-between. Upon delivery of the GS406QE the Phantom box comes emblazoned with the red MSI dragon logo, and continuing with the unboxing is an experience in and of itself, as the utmost care and detail seems to have been placed into packaging. I couldn’t shake the fact that while the retail price coming in around $1599, this particular model doesn’t ring into the enthusiast bracket, but comes in around the price bracket of a MacBook, while offering a more flexible and user configurable package.
The setup is extremely straightforward for any pc user, as you’re basically just firing up, throwing in your Microsoft account details, and getting your various clients (Steam, Uplay, Origin, GOG Galaxy, etc.) installed for your gaming needs, as well as any other productivity suites – in short it’s the boring stuff to get to the goods.
Perhaps my favorite part of the unit right off the bat is the minimal and sleek approach. The neat and clean design, sharp lines, and subtle red hues across small angles of the machine don’t scream “I’M A GAMER AND LOOK AT MY RIG”, instead opting for a more refined and ultimately pleasurable and appealing choice for a wider audience. Instead of worrying about the 17”, 12 lb monsters, I can confidently say that the Phantom will do everything most people will need on a daily basis, and much more, all the while in a deceptively beautiful chassis.
While manufacturers keep getting in hot water for bundling malware, spyware, and other awful thing with their consumer line devices, MSI puts what’s necessary in the box. While savvy and uninterested enthusiasts might remove some of it right away, the fact that the care is put into things like the Dragon Gaming Center are nice nods and can serve as a differentiator for MSI.
The aforementioned Dragon Gaming Center gives a one-place snapshot of current performance on your machine. While some could argue that’s all info you could garner elsewhere, that’s the point – it’s all in one hub. Everything from CPU and RAM usage to fan speed, network speed, and CPU temp is recorded and relayed in a live format. Users can also tweak things like mouse sensitivity, launch utilities like the GeForce experience, XSplit Gamecaster, and even setup instant launch hotkeys for games if you want to sneak in a few quick turns in Civilization during your professor’s tangent about the current state of horse politics.
MSI also touts XSplit Gamecaster as a bundled software within the operating system to get the up and coming mobile Twitch or YouTube gaming star going quickly. Gamecaster is a great and powerful tool for those wanting to get into the streaming game, and adds some great tools from the stream-standards like chroma key, graphic overlay, and drawing in order for you to show fans what this DOTA thing is really all about.
MSI also throws in a few other software options in the System Control Manager, which is much like it sounds, allowing users to tweak system basics like brightness, wifi, Bluetooth, and the current mode, as well as a sound software called Nahimic for MSI. Nahimic allows a bit more refined control in the way of effects, microphone levels, and even allowing for HD audio recording during your streaming hijinks. These bundled options aren’t necessary, or might even go wholly unused by the enthusiast crowd, but MSI’s choice to include some powerful and convenient features within their software suite is a great addition for anyone that might remotely consider jumping into a high-end laptop.
Gaming and notebooks have never really coexisted in a single design well without the given caveat that the product would be a monster in terms of both size and generating heat. The Phantom GS406QE manages heat and performance extremely well without the compromise of being a mandatory 17” screen with massive exhausts. While running more demanding visual games like Fallout 4 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt I noticed the GTX 970M start to work a bit harder and pump out a bit more air on the sides, but never felt the noise or heat generated was outrageous. While it might be a bit much to expect the performance to be top notch, heat and air output to be minimal, and the notebook to run quietly (at the least limiting to not-distracting) would be a tall order, the Phantom GS406QE does it all and seemingly with ease.
During testing my main goal was to be sure that games from 2015 can run well, at their highest settings, at a decent framerate. Immediate expectations, even for the stellar spec sheet the Phantom possesses were low, and that games would stick around 30 frames per second on very high/ultra, if even that. Color me surprised then that everything ran well – Fallout, Just Cause 3, and Dying Light at a buttery smooth and consistent 60 fps, while The Witcher came in at about 40 fps on ultra, tuning down to very high/high brought us right back up while retaining the beauty that CD Projekt Red put so much love and care into for the game. Every gamer needs to make the choice at some point what is more important, a stable frame rate or the most crisp of textures, and good for the gamer that MSI has made that choice for 2015’s games a non-issue.
The landscapes of the Temeria and Nilfgaard conflict, the wastes of post-apocalyptic New England, crystal clear waters of Medici, and the crowded day/night cycles of Harran are beautiful on MSI’s hardware, and with a controller or USB mouse in hand you’ll quickly forget you’re gaming on a tight, sleek, powerful laptop, instead thinking it might be coming from a desktop, before you realizing you’re bashing skulls in an airport.
The display on the Phantom GS406QE is nothing to scoff at either, delivering a compact 14” picture, in full 1080p in a shockingly thin design. Output can be pushed to dual 4K external monitors via the USB3.1 port, paired with top-notch audio from Dynaudio, a keyboard that has some of the best feeling on a laptop today form SteelSeries, and Killer brand networking, the Phantom boasts some seriously impressive specs from top to bottom.
Storage-wise we’re looking at yet another arena MSI has put in enough to call this “much better than good”, with a M.2 SSD clocking in at 128GB, enough for the OS and some other necessary applications to access quickly, and an additional terabyte on a traditional platter hard disk drive. While the size of games gets bigger, and outputting files through Adobe Premiere or other Creative Cloud applications might surely fill that space in no time, the intrepid designer, creator, or streamer will already have some network solution or alternative setup.
The Bottom Line
Although the price might be a bit steep, this unit can’t be considered close to entry-level. The MSI Phantom GS406QE showcases the manufacturer’s ability to make a sleek and refined powerhouse. The GS406QE is less Lamborghini Gallardo(if that’s more your speed, MSI still has you covered), and more BMW M6. Just as the M6 is considered understated power and refined performance in a deceptive body, the Phantom GS406QE has the sleek looks that betray the raw power and potential of the computer. With a powerful i7, immensely capable GTX 970M, plenty of specs to please the most number driven, and a form factor that keeps it slim, cool, and quiet, all paired up against nearly no negative factors, the Phantom GS406QE is simply one of the best notebooks available for nearly all tasks, period.
Who could use it most?
· Power users and multitaskers
· Real mobile gamers, dreamers, streamers, and content creators
· Drafting and design crowd on the go
Tech Specs (courtesy of xoticpc.com)
14.0″ FHD (16:9) Super Clear Matte-Type Screen (1920×1080)
6th Generation Intel® Mobile Core i7-6700HQ Skylake Processor
Intel® HM170 Chipset
HDD & ODD Drives
Standard Hard Drive:
Standard Optical Drive:
128GB M.2 NVMe PCIe SSD + 1TB 7200RPM Hard Drive (Upgradeable)
Maximum Storage Configuration: 1x M.2 NVMe PCIE/M.2 Msata + 1×2.5″
1 Detachable 2.5″ 9.5mm (H) SATA Hard Disk Drive + 2 mSATA slots
External Optical Drives Available
NVIDIA® GeForce GTX 970M (3.0GB) GDDR5 (Maxwell) w/ Optimus Technology
Microsoft® DirectX® 11
Number of SODIMMS:
16,384MB (16GB) DDR4 2133MHz (Upgradeable)
Two 204Pin SODIMM Sockets
Sound Blaster Cinema
2 x Built-in Dynaudio® Speakers + 1 x Dynaudio® Subwoofer
1 x Built-in Microphone
S/PDIF Digital Output
Network / Communication:
Bigfoot® Killer™ E2400 Gaming Network LAN
Bigfoot® Killer™ N1525 Wireless-AC LAN + Bluetooth™ 4.1
Slots / Interface
Input / Output Ports:
3-in-1 Card Reader
SD / SDHC / SDXC
2 x USB 3.0 Ports
1 x USB Superport
1 x HDMI 1.4
1 x Bigfoot® Killer™ E2400 LAN
1 x mini-DisplayPort v1.2
1 x Microphone
1 x Headphone Out Jack
4 Cells – Smart Lithium-Ion Battery Pack
19 V DC, 150W | 100~240 V AC, 50/60 Hz Universal
Copper CPU Heatsink
Size & Weight
13.58″ (L) x 9.65″ (W) x 0.87″ (H)
3.75 lbs w/ 4 Cell Battery
Keyboard / Point Device
83 Keys RED Backlit Keyboard
Integrated Touchpad with Scrolling Function
Built-in FHD Type Digital Web Camera (30fps @ 1080p)
(some custom drivers may be downloaded and not supplied with the system)
2 Year MSI US/Canada Parts & Labor 1 Year Global Warranty w/ Lifetime Tech Support – Standard
1 Year Accidental Damage Warranty – Must Register within 30 Days of Ship Date (More Info)