The MSI GX620 is a mid-range 15.4in gaming laptop - and it sure looks like it's built for gamers. It has brushed aluminium panels and a red trim, touch-sensitive multimedia shortcut buttons and a number pad.

The W, A, S and D keys and the number pad's 8,4,6 and 2 keys all have arrows printed on them to remind you that they can be used to control your character while gaming. The big vent and clearly visible heat sink on the right side are indicators that the MSI GX620 is built to run taxing tasks, though it's by no means a high-end notebook.

Whenever you see a vent this big, you know there must be something good under the hood.

On the inside, the MSI GX620 is relatively modest for a gaming notebook. You get a 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo P8600 CPU, 4GB of DDR2 RAM and a 512MB NVIDIA GeForce 9600M GT graphics adaptor. We say it's modest because you can pick up a notebook that does a much better job of running the latest games than the GX620 does, and for not much more money. The ASUS N61Vn, for example.

At best, you will be able to play newer games smoothly - at over 30 frames per second - using a resolution of 1024x768 and low detail settings. If you run a typical DirectX 10-based first-person shooter at a resolution of 1280x1024, you'll end up chugging along at 10-15fps depending on the detail settings you have chosen.

Apart from gaming, the MSI GX620 can be used to efficiently run office applications, edit photos and videos and to display videos on your TV via HDMI. In fact, it's a pretty fast laptop when it comes to running office and multimedia applications.

This was shown in our WorldBench 6 benchmark suit, in which the MSI GX620 recorded a score of 98. It was particularly strong in the multitasking, Adobe Photoshop and Roxio VideoWave Movie Creator tests. Our Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, which stress the CPU rather than the whole system, recorded times of 1min 14sec and 1min 10sec, respectively. Both results are what we expect from a 2.4GHz CPU.

But while the performance of the MSI GX620 is pretty good, the design of the notebook is hit and miss. For starters, there are only two dedicated USB 2.0 ports, and a third USB 2.0 port that is shared with the eSATA port.

Even most netbooks have three dedicated USB 2.0 ports! We expect more from a 15.4in notebook that has a good deal more space than a netbook along its edges. Then there is the keyboard; it has mostly full-sized keys (18.5mm wide), which is good, but the period, slash, semi-colon and comma keys are all squished (13mm wide), which is bad. Coupled with a stiff spring-back action, typing on the MSI GX620 for long periods can be tiresome and leave your documents laden with errors.

The MSI GX620's screen is also not as good as we expected; it's not overly bright and looks dull for the most part, and its viewing angles are very narrow. These are traits that can be annoying while gaming.

However, the resolution of the screen is high - 1680x1050 pixels - and it's not glossy, so it won't reflect room lights. The width of the screen allows you to line up documents side by side, and the height of the screen means you can view Web pages more comfortably. Because the screen isn't overly bright and has narrow viewing angles, watching videos on it can be an uncomfortable experience. Fortunately, you can use the HDMI port to watch videos on a Full HD TV.

NEXT: watching movies on the DVD burner >>