Stylish MSI ultraslim has price advantage

Stylish MSI ultraslim has price advantage

MSI’s 13-inch x340, among the extra-slim laptop range, is a genuinely lightweight and affordable notebook. It looks classy when you first take it out of the box, with light metallic grey surrounding the keyboard.

Because of its form factor, the X340 will inevitably draw comparisons with the MacBook Air. However, MSI’s model has an advantage on price. Apple’s cheapest local configuration for the Air is $2999 (for the standard 120GB SATA drive rather than the solid state option). MSi has set the X340’s price at $1999.

MSI has chosen a less powerful processor than that found in the Air (which uses a dual core Intel CPU at 1066MHz) - the X340 notebook runs on Intel’s low power, single core 1.2GHz ULV723 CPU. The X340’s hard drive configurations range from 250 to 500GB and the review model had 2GB of RAM (the maximum offered).

MSI has also opted for integrated graphics instead of the Air’s discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics.

For its specifications, the X340 does not disappoint in performance, with the Windows Vista Home Premium operating system and installed software running smoothly and quite quickly — even when more than one application was in use. Also, it runs quietly and generates only low heat.

At 330mm X 224mm X 19.8mm at the thickest point, and weighing 1.3 kilos with the four-cell battery in, this machine loses nothing in portability when stacked against the slender Air.

However, MSI has also utilised plastic for its chassis instead of aluminium, which is reflected in the price but also a decrease in the “wow” factor.

Replacing the glossy black bezel around the frame with a continuation of the metallic-grey coloured plastic would also have given the X340 a more consistent look overall.

The unit is well supplied with connection points for a smaller machine – there’s an HDMI port, a LAN port, VGA-out, headphone and microphone jacks, with two USB 2.0 ports. There’s also a card slot underneath supporting SD, SD high capacity and MMC formats. Other connectivity options include wi-fi (802.11b, g and n wireless), Bluetooth and gigabit Ethernet.

On the software side, the vendor has included trial versions of Norton Internet Security 2009 and Microsoft Office. There is also the proprietary CrazyTalk software for use with the built-in 1.3MP webcam and microphone.

The unit does not have an optical drive option.

With a 1366 x 768 pixel native resolution, the screen’s display is strong and clear.

The touchpad was one of the main let downs of the X340 – it’s minimally indented, not textured and has no marked scroll line, so it’s easy for your finger to stray onto the wrist rest.

In addition, each row on the keyboard moved when only one key was pressed, in what looks like one rolling sheet. The keys are well spaced, but not every keystroke registered.

A matching notebook mouse is supplied, with a clever, covered storage slot for the retractable USB cord on the underside. The cord locks into place once extended. A white vinyl carry case is also supplied.

The X340 is also available in black and silver.

The battery life was decent. It powered the device for more than three hours during movie playback, more than enough to get through the film file.

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