MSI X-Slim X340 review

19 May 2009

MSI's X340 somehow manages to be sleek, sexy and undesirable all at the same time.

Price when reviewed: 
760(£760 inc VAT)
3

MSI's laptops haven't traditionally tended to be the most stylish members of the portable pack, but the X340 sets the record straight. If it weren't for the glowing white MSI logo adorning the X340's lid, we might have been convinced that we were looking at a new version of Apple's MacBook Air.

It certainly looks dashing enough to be one of Apple's own: measuring a svelte 20mm at its thickest point, the X340 find itself in a slimming race with the Air's dangerously skinny 19.4mm frame. But it's when both laptops step onto the scales that the X340 has the last laugh, weighing 1.3kg to the Air's 1.38kg. MSI's predictable marketing tag-line for the X340? You guessed it, "Lighter than Air."

Get past those enviable looks, though, and you can quickly see how MSI has managed to undercut the MacBook Air's £1,105 asking price. First, there's the matter of the X340's chassis. Where Apple's finest is hewn from a single piece of aluminium and feels like it could genuinely withstand a few bumpy landings, the X340 is made of altogether less sturdy stuff. It is impressively resilient given its all-plastic construction, but it's just as well MSI includes a padded leather slipcase in the box to fend off severe blows.

And while that glossy lid and matte black interior both look fantastic box-fresh, they quickly find themselves smothered in fingerprints. For a laptop that prides itself on fine design, it's disappointing to see it descend into grubbiness quite so quickly.

Practically speaking

Clean the thumbprints off the glossy display, however, and things get off to a flying start. The 13.4in, 1,366 x 768 panel trumps that of the Air, while quality is generally impressive with intense brightness, good contrast and natural colour reproduction. And, if you need more desktop than the 13.4in display can muster, there are VGA and HDMI ports at the side for hooking up an external display.

The keyboard, however, isn't such a delight. The feel of the keys is a bit uneven, with some giving a light, positive action and others feeling a bit dead and unresponsive under the finger. There are other aggravations, too. The half-height Enter key is bad enough on its own, but as it's placed directly next to the PageDown key, we often found ourselves accidentally dabbing that. Combine that with a narrow right Shift key, and the MSI is ready to aggravate the most patient of typists.

Even the trackpad soon got on our nerves. We tweaked the mouse sensitivity settings in Windows and reinstalled the touchpad driver, but to no avail. No matter what we did we just couldn't get the cursor to respond in a suitably attentive manner. It was always a little too quick or a little too slow, but never quite on the money.

Cool runnings

Where Apple opted for a choice of 1.6GHz and 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processors, MSI has plumped for Intel's Core Solo U3500. As it's a single core model running at just 1.4GHz it's not the fastest CPU on the block, a point made abundantly clear by a result of 0.46 in our benchmarks. This puts it just ahead of the netbook crowd, but behind the 0.69 of the MacBook Air.

The U3500 finds itself allied with Intel's integrated GMA 4500MHD graphics. All but the lightest of gaming is resolutely off the agenda, and compared to the Nvidia 9400M chipset in Apple's finest - and even in the dirt-cheap Acer Aspire Revo nettop - it's found lacking in most regards.

Details

Price ex VAT £661
Price inc VAT £760
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 3
Performance 2

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 330 x 223 x 20mm (WDH)
Weight 1.300kg
Travelling weight 1.4kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core 2 Solo U3500
RAM capacity 2.00GB
Memory type DDR2

Screen and video

Screen size 13.4in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
HDMI outputs 1
S-Video outputs 0
DVI-I outputs 0
DVI-D outputs 0
DisplayPort outputs 0

Drives

Capacity 320GB
Hard disk usable capacity 298GB
Spindle speed 5,400RPM
Internal disk interface SATA
Optical disc technology N/A
Optical drive N/A
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec
802.11a support no
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switch no
Wireless key-combination switch yes
Modem no
ExpressCard34 slots 0
ExpressCard54 slots 0
PC Card slots 0
USB ports (downstream) 2
PS/2 mouse port no
9-pin serial ports 0
Parallel ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
3.5mm audio jacks 2
SD card reader yes
Memory Stick reader yes
Compact Flash reader no
Pointing device type Touchpad
Hardware volume control? no
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 1.3MP
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no
Smartcard reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 278
Battery life, heavy use 120
Overall application benchmark score 0.46
Office application benchmark score 0.40
2D graphics application benchmark score 0.57
Encoding application benchmark score 0.56
Multitasking application benchmark score 0.32

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium
OS family Windows Vista