MSI Megabook S271 review
Great value for an ultraportable, although build quality is uninspiring
Review Date: 1 Oct 2005
Reviewed By: Dave Stevenson
Price when reviewed: (£787 inc VAT)
This is the first time we've seen an MSI-branded laptop, but it's clear that the Taiwanese manufacturer has ambitions to make a big impact in the UK market: the Megabook S271 is making an aggressive pitch for the mid-range market. The initial surprise with the Megabook is its pricing - it's a truly tiny laptop, it weighs a shoulder-friendly 2.1kg, yet it costs less than £700.
The screen is a 12.1in panel with a resolution of 1,280 x 800. That's a notable improvement compared to ultraportables with a 1,024 x 768 resolution, although inevitably the pixels themselves are smaller. Nevertheless, we found the Megabook eminently suitable for working on the go.
The panel itself is brightly backlit, if blighted by an overly reflective gloss finish. Contrast is poor, which means a lack of detail in dull images. Colour reproduction isn't great either: the bright end of our RGB colour scales were simply solid blocks of colour, while a 256-shade greyscale displayed notable stepping, as well as the odd patch of light red. In practice, our test photos were generally vibrant, but we'd trade a little of that for colour accuracy.
In terms of build quality, the Megabook is well enough put together, but the chassis offers nothing like the quality of the more professionally focused Dell Latitude D420. For example, the lid - while pleasingly thin - offers little in the way of protection for the screen, so while you'll easily be able to fit it in a bag you'll need to make sure there's plenty of padding. In all, the entire laptop feels just a little too cheap to be satisfying, and this first impression isn't helped by the uninspiring plastic finish.
The keyboard is far from perfect too: it has a solid base, but the keys themselves don't travel very far, making typing less pleasurable than it could be. The mouse buttons also suffer from being over-designed. They're etched into the the notebook instead of being separate buttons, and they're stiff to use.
If you can live with these cosmetic and ergonomic foibles, there are plenty of plus points elsewhere. The power is provided by a dual-core AMD Turion 64 X2 TL-50. While this 1.6GHz CPU is some way off the power provided by Intel's latest Merom Core 2 Duo processors, if all you need is a responsive machine for word processing and internet browsing the Megabook will be more than up to the challenge.
This fact was reflected by the Megabook's score of 0.76 in our application benchmarks, where it was undeniably helped by a generous 1GB of RAM. Up to 128MB of system memory will be taken by ATi's integrated Radeon Xpress 200M graphics chip, but don't be fooled into expecting great gaming ability: we ran Call of Duty 2 at our low settings and the S271 returned just 5fps.
The standard battery extends for around an inch beyond the rear extremity of the chassis, but with just over four hours of battery life under light use we're not complaining. Under intensive use, the system ran for an hour-and-a-half, making the S271 a practical mobile companion.
Ample storage is provided by a 80GB hard disk, while the built-in optical drive will write to all CD and DVD formats including DVD-RAM. There's also a card reader crammed in, compatible with SD/MMC and Memory Stick cards.
The WLAN card differs from current Intel Centrino notebooks, as there's no compatibility with 802.11a, although this should only pose a problem with enterprise-level networks. There's Gigabit Ethernet, though, as well as integrated Bluetooth.
- Fitness trackers could pose stalking risk
- BT: Tech City's broadband is fine - startups just need to pay more
- Will the iPhone 6 arrive a month before the iWatch?
- SilentPower PC keeps cool with copper foam
- 1Password coming to iOS 8 apps
- What's on this week's PC Pro podcast?
- Finally legal to rip music from CDs - just don't break DRM
- Hot hardware video: Google Glass
- Microsoft to launch two new Windows Phones
- Amazon reveals why ebooks should cost less than $10
- How Google Glass ruined my lunch hour
- Smartphone battery packs: can a USB power pack beat the festival battery blues?
- Windows Easy Transfer – not so "easy" in Windows 8.1
- Formula 1: what a difference virtualisation makes
- Office of the future: comfy chairs and tablets everywhere
- I went to Glastonbury and the only thing that got high was my smartphone
- Meet the robots helping teach children
- PaperLater: would you pay to print the internet?
- Amazon vs Kobo: how much to make the ebook switch?
- Phishing emails: how I nearly got caught out
- ARM vs Intel processors: what’s the difference?
- 13 computers that changed the world
- How to download YouTube videos to a PC or laptop: is it legal to download YouTube videos?
- Dropbox vs OneDrive vs Google Drive: what's the best cloud storage service of 2014?
- Hacking the Internet of Things: from smart cars to toilets
- BlackBerry Passport release date, specs, features, and rumours: when is the new BlackBerry coming out?
- What's changing in the computing curriculum
- Teaching kids to code
- Best free translation apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone
- Five worst SMB security threats... and how to solve them
- Top five VoIP mistakes
- How to add in-app purchasing to an iPhone, Android or Windows app
- Remote-control ransomware: TeamViewer and software hardball
- Why laptops with serial ports matter to the Internet of Things
- Make your mobile battery last longer
- Small steps into handling Big Data
- Nexus 5: does it really run stock Android?
- How to get broadband to a garden office
- How to write your company's IT security policy
- Raspberry Pi and Wolfram: a must-have for every child