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Budget laptops

MSI X340 review

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The MSI X340 is a slim and light notebook that uses Intel's 1.4GHz SU3500 chip to produce good Windows performance at an inexpensive price.

MSI's new X-Slim series laptops are the closest clone yet of Apple's MacBook Air. And thanks to its use of plastic casing and cheaper components, the X340 also hits a lower price point - but will it prove as attractive as the ultrathin and ultralight original?

With its scalloped sides, 13in screen and better-than-netbook performance, MSI has unashamedly tried to create an Air clone for the Windows' user. Even the company logo lights up on the lid cover.

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Inside is a single-core CPU, a 1.4GHz Core 2 Solo, allowing relatively cool operation even if it's not especially fast. Our WorldBench 6 test drew a score of 50, although the Nero test bizarrely refused to run; our colleagues at PC World US meanwhile measured 56. This puts it neatly between the 1.86GHz Air, at 77 points, and the typical netbook that rolls in at 35.

Graphics performance is down too, relying on just an Intel integrated processor, although the use of old-school hard disk instead of SSD means you do get a useful amount of storage - 320GB from its 2.5in hard disk.

The display is highly reflective and not quite the calibre found on Apple's notebook, hindered further by a distractingly glossy black plastic bezel.

Keyboard layout may not suit some either, as MSI has opted to place page up/down keys down the right edge, where a typist's fingers might expect to find Return and Backspace keys. Worse than this though is the horribly spongey feeling to the keyboard, unevenly laid and rippling up and down from left to right.

MSI has copied the Air's trackpad buttons, a single bar that can be depressed on either end for left and right click duties, but the touchpad area itself disappointed as it sometimes lacked precision; and always lacked the multi-touch gestures found on its inspiration.

Battery life was just above average, hitting 4 hours 12 minutes in a MobileMark 2007 Productivity test.

But in overall feel, once you get past the plastic construction, the X340 can be delight to hold. It's fractionally lighter than the Air, if only by about 40g, and has a similar sense of balance in the hands.

There are more ports to play with too, stretching to two USB, ethernet, SD card, plus two video ports in the shape of analogue VGA and digital HDMI.

Sound quality from the built-in speaker is perhaps better than average, with a speaker under each corner to give a true stereo spread.



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