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MSI X340

>> Wednesday, June 17, 2009

MSI X340 is the first laptop we've reviewed with the single core SU3500 processor, and it seems like an excellent test case a superslim 13 inch that reminds us of much more expensive systems such as the Dell Adamo or MacBook Air, albeit with a much more plastic feel. At the same time, MSI X340 ends up in the same murky middle ground as systems with AMD's new Neo processor that are aimed at Netbook users who want to trade up to a bit more power for a bit more money, but without buying a standard sub-$1,000 Intel Core 2 Duo mainstream laptop, or Apple's $999 basic 13 inch MacBook.

We've never met anyone who admitted being part of this highly specific target demographic. But while X340's price may seem excessive viewed through the prism of low power 11 and 12 inch Netbooks, it seems much more reasonable when compared with traditional ultraportable systems or the aforementioned slim 13 inch models, which can cost $1,500 to $2,000 or more.

MSI X340 scores points for feeling much lighter than it looks like it should. It's also among the slimmer 13 inch systems we've seen, matching up nicely with the MacBook Air and Dell Adamo. The somewhat schizophrenic chassis mars the look a little, with a glossy black lid and screen bezel, but a matte black keyboard tray and wrist rest.

The large flat key keyboard is similar to what you'd find on an Apple or Sony laptop, and is well laid out, with the exception of a shortened right shift key and a shortened backspace key, which made it far too easy to hit the "Home" key just to its right. Our main complaint was that the keyboard flexed a great deal while typing, making the entire system feel flimsy. The large, indented touch pad gave us plenty of room to mouse, but we'd prefer separate left and right mouse buttons, rather than the one long rocker style button included here.

The F5 key is also labeled "Eco," and using it with the Fn function key cycles through several screen brightness presets, including a very dim "turbo battery" mode. The 13.4 inch display has a 1,366x768 pixel native resolution, standard for a 16:9 display this size. While it lacks the clean looking edge to glass of more expensive 13 inch systems, this display was clear and bright, and not excessively glossy.

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