29 August, 2009
MSI Slim X340
A nice computer
My first comment: the MSI Slim X340 is a nice computer, apart from the fact that it runs on Vista. At 1.3 kg, it weighs in like a netbook, but it is a real computer. It's got a real screen - a 13 inch LCD with 1366 x 768 resolution - so there is no need for sideways scrolling when viewing certain websites. Plus a 500 gigabyte hard drive, although there is a model with 320 GB.
The keyboard is a real one with a good feel to it, unlike my Tosh Satellite 100 whose keys feel "plasticy" and work loose. Very good for anyone who touch types.
This is one "laptop" that can really be used on one's lap rather than really being a portable desktop. It is light in weight and runs cool. It is ideal for my favourite position for working - on a couch with the computer wedged between my tummy and my knees. It is also good in bed. The webcam, inbuilt mike and speakers work just fine with Skype.
Being an ultralight, there is no optical disc drive. I find that the only time I need one is for installing software. That is not something you need to do on the move, so a separate stand-alone USB optical drive fills the bill. I also used a 16 GB SDHC card obtained on ebay for 10 euros as removable storage.
Energy consumption is reasonable and the machine runs cool. I got a reading that varied between 14 and 24.5 watts, depending on what the machine was actually doing (wifi, bluetooth, using the hard disc, brightness, percentage of processor power used etc), using an in-line power meter and the computer battery removed. The reading dropped down to 9.5W when the screen switched off to save power.
The battery is a 14.8v Li-ion unit, with a capacity of 2150 mAh (which works out to 32 WH), which gives about 3 hours of normal usage with the wifi switched on. I understand a higher capacity model is also available. MSI has not gone down the path taken by the Mac Airbook, whose battery is built-in. It's useful to carry a spare recharged battery when travelling. Also the life of Li-ion batteries in general tends to be around two years - hopefully the computer will last much longer than that.
Unfortunately there is no restore CD - a recently imposed Microsoft requirement I believe.
But, it will not stay on its own for long. I've just seen the super-slim notebook Sony are bringing out soon, weighing in at just 700 grams because it uses aluminium and carbon fibre. I dread to think what the price will be. Pity Sony didn't put in a full size keyboard, even though there is room.
Screen: 13.4 inch WXGA
Processor: Intel SU3500 1.4 GHz
Ram: 2 GB
Built-in webcam: 1.3 M
Connectors: 2 x USB, HDMI, mic inb, headphones out, VGA, ethernet, memory card
Pity there is no analog TV connector
Price: can be found for under 700€ if you look around on the Internet.