There are plenty of notebooks out there, but fewer with multimedia facilities and a Blu-ray drive. MSI’s FX600 is one of them and is designed as a desktop replacement for those who don’t need a fixed machine. It manages with a 15.6-inch widescreen LCD panel, so can only display 1080 HD content downscaled to 1,366 x 768 pixels, but 720 may be HD enough for you. There’s a 1,280 x 720 webcam built in, just above the screen.
The case has a matt finish with a texture MSI calls chequered flag. It’s a relief just to have something that isn’t high gloss and desperate to take every thumbprint and scratch. Open the lid and the keyboard surround and touchpad are also textured. The touchpad is recessed and nicely sensitive in use and the mouse buttons are a see-saw toggle at the front.
The keys are large, with a conventional layout, a separate numeric pad and a row of special function keys behind. The function keys, for things like volume control, wireless on/off and turbo mode, are rather badly embossed, with no coloured legends on their tops.
At either end of this bank of function keys are decent twin speakers which are THX accredited and give well above average sound, for a laptop. Still more suited to movie soundtracks than music, they do a reasonable job on games, too.
As well as the Blu-ray drive, the edges of the machine hold three USB sockets – one a combo with an eSATA connector – HDMI, VGA, gigabit LAN and mic and headphone jacks. There’s a card reader which can take SD and MemoryStick cards.
The machine is built on an Intel Core i3-330M with 4GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB hard drive. Graphics are provided by an nVidia GeForce GT325M with 1GB of its own memory. This is more than enough for video and movie playback and will happily run games like Call Of Duty 4 with decent frame rates.
Although the battery pack has six cells, TestBattery returned just under 3 hours 20 minutes on a single charge. This isn’t great, though it’s long enough to play a full feature film. It makes the FX600 more a machine to move between, say, home and office, than to take with you on a long trip away from a power socket.
The FX600 comes with 64-bit Windows 7 Home and an ArcSoft suite provides support for the WebCam and a useful painting applet. There’s WinDVD for video playback and a Cinema Pro function claimed to improve movie colours and sound, though we didn’t notice much difference.
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