Ever since the ultra-slim MacBook Air came out about a year ago, computer manufacturers have been falling over themselves to produce similar models that are exceptionally thin and stylish and will fill in that middle ground between netbooks and larger laptops.
MSI’s current challenger is the X340, which is part of its X-Slim super thin series and outwardly has much in common with the MacBook Air. The overall dimensions are fractionally greater but that’s mostly because the X340 expands from 6mm high at its thinnest at the front to 19.8mm at its thickest at the back.
The reason for this is so that MSI can throw in several more peripherals than its rival, including two USB ports, VGA, Ethernet, HDMI and an SD/SDHC/MMC card reader. It’s also marginally lighter at just 1.3kg.
The illusion of being super-thin is further enhanced by having the edges tapering inwards towards the centre and the X340 comes in three stylish colours, suitably named piano black, pearl white and brushed silver.
Unlike the MacBook Air, however, this computer’s body is toughened plastic rather than aluminium, but it still looks cool, especially if you carry it around in the protective sleeve and make use of the smart external mouse that MSI bundles with the machine.
So far so good for the exterior. Flipping the lid, you’re confronted with a 13.4-inch HD widescreen display in 16:9 aspect ratio (the first of this size to offer it) with built-in webcam and mic. At first sight the keyboard looks encouragingly friendly, being near full size with the keys are all well labelled.
Yet the moment you start typing, there’s an alarming degree of flex and sponginess that makes you wonder if the letters are going to fly off without warning. Also, the touchpad is as basic as they come, with no scrolling action, and there’s only a single rocker-style mouse strip underneath that feels decidedly flimsy.
There’s another strange anomaly here. The processor under the bonnet is the new Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 running at 1.4GHz, which considerably outperforms the Intel Atom with its 2GB of DDR2 533MHz RAM. There’s also a hefty 250GB hard drive which is more than sufficient for all your multimedia needs and, thanks to the 1366 x 768-pixel native resolution, your movies and games look very sharp.
The problem is there’s no optical drive either built-in or supplied (although MSI does offer an optional external Blu-ray player as an extra) so that makes more expense before you can make use of that HDMI port or even read the DVD-only manual.
Again, because the X340 uses the latest LED power-saving backlit technology, we expected the supplied 4-cell battery to provide a good three to four hours of life and yet the most we could squeeze out of it during reasonably average multifunction usage was around two and a half hours.
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