MSI MegaBook S430
- 14in widescreen, 802.11g Wi-Fi, DVD burner
- Needs more RAM, slow performance, choppy DVD playback, the keyboard could be better
All up, the S430 is an inexpensive option for users who want to run simple tasks. Its performance was sluggish in our tests, and we found the keyboard to be a little hit-and-miss, but it's a suitable unit for browsing the Web and working on not-too-CPU-intensive office documents.
Price$ 1,089.00 (AUD)
The MegaBook S430's biggest draw-card is its price. It's an affordable notebook with some decent features, such as 802.11g Wi-Fi and a DVD burner, but its performance has been sacrificed in order to achieve the low price-point.
A single-core AMD Sempron 3500+ CPU powers the unit, while the system has a paltry 512MB of RAM, of which, 64MB is reserved for the integrated NVIDIA GeForce 6100 graphics adapter, leaving 447MB for Windows Vista Basic and all your applications.
Its overall result in our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite was very low -- 45 -- and it produced sluggish times in all the tests, especially in the Adobe Photoshop and multitasking tests. For working on office documents and browsing the Web while listening to MP3s, this notebook is fine, but switching program windows can be sluggish. For anything more than those tasks -- editing photos for example -- it will frustrate. Even presentations with lots of graphics might stress the system a little too much. An extra dollop of RAM will help ease the situation slightly, and the unit can accept a total of 2GB via its two SO-DIMM slots (one slot is already occupied by the 512MB module).
Physically, the S430 has clean lines, is solidly constructed, and weighs 2kg as it isn't overloaded with ports and buttons. Two USB 2.0 ports reside either side of the unit; a 10/100 Ethernet port and a VGA port reside on the left-hand side; an ExpressCard slot can be found on the right-hand side, along with a DVD burner; the rear of the unit is home to a 3-cell battery, as well as a modem port. The battery lasted 104min in our worst-case scenario test, in which we loop a DVD until the battery runs out of puff. This is a decent result for a 14in notebook. However, DVDs didn't play smoothly, nor look good on this notebook. Images were 'blocky' and image-tearing was visible.
The location of the audio ports on the front of the unit is an inconvenience, especially when the notebook is resting in your lap. Its built-in speakers are small and produce shallow and tinny sound. They're okay for listening to voice-quality audio, but headphones or speakers should be used for listening to music.
Four shortcut buttons are located above the keyboard; these can launch the default e-mail and Web browser programs, switch off the wireless module, as well as launch MSI's configuration utility (for changing the power scheme and video output mode of the notebook).
The keyboard is adequate, for the most part, but the keys feel a little soft and sometimes require an extra hard press to produce a character. Conversely, the Synaptics Touchpad is responsive and feels good to the touch. The 14in widescreen, with a resolution of 1280x800 is adequate, but it's susceptible to reflections from room lights and sunlight. However, with the angle just right, this can be avoided. The brightness level is high enough to allow the notebook to be used outdoors, but only when in a well-shadowed area.
During prolonged use, the in-built fan will kick in to extract the heat generated by the CPU and chipset, but the majority of the heat under the unit is concentrated at the front, where the 80GB hard drive is installed. Some of this heat can also be felt on the palm rest.
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