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MSI X-Slim X350 notebook
A thin and light MSI notebook with plenty of style
- Only 23mm thick, 1.5kg, good keyboard, large touchpad
- Only 2GB RAM, sluggish performance, only two USB 2.0 ports, touchpad buttons difficult to press
The X-Slim X350 is perfect for anyone who wants a thin and light notebook -- and is willing to sacrifice performance. It's a reasonably comfortable notebook to use and it's also very stylish. However, we wish it had more RAM and better battery life.
Price$ 1,199.00 (AUD)
MSI's X-Slim X350 is an ultralight 13in laptop with smooth curves, clean lines and plenty of flair. Its chrome trim and glossy finish will turn heads if you're using it out and about, and, especially in sunshine, the edges of the chassis and touchpad will sparkle.
But despite the fancy looks, the X-Slim X350 has a simple configuration that's powerful enough to run everyday applications with ease, but it will struggle with many high-end tasks. Think of it as a step up from a netbook — you can use it for Internet tasks, watching videos and listening to music, and viewing photos and creating office documents. It's not a gaming machine and it's not a supreme multitasker. You can use it for encoding media files if you dare, but it won't be fast.
X-Slim X350: Performance
The notebook runs a dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CPU, which is an ultra-low-voltage dual-core CPU with a frequency of 1.3GHz. It gives the MSI X-Slim X350 enough grunt for office and multimedia tasks, and the laptop is just over twice as fast as a typical netbook. In our Blender 3D and iTunes MP3 encoding tests, the notebook achieved times of 2min 19sec and 3min 17sec respectively.
Compared to other slimline notebooks that run the SU7300 CPU, such as the HP Pavilion dm3-101tu, the X-Slim X350 delivered mixed results. Its Blender time is almost identical to the HP, which is good, but its iTunes time is well over one minute slower than the HP, which is bad. Like we said earlier, this notebook will struggle when it comes to encoding tasks. Its hard drive is a roomy 500GB, 5400rpm Western Digital Scorpio, but it's sluggish when compared to similar 13in notebooks, as it recorded a rate of 25 megabytes per second in our tests. Dell's Vostro V13, for example, recorded over 30MBps.
Part of the sluggish performance can be put down to the hard drive, but the amount of RAM also has an impact; the notebook only has 2GB of DDR2 SDRAM, and some of it has to be shared with the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics adapter. Many competing notebooks in this market segment come with 4GB DDR3 RAM, so the X-Slim is a little behind in this regard. The integrated graphics propelled the X-Slim X350 to a score of 697 in 3DMark06, which means the notebook is good for viewing standard-definition videos and photos, but not much else.
X-Slim X350: Design, features and battery life
Perhaps the best traits of the MSI X-Slim X350 are its slim design and its very light weight. It only weighs 1.5kg and a tapered design (similar to the Macbook Air's) makes it look even slimmer at the edges. The build quality doesn't feel too bad, although sometimes one gets the feeling that the silver trim around the edges might pop off. We like the glossy finish and the pattern on the lid, and the 95mm deep palm rest has a nice texture to it.
MSI has kept the weight down by not installing an optical drive in the X-Slim X-350, but you can attach an external drive to either of the USB 2.0 ports. Unfortunately, due to its partly tapered design, the ports can only reside on the 23mm thick, non-tapered parts of the chassis; this means that more USB 2.0 ports couldn't fit anywhere else. Other ports in these areas include microphone, headphone, HDMI, D-Sub (VGA) and Gigabit Ethernet. You also get an SD card slot (which can be tough to access on the tapered left side of the chassis), 802.11n Wi-Fi, a 1.3Mp webcam and Bluetooth.
The glossy screen has a native resolution of 1366x768 and it's bright enough to use outdoors on a sunny day, but you will get sick of your reflection looking back at you. The chiclet keyboard is a joy to type on and almost all of the keys are full sized, except for the right Shift key and the Function keys. The touchpad is huge (85x53mm), but the left- and right-click buttons share a single piece of plastic and can be hard to press. The right-click button is especially stiff, and holding it down while simultaneously dragging a file can be a difficult task. It's driven by the same Sentelic software as the Medion Akoya E1222's touchpad, but unlike the Medion our test X-Slim didn't support two-finger gestures and its mouse software was not configurable.
Using the X-Slim X350 for a while, you'll notice some heat emanating from the front part of the chassis in the middle, and this can get annoying. The 4-cell, 32 Watt-hour battery lasted 1hr 51min in our video rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise brightness, enable the wireless radio and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It's a short life away from an outlet for such a thin laptop, but you can opt for an 8-cell battery instead.
Overall, the X-Slim X350 isn't perfect, but it's good looking and very easy to carry to and from work or the classroom. We wish it had 4GB of RAM and better battery life as standard features. However, if you're not a stickler for performance and life away from a power outlet, and getting a slim and light design is paramount, then it's a good notebook to consider.
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