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MSI X340 hands-on: MacBook Air-alike rocks

We all want a MacBook Air, but unless you're a moat-owning, duck island-building, expense-finagling MP, you're probably better off with a stylish MSI X340.

Rory Reid
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We all want a MacBook Air, but unless you're a moat-owning, duck island-building, expense-finagling MP, you're probably not able to afford one. There is still hope, however, because MSI has just released its X340 laptop -- a MacBook Air for the proles.

To qualify as a true Air rival, you need three things: a super skinny chassis, styling to die for and an almost complete lack of ports. The X340 meets two of these criteria -- its measures 19.8mm at its thickest point, which isn't far from the MacBook Air's 19.4mm. It's also a feast on the eyes, as you'll see from our photo gallery, but unlike the Air, it actually has ports!

Its size zero sides are just big enough to accommodate two USBs, Ethernet, D-Sub video and HDMI. This begs the obvious question: why did Apple sell its input-output soul for a measly 0.4mm of extra thinness? And the obvious answer: because being able to slide the Air into a manila envelope was probably more important.

Admittedly, the X340 isn't all peaches, cream, sunshine or lollipops. It's made of plastic, so it automatically loses cool points to the Air. The keyboard demonstrates lots of flex, too, which indicates it's poorly fitted. We can't tell whether it'll fall apart, since we've only had it for a short time, but it is quite comfortable to type on, so we'll give it the benefit of the doubt.

The X340 is a little slower than the MacBook Air. It uses the new 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Solo U3500, which should theoretically be slower than the MacBook Air's 1.6GHz or 1.8GHz Core 2 Duos. The chip does, however, use less power, so battery life should be far longer than the Air.

Our crack team of laptop monkeys are busy testing the X340 as you read this, so watch for a full review, with battery life figures and everything, shortly.

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Ooh! Isn't it skinny! We bet Victoria Beckham is jealous -- she'd probably love to have D-Sub, Ethernet and HDMI ports on her slender hips.
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The MSI logo on the lid lights up -- just like the Apple logo on the MacBook Air. We think you'll agree it's a nice touch.
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Here's the other side. We've stuck an Oyster card in so you can see how thin it is. Note the two USB ports, headphone and mic jacks, and the AC adaptor, er, hole.
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A close-up of the aforementioned holes.
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The keyboard feels a bit too flexible for our liking -- a sign that it's not very well built. It feels fine to type on, though.
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The X340 comes with a funky wireless mouse.
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And this even funkier white, faux leather carry case.

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