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MSI CX600 review: MSI CX600

Last time we checked, the credit crunch had morphed into something of a recession, forcing everyone, tech-hungry geeks included, to re-evaluate what could be considered affordable. MSI, well aware that we're all broke, has attempted to limit the size of the dent in our wallets with the super-affordable, 16-inch CX600, which is available for about £480.

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7.5

MSI CX600

The Good

Low price; discrete 3D graphics card; solid performance.

The Bad

No HDMI output; mouse trackpad gets in the way of the keyboard.

The Bottom Line

The MSI CX600 offers fabulous value for money. It's fast, well-equipped and even has a discrete graphics card -- a feature many budget laptops can only dream of. Its only drawbacks, in our opinion, are that it isn't very attractive and lacks an HDMI output

Cheap, surprisingly cheerful
The CX600 offers very good value for money. It uses a nippy Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 CPU clocked at 2.2GHz, plus 4GB of RAM -- specs you'd usually find in laptops retailing for much more money. Our review sample had a relatively modest 250GB hard drive, but MSI positively blessed us with an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics card, rather than a rubbish Intel integrated solution.

Who let in the riff-raff?
The 'C' in 'CX600' indicates that the machine is part of MSI's Classic series. It's just as well the company didn't choose the word 'classy', as that's not really a word that's applicable to this laptop. The lid, despite being glossy black, is fairly dull, and the grey-blue interior with contrasting matte black comes across as rather dreary.

The comfortable keyboard has a dedicated number pad

We're also pretty disappointed with the laptop's input devices. Its keyboard is comfortable enough to use and has a dedicated numerical keypad, but the mouse is slightly too large, so it's easy to inadvertently move the cursor or select items with the ball of your right hand as you type. This can be a royal pain in the backside, particularly as there's no shortcut button to temporarily deactivate the trackpad as you type.

Big letdown
The CX600 is a fairly large device, measuring 374 by 30 by 247mm, and weighing 2.5kg. That, you'd presume, would give it plenty of room to accommodate all the ports one could wish for. Sadly, this isn't the case. The CX600 has a paltry three USB ports -- the same as you'd get on a netbook -- and, despite its fancy graphics card, lacks an HDMI output. Instead, users have to put up with a D-Sub VGA output, which is a crying shame. There's absolutely no way of outputting the video signal digitally to an external display.

Bits and assorted bobs
The CX600 makes up for its lack of an HDMI output, to some extent, by packing in some important features. It uses high-speed, 300Mbps 802.11n Wi-Fi, so it'll connect to wireless networks that are faster than the 54Mbps 802.11g norm, it includes a built-in webcam above the display, and you get a copy of Windows 7 Home Premium, although it's the 32-bit edition, which, unlike 64-bit variants, can't address the laptop's full 4GB of RAM.

Performance anxiety
Most users should find the CX600 quick enough for their needs. Its Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 CPU wasn't very keen on completing our PCMark05 benchmark test, but rest assured that it never felt sluggish during our test period, even during heavy multitasking.

The CX600's 3D graphics card is better than average for a laptop of this price, too. It achieved a respectable 3,072 in 3DMark06, so it'll happily run high-definition movies -- whether they're on an online service, such as YouTube, or downloaded to your PC -- and play 3D games at modest settings.

Conclusion
The MSI CX600 offers stunning value for money. It has a fast CPU, a reasonable, gaming-capable graphics card and ample memory. We're thoroughly disappointed that it doesn't have an HDMI output port, but, as long as you don't need to connect your laptop to a TV, it's well worth considering.

Edited by Charles Kloet