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A host of affordable multimedia laptops have entered the market this year. The 15.6-inch MSI FX600 is the latest to try to win a spot in our hearts, packing an Intel Core i3-330M processor and 4GB of RAM. At around £600, can it succeed?
The FX600 looks boring. We found the lid uninspiring, but we're not huge fans of matte black plastic. Even a tiled pattern can't jazz up the exterior. Don't expect to drive your fellow commuters mad with jealously.
Lifting the lid, the machine looks slightly more exotic. A silver trim around the lower half of the chassis, and a glossy coating around the display, go a long way towards jazzing up this otherwise dull machine.
Connectivity is fairly sparse. The laptop sports VGA and HDMI outputs, and just three USB ports, one of which is an eSATA/USB combination. It also has a multi-format card reader, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, an Ethernet jack, and a DVD rewritable drive. We've seen models with a Blu-ray drive floating around online for an extra £50 or so.
Other features include a 500GB hard drive, and the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium.
This display is pretty swell. Measuring 15.6 inches, with a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, this panel is so vibrant that the colours practically leapt off the screen and punched us in the optic nerve. Images rendered on this display look very sharp and clear.
The FX600 is a reasonably usable machine. The keyboard is large and spacious, and the keys are sensibly laid out. We did, however, notice some flex when we applied pressure to the keyboard. The trackpad has a bumpy surface. It's sensitive and didn't drive us up the wall.
Our review machine was powered by a dual-core, 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M CPU, backed up by 4GB of RAM. There's an Nvidia GeForce GT 325M graphics card present too. We threw some of our performance benchmark tests at the FX600, and the results were impressive.
In the PCMark05 test, the FX600 scored 5,316. When we ran 3DMark06, it achieved a score of 5,901. These aren't brain-meltingly high scores, but we're very happy with them in a laptop priced at £600. We've also seen the FX600 offered with an Intel Core i5 CPU, and we'd imagine this would significantly boost its performance.
This level of performance makes the FX600 an affordable multimedia machine, and, indeed, it played our 1080p test video very smoothly indeed, without any hiccups. We'd also expect a spot of gaming to be well within this laptop's capabilities, as long as your heart isn't set on playing bleeding-edge games at the highest graphical settings.
The laptop's battery life is pretty bog-standard. When we ran the FX600's CPU at a constant 100 per cent, the battery lasted 1 hour and 16 minutes. That's not great, but this laptop isn't really built for portability, so we weren't expecting much better.
The MSI FX600 proves that you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. It's not a particularly glamorous machine in terms of appearance, but the heart of a surprisingly powerful beast beats beneath its dull exterior. It's affordable and will probably cater to all your needs.
If you want a better-looking machine that also packs a surprising punch in terms of performance, check out the Samsung R780.
Edited by Charles Kloet