Amid all the hype surrounding Intel's Core 2 Duo, it's easy to forget other mobile processors exist. The Turion 64 X2 is AMD's answer to Intel's dual-core monster, and MSI's MEGABOOK M675 is the latest notebook to take advantage of it.
Build quality is fairly ordinary -- in fact, the feel is of a home made unit. Put up against a product like Lenovo's 3000 N100 there is simply no contest. Where the Lenovo's hinges are strong, wide and built to take some punishment, the MSI's are squeaky and less than a centimetre in width.
The machine manages a full 101-key keyboard, and having a number pad will help it function as a desktop replacement. The keys do look a little tacky and the feel is a little plastic, but for convenience it's hard to beat. One other small gripe is that the right-hand Shift key is smaller than the QWERTY keys, which can make typing capitals difficult.
The screen is a 15.4 inch widescreen glossy LCD. And while straight ahead the image is fine, there is an abrupt drop in quality off-axis -- even at a relatively small 15 degrees. Rivals such as Sony and Lenovo also offer similar coatings but the screen is still readable at almost 180 degrees.
The trackpad has a decent feel, if a little metallic, and where previous MSI models were dominated by the scroll bar (and made almost unusable), here it's less than a sixth of the width and very practical.
All the young kiddies nowadays are using Skype, and to this end the notebook includes a fairly decent 1.3MP camera. It manages to track movement quite well, with minimal blurring or stuttering.
We do like the placement of the ports -- none at the rear and placed logically at the sides. There are four USB ports, mini FireWire, Ethernet, modem, DVI (unusual at this price), plus both an ExpressCard and PCMCIA slot -- great for future-proof accessorising. There is also a 4-in-1 card reader placed at the front -- along with the usual mic and headphone ports.
As expected, the sound the speakers make is pretty terrible, but the sound through the headphone jack is uncommonly good. Unlike some competitors, the headphone is well-shielded -- with no hiss or crackle when the volume is turned right down.
Provided applications are built with multi-core processors in mind, users could expect the onboard Turion TL-56 to provide an excellent speed boost.
Even though the processor is only rated at 35W (while the Core 2 Duos are rated at 31W), battery life was poor, with a score of only 1.5 hours. Most desktop replacements should be able to provide at least two.
Its poor battery life translated to poor results in our MobileMark 2005 performance rating test. Despite featuring a fairly beefy processor, its first run received a woeful score of 101 -- which puts it amongst laptops with single core 1.2MHz processors.
The second run didn't complete at all, and so we instead tried PCMark05 which also has the benefit of specific multithreading tests, which should stretch the capabilities of the Turion processor. It produced a very good score of 3926 PCMarks which means it is capable of a mix of multimedia and number crunching.