The X340 is well-suited to playing movies. Its 13-inch screen offers impressive image quality -- a narrow vertical viewing angle notwithstanding -- and its glossy screen finish isn't so reflective that it restricts use in direct lighting conditions. Its 1,366x768-pixel resolution dictates a 16:10 aspect ratio, meaning you do get black bars at the top and bottom of the screen, but we can forgive the X340 this particular trespass.
Audio playback on tiny laptops is tinny at best, and downright unlistenable at worst, but the X340's speakers are at least loud enough to hear what's going on in a movie when the laptop is a foot away. Listening to music out loud is an altogether different proposition. The lack of bass and relatively low volume means you'll need to connect some external speakers to get the best experience.
Arguably the most baffling thing about the X340's specification is its optical drive -- or lack thereof. We don't mind the fact it hasn't got one -- there's no room. But we can't fathom why MSI has supplied drivers, utilities and manuals for the system on a CD. What are users supposed to do with it? A USB key or an optional external DVD drive would have been a better idea, particularly as the webcam on our sample machine didn't work and we actually needed to use the driver disc for something other than Frisbee practice.
The X340 scored 2,013 in our PCMark05 benchmark test, which is impressive considering that the Asus Eee PC 1000HE, which packs an Atom N280 CPU, scored 1,514 in the same test. Let's not get too carried away, though -- we normally only get out of bed for machines that score above 4,000. Anything else usually struggles with multitasking or CPU-intensive applications.
The X340's CPU is touted as being very efficient, so we were expecting big things from its battery life. We were left disappointed, however, as it only managed to stay alive for 1 hour and 52 minutes in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test -- bloody awful.
That's the absolute least amount of battery life you can expect from the X340 though, due to the way the Battery Eater test tries to kill the battery in the shortest possible time. In less intensive, anecdotal testing, the X340 lasted approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. But that's still pants.
With the X340, MSI has drawn heavily on the MacBook Air for inspiration, which probably wasn't its smartest idea. The X340 certainly looks great and has good connectivity, but its poor keyboard and woeful battery life let it down badly.
Edited by Charles Kloet