Laptops that use Intel's new energy-efficient ultra-low-voltage processors may be thin and light, but that doesn't mean they're small. The £800 X600 is the latest in MSI's X-Slim series of ultraportable laptops but, with a 15.6-inch screen, it's pretty large.
If you like ostentatious laptops, the X600 probably isn't for you. The black plastic case on our review sample is about as conspicuous as a stealth bomber. The glossy lid with a painted MSI logo is the only design flourish. The rest of the X600 is matte black -- the perfect colour for its low-key good looks. You can also get the X600 in white.
Since it has a 15.6-inch screen, the X600 doesn't have quite the same slim profile as the X340, or the same MacBook Air pretensions, but 25mm thick is still pretty thin for a laptop of this size. But, at 392mm, its width is almost the same as that of some 17-inch laptops, so the X600 isn't as portable as you might expect.
The X600 is just as good-looking on the inside as on the outside. The enormous wrist rest is slightly sullied by an assortment of multi-coloured stickers that proclaim the laptop's prowess, but, if you peel these off, there's nothing else to detract from the gorgeous expanse of matte black. Not even the multi-touch trackpad stands out -- it's just a shallow rectangle below the spacebar with a single, though dual-action, mouse button below it.
The low-profile keyboard is large and has a full-size numeric keypad, but the keys are closely packed together and could do with more breathing room, particularly around the cursor cluster. There's none of the flex that plagued the X340's keyboard though, and it's otherwise very comfortable to use.
Despite its generous dimensions, the X600 lacks an internal optical drive (an external DVD writer is supplied), so the on-board HDMI port may not see that much use. The glossy screen does a reasonable job with high-definition video, but the 1,366x768-pixel resolution means you're stuck at 720p. The screen is slightly less successful with other kinds of content, and text isn't as sharp as it could be. A limited vertical viewing angle also means that objects along the bottom of the desktop become indistinct unless you're in exactly the right position. That problem's at least mitigated by the lid's wide range of motion.
Slim it may be, but the X600 is no slouch. Laptops that pack ultra-low-voltage Pentium or Core Solo processors tend to be slightly underwhelming when it comes to performance, but the low-voltage 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo SU9600 chip inside this model packs plenty of punch. It helps move the X600 into the mid-range ranks of what we'd expect from any Core 2 Duo laptop, with a PCMark05 score of 4,503.
The X600's 3D graphics performance is less impressive, but still worthy of note -- you might ordinarily expect to find something integrated and insipid from Intel in a laptop like this. Instead, you get an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics chipset and a 3DMark06 score of 2,743. That's hardly mind-blowing, but it's enough for all but the latest 3D games if high resolutions and detail settings aren't hugely important to you.
A major factor in the weight of most laptops is the battery, but the wafer-thin 5400mAh cell that clips into the X600's underside is surprisingly light. Nonetheless, it lasted for 2.5 hours in Battery Eater's intensive Classic test and just over 4.5 hours in the less-demanding Reader's test. That's not bad for a laptop of this size and performance level.
We're not quite sure if an ultra-low-voltage processor makes much sense in a laptop of this size, but, since it doesn't compromise performance and keeps bulk to a minimum, we can't really complain about MSI slipping one into a machine as sexy as the X600.
Edited by Charles Kloet