MSI X-slim X340 notebook review

4.5 out of 5
£759

For

Extremely thin laptop, HDMI port

Against

Very "flexible" keyboard, below average battery life

MSI unveiled their X-Slim series of portable computers way back in January, at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronic Show. The X340 made a bit of a splash at the event due to its look, design, overall size and build quality, which were all fairly impressive to say the least. It’s taken Micro Star International nearly 6 months to bring the laptop to market; is the interest still there or is it now just distant memory in the minds of the consumer?

Up close and in use, the X340 appears to be a stunning looking laptop; it even has a look and feel that puts the ASUS S121 to shame. This was the very last laptop we were whole-heartily taken by and were mighty impressed with the designer looks from MSI’s competitor.
The very sleek black swish look to the case and chassis of the X-Slim series is very much a head turner, which was often the case when first aired to colleagues and friends.

It weighs in at just 1.3kg, whilst only hitting the 6mm mark at its thinnest point - in the X340’s display width. Even the thickest part is still only 19.8mm, which happens to be the base of the unit where it feels like there is something dramatically missing, the battery. Nope, this is all present and correct only it’s discreetly hidden away and is very unobtrusive.

The biggest initial surprise was the very weight of the X340, as it has a lightness normally and solely associated with netbooks and not notebooks - which is the category MSI is firmly categorising it within. Its dimensions are blatantly a take on the Apple MacBook Air, there’s no two ways about it and even MSI are happy to mention and credit it as being their competition now.

The X340 comes along powered by Intel’s latest CULV platform, using a low voltage CPU which is fast enough for most tasks and is supposed to provide a longer battery life.

In our tests the best we could muster out of the X340 was just under 3 hours in its battery saving mode, with only 2 hours on the high performance settings - both Wi-Fi powered on. This isn’t the best we’d expect more from a notebook with this much promise. It does disappoint for a mobile computer: out and about the dependency on a close power socket is very high indeed.

The other disappointment we found was in its keyboard. There's a little bit of give when each key is pressed in the middle of the keyboard, which is highly noticeable whilst typing at length. It’s almost as if the keyboard itself isn’t properly fixed down, or if the model we saw was a prototype which still needs some work. It wasn’t a prototype, but still does in our humble opinion need some work.

Onboard, all the usual ports are present and correct with a nice surprise coming along in the form of an HDMI socket. It wasn’t expected, but is a welcome addition to the X340. Although it lacks an internal Blu-ray drive for really utilising the HD playback, one is offered as an optional extra. Many online video services now offer high definition media, whilst more and more downloadable files are appearing in an HD format and are ideally suited for export to a TV, via the HDMI socket.

Due to the lightness of the MSI notebook we'd have thought the X340 would have come with a simple onboard SSD, just as we've seen in many netbooks. Nope, they've bundled in a reasonably sized 320GB standard hard drive for all your storage needs. To be honest, it doesn't even feel like it's there, so some major engineering feats must have happened under the bonnet to bring down the form factor.

Its 13.4-inch screen matches the stylish case down to a tee. Other manufacturers have been seen in the past to produce a disjointed offering in their classier laptops, whereas MSI seems to have hit the nail on the head with a matching quality display.

Verdict

As another take, from another manufacturer, on the MacBook Air, it performs well enough to be a contender on most fronts. Although it doesn’t have the powerful graphics seen within that notebook, it’s still good enough for most people’s needs.

It’s probably best to consider the X340 as a cross between a netbook and a notebook, taking into account all that’s on offer, only with an added style and sophistication not normally seen in the former category of computers. We feel this notebook firmly sits between both of those worlds, with the lightness of one and the processing power and screen size of the other.