It's dominated the netbook arena with the Wind, but can MSI create the same buzz around an ultra-thin laptop that aims to challenge the Apple MacBook Air and Samsung X360? We managed to grab some hands on time with the new model at this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Sporting a 13.4-inch 16:9 LED 1366 x 768 pixel resolution screen, you get a thin and light (under 1.3kg) laptop that comes in a glossy pearl white, champagne gold, or black colour scheme.

Underneath the incredibly thin screen you'll get a full-sized QWERTY keyboard, under that a large trackpad with single click bar and then under that an array of blue lights (eight in total) that let you know what's going on with things like Bluetooth and wireless connectivity, battery power, caps and number lock, and hard drive use – as you do with the Wind.

The keyboard is standard fare, with a black colour scheme that's set into a white, black or champagne casing (very MacBook Pro/Air). It is easy to use and has a good feel to it. The trackpad is again very MacBook Pro (before the latest editions were announced in October where it lost the click button). The lights are helpful as you don't need to go looking for them around your keypad although slightly over the top.

The main selling point here though is the slim design, the overall thickness is just 19.8mm, with the thinnest part, i.e., the front lip, being only 6mm. That thickness at the back is so there is room for plenty of ports unlike the MacBook Air that has ditched most of them.

In total the MSI X320 has three USB sockets, an Ethernet port, VGA socket, SD card reader and headphones and mic sockets, all this in addition to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi inside making it no slouch on the connectivity front.

Build quality on the whole is fairly flimsy, it certainly doesn't have the solid build structure of the Air or Samsung's X360 and the plastic casing means it is likely to flex and bend perhaps more than you might like.

It might be as thin as the MacBook Air, but it's not as powerful. It's the same Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz processor as found in later MSI Wind models and you'll also get a 160GB hard drive to store stuff on - incidentally the same as the Wind as well. Memory has been boosted though from 1GB to 2GB as standard.

Other specs include a 3.5G internal broadband modem so you can connect without the need of a dongle and a four cell (included) or eight cell battery that promises to last up to 10 hours, although we were unable to test this in our brief play.

The laptop/notebook/netbook will come with Windows Vista Basic pre-installed like Sony Vaio's P series, and with it only being 1.6GHz expect to only be able to do basic tasks rather than play the latest games. It should however be Windows 7 ready when it eventually does hit the shelves or you can check out the beta if you’re impatient of course.

First Impressions

The MSI X-Slim X320 is for all intents and purposes the MSI Wind in a stretched, thinner package. If you like the look of the Wind, and why shouldn't you, it won the Pocket-lint Best Laptop award in 2008, then this is certainly one way to go to achieve a bigger screen but stick with the MSI brand.

But don't be fooled, the X320 might not look like a netbook, but it still is under that glossy shell.