The ultra-slim 15.6" CULV Notebook – MSI X-Slim X600 in-depth review
MSI has made great inroads into the notebook market in the past two years.
With the launch of the Atom-equipped U100 last year, MSI successfully boosted its brand profile and consumers' confidence in the MSI brand.
In 2009 MSI released a new line of CULV based notebook products – the X-Slim series.
The first were two 13.3" CULV products in May – the X-Slim X340 and X340 Pro.
At this time, the only other product in this segment was the ACER 3810T.
But the X340 weighed just 1.33kg and had the advantage over the 1.68kg ACER 3810T.
There were also differences in their design and materials.
As new CULV notebooks came on the market, it became apparent that Atom Netbooks with small 10” screens were no longer enough for some users.
It also meant that business Netbooks that provided slimness at a premium were not under threat from the lower-priced CULV systems.
In August, MSI released another two X-Slim products, the 14" X400 and the 15.6" X600.
This review looks at the X600 with the discrete graphics card. Although this is a large notebook, it weighs a mere 2.1kg.
This is a breakthrough compared to the 3 ~ 3.6kg weight range of the earlier 15.6 ~ 16" models.
First, we have the X-Slim X600's outer packaging with its standard X graphics.
The X600 comes out of the box with a protective film over the top cover.
On opening the top cover you will find protective cotton fabric over the keyboard and another protective film on the LCD.
The backpack included with the X600 looks good and has the feel of quality.
The inside is lined with blue cloth.
The power supply is the compact type now in common use and made by DELTA.
It's good to see that it does not heat up too much during charging.
A manual, warranty card and bundled software are included in the box.
The wired mouse has stow-away cabling and is compact and handy to use.
Unlike X340, the mark on the X600 is not back-lit but standard printed graphics.
The glossy top cover has a special coating that is resistant to finger prints.
The base of the X600 has a matt surface.
Below the keyboard there is a row of very informative status lights.
The Fn key is needed to activate shortcut keys.
The touch control panel is flush with the chassis.
There are stickers that detail the X600's specifications.
These include the Intel 45nm ULV CPU and ATI HD4330 discrete graphics card labels.
The power button is at the top left. It blinks with a white light when the power is on.
The larger keyboard does not have the X340's problem with mushy keys in some places.
The X600 keyboard is significantly more comfortable to use than the X340.
The primary display on the X600 is a 15.6" mirror-surface LCD with a resolution of 1366x768.
The 1.3M webcam and microphone are located in the middle of the top margin above the screen.
The battery is a 5400mAh 60Wh 6-cell unit that fits flush into the chassis and does not stick out.
This is where the battery fits into the notebook. With the battery's size, it should offer better endurance.
The I/O ports on the right side of the machine are:
Card Reader/ Audio In/Out/ USB 2.0 x 2/ Power In
D-Sub output/ RJ45 network port/ HDMI output/ Card Reader.
The I/O ports on the left side of the machine are:
D-Sub output/ RJ45 network port/ HDMI output/ USB 2.0/eSATA port.
There are air vents underneath on the left and right sides and there are four loudspeakers, one at each corner.
The X600 uses these to create a surround sound system.
The bottom of the chassis opened up. (Doing this voids the original manufacturer warranty so if a users needs to upgrade something, the Laptop must go back to the dealer.)
The CPU heat sink is on the right side.
Two copper tubes connect to the chipset and graphics chip.
The two DDR2 SO-DIMM slots are on the left. Up to 4GB of memory is supported.
The other side of the base accommodates the wireless network card and 2.5" storage device.
Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 supports 802.11 b/g/n;
HITACHI 5K500 5400rpm 320GB.
For better system performance, a high-speed SSD can be installed.
This will offer a boost to speed during start up, OS boot-up or certain software applications.
Shown here is the CORSAIR P65 SSD MLC version with a transfer rate of 220/150MB/s.
The X600 is only 2.5cm thick. This is quite unusual for the 15.6" range.
Next, we'll take a look at the performance benchmarks.
Specifications on the web show that the X600 is offered in 3 different configurations.
With the Celeron 723 1.2G 1MB single-core; the SU3400 1.4G 3M single-core; and the SU9600 1.6G 3MB dual-core.
This reviewer looked at the MSI X-SLIM X600 with Intel Core Solo CPU.
This is the SU3500 1.4GHz single core CPU with 3MB of L2 cache.
The X600 comes loaded with the Vista Home Premium OS.
Overview of the internal hardware
PC Wizard 2008
CPU performance benchmarks
CPUMARK99 200 & Super PI 1M 36.114s
Nuclearus Multi Core & Fritz Chess Benchmark
If the user needs to encode files or has audio-video multimedia requirements, a dual-core CPU would be more appropriate.
The X340 previously tested used the same CPU as this X600.
However I personally felt the performance was quite good.
Although this machine had the single core processor, with 3MB of cache,
the system generally ran quite smoothly and there was no lag even when playing 1080p videos.
Overall system performance
Vista performance benchmarks
The system performance was above-average. The good DRAM and HDD performance set the tone for smoothness during general use.
Although the X600 was loaded with the VISTA system,
it didn't feel any slower during use compared to other dual-core, quad-core or even faster computer systems.
MSI X600 comes with 2 x 2GB DDR2800
Sandra Memory Bandwidth-4417MB/s
EVEREST Memory Read-5301MB/s
DDR2 800's performance is about the same as many notebooks that use DDR3.
DRAM performance is also one of the X600's strong points.
HITACHI 7K500 test
2.5" 320GB 5400rpm edition
Maximum read/write speed approaches the 70~75Mb/s level and the average read/write was around 60MB/s.
This is probably the best-performing 5400rpm HDD on the market.
Its performance even surpasses that of previous generation 7200rpm products.
HITACHI is one of my preferred brands for 2.5" HDD as well. What really stands out is how quiet it is. You don't really notice it during ordinary use.
ATI Radeon HD4330 512MB
StreetFighter IV Benchmark
1366 X 768
The 3DMARK results show that its performance is about 4 times better than the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD.
When run with the latest StreetFighter IV Benchmark, even at a resolution of 1366x768 it achieved a frame rate of over 26 fps.
While the ATI HD4330 is not the most powerful notebook graphics card available, it offers a good balance between performance and power consumption.
6-cell battery lasted 2:52:30.
Battery Eater Pro (Wireless networking and Bluetooth switched off, 50% LCD brightness)
This is excellent endurance for a notebook like this with a large LCD screen and discrete graphics card.
During the Battery Eater Pro test the CPU was under full load with 3D graphics turned up so the time was a little shorter.
However, when it was switched to cinema mode, the X600 battery lasted more than 4 hours.
This was close to the 4 hours and 30 minutes claimed on the official website.
System performance benchmarks when loaded with Windows 7 7600 RTM.
Compared with Vista there was not much difference in hardware performance with Windows 7.
This is because Windows 7 is less DRAM intensive.
Windows 7 resource demands are about the same as those of Windows XP and it has the Vista interface.
This should become a very popular OS in the future.
MSI X-Slim X600 Summary
1.With a 15.6" LCD and weighing just 2.1kg, this should be the lightest large notebook now available.
2.The matt chassis with special glossy coating and slim form-factor looks good.
3.The product is well packaged while the bundled carry bag looks good and is made of quality materials.
4.The I/O ports included D-SUB and HDMI outputs. It also has eSATA so offers good expandability.
5. 6-cell battery offers good endurance with over 4 hours of battery life when either surfing the net wirelessly or playing videos.
6.DDR2 RAM runs at 800MHz for high performance while the HITACHI 5400RPM 320GB 2.5 HDD delivers performance and very quiet operation.
7.The wireless card is the Intel Wi-Fi Link 5100 with support of 802.11 a/g/n. It can also be upgraded to support WiMAX.
8.The cooling system is well constructed so despite its greater air flow, there wasn't really any noticeable noise. The chassis itself also does not get too hot.
1.Keyboard could use something that offers better feedback.
2.While the mirror-finish LCD is expected on a value-segment model, a matt-finish screen would be better.
3.Not enough bass response on the speakers.
4.The resolution of the WebCam could be better.
Cost vs. Performance ★★★★★★★★★☆
Below is my personal experience of the 2nd generation Dolby Surround Sound from the 4 underside speakers.
The upper range response was quite good but didn't come across as sharp, even at high volumes.
The mid-range response was also above average.
Vocals were quite solid although it did seem a little overwhelmed by the upper ranges.
The lower range was where the performance was a little lacking. Unfortunately the bass just was not deep enough.
The 4 speakers did give the kind of surround sound not usually found on a notebook. This is an unusual touch.
As for performance of the WebCam: the lighting was a little low during the test and the pixels looked a little big.
However, the natural colors were a strong point and so this feature was above average.
The MSI X-Slim series initially generated a lot of discussion because of its external similarity to a product of another brand.
On the other hand, this type of slim notebooks used to be targeted at the premium end of the market while the MSI X-Slim is aimed at the value-segment.
While other brands have launched CULV products, amongst those of the same size and specifications the MSI X-Slim is still the lightest offering on the market.
Personally, I think that's what consumers want. The future of the market is in lighter and more affordable notebooks.
The X600 has a large screen and is quite thin as well. For consumers used to large notebooks, it means they now have the option of picking one that weighs just 2.1kg.
MSI X-Slim X600 is priced at around NT$28000 in Taiwan and you might be able to find it for less in some places.
This pricing is lower than that of other products of the same type as well.
MSI has released some quite competitive products over the last two years,
and I hope they will continue to offer more great value notebook products for consumers to choose from in the future. :)
Since I have a Spyder2 calibrator lying around. Here is my calibration file for any X600 users who might need it.
windwithme MSI X-Slim X600
That is a very nice review full of pictures of a laptop that seems interesting.
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