MSI's X610 is an interesting concept. It uses a 15.6" LCD/chassis, and the fact that it's very thin and weighs just over 4.5 pounds is definitely a nod to the MacBook Air. Also like the MacBook Air, the X610 forgoes the inclusion of an optical drive. Or perhaps the lack of an optical drive is more like a netbook, and the X610 certainly has similarities to netbooks, at least when it comes to CPU performance. Unlike most netbooks, MSI chooses to use an AMD processor, and while that would normally mean substantially more performance than an Intel Atom CPU, the AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 isn't going to set any speed records. Using a 65nm process, the Neo MV-40 is a single-core 1.6 GHz part, rather like the original Athlon 64 only using updated process technology.

So what we have is a relatively large chassis that's very thin, no optical drive, and a CPU that aims to be "fast enough". If you couple that with a reasonable integrated graphics approach, you should be able to get good battery life without compromising on weight or size. Except, MSI decided not to use an IGP solution and instead includes ATI's Radeon Mobility HD 4330. The discrete graphics solution isn't super fast, but it's definitely a lot faster than any current IGP and it provides all the necessary features to support high definition video decoding.

When we said the MSI 610 was "interesting", then, what we really mean is that it's interesting in the same way that Frankenstein would be interesting. MSI has chosen to mix some very low power design element (AMD Neo, a thin chassis) with other elements that are diametrically opposed to such a design (15.6" LCD and a discrete graphics solution). The question we are here to answer today is whether the final creation is impressive, or if MSI added too much brawn and not enough brains. Here's a look at the system specifications.

MSI X610 Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon Neo MV-40
(1.60GHz, 512KB L2, 65nm, 1600MHz HyperTransport)
Chipset ATI RS690E + SB600
Memory 1x2048MB DDR2-800 CL6 (Max 1x4GB)
Transcend JM800QSU-2G @ DDR2-640 6-6-6-18 2T
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 512MB (450/1000 Core/RAM)
Display 15.6" Glossy LED-Backlit 16:9 WXGA (1366x768)
Chunghwa Picture Tubes CLAA156WA11A
Hard Drive 2.5" 250GB 5400RPM 8MB
(Toshiba MK2555GSX)
Networking Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet
Ralink RT3090 802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC888 HD Audio
(2x2 Stereo Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks + HDMI)
Battery 6-Cell 11.1V, 5400 mAhr, 60 Whr
Front Side None
Left Side Cooling Exhaust
1 x USB 2.0
HDMI
Gigabit Ethernet
VGA
Right Side Cooling Vent (no fan)
SD/SDHC/MMC reader
Microphone/Headphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
AC Power connection
Back Side None
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 32-bit
Dimensions 15.43" x 10.04" x 0.98" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.6 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
Multi-Touch Touchpad
Warranty 2-year Global MSI warranty
Price MSRP: €499, Availability in Oct 2009

We should also note that the X610 is currently destined for release in the UK/Europe and it is unlikely we will see it in the USA. If after reading this review you are interested in purchasing such a laptop, let us know in the comments. Since MSI is already creating this system, they could easily sell it in the US if there's enough demand. Of course, pricing is also going to play a role in determining how successful the MSI X610 is. The X610 is essentially the AMD version of the MSI X600, a product already available in the USA. The X600 uses an Intel Core 2 Solo processor but otherwise has the same basic design as the X610 (15.6" chassis, ATI HD 4330, no optical drive). Battery life on the X600 is supposed to reach up to six hours, making it a viable alternative to netbooks if you don't mind the larger size, but with an MSRP of $800 it costs twice as much as most netbooks. Considering the competition, that's simply too much for the X600 and we think a price of around $500 for the X610 is the most people are likely to pay.

MSI X610 Overview
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  • stmok - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    It looks like the X610 is based on the elements of AMD's ultra thin notebook platform. (The first generation is codenamed: "Yukon".)

    The 2nd generation is "Congo". AMD's PR has a look at the prototype of Congo...Its actually an MSI X-series!
    => http://blogs.amd.com/patmoorhead/2009/09/09/congo-...">http://blogs.amd.com/patmoorhead/2009/0...eneratio...

    This newer generation does feature the 780G chipset with Radeon HD 3200 IGP and dual-core CPU (also at 1.6Ghz).

    The PR rep reckons you'll gain an hour or so with the 2nd generation "Congo".

    Think I'll hold out for that...
    Reply
  • ckistner - Thursday, October 08, 2009 - link

    LG P300/310 is a great little machine as well.

    13.3 LED
    Dualcore T8100 2.1 GHz
    4 gig ram
    Nvidia 8600m GS
    external dvd rom
    3-4 hrs battery life

    Its price is a bit higher than the x610 but worth it imo.
    Reply
  • JimmyJimmington - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    Dell Studio 14z is the better choice.
    Higher res screen.
    Nvidia 9400M
    A real processor
    Same weight, still relatively thin.

    Seriously what is the appeal of a super thin computer? Weight is absolutely important when you wanna carry your laptop around, but thinness just means more heat, or a crap CPU to keep the laptop from getting hot.
    Reply
  • AznBoi36 - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    Considering the Radeon card has 512MB vram, couldn't you have set the quality settings to medium perhaps? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    As mentioned at the bottom of the page, I tested most of the games at medium details as well (at least, the games where the CPU wasn't such a huge bottleneck that the game wasn't playable at minimum detail). Many of the playable games remained playable at 1366x768, and a couple could handle medium quality as well. Actually, Fallout 3 (27 FPS) and Empire TW (21 FPS) are the only games playable at medium 1366x768 - everything else is under 20FPS. Empire would also be a problem at 21, except mouse input isn't tied to the rendering rate (just like Maxis does with Sims and Spore), so lower frame rates are still okay. Reply
  • Totally - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    the X610 is in dire need of a stronger CPU. As-is it doesn't have an argument against the nv58/nv52. Reply
  • Abhilash - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    recent launched 45nm dual core neo on the X610 would have been great Reply
  • qwertymac93 - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    why are dual core neos so rare? if this thing had a dual core neo instead of that dumb 4330, it would actually make sense. why is the 780g chipset so rare as well? these companies act like using a dual core neo and 780g in the same computer would rip a whole in the space/time continuum! Reply
  • togaman5000 - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    I've got the x600, and despite the lower number, I've gotten five or more hours of battery life and better performance out of it. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    Yeah, that's what I've heard. I actually requested the X600 for review and they accidentally sent the X610 instead. I figured it would be interesting to see what the AMD Neo had to offer, but it's really difficult to say when we've got Neo + HD 4330. If the X600 offers two hours more battery life and the only difference is the CPU/chipset, that's not a good sign for the Yukon platform. Still, it's tough to draw any firm conclusions with just one sample. Reply

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