Features and Overview

The MSI S271 is definitely not a high-end laptop, even though it supports AMD's fastest Turion X2 processors. However, it is a small laptop and for those users who are more interested in size rather than high-performance features, it includes just about everything you need. The cost for the basic model including a Turion TL-50 processor (1.6 GHz, 2x256K cache), 512MB of RAM, an 80GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and a dual layer DVD-RW burner is $1000. We were initially shipped a similar configuration only with a 60GB hard drive, but we also ran tests on an upgraded version in order to investigate the Turion X2 processor performance. Here's an overview of the basic features.

MSI S271 Manufacturer Specifications
Processor AMD Turion 64 X2 processor TL-50 (1.60 GHz 2x256K L2)
Chipset ATi RS485M + SB460 chipset
Graphics UMA ATI RS485M, 128MB VRAM (ATI Xpress 1100 chipset)
Memory 512MB DDR2-533 SO-DIMM memory
Display 12.1" WXGA (1280x800) widescreen TFT display
PC Card Slot Express Card x 1
Card Reader MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro 4-in-1 Card Reader
Hard Disk Drive 80GB Hard Drive (5400RPM)
Optical Drive 8X DVD+/-RW (supports DVD RAM)
LAN/Modem Built-in 10/100/1000 Mbps Ethernet LAN and modem Module
Wireless LAN Built-in 802.11 b/g wireless & bluetooth connection
(MSI MS-6855B BT+WLAN miniPCI Combo Card with RALINK chipset)
I/O Ports 15 Pin Mini D-Sub x 1
USB2.0 Port x 3, IEEE1394a Port x 1
Mic-in Port x 1, Headphone Out x 1
Modem Port x 1, LAN Port x 1
Audio Realtek ALC 882D (headphone + microphone jacks)
Battery Li-ion 8 cells battery (4400mAHr)
AC Adapter 19V DC, 65W/Input: 100~240V AC, 50/60Hz universal
Dimension 11.93" ( W ) x 8.86" ( D ) x 1.10~1.18" ( H )
Weight < 4.5 lbs (complete system)
Operation System Windows XP Home Edition

Considering this is an ultraportable laptop, the feature set is basically what you would expect. It comes with a 12.1 inch widescreen display (1280x800 resolution) and weighs under 5 pounds. MSI lists the weight as 4.5 pounds for the "complete system". We checked the weight of the system alone and with the power adapter and found that their claims appear accurate: we measured 4.6 pounds for just the laptop and 5.2 pounds including the adapter and mouse (on a scale that was only accurate to 0.2 pounds, so the results are within the margin of error).

One of the major problems we have with the basic configuration is the amount of memory included. A primary reason to get a dual core processor is so that you can multitask better, right? Needless to say, better multitasking and 512MB of RAM aren't exactly a match made in heaven. Our initial testing of the platform found it to be extremely sluggish with only 512 MB of RAM -- not necessarily in actual benchmark performance, but in general use we found it to be inadequate. That's one of the problems with benchmarks: they don't always show an accurate picture of real-world use. Opening up a web browser with numerous windows/tabs along with Microsoft Word and Excel quickly uses up all of the available memory. As you begin to push the multitasking capabilities of the processor, you quickly run into a situation where the hard drive is thrashing constantly in order to keep swapping data in and out of virtual memory.

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The very first recommendation we have for anyone considering this laptop (or any dual core laptop for that matter) is to get at least 1GB of memory, and if you really expect to make use of the multitasking capabilities of the dual core processor going with 2GB of RAM is a good idea, especially with Windows Vista on the horizon. We requested and received some additional memory modules from Corsair and later Crucial in order to test the system with more than 512MB of RAM, and we also requested a faster Turion X2 TL-60 processor from MSI.

Even with the upgraded processor and memory, there's still at least one area where this laptop is glaringly deficient in terms of performance. The integrated ATI Radeon Xpress 1100 graphics (roughly equivalent to the Radeon X300 SE) are at best severely underpowered. We don't have a similar laptop using Intel integrated graphics available, but we have previous results that show the ATI graphics are actually faster than most of Intel's current offerings; however, the difference between extremely sluggish 3D performance and very sluggish 3D performance isn't anything to worry about. Simply put, if you want to run any games other than solitaire, minesweeper, or other casual gaming titles, you will quickly find the included graphics to be unsatisfactory. We don't really find that to be a terrible flaw, as for business and office tasks even slow integrated graphics work fine, and you will still be able to run the Windows Vista Aero Glass interface (although performance will likely suffer compared to discrete graphics solutions).

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One of the nice extras that MSI includes, even if it is a relatively inexpensive item, is a small optical mouse. It probably only costs $10 to manufacture (if that), but it's one less thing you have to worry about purchasing. We are definitely not big fans of using a trackpad if there are any other alternatives available, and although we could complain and say it's not a wireless mouse it's still better than nothing. The laptop also includes other typical features: Gigabit wired Ethernet, 802.11b/g wireless networking, AC'97 audio, and an 8-cell 4400 mAHr battery. Bluetooth networking is also supported.

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In terms of expansion options, starting on the right you get two USB2.0 ports, modem and LAN ports, and a VGA output. Also on the right is the power connection and the CPU fan vent.

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Moving to the left is we find an ExpressCard slot, a 4-in-1 flash card reader with support for MMC/SD/MS/MS Pro (because MS and MS Pro are totally different), a third USB2.0 port, and the optical drive.



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Ending with the front of the unit, you also get the standard headphone and microphone jacks and a min-FireWire port. There are no connections on the rear of the unit.

There are certainly features that are missing relative to other laptops, but if you look at ultraportables the feature set is pretty typical. Unfortunately, cramming all of the necessary computer components into a 12"x9"x1.2" chassis requires some compromises to be made in terms of expansion options and features.

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  • Cehtna - Tuesday, October 24, 2006 - link

    You take one Acer Ferrari 5000 and a TravelMate 8210, and you benchmark them!
    These are both made by Acer and the battery and chassis are exactly the same and other features should also be the same..

    They both come in variants with:
    ATIX1600 - 256MB/512MB HyperMemory GRAPHICS
    15,4" TFT WSXGA+ (1680x1050) MONITR
    1024MB DDR2 MEMORY
    120GB SATA HDD
    Lithium 9 cells BATTERY

    This way its;
    LX.TEH06.017 TravelMate 8215WLMi with
    Intel Centrino 2 Duo T7200 CPU
    Mobile Intel® 945PM Express CHIPSET

    versus;
    LX.FR50J.016 Ferrari 5002WLMi with
    Turion64 2X TL50 CPU
    ATI Xpress 1150 CHIPSET
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 14, 2006 - link

    Thanks... now just get Acer to send me both for review! Oh, wait... that's not as easy to accomplish, is it? I would love to review more laptops, with more variation among configurations. However, the simple fact of the matter is that we have to review what we are sent in most cases.

    I certainly don't make enough money to go out and buy laptops that I want to review, and a lot of companies don't necessarily want to have us do a head-to-head among their computing laptops. What happens if laptop X seriously trounces laptop Y and they both cost about the same amount?

    In the end, most people purchase laptops within their price range, so if AMD offers cheaper laptops, some people will buy those laptops whether or not they are faster. Those who want better performance are generally going to pay for more expensive laptops, and in that market that AMD laptops really don't compete very well right now.
    Reply
  • etee - Friday, November 24, 2006 - link

    AMEN to that. I bet HP, MSI (or any other company that makes value notebooks) doesn't want to see a performance review between their $550 and $1000 notebooks whose only difference is +200Mhz CPU, +40GB HDD, +1GB RAM.... If the public saw the lack of perf. improvement for the money, they'd never buy the $1000 notebook. Too bad discrete graphics hasn't become standard on the mainstream midrange $1000 notebooks yet. That might actually would justify the price.

    I also found that this review was all over the place and really didn't do a good job of isolating the variables that led to various performance indicators.
    How do we quantify the value of the discrete GFX of the ASUS notebook? Certainly system perf. would be significantly improved just because we don't have UMA graphics hogging up the system memory bandwidth. I think the intel notebook should have featured UMA graphics for comparison.

    I understand that the notebook makers won't hook you up with samples of all of their offerings. That doesn't mean that the only option is to cover the ASUS and MSI side by side. It would be better to compare a single system with various components upgraded. You can't get every model of notebook from MSI, but you can make your own "models" with upgraded CPUs, RAM, HDDs, batteries and try to generate an approximate price for such a model. If we did this separately for the MSI and ASUS, then the reader can be left to decide what suites them better for a given price. At the very least we wouldn't be trying to compare apples to oranges.
    Reply
  • abakshi - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Honestly, I found this review pretty useless. Forgoing the fact that other sites have actually done comparisons of the 271 with its Core Duo couterpart (the S270, if I recall), it still doesn't offer much.

    Obviously an IGP solution will be much slower than a Geforce Go 7700. I think most people who are going to read and interpret your graphs know that. But why must everyone have a a GF7700? Integrated graphics at the level of the current ATI chipsets are a good step up from what the vast majority of Intel-powered laptops come with, which is Intel's GMA junk.

    The article constantly refers to the ATI IGP as a huge drawback to the machine, implying that the competition has something better. Which other 12" portable has discrete graphics, besides the (heavier, not quite ultraportable) Dell XPS M1210? In fact, I'd argue the widespread use of ATI IGPs is a strength of the AMD platform - the Radeon Xpress chips are far better for everyday usage (from multimedia playback to general performance) than the Intel GMA950 chips. And unlike the GMA chips, R-X200/1150 will run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably.

    The other problem, related to the point on IGPs, is the focus on gaming. Who plays 3D games on a 12", <5 lbs. laptop? Aren't things like battery life and heat output far more important in this setting than how many FPS it can get in Half-Life 2? Why is there any stress at all on gaming? The almost nonexistent ultraportable gaming market is clearly not the target audience for this machine.

    The review even goes to the point of suggesting that mid-level discrete graphics chips like the ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 are inadequate. Something like an X1400 is more than adequate for the vast majority of users. It will run every common 3D function (like Aero Glass) and will even run relatively recent 3D games decently. Ever hear of battery life? Not everyone needs to get 60 FPS while playing Half-Life 2 on their miniscule screen in the train.

    So for example, I play games -- but for that, I have my desktop rig at home, with a dual-core A64 X2 4400+ (ironically now probably outperformed by my laptop's Core 2 Duo @ 2.0) and an ATI Radeon X1800XT 512. I'm currently using a Dell E1705 as my primary laptop, with an ATI MR X1400 GPU, which is great - it's solid (with consistently updated and universally compatible ATI drivers, unlike Intel junk), currently running dual-boot Win XP MCE and Vista RC1, and gets far better battery life than versions with more powerful GPUs (NV 7900GS, GTX, etc.).
    Reply
  • IntelUser2000 - Wednesday, October 18, 2006 - link

    quote:

    The other problem, related to the point on IGPs, is the focus on gaming. Who plays 3D games on a 12", <5 lbs. laptop? Aren't things like battery life and heat output far more important in this setting than how many FPS it can get in Half-Life 2? Why is there any stress at all on gaming? The almost nonexistent ultraportable gaming market is clearly not the target audience for this machine.


    Exactly. Then who cares whether you have a slow integrated card or a SLOWER one. The point of most IGP reviews are to see whether any people who plays latest 3D games will bother with the IGP for their 3D games.

    quote:

    Integrated graphics at the level of the current ATI chipsets are a good step up from what the vast majority of Intel-powered laptops come with, which is Intel's GMA junk.


    0.1 to 0.2. Nobody will care.

    quote:

    And unlike the GMA chips, R-X200/1150 will run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably.


    There are no direct comparisons of GMA and R1150 testings on Win Vista's Aero Glass. They are both certified, so they can both run it that's for sure.

    quote:

    with consistently updated and universally compatible ATI drivers, unlike Intel junk


    Intel also has unified drivers and updated drivers for their IGP. 845G to G965. Of course the drivers aren't up to par as ATI based ones, but considering ATI's specialty, its expected.

    quote:

    and gets far better battery life than versions with more powerful GPUs (NV 7900GS, GTX, etc.).


    I'd say then having GMA950 will be more important for battery life than R1150 then. Because R1150 is more fully featured, and will waste unnecessary battery life.

    Final point is: the review isn't perfect, but there aren't many better Turion X2 laptops either. Anandtech happened to review the ones they got in hand.

    That's the problem with laptop reviews, it isn't as vast as the desktop ones, but that's little out of scope.

    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 17, 2006 - link

    Did you get hung up on page 10? That was there merely to point out that the IGP solutions CAN'T play modern games. End of story. A couple quotes:

    quote:

    Simply put, if you want to run any games other than solitaire, minesweeper, or other casual gaming titles, you will quickly find the included graphics to be unsatisfactory. We don't really find that to be a terrible flaw, as for business and office tasks even slow integrated graphics work fine, and you will still be able to run the Windows Vista Aero Glass interface (although performance will likely suffer compared to discrete graphics solutions).


    quote:

    Basically, the system provides the bare minimum of 3D graphics support that we would recommend these days and not much else. A lot of people don't need 3D graphics, so that's okay, but there are certainly other options available that include better graphics for a small increase in price. Unlike desktop systems, there's no way to add better graphics to many laptop computers, so just make sure you are absolutely certain you will never need 3D graphics performance (Windows Vista) before you purchase a new laptop that only includes an anemic IGP solution.


    quote:

    If you're okay with avoiding 3D applications and sticking with Windows XP rather than upgrading to Windows Vista, then the MSI S271 should suffice. Then again, if you're okay with those limitations, just about any laptop is likely to "suffice".


    The point of the article isn't comparing IGP performance; we took exactly one page to clearly show that IGP is inadequate for gaming, and if you don't play games it largely won't matter. A "focus on gaming" would be more what we had in the http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=274...">XPS M1710 review, where we did spend a lot of time on that subject as anyone buying a $3500 notebook with high-end graphics will probably want to make use of them! Oh yeah, I also talked about the advantages of an http://www.anandtech.com/mobile/showdoc.aspx?i=276...">E1705 with X1400 in another article.

    Most notebooks with GMA950 run everything they need to without problems. GMA950 will run Aero Glass I believed (slower than Xpress 1100 but again, that's probably not a concern of anyone looking at budget systems). To say that Xpress 1100 can "run Win Vista's Aero Glass interface and most modern 3D apps very comfortably" is simply not true. It can run them, and perhaps Aero Glass will be fine; modern 3D apps choke on X300SE type hardware. I will worry about fully benchmarking/testing Vista on laptops when it actually ships, but I've read that Aero Glass may kill battery life. :|
    Reply
  • hondaman - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    After upgrading to the new bios from MSI that made the laptop stable, did you try the generic ram again to see if it fixed it? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Yup, still no POST. Should have known better than to buy Gigaram. Heh. Still, it will make for a nice "worst case" test of other notebooks. If a laptop can boot with the Gigaram, it can probably boot with just about anything! That or the SO-DIMM is just bad, which is always a possibility. Reply
  • Patrese - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    Have you guys seen a huge ANATEL sticker inside the notebook? It is from the Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações, the regulatory agency of telecomunications here in Brazil. Kinda funny to see that on a notebook meant to be sold in the US market, as I have never seen one of these in any PC or notebooks sold in Brazil... :) Reply
  • randomas - Monday, October 16, 2006 - link

    I would really like to see a Linux test using 64bit distribution and a 32bit distribution on the same machine and then compare it to an Intel machine, which if I'm correct still doesn't support x86_64 instructions on its portable line of cpus.

    Seeing the results of the 64 vs 32 bit Linux tests already published here on Anandtech it would make for interesting reading, especially as IMHO this machine has a strong appeal for Linux users who can take advantage of its full potential.

    Personally I own a MSI M635 (turion mt34 atix700) which I'm very happy with.
    Reply

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