MSI, best known for their PC components, have launched their latest Intel Arrandale equipped notebook offerings. We discussed some of the initial products in our CES coverage, and these are now shipping and available at retailers like Newegg and Amazon.
The four latest models are part of their “Classic Series”, and they’re larger form factors: three 15.6” and one 16” model. All feature LED-backlit 1366x768 displays, integrated 1.3 megapixel webcams and Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit, suggesting a media- and value-orientated lineup. They also include the obligatory 4-in-1 card reader, VGA and HDMI out, three USB 2.0 ports, Ethernet, and 802.11b/g/draft n. Something that we don’t see quite as often on entry level laptops is the inclusion of ExpressCard/34 slots, which can be useful for those interested in mobile broadband solutions.
Two of the 15.6” models use a Core i3-330M CPU and a 320GB HDD, with either a DVD writer or a Blu-Ray drive. It would be nice to get a 1080p LCD for the Blu-ray version, but HDMI out does enable a portable home theater experience. The CR620-030US comes with a DVD for $630 while the CR620-033US adds the BD combo drive for $700. The third model, the $730 CR620-031US, will offer a Core i5-430M CPU with a DVD writer and a 500GB HDD. There’s no Blu-Ray option, unfortunately, though the move to an i5 processor brings Turbo mode support along with a slightly higher clock speed (even if the Turbo mode is a relatively small 266MHz boost).
All of the 15.6” models utilize the onboard Arrandale HD Graphics and come with 4GB of DDR3-1066 RAM. However, the 32-bit version of Windows 7 will limit accessible RAM to 3GB in practice. Frankly, we’re baffled as to why they would ship 4GB laptops with a 32-bit OS, considering the vast majority of new PCs and laptops are now running 64-bit Windows. MSI really need to make the shift to 64-bit OSes on their laptops, as we have seen nothing that would stop us from recommending such setups to end users. On the exterior, all the laptops feature the increasingly common “chiclet” keyboards and a “Cross-Hatch” texture finish on the lid with “Color Film Print”— marketing speak for a checkered texture on a vibrant enamel finish.
The 16” CR600-234US machine makes up the entry-level offering and changes things up quite a bit. Rather than using an Arrandale CPU, it shifts to a “lowly” Pentium Dual-Core T4500 and 3GB of DDR2 RAM. An NVIDIA GeForce 8200M G provides graphics with reasonable performance in the absence of an Arrandale IGP. This model will retail for around $529.99 and comes with the same DVD writer and 320GB HDD as the base model Core i3. This model does without the checkered textured lid but retains the enamel black finish.
Rather surprisingly all models weigh in at the same 5.46 lbs; however, the weight is kept down by a relatively small 6-cell battery. This unfortunately appears to be the downfall of these machines. Despite MSI’s “ECO Engine Power Management” technology, which is fitted to all models, the stated battery life is just 3 hours. Considering these are far from performance machines, this is very disappointing.
On the surface, these MSI laptops have average specifications, relatively poor battery life, and reasonable pricing. They don’t seem to be worth the bother, except for one other item. All of these models come with a standard 3-year warranty from MSI, including one year of international coverage. We’ve seen plenty of user complaints on laptops that are only 18 months old, so a 3-year warranty is definitely appreciated. For just $730, the CR620-033US provides Core i3, Blu-ray playback, and 3 years of worry free ownership. The design and aesthetics are nothing special, but the overall packages are still a respectable paddle in the Arrandale waters for MSI.