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
Gigabit Ethernet
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


View All Comments

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Yeah, but often the prices are about the same in Euros and USD because of taxes and such... at least, that's been my experience. Anyway, without the product in the US it's pretty much a moot point, but I'd like to see it at $500 or less. Reply
  • samspqr - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    you can't use the exchange rate to convert hardware prices

    here in europe we have higher direct taxes (around 18% por this kind of goods), and some other legislation that makes this stuff more expensive (like a mandatory 2 years warranty by the seller), plus quite often we just get ripped off

    the X600 is selling for $800 in and 720eur in, so for the X610 those 500eur should mean something like $560
  • samspqr - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    (sorry, I meant indirect taxes) Reply
  • max347 - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    With such a low speed cpu, I wouldnt really see the point in a dedicated card. I would rather have either- stronger cpu/dedicated, or igp/better battery life. Reply
  • Mint - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    At a given pricepoint, I would have the ability to play somes games with AA, AF, and full shaders than have a strong CPU with a weak GPU that can play all games at 640x480.

    A 1.3 GHz C2D isn't going to be that much faster for games, but it's the best you can get in a reasonably priced lightweight notebook. I would totally go for this notebook if they engineered the power saving properly and got 5+ hours of battery life, and a Neo X2 option would be icing on the cake. Instead I'm pleading for the substantially more expensive 3810TG to eventually arrive in NA.
  • LarsAlereon - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    It needed a discrete GPU because the IGP (X1250) isn't good enough for basic usage. Ideally you'd use an IGP in value systems, and only use a discrete GPU if you want gaming capabilties. In this case they were forced to use a discrete GPU, but the unit wasn't positioned somewhere that needed gaming performance. Is there a reason they couldn't have used the RS780E (HD 3300) instead? I look forward to seeing an IGP based on the R5000-series architecture at some point. Reply
  • Mint - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    15.6 inches in a 4.5 lb chassis for that price is fantastic, especially when you get better-than-atom performance and HD 4330 graphics. Too bad battery life is so mediocre. You'd think that ATI's hybrid power technology would be able to shut down the discrete graphics when idling.

    Still, have you considered reviewing Acer's Timeline 3810TG? That can be equipped with a Core 2 Duo (albeit low clock speed), 4330 graphics that can be shut off, and claims to have 7-9 hours of battery life. Unfortunately, this particular Timeline is also unavailable in the US...
  • bjacobson - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    I think I'm going to start defining netbook by weight and battery life nothing else.

    IMO it needs to be at or below ~3lbs and have a 7-8 hour charge.
    Size never mattered to me, it was all about weight and battery life.
    At 7h I can safely consistently leave the charger at home if I have a full charge. Needs vary but I haven't had to worry about it once this semester, and that's with 8 hour days of classes and I still usually have 15-20% battery life left.

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 7, 2009 - link

    Yeah, unfortunately the part of the netbook this laptop used was the "low performance CPU". It's rather disappointing to me that a CPU that's only ~50% faster than Atom can use 3X as much power. They also took the MacBook Air part that consisted of "thin" without worrying about providing great battery life and reasonable performance. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, October 6, 2009 - link

    I've been trying to get any Timeline for review... hopefully some day soon Acer will send me one. I'm still a little confused as to why the X610 has an IGP and discrete graphics with no apparent way to use the IGP (unless I'm just totally missing it). Reply

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