Handling, design and build: too entry level looking
Nice looking with a black and silver design, the MSI X-Slim X350 is nevertheless made of low-end plastic. While the finish is fine, the plastic doesn't look good. Thankfully, MSI hasn't fallen into the trap of using glossy plastics, which reduces finger marks. Only on the screen frame is glossy black plastic used, which is nice to look at but which doesn't flatter the product. Overall it looks rather cheap and the and the silver around the touchpad and along the sides of the machine does nothing to help this. We do recognise the progress made in comparison with the X340 however.
The keyboard keys are small (14.5 x 14.5 mm) and well-spaced. Comfortable, fairly supple, relatively quiet keying. It's a shame that not all the space on either side of the keybaord has been used however. This would have allowed the use of larger keys. The characters are legible and the various features (sound, brightness settings and so on) are indicated in blue on certain keys. It would have been handy to have a backlit keyboard but that would have meant higher pricing.
The touchpad is a good size and gives a fluid glide. The precision and rapidity are fine, no more. Slightly less stickiness and better responsiveness would have been appreciated.
The webcam gives a good image. Fluidity and sharpness are up to the mark. Lighter zones are overexposed.
In office doc tasks the X350 is discrete, which soon changes when the processor has to take on heavier tasks (photo work, video editing and playback). The fan then accelerates and becomes very noisy.
Connectivity is standard with 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 HDMI, 1 VGA, 1 headpone, 1 mic, 1 RJ45 and a 2-in-1 memory card reader. This is only just ok, especially as both USB ports are located in the same place and relatively close to one another. You won't be able to use two large USB keys at the same time.
Under the PC, only the battery can be removed.
|VGA, RJ45, HDMI, memory card reader
||MSI X-Slim X350
|Touchpad and click bar
||2 USB 2.0s, headphones, mic, power in
Processing: a dual-core low energy processor that's sufficient for office work
Windows 7 index: 3,3. Details: CPU 3.9 - Memory 4.7 - Graphics 3.4 - Gaming graphics 3.3 - Main hard drive 5.7.
The dual-core ultra low energy consumpiton (ULV) processor is an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300. It only scores a CPU index of 44, compared to 47 for the Toshiba Satellite T130 (equipped with an Intel Pentium Dual Core SU4100). Our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400) scores 100 on the index. The X350's 2 GB (4GB on the T130) seem to be limiting overall performance. It does however give enough for Internet and office usage, but we expected more from this processor (better used on the Asus UL30A for example). You can also do a bit of photo and video work as long as you're patient with demanding tasks (photo, video editing, encoding and so on).
HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) video playback with the CPU alone is jumpy and audio levels go up. However the integrated graphics solution from Intel can also take on this task and free up the processor. Usage levels then go from 95% to 10% while energy consumption falls 8 Watts (25 Watts before, 17 after). At idle, energy consumption is around 8 Watts.
Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit) starts up in approximately 1 minute (44 seconds to desktop display, then 15 to 20 seconds more to load up the main software).
3D gaming: old or 2D gaming, nothing else
Don't expect to do any current 3D gaming, the Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip is very limited. Only certain older 3D games or 2D will still be playable in native resolution. You'll have to sacrifice too much on the graphics side for them to be worth playing.
Audio: headphones a must and even then...
The audio on this new X-Slim is just as bad as on the previous version (X340). The little speakers deliver a dry sound with no low notes. Trebble dominates and quickly saturates at higher volume. The headphones out has a very obvious hiss (with or without music), crackling and other disk access interference.
Mobility, battery life
At just 2H31 video playback (Wi-Fi disactivated, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 nits) the MSI X-Slim X350 is poor. Sure it's slim but the competition now manages much better at similar size. This is explained by the low capacity of the battery used on our test model. Just 2150 mAh, so we didn't expect much.
In terms of portability, the X350 and its 4-cell batttery weigh just 1.5 Kg. The charger takes up too much space however.