Archive: PC and Mac Laptop Reviews 2008-2011

REVIEW / MSI X-Slim X400-038UK

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Last updated: December 2, 2009  
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Fabien Pionneau Published on December 2, 2009
Updated on December 2, 2009
Translated by
 
This is an archive page, the content is no longer up to date.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • CPU Intel Core 2 Solo ULV SU3500 (1.4 GHz)
  • Graphics chipset Intel GMA 4500MHD
  • RAM 2 GB
  • Screen 14 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Storage space 5.0E-7 GB
  • Optical drive No

MSI’s X-Slim series comes in a variety of screen sizes. The X400 is the 14 inch model. The range puts the accent on a nice, light, sexy line. According to MSI it allies technology and design and is an indispensable accessory for the style conscious that you can take with you anywhere.

Handling, design and build

With an all-black shell, the MSI X-Slim X400 has gone for a sobre look. We like the matte plastic you get on the keyboard and around the screen – you shouldn’t see too many finger marks. Unfortunately the quality of the plastic used looks a bit cheap. That said, the finish is good and the machine is nice and sturdy. Unfortunately the outer shell on the back of the screen is all glossy black. For anyone who’s sensitive to marks, here they’re inevitably going to show. Overall, we definitely prefer the X600.

MSI X-Slim X400
 
The keyboard is reasonably sized with wide flat keys (17x 17.5 mm). Typing is easy and comfortable. There’s no number pad. It would’ve been difficult to include one without resizing the keys.

The touchpad is nice and wide and we like the matte surface. A little less grainy would have been good to reduce the noise of your finger and improve the feel. No complaints in terms of movement however and precision is up to standard. The click bar has a rather average finish but the clicks are well designed, neither too firm nor too soft.

MSI X-Slim X400The webcam is poor. Definition and fluidity both leave something to be desired. Overexposed areas are burnt and don’t expect anything much in the way of results when there’s no light source in the vicinity.

The X400’s fan runs constantly and audibly. If you’re working on office docs only, it remains discrete but as soon as you start any more demanding processing tasks (photo/video), it becomes annoying. It also stops as rapidly as it starts, which shows that it's managing the temperature well.

Connectivity is at the back of the sides. There’s 1 VGA, 1 RJ45 (Ethernet Gigabit), 1 HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, 1 mic, 1 headphone socket and a 2-in-1 memory card reader. Of course it also has Wi-Fi. It supports the a/b/g/n standards and also has Bluetooth.

Underneath, only the battery is removable. There are no panels for access to other components.

MSI X-Slim X400 MSI X-Slim X400
VGA, RJ45, HDMI, memory card reader
Touchpad, clicks and indicators
MSI X-Slim X400 MSI X-Slim X400
4 cell battery (black) beside the 8 cell (white)
2 USB 2.0, headphones, mic, power in


Processor Power

Vista index: 3,2. Details: CPU 3.6 - Memory 4.9 - Graphics 3.2 – Gaming graphics 3.5 – Main hard drive 5.6.

As with the MSI X-Slim X340, the processor is a single core Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500. It has an index of 34, with performance 2 to 3 times down on our reference machine, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650. Although this is rather low, it can handle quite a range of operations: editing and encoding video, photo work and so on. You need to be patient for this however and if you’re doing this sort of thing a lot then you’ll be better off going for a higher performance machine.

It will play HD 1080p video (Blu-Ray equivalent) as long as you use hardware acceleration. The processor alone won’t be enough. With a PowerDVD or equivalent app, it plays HD 1080p perfectly fluidly.

Gaming

Although the integrated Intel GMA 4500MHD can decode HD, it doesn’t do very well with 3D. So you’ll have to forget recent video games and make do with older, less demanding 3D titles or 2D.

Audio

The speakers here are as bad as they are on the X340 and the X600. They saturate at high volume with an aggressive tone that can really only handle the treble. The headphones out is shameful, with a permanent hiss and interference. The sound is poorly defined and sketchy.

Battery life and portability

The MSI X-Slim X400’s 4-cell battery is certainly no miracle. Battery life is limited to around 2h18 for video (screen at 100 cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in), a similar score to high-performance 15 inch models. Redemption comes in the form of the 8-cell battery. It does stick out a bit and makes the machine heavier overall, but battery life improves to 4h50 (still playing video) which is much better, close to the 5h20 you get with the Acer Aspire TimeLine 5810T.

At 1.5 Kg with its 4-cell battery, the X400 is just a little heavier than the largest netbooks, in spite of having a 14 inch screen. Impressive.

The screen

As with the other models in the X-Slim range, the X400 has a glossy panel. Omnipresent reflections then, particularly in bright lighting (outside, neons etc.).

The panel is TN type, equivalent to 5 ms as is the case on almost all laptops. The viewing angles are therefore narrow, with colours that darken when viewed from below and lighten when viewed from above.

The black levels are poor at 0.88 nits (Cd/m²) at a luminance of 212.3 nits, and 0.37 nits for a luminance of 89.2 nits. The contrast ratio is a low 241:1. Max brightness is 212 nits, which is sufficient for general use though too weak to compensate for the screen’s reflectivity in bright light.

Default colours are poor. An average difference (Delta E) of 7. We’ve seen worse but we’ve also seen much better.

To correct the colours download our calibration profile here.

PROS

  • Slim and light
  • Good battery life with the 8-cell battery
  • Wide touchpad and comfortable keyboard
  • Plays HD video
  • Matte plastic inside

CONS

  • Glossy poor quality screen
  • 4-cell battery insufficient
  • Terrible audio
  • Cheap design and plastic
  • Low overall performance

CONCLUSION 3/5

An intermediary model in the X-Slim range, the X400-038 deserved a better configuration, closer to the X600-015. As things stand, it suffers from low performance, poor audio and average design. It makes up for things with battery life, as long as you use the 8-cell.
3 MSI X-Slim X400-038UK Digitalversus 2009-12-02 00:00:00

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