It may be a slimline laptop, but the MSI X-Slim X600 definitely isn’t small. It has a 15.6in widescreen display that’s perfect for office work, watching videos and browsing the Web; and it has enough CPU power to run almost any application.
The CPU under the hood is an Intel Core 2 Solo U3500 model, which is a low voltage model that runs at 1.4GHz. Most importantly, it's not a dual-core CPU, which means that it will be slower for multitasking than a laptop with a dual-core CPU. This was shown in our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite, in which the X600 recorded a time of 812sec in the multitasking test. A slimline laptop such as HP's dv2 1132AX, which has a dual-core AMD Athlon 64 X2 Neo CPU running at 1.6GHz, recorded 684sec.
Nevertheless, the U3500 is still a reasonably fast CPU and its overall score in WorldBench 6 was 61, which is twice as fast as what a netbook can achieve in the same benchmark (see the BenQ Joybook U121 Eco as an example) and approximately 40 per cent slower than a typical Intel Core 2 Duo-based laptop such as Dell's 1545. It achieved this performance in concert with 4GB of DDR2 SDRAM, a 320GB Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B hard drive (HTS545032B9A300), and an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics card.
That's a solid supporting cast of components, no matter which way you look at it. There's enough space to store your data as well as install plenty of applications; there's plenty of RAM for image editing or loading multiple applications simultaneously; there's enough graphics processing power to even let you play games, albeit at a low detail level.
A low-voltage single-core CPU has been used to power the X600 because this type of CPU does not produce as much heat as a more powerful dual-core model. It's an essential element in keeping the X600 cool, which is important because the X600 is such a thin and therefore relatively light laptop. It's approximately 3cm thick, which is similar to the thickness of many netbooks on the Australian market, and it tapers off at the edges, which makes it look even thinner than it actually is.
Physically, the X600 feels like it's solidly constructed and it has good balance when you use it in your lap. There are vents on either side of the chassis, as well as on the bottom. It has a cooling fan, but it's not overly audible. As a result of the base being so thin, the laptop's battery is also very thin, yet it's one of the biggest we've seen in terms of length and width. It's a 6-cell battery and it lasted 2hr 43min in our video-rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise screen brightness and enable the wireless radio while looping an Xvid-encoded video. This is almost on par with the HP Pavilion dv2-1132AX, which has a 4-cell battery and lasted 2hr 50min in the same test.
Ports and slots are located on either side of the X600, and while it isn't furnished with an ExpressCard expansion slot, nor a built-in optical drive, it still has all the features you'll need for your everyday computing. You get three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA port, an HDMI port, headphone and microphone jacks, an SD card slot and a Gigabit Ethernet port. The USB 2.0 port on the left-hand side also doubles as an eSATA port, which lets you transfer files quicker from external hard drives than USB 2.0 does. You also get a webcam, 802.11n wireless networking (Intel WiFi Link 5100 AGN), and Bluetooth.
With a weight of 2.1kg, the X600 is one of the lightest 15.6in laptops on the market. You'll have more trouble squeezing it into a bag than you will lifting that bag; the X600 will only just fit inside a small backpack. That's because it is so wide, and while this is good because you get a comfortable keyboard (with a number pad), the layout of the keyboard and touchpad makes the X600 slightly awkward to use. The touchpad is a nuisance because it is not centred with main part of the keyboard, and this means your right hand often brushes the pad and ends up moving the cursor, or worse yet, selecting entire blocks of text and deleting them with the next key you hit! It needed to be placed further toward the left of the palm rest so as to be unobtrusive while you type. You can disable it by using a function key combination (Fn+F3), but there is no physical switch, which means you can’t quickly switch it on to navigate, then switch it off again to type.
When you're not typing, you can watch movies on the X600's 1366x768-resolution screen, or you can plug in a high definition TV via its HDMI port. Sound will also travel over HDMI, so you won't have to put up with the tinny speakers nor plug in a separate audio cable. The screen is glossy, but it has good brightness and contrast and it doesn't reflect light as much as other glossy screens we have seen.
The position of the touchpad in relation to the keyboard is perhaps the major sticking point with this slimline laptop. Apart from that, it's a reasonably good performer, it's light and it has a solid keyboard. However, unless you want the big screen, it's probably worth picking up one of the smaller models in MSI's X-Slim range instead.