Hands on: MSI's new Wind and latest 'slimtops'

CeBit 2009: Also, 'phat' gaming PCs and beautifully thin Classic series

MSI expands its superslim range of X series laptops at CeBit this month

It is clear from all the evidence on MSI's booth at CeBit this year that the slim, ultraportable notebook is going to be a major new category in mobile computing in 2009.

Alongside the MacBook Air influenced MSI X-Slim X340 and X600s on display at this years exhibition, were the new 'hybrid' Wind netbooks (with MSI claiming an impressive-sounding TWELVE hour battery life) and new ranges of big 'n' beefy gaming laptops, as well as the latest in the company's Classic series of high-performance notebooks.

MSI first gave us the skinny on the X-Slim at CES back in January and the company has been proudly showing off the two latest 'sexytrendy' laptops at CeBit this week, with both new machines boasting Intel ULV architecture for performance and power saving advantages.

MSI makes no bones about the design inspiration coming largely from Apple, but what it does plan to do is makes these machines available to consumers at a rather more agreeable price-point than the MacBook Air (with prices still 'tbc' but likely to be in the £500 to £600 price range when they launch in May).

The X340 is, at its thickest, a mere two millimetres shy of two centimetres. It is similarly specced to the X320 that was launched at CES, with a 16:9 cinematic 13" LED display and weighing in at a mere 3kg. If you carry a notebook around with you everywhere you go then this could well be the perfect answer to something that you weren't yet aware you were looking for.

More ports than Apple

The key difference between the X320 and the latest machine from MSI is that the new skinnybook/slimtop is far more suited to multimedia apps, using, as it does, the Intel Centrino mobile platform.

There is also another fundamental way in which MSI's new machine differs considerably from Apple's own skinny wonder – in that it still manages to pack in full I/O ports, a HDMI port, Blu-Ray support, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi connection, Bluetooth and – should you really want it - optional WiMAX modules.

MSI's latest trendsetter comes in three colours, the ridiculously named "Splendid Champagne Gold, Elegant Pearl White and Stylish Techno Black" (okay, okay! enough already!) and the company is also planning to launch a 15-inch display version in its superslim range, the X600, although no details on pricing of that machine as yet.

Elsewhere on MSI's CeBit booth, TechRadar managed to clap eyes on its latest iteration of one of our favourite netbooks of 2008 – the MSI Wind U115 Hybrid and U110 ECO, both sporting the same 10-inch screen and tasty keyboard of the original.

MSI's CeBit release informs us that its U115 Hybrid is "the world's first netbook with both SSD and HDD drives built-in, where the innovative dual storage design and ECO power saving technology extends the battery life of the netbook up to 12 hours* (with a 6-cell battery)!"

Yes, that's right. A netbook with a twelve hour battery life. Of course, in the real world, when put to test in the field it is sure to fall considerably short of this, but even if it can give five or six hours charge away from a power source, it is going to become a serious contender in the ever-growing netbook category.

Plus, to be fair, MSI does add the 'disclaimer' that this too-good-too-be-true 12 hours battery life is tested using a 6cell battery and under ECO mode (ie when all the data access and storage is handled by the SSD) and that, "actual results may differ under different user conditions and product specifications."

Falling slightly behind on the battery-life front, although not too far, MSI's new U110 ECO "features up to 9 hours of battery life when using a 6cell battery and weighs just 1kg and is the size of a piece of B5 paper (26cm x 18cm)."

TechRadar was a big fan of the original Wind, with our only major gripe being that machine's sorry excuse for a workable battery life, so we are eager to test out the latest in the series when they launch later this spring.

Gaming, Entertainment, Classics

Finally, we had a quick shufty at MSI's latest in its professional G (Gaming) and multimedia E (Entertainment) notebook series

The gaming range is promoted by pro gaming group Fnatic, who's managing director Sam Mathews reckons that: "MSI Notebook is one of the most important computer brands in the world and offers next-generation computer hardware that meets the needs of players around the world."

As far as we're concerned, if you are in the market for a decent gaming laptop (or a decent multimedia machine more generally) then the latest MSI G and E series seem to dish out decent bang for your buck. Or punch for your pound. Or whatever.

Finally, if you don't want to break the bank (too much) and just want a solid, light, well-designed notebook for working and watching the odd movie on, then MSI's new slim, nattily-designed Classic series - the CX700, CX600, and CR400, weighing in at 3, 2.5, and 2.2 kgs, respectively – could well be, as the company tells us, be "just the thing to lure desktop users to take the plunge and join the modern mobile masses."

TechRadar will bring you further details on the release dates and pricing on all of the above-mentioned new laptops and netbooks from MSI over the coming weeks.

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