Korean company MSI hasn't got the brand power of the likes of Dell and Packard Bell, but the CR640-020UK is a well-crafted laptop that offers decent performance and media potential at a reasonable price.
Like the Packard Bell EasyNote NS44 HR-033UK and Dell Inspiron 15r N5110, the MSI uses Intel's latest Sandy Bridge technology to run software. The results are excellent, with tons of power considering the low cost. We found we could surf the web, listen to music and run powerful editing software all at the same time with no slowdown.
As with most of the laptops at this price, there's no dedicated graphics card. Instead, the processor handles tasks such as editing media and playing games. Despite this, the MSI does an admirable job, as the Sandy Bridge technology has been optimised for rendering graphics. You can edit your home movies and stream high-definition (HD) films without issue.
You can also play DVDs on the built-in drive and the integrated speakers are commendably loud, although sound quality is not amazing. However, if you want to play the latest games, you'll need a more powerful option, such as the Dell. Recent titles lag on the MSI and suffer from low frame rates on the highest detail settings.
Battery Eater '05: 202 minutes
3DMark 2006: 8676
Work and play
Of course, you'll need a machine for work as well as play, and the MSI is a great option in this respect.
A well-designed isolation-style keyboard is perfect for bashing out essays, with the gaps between the keys greatly reducing typos. All of the keys are firmly set for a comfortable typing action. We also liked the smooth touchpad, which is both well-sized and responsive.
A 320GB hard drive can be used to store all of your important documents and, while some machines in this group have double the space, this is still enough to satisfy the average student. You'll be able to carry thousands of photos and songs and hundreds of movies.
A 3-in-1 card reader can be used to expand this storage space, or to simply back up your work in case the worst should happen and your laptop ends up in tiny pieces at the bottom of a stairwell.
Portability isn't as strong as some of the competition, with the chunky body weighing 2.6kg. The MSI can still be carried around, but if you want something to take to lectures every day, the Packard Bell is a better option. Still, the brushed-metal chassis looks smart and feels tough.
We got almost three and a half hours of use from the battery, even when watching movies that we had burned on to the hard drive. If you use it for lighter tasks, such as browsing the web or checking emails, you'll get almost five hours of life. This is the best result after the Packard Bell EasyNote NS44 HR-033UK and means you can leave the charger at home and get full use all day, without having to hunt out a plug socket – very useful if you plan on typing up notes during lectures.
MSI has also crafted a beautiful screen. While lacking the supreme sharpness of the Packard Bell's display, the 15.6-inch Super-TFT panel is vibrant enough to make photos and movies look stunning. It's also bright enough to comfortably work on for long stretches.
With its reasonably powerful specification, excellent usability and colourful screen, there's plenty to recommend the MSI CR640. However, if you need something to carry around all day, this isn't the best option.
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