In recent months, many manufacturers have released true-widescreen laptops to great acclaim. MSI is the latest to follow suit with the EX620-207UK, but while its screen and specification are strong, it fails to truly impress.
The chassis uses a look we haven't seen before from MSI. Its patterned lid and palm-rest resembles HP's Imprint designs, and adds style. Weighing 2.6kg, this isn't a laptop for regular travelling and better suits desktop use. This is highlighted by the very low 143-minute battery life.
Home entertainment is the main focus here and the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Super-TFT screen increases width 14 per cent over standard laptop screens. This reduces the intrusive black borders at the top and bottom of the screen when watching widescreen movies.
Image quality is generally excellent, but we've seen sharper displays. Colour, contrast and brightness are strong, however, so videos and photos are reproduced to great effect. An HDMI-out port is also in place for connecting to a high-definition TV (HDTV) when necessary.
This is best used alongside the built-in Blu-ray optical drive, as while the MSI's 1366 x 768-pixel screen supports basic HD playback, for the full HD effect, you're better suited by connecting to a full HD compatible external screen.
A subwoofer improves audio performance of the stereo speakers. While it, of course, fails to match the sound quality of a dedicated set of external speakers, it adds bass and richness when watching movies or listening to music.
In terms of usability, the wide keyboard and large keys are comfortable to use, but tend to rattle when typing. A full pad of numeric keys is included for easy data input. A fingerprint scanner is also fitted between the mouse buttons for securing your most important data.
Unfortunately, performance is far below what we were expecting. The Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 4096MB of memory are very impressive on paper, but we found the MSI to be quite sluggish in comparison to similarly specified rivals.
Storage is more pleasing. The 320GB hard drive can easily hold large amounts of music, photos and videos, including space-consuming HD content. Although the Blu-ray drive doesn't support writing to Blu-ray discs, it does support all standard recordable CD and DVD formats.
While the limited performance, mobility and usability of the MSI prevent it being an essential purchase, its HD features and vibrant screen even the balance somewhat. If you're in the market for an affordable HD laptop, you could do worse than give the EX620 a test run.