In the era of portability and mobility the MSI EX700 may look like a 17" dinosaur, but the truth is that it serves an important part of the budget home laptop sector.

While business users are flocking to the Eee PCs of this world, home consumers are ditching the traditional desktop PC for the large form 'desktop replacement.' Sales of desktop machines have plummeted over the last two years as consumers plump for laptops which take up less room while offering the same functionality coupled with relative portability.

This has led to an explosion of laptops like the MSI EX700, which attempt to woo consumers from the mid-range desktop PC market, and add another nail to the desktop coffin.

Would like to meet...

Based on its £899 namesake, the MSI EX700 has been stripped down to cater for the budget home market, and a new price tag of £570 has been added. This sits directly between the low end portable and the high end laptop price range, for those who want the versatility of a laptop with the functionality and price of a desktop.

As most plus-sized people will tell you, it's what's on the inside that counts, and for its budget price the MSI EX700 sure does has a sparkling personality. It's equipped with a Core2 Duo 1.66Ghz processor, 2GB RAM, a 250GB hard drive and a GeForce 8400M 128MB card which is capable of handling basic games like The Sims 2.

This is a tough market and there are plenty of laptops with this specification hitting the market at the moment, the most high profile of which being the extremely competent Samsung R700 which retails for £559, £10 less than the MSI.

Low-end graphics

The MSI EX700 has an impressive 3.5 Windows Experience Index score, which is exceptionally high in this sub-£600 price bracket. As with all budget laptops the score is hampered by the graphics, but this stacks up well against many budget desktops of the same price.

On the exterior the MSI EX700 is duller than a fortnight in Brussels, with the only break from the cheap black plastic being the 17" wide screen display. The EX700 uses the standard 1440x900 resolution as you might expect, but display looks dull and washed out, begging for an extra notch of brightness which just isn't there. The build quality also leaves a lot to be desired, the chassis feels flimsy and the track pad unresponsive.

One for the home...


As well as the 17" widescreen display for movies and home entertainment, the MSI EX700 also features HDMI output, which increasingly essential for the home laptop. You also get VGA output, a firewire connection and an SD/MS/MMC slot on the front along with 3 USB ports which is essential for those USB extras for the home desktop.

Its power as a home entertainer makes up somewhat for it's impotency as a work based machine. Carrying this 3.4KG monster from the office up the hill to my home was enough to persuade me that the MSI EX700 would sit permanently on the desk.

The inclusion of a numeric keypad- something I have never missed on a laptop- has made the rest of the keyboard cramped. Bizarrely a casualty of this is the full stop button, which is so small a magnifying glass was needed to identify it.

As you might expect from a sub £600 machine, draft-N wireless has been sacrificed, which is disappointing as it was included on the EX700's £899 older brother. Instead gigabit LAN has been included for those wanting to stream high definition content, with wireless users able to use the standard B/G connectivity.