At 17-inches, MSI's EX700 (£899 inc. VAT) is aimed at the home user, and likely to spend most of its life on a desk. Although it packs in an impressive specification, it's also quite an expensive machine.
The 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor and 2048MB of memory help to justify this. In our benchmarks the MSI was very fast, and we found it equally impressive when used for regular office applications. Boot times were minimal and, if you value performance above style or portability, this laptop is definitely worth a look
The large screen is a Super-TFT panel, and offered bright and warm colours. Dark shades were slightly washed out, however. Images were crisp and easy to see, and it's a great tool for those wanting to work with spreadsheets or multiple windows. The size also helps to make this machine ideal for watching movies. The addition of a hybrid TV tuner only enhances its ability as a media centre, and you'll find both analogue VGA and digital HDMI-out ports for connecting an external HD display.
As with most desktop replacements, you'll be able to carry out tasks such as video editing, thanks to the dedicated graphics card. It's a low-end solution, but it still gives the EX700 respectable 3D performance. You'll even be able to play older games, but detail settings may have to be reduced.
The widescreen layout helps to provide the MSI with a spacious chassis. Some of the space is wasted, however, and the keyboard doesn't stretch to the edge of the chassis. Because of this, and the addition of a dedicated numeric keypad, some of the keys on the main board are smaller than average. This makes it easy to strike the wrong one when typing quickly. The board is well attached, though, and offers a comfortable and responsive typing action.
The EX700 is a conservative-looking machine, finished in sombre black plastics with silver buttons. It lacks the style of some of its competitors, and looks fairly cheap in their company. However, it was sturdy to the touch, and will easily withstand the pressures of day-to-day use. The screen also proved robust, resisting flex when placed under pressure.
Although it's more expensive than its rivals, the MSI represents reasonable value for money. The TV tuner helps to make it a useful family machine and it's also powerful enough for any task. Unfortunately, the cramped keyboard, poor colour reproduction and dull design stop the EX700 from taking an award.