The MSI U270 looks and feels like a netbook, but its sharp screen and graphically capable processor push it more into the realm of an ultraportable laptop. It's best suited to regular travellers who need a basic machine for running simple office applications.

An AMD processor runs the show, and it's the same model as found in the HP Pavilion DM1-3100sa. First impressions were bad as it scored a similarly low score in our benchmarking tests, and was thoroughly beaten by the Intel-powered machines. While you can comfortably browse the web and run basic office applications, the U270 does drag when you try to do things in parallel.

We were pleasantly surprised when we ran the graphical tests. In a massive turnaround, the U270 scored well, narrowly edging out the HP, and we found that photo-editing software ran acceptably. However, some of our high-definition (HD) films actually stuttered quite badly during play.

Tech Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater '05: 162
Cinebench: 2206
3DMark 2006: 5805

Also bear in mind that, like the HP, there is no built-in DVD drive. If you want to install software from discs or watch DVD movies, you'll need an external drive that connects up via USB.

While the 11.6-inch screen may be a little small for fully enjoying movies, it's still a colourful and well-designed panel. Along with the HP, it has a sharp, while the lack of a glossy Super-TFT finish means you can see perfectly outside, with no reflections to hamper your view.

The tinny speakers are rubbish though, so you'll need some headphones to enjoy music.

Highly portable

Although performance falls short, the MSI makes up for it with portability. This is a light machine at just 1.5kg, so you'll barely notice it when stashed inside your bag, although the 42mm chassis is surprisingly thick.

The battery will put up a good fight, giving almost three hours of video playback before finally running out. You'll get over four hours when performing lighter tasks such as checking your email, so you won't need to pack the charger if you use it on your daily commute.

Despite the compact frame, we still enjoyed using the isolation-style keyboard. It stretches the width of the interior and all of the keys are a good size for touch-typing, except for the tiny right Shift key. The touchpad is a little cramped, but the increased sensitivity makes up for this. You can always attach a mouse using one of the three USB ports.

One of these ports is the latest USB 3.0, indicated by the blue colouration. This is the latest and fastest version which allows data to be swapped with compatible devices, such as external hard drives, at twice the rate of the old USB 2.0.

Most users will be satisfied by the 320GB of storage. This gives you enough space to hold a sizeable media collection, including thousands of holiday snaps and music albums.

Both VGA and HDMI ports are available for connecting external monitors. If you want an affordable laptop for working on basic office software, and need a mobile machine so you can stay productive on the go, the U270 is worth considering. However, those after a bit more power should look elsewhere.

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