The MSI CX640MX may only be a sub-£400 laptop, but it manages to get the formula exactly right. Hitting the balance between style, performance and usability, this feels like it should cost at least another hundred pounds.
While the design of the MSI CX640MX is typically budget - black and boxy - there are a number of small touches that make it more attractive.
For instance, the black chassis pattern features barely noticeable ingrained streaks that give it an almost wood-like appearance. The circular on/off power switch features a green LED backlight, and the two SRS speakers above the keyboard are thick and noticeable.
The dimensions of the MSI CX640MX are fairly standard, as is the weight at 2.5kg. You won't have any trouble carrying it around the house or over to a friend's place. But we doubt you'd fancy loading it into a backpack and taking it around the city for a day.
The components inside the MSI are as good as you can expect for a £400 machine and include an Intel Core i3-2310M processor and an Nvidia GeForce 410M graphics card with 4GB of RAM on top. This should be enough for most users' basic needs, although don't expect to be enjoying high-end gaming or anything too demanding here.
Battery life: 159 minutes
3DMark 2006: 4,488
If it's power you want the Lenovo G570 has more to offer. However, where the MSI excels is usability. We found the isolation style keyboard on the MSI to be one of the most comfortable in this group test. There was plenty of travel on the keys, no flex around the keyboard and each key was well-spaced and well-sized.
The touchpad, although a fraction on the small side, responded well and was easy to use for long periods.
The 15.6-inch screen is unfortunately surrounded by a thick bezel that doesn't do it any favours. However, the screen is bright and glossy and perfectly suitable for watching movies on.
MSI has built in a light sensor that detects the ambient light around the laptop and adjusts the brightness of the screen accordingly. This is a useful feature - especially when running on battery power.
The 1,366 x 768 pixel resolution is standard on a laptop at this price and will let you enjoy video in 720p HD format.
C'mon feel the noise
We mentioned the chunky SRS speakers and they do a good job of projecting volume without much distortion. While the overall sound quality isn't the best we've heard, we were impressed with the noise we could generate.
Battery life on cheaper laptops can often be disappointing, but the MSI scored an okay 159 minutes during out benchmarking tests. While that's about average for a laptop of this specification, it beat both the Lenovo G570 and the Acer Aspire 5750 - its primary rivals at this price point.
All told, the MSI CX640MX is a solid contender. The design and build quality of the chassis is probably the best of all the machines here, while the performance and features are adequate without being amazing. It also matches the Acer for price. The MSI is a solid, decent buy. It looks good and will deliver what you need, even if it isn't the most powerful machine here.