First Looks - MSI FX400
MSI must have been taking up some design lessons lately, as their notebooks have started looking much better instead of their usual generic and bland looks. The MSI FX400 is one example, aimed at the fashion elite with its matte textured exterior, slim looks and light weight.
Firstly, it sports a 14-inch reflective screen, and glossy screens have long been equated with stylish notebooks (though we quite disagree). It also weighs around 2.18kg, which might seem a little heavy, but this weight is evenly distributed, so it feels lighter than its specs.
Besides looking good, the FX400 also comes with hardware that makes things plenty smooth. It uses an Intel Core i5-450M (2.4GHz) processor and NVIDIA's GeForce GT 325M discrete graphics, so light gaming should be more than possible. Meanwhile, MSI's Turbo Drive Engine (TDE) promises an extra performance boost for those sticky moments when you start feeling the lag. Storage wise, our FX400 comes with a 500GB 7200RPM HDD, so there's plenty of space and speed for your media.
Solid hardware to be sure, but the interior also impresses, with a keyboard that types well, though we could feel some light flex. The trackpad tracked our fingers fine, and the size seems adequate. While the audio isn't its strong point, the FX400 still generates enough volume to please the ears.
In PCMark Vantage which tests the overall system performance, the MSI notebook scored a decent 6230 PCMarks, and with its TDE turned on, the notebook scored a slightly higher score of 6422 PCMarks, so do turn on the boost when needed. Compared against the Lenovo IdeaPad U460 which sports a similar processor, the MSI wins hands down, as the U460 only manages a score of 4596 PCMarks.
Likewise with 3DMark06, which tests a notebook's graphics capability, the benchmark reports a score of 6634 3DMarks, more than enough for gaming with low-medium graphics. With TDE enabled, the notebook returned a higher score of 6659 3DMarks, which isn't really that much of a boost. Still it is more than enough to beat the 3158 3DMarks of the U460 easily by almost twice.
As for the battery performance, the notebook doesn't hold up too long in our DVD battery test, lasting just 1 hour and 53 minutes, which is a decent enough time for you to do some surfing, but not enough for when you absolutely must go without a power cord. So be sure not to leave home without the power brick, or you may find yourself with a useless notebook.
As a designer notebook, MSI's latest effort, the FX400, breaks away from its usual designs. While we've seen similar designs on more fashion oriented notebooks, MSI's effort is not without its own merits when it comes to performance. Bearing in mind what we've mentioned about the battery life, the notebook, at $1399, seems like a good deal for buyers looking for both performance and value.