MSI X-Slim X340 compared to Lenovo ThinkPad X301 & Apple iPhone 3G
We’ve talked a fair bit about CULV (Consumer Ultra Low Voltage) systems here, the new thin & light systems utilizing a fresh Intel SU-series processor that is faster than a netbook, with better battery life, 11-13 inch designs, and in the price sweetspot between netbooks and full-size notebooks. Lenovo’s new IdeaPad U350 is a perfect example of this, as is MSI’s X-Slim series.
A new report from an analyst firm suggests that the first generation models, like those noted above, may suffer from questionable quality. The report states that manufacturers are using plastic chassis’ to cut down on cost, which is certainly common, but are making the plastics so thin to save on size & weight that some systems may suffer from bottom covers cracking. This part of the Xbit Labs article puts it perfectly:
Ultra-thin notebooks aimed at consumers is a completely new trend and many manufacturers still have not figured the exact demands of average users when it comes to ultra-portables. Nevertheless, one thing is clear: since consumer-oriented platforms have to be affordable, system makers are not implementing their state-of-the-art technologies, such as active hard disk drive protection, powerful yet light batteries and, most importantly, high-quality materials and robust engineering to keep the costs down.
While I had personally been drooling over the MSI X-Slim series, we found out that it is indeed a cheap, low quality machine with a sexy chassis and good feature-price ratio.
Apparently the companies actually manufacturing the CULV notebooks, termed Original Design Manufacturers (ODM’s), had recommended to some PC companies that they use metal in the chassis to avoid this issue, but that production went ahead with plastic anyway. No company names are mentioned.
A quick look at Lenovo’s PSREF documentation shows that the IdeaPad U350 is indeed made out of plastic, or specifically Polycarbonate/Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (PC/ABS) plastic. Fortunately there are not yet any reports of cracking systems in this case.
Source: [Xbit Labs]
Image courtesy NotebookReview.com
I’ve written about MSI’s X-Slim line of laptops a few times, inticed by their slim design and strong feature set at competitive prices. NotebookReview just got their hands on the higher end X340, differing only in specs from the X320, and put it through their paces. In the end, they found that you get what you pay for (my words, not theirs). The X340 suffered from cheap plastics, poor build quality, and unimpressive performance.
The new Intel SU3500 CULV processor, also included in the new Lenovo IdeaPad U350, didn’t feel much faster in overall usage than the lower power, cheaper Intel Atom. Indeed, the benchmark results placed the SU3500 a bit faster than an Atom, a bit slower than AMD’s Athlon Neo, and far slower than even a Core 2 ULV chip. However, the system’s overall performance was higher than an Atom or even Athlon Neo system.
Frankly I’m disappointed. I guess I was expecting to get something for nothing, but the X-Slim notebooks seemed like the perfect compromise between the cheap, no-thrills netbooks and the high end thin & light machines like a Macbook Air or ThinkPad X301. Perhaps for now a Core 2 based ThinkPad X200 is the way to go; with coupons you can get them under $1000.
We’ve talked about MSI’s X-Slim lineup in the past and they look like a very slick, well featured lineup. The higher end X340 with the SU3500 CULV processor has been on sale for a few weeks now, running a thrifty $899.
You can now purchase the lower end X320, which runs off the even thriftier Atom platform by Intel, for a mere $599. There may be cheaper laptops out there, but you’ll be challenged to find one with a 13.4-inch 16:9 LCD, 320GB hard drive, 2GB RAM, Vista, 3xUSB, webcam, card reader, Ethernet/WiFi/Bluetooth, and more weighing 2.86 lb at 0.78-inch thin, for that price. Yikes.
Get the X-Slim X320 here
We’ve talked about MSI’s slim CULV offerings before and the X320/X340 models looked quite delicious. They’ve also got some larger models on the way to satisfy your price-sensitive computing needs.
The MSI X-Slim X400 will sport a 14-inch display while the X600 measures in at 15.6-inches, both with 1366×768 pixels. You’ll find Core 2 Solo CULV processors, HDMI output, up to 500GB of storage, up to 4GB of DDR2 memory, and a 2-in-1 card memory reader. The X600 adds the still fairly rare eSATA and ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 graphics over the X400′s integrated GMA 4500MHD to.
4 and 8 cell batteries are available on the X400, while the X600 bumps up to 6 and 9 cell capacities. Pricing is expected to run between $699 and $1100 with availability before June. Wowsers – talk about a high feature value.
Unfortunately it’s not me doing the unboxing Last month I wrote about the pretty snazzy new netbooks from MSI. They promised to be quite an amazing form factor at 0.7-inch thin and 2.8 lb with a 13.4-inch screen, but priced well under the $1000 mark.
Some German speaking fellows have gotten hold an X320, the Intel Atom based model, and shot some sexy photos while de-boxing it (see at top). Very cool.
The MSI X-SLIM is a hot new line of ultraportables that are highly reminiscent of netbooks, and for good reason. The two models currently in the lineup share the same chassis with different innards. You’ll find a 13.4-inch screen running 1366×768 pixels (720p support), dimensions of 8.8-inches L x 12.9-inches W x 0.7-inch H, and 2.8 lb weight. The picture above is one of several comparing the MSI X-SLIM to an Apple iPhone and the Lenovo ThinkPad X301. We all konw the X301 to be quite the ultra thin and light, full-function workhorse, but the X-SLIM edges it out a bit in pure dimensions. Hit the link at the end of the post for more comparison pictures.
On the inside, you’ll find two technology configurations. The X320 is Intel Atom based, arguably earmarking it in the netbook category, with a 1.6GHz Z530, Vista Home Premium, Intel US15W chipset with GMA500 graphics, DDR2-667 RAM up to 2GB, up to 250GB storage, integrated WiFi, and optional WiMax and 3G. This pseudo-netbook will run you $700.
The X340 steps in as a serious competitor to the ThinkPad X200 and has the same features as the X320 with the following changes/additions: Intel’s ULV SU3500 1.3GHz processor, GS45 chipset with GMA4500MHD graphics, up to 4GB DDR2-800 RAM, 320GB hard drive, and HDMI output. For some reason, the X340 lacks 3G and WiMax options. This little powerhouse will run you a cool $1000. Both of these machines should be available sometime in May.
While the size comparison to the ThinkPad X301 may be appropriate, we know the feature content isn’t with it lacking the optical drive and SSD. However people cross-shopping the ThinkPad X200 may think twice. If you don’t need the processing power of the full Intel Core 2 Duo lineup, then the MSI X340 or even X320 might save you a few hundred dollars on what looks like a good thin and light machine.