The MSI FX600 is a stylish, well built and comfortable 15.6in laptop that's suitable for work and play. Designed to offer a mixture of good graphics performance and long battery life through the use of NVIDIA's Optimus technology. But to get the most out of this technology, you really have to tweak it to suit your needs.

MSI FX600: Design and features

On the outside, the MSI FX600 has a mixture of textured and glossy surfaces as well as a silver trim. Its keyboard has a chiclet design with the keys spaced approximately 2mm apart and it even includes a number pad. We found it comfortable to type on for the most part, but it does bounce slightly in the middle.

The touchpad has a fine texture on it that sometimes tickles, but it's among the best touchpads we've used. It was accurate during our tests and very sensitive to multitouch gestures; we could effortlessly scroll and zoom around the MSI FX600 using two fingers.

Around the edges of the FX600 reside a DVD burner, eSATA, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 2.0, HDMI and analogue audio ports. There are three USB 2.0 ports in total when you take into account that the eSATA port also doubles as a USB 2.0 port. An SD card slot is located on the front of the notebook and can be a little hard to access.

On the inside of the MSI FX600 you get an Intel Core i3 330M CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, Bluetooth, 802.11n Wi-Fi and two graphics adaptors: an integrated Intel GMA HD adaptor and a discrete nVIDIA GeForce GT 325M graphics card with 1GB memory. Through NVIDIA's Optimus technology, these two graphics adaptors work as a tag team; which one is used depends on which applications you're running.

MSI FX600: Optimus technology

Because Optimus works automatically in the background, there is no physical switch for you to toggle between the adaptors. The technology decides which adaptor to use depending on the programs that are running on the MSI FX600 and it doesn't always work to your advantage. For example, in our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise the screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the laptop lasted 1hr 59min — this isn't a good result.

When we checked the NVIDIA control panel, there was no profile for Windows Media Player and we suspected the test was done using NVIDIA graphics. We set up a new profile to run Windows Media Player with the Intel graphics adaptor and the result was 2hr 22min. This is more along the lines of what we expected out of the MSI FX600's 6-cell battery, and it's a similar time to other 15.6in Core i5 notebooks we've seen, such as Dell's 15R N5010. However, it's nowhere near the three hours achieved by Acer's Aspire TimelineX 5820TG.

The small difference in battery life between the two graphics adaptors is disappointing and it is even less than the difference we saw in the MSI CX420notebook, which uses an ATI-based dual graphics solution. Battery life notwithstanding, there is a wide performance gap between the Intel and NVIDIA graphics cards, with the latter providing an appreciable boost in 3D processing. In 3DMark06 the Intel graphics recorded a score of 1610, while the NVIDIA graphics scored 6118. You can comfortably use the MSI FX600 for playing games at a resolution of around 1024x768 (or 1366x768 if your games support this setting), but you will have to double check the Optimus settings for some games to make sure they will use the faster graphics card before you start playing.

MSI FX600: Performance

The CPU frequency of the MSI FX600 is 2.13GHz. In our Blender and MP3 encoding tests, the MSI FX600 performed well and recorded quite fast times of 55sec and 54sec, respectively. However, the MSI's hard drive wasn't fast. In our transfer tests, it recorded a rate of 22 megabytes per second, which is barely faster than a typical netbook. If you won't be performing much disk-intensive work, then this shouldn't be too much of an issue, but during our tests the laptop was sometimes very slow to launch applications.

See also: Group test: what's the best laptop?

NEXT PAGE: Our expert verdict >>

MSI FX600: Specs

  • Intel Core i3 330M, 2.13GHz processor speed
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • 500GB SATA hard drive
  • 15.6in, 1366x768, display
  • Dual layer DVD drive
  • Dedicated nVIDIA GeForce GT 325M graphics card with 1GB memory
  • Multi-Media Card (MMC) compatible
  • 3 USB ports
  • HDMI port
  • Bluetooth
  • B/g/n wireless/WiFi enabled
  • 1.3Mp built-in webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 33x393x250mm
  • 2.4kg
  • Intel Core i3 330M, 2.13GHz processor speed
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • 500GB SATA hard drive
  • 15.6in, 1366x768, display
  • Dual layer DVD drive
  • Dedicated nVIDIA GeForce GT 325M graphics card with 1GB memory
  • Multi-Media Card (MMC) compatible
  • 3 USB ports
  • HDMI port
  • Bluetooth
  • B/g/n wireless/WiFi enabled
  • 1.3Mp built-in webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 33x393x250mm
  • 2.4kg

OUR VERDICT

The screen is 15.6in, glossy and has a native resolution of 1366x768. As is the case with many 15.6in laptops we've seen, the MSI FX600 has very narrow vertical angles that can be a nuisance when viewing photos and videos. Reflections in the screen will also be a annoying. Overall though, the MSI FX600 is a great little unit. We love its touchpad, it's well built and relatively light at just under 2.5kg and you can use it on your lap without it feeling awkward or getting too hot as long as you are using the Intel graphics. We think it's a good unit to go for if you want a comfortable laptop that's got a good amount of CPU and graphics grunt under the hood. However, we do wish that there was a switch so that we could more easily dictate graphics card usage.

Find the best price