The MSI VR630 is a sub-£500 budget laptop with 16in widescreen display.

For less than £500, it's now quite possible to find a fully featured, full-size laptop. We tried the MSI VR630, a 16in display model with 2GHz processor and 250GB of storage. And at less than 2.5kg, it shouldn't break your shoulder either.

The basic running spec of the MSI VR630 is quite impressive for the price: there's the quarter-terrabyte hard disk, 3GM RAM, a choice of two card slots, 16in widescreen LCD and dual-layer DVD rewriter. Costs have mainly been cut with the choice of processor, a 2GHz AMD dual-core Athlon CPU that doesn't have the speed or efficiency of the latest Intel parts. Based on older 65nm technology, it lists a reasonably good thermal design power (TDP) of 25W.

In our benchmark tests, the VR630 scored 69 in WorldBench 6; that's around ten points down on what we'd expect of a comparably clocked Intel Core 2 Duo. It may run hotter too, apparent by the steady exhaust of warm air from a rear vent, and all too obvious from the battery life figures.

We gave the VR630 a couple of runs with MobileMark 2007, but couldn't coax a better lifetime than 110 minutes from it.

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Build quality is reasonably robust, with a dark glossy top panel above, discreetly patterned with wavy lines, covering a simple and functional keyboard and silver-painted palm rest deck underneath.

The keyboard is full width with numeric keypad included, but the action is rather poor - too much flex in the middle and with floppy action to the keys themselves. To switch on facilities such as wireless and webcam, you use touch-sensitive areas hidden between keyboard and screen.

Thankfully the trackpad and mouse buttons were more assured in their action, with the buttons handily positioned for relaxed use.

Screen colour quality was far from top league, looking a little milky and low in contrast. With 16in across the diagonal, though, the screen is a good size to get things done or simply watch films or video. Sound proved to be tolerable but tinny from a pair of speakers fixed on the far left and right of the top deck.

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MSI VR630: Specs

  • 2GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-62
  • 2x512KB L2 cache
  • 16in (1366x768) 16:9 LCD
  • Microsoft Windows Home Premium 32-bit
  • 250GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA-II HDD
  • 3GB (1x2GB, 1x1GB) DDR2 RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 9100M G 256MB
  • VGA
  • DVD±RW DL drive
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • mini FireWire
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/draft-n
  • SD card slot
  • ExpressCard|54
  • mic in, headphone out, line out
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • 1.3Mp webcam
  • 56k modem
  • 4400mAh battery
  • 374x246x27-36mm
  • 2466g
  • 2GHz AMD Athlon X2 QL-62
  • 2x512KB L2 cache
  • 16in (1366x768) 16:9 LCD
  • Microsoft Windows Home Premium 32-bit
  • 250GB 2.5in 5400rpm SATA-II HDD
  • 3GB (1x2GB, 1x1GB) DDR2 RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 9100M G 256MB
  • VGA
  • DVD±RW DL drive
  • 3 x USB 2.0
  • mini FireWire
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/draft-n
  • SD card slot
  • ExpressCard|54
  • mic in, headphone out, line out
  • stereo speakers
  • built-in mic
  • 1.3Mp webcam
  • 56k modem
  • 4400mAh battery
  • 374x246x27-36mm
  • 2466g

OUR VERDICT

At a price of £480 or less, the MSI VR630 provides plenty of laptop for not too much money. Its dual-core processor is fast enough to get work done, there’s a useful amount of RAM ready fitted, and 250GB of storage is not to be sniffed at. Providing you don’t need to use the VR630 away from the mains, there’s no major weaknesses to this budget portable.

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