AMD can't catch a break. First to market with a tweener processor (more powerful than a netbook, but cheaper than the usual fare found in ultraportables), its Athlon Neo CPU is now under fire from Intel's new Ultra Low Voltage chip, and one of the first note- or netbooks to use this Intel CPU is MSI's little X340.
The way we'd best describe the MSI X340 is as a PC's take on the Apple MacBook Air, cast in plastic (it measures 6mm thick and weighs 1.4kg). The crisp screen, the bezel, the clamshell shape, and even the touchpad all look an awful lot like its source of inspiration.
Oh, that's not an insult - not by a long shot. The MSI X340 costs only £745, and while it trims a few features (no super-cool backlit keys, no optical drive), it more than makes up for those sacrifices with reasonable performance in Windows Vista.
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So, back to that big news, the 45nm CPU. Intel's 1.4GHz SU3500 chip allows the MSI X340 to kick out reasonable performance for the price. In fact, this CPU, partnered with 2GB of RAM, earned a 56 in our WorldBench 6 tests.
Compare that with the Neo-fueled HP Pavilion dv2, which is about to get dethroned as a netbook speed demon: the dv2 scored a 45 - despite packing 4GB of RAM in the configuration we tested. Well, it was fun sitting pretty and alone while it lasted. But don't expect the MSI X340 to trounce every test - it still runs lean with an integrated Intel GPU. So don't have any great gaming expectations. We didn't.
As for the "Ultra Low-Voltage" claim, initial tests indicate that the MSI X340 will last about 3.5 hours on a single charge.
That brings us to a question we're going to find ourselves pondering even more as the affordable small portable market continues to fragment. How do you categorise the MSI X340? As a large netbook or as a notebook? Well, it's 13.4in-diagonal screen forces us to place it in the ultraportable category, and it may get dinged a little unfairly for its CPU score as a result. Just know that you're still getting a good deal here.
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