It’s not going to win any awards for stylish design. But MSI’s CX61 laptop provides good multimedia features and performance at a competitive price.
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MSI’s marketing materials waffle on about the CX61’s ‘tapering silhouette... evocative of F1 racers’. But, with its built-in Blu-ray Disc drive, the MSI CX61 measures a chunky 38mm thick and weighs a hefty 2.5kg. This is not a laptop that you’re going to casually sling over your shoulder in a backpack every day.
That said, the weight wasn’t unusual until recently for a model with a 15.6in screen. And the display of the MSI CX61 is one of its stronger features, providing a bright, sharp image with full-HD 1920 x 1080 pixel count.
It also has a welcome anti-glare coating and a wide viewing angle that will work well for watching video at home or running PowerPoint presentations in the office.
The speakers are a cut above average too – there’s a metallic twang on higher frequencies, but the bass is enough to add a welcome firmness to the overall sound quality.
We must take MSI to task for its keyboard and trackpad design. The keyboard feels solid enough, with plenty of travel on the keys and room for a separate, full-size numeric keypad. However, the single Windows key is located to the right of the Space bar, which some people may find hard to get used to.
Aa set of cursor keys are squeezed onto the right-hand side of the keyboard, with the end result being an off-centre Space bar, leaning noticeably more to the left of the keyboard.
The trackpad is rather small – just 75 x 45mm – with two narrow buttons beneath it. Less nimble-fingered users may not find the MSI CX61’s ergonomics at all to their liking.
Originally launched last summer, this latest version of the CX61 steps up from a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor to a quad-core Core i7-3630QM running at 2.4GHz, along with 8GB memory, 1TB hard disk, and an nVidia GT 645M graphics card in addition to the standard Intel integrated HD 4000.
That comes in at a reasonable £700, and you can cut that to £612.00 if you’re happy to settle for a DVD drive.
The 5400rpm hard drive lets the side down a bit, contributing to an unremarkable score of 3046 points when running the PCMark 7 benchmark.
You also notice the speed of the drive when booting the MSI CX61 0NF. It boots into the Windows 8 Start screen in just 15 seconds, but takes another 30 seconds or so to gather its thoughts and properly launch any other application. Once it’s got its act together, that Core i7 processor provides enough power to handle a wide range of applications, including demanding photo- or video editing.
It can also handle a spot of casual gaming too. Running Batman: Arkham City at 1920 x 1080 was a struggle, but dropped to 1280 x 720 pixels we got 25fps on High graphics settings, and 35fps on Low.
The cooling fan kicks out some warm air when using the nVidia graphics during gaming sessions, but wasn’t loud enough to be annoying or obtrusive over the Batman soundtrack.
Battery life isn’t great – just three hours of streaming video when using best-case integrated graphics in power-saving mode.