A New Front in the Value Slim Notebook Market-MSI X-Slim X340 Open Box Review

Dec 1, 2008
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When you see a NetBook that weighs under 1.5kg in the 12 ~ 13.3" range,
you immediately think of high-end business models priced between 1700 ~ 2500 USD.
There are of course a few 11" Netbook products at this end of the market as well.

When the Intel Atom processor came out, there was a spate of Atom-based Netbook products released.
While the Atom's performance is no match for high-end notebooks, their lightness, thinness, portability and low price immediately made an impact.
But the maximum size for netbooks based on Atom N270/N280 was just 10",
leaving a gaping void for consumers looking for a slim notebook with a large display.

For years slim notebooks larger than 12" have come with a hefty price tag.
This is now about to change in the second half of 2009. Intel will soon release a new CPU based on CULV architecture.
This is a single-core processor designed for 12" and larger notebooks.
Two CULV based 13.3" notebook products have been released so far and they are both far lighter than their conventional peers.

When MSI released the Wind series in 2008, the leading U100 model performed well enough in the market to go mainstream.
MSI recently announced the new U200 12" slim netbook as the successor to the U100,
but what is really interesting is MSI's latest X-Slim series of "slim and aesthetic" notebooks.

The two X-Slim models known to date are the X320 and X340 which have a 13.3" display but weighs just 1.3kg.
Internet rumors suggest that a 14" X400 and 16" X600 are in the pipeline as well.
The star of this review is the X-Slim X340 that was released in May.
It has generated a lot of online discussion, and whether the opinions are good or bad, this new product offers consumers a new choice.

The "X" motif features prominently on the MSI X-Slim's external packaging.
It comes with two year global warranty and one year of on-site service.

The included carry case uses a leather-type material on the outside and has the msi logo printed on the inside.
The finish looks quite good and it's quite compact.


Include accessories
Windows Vista Vita Home Premium, driver CD and product manuals

The AC adapter is the smallest version in use right now.
It's really easy to carry around from my experience; it tends to get a little hot while charging.
The bundled mouse is quite small as well and comes in the same pearl white as the notebook.

It's not a wireless mouse but the cable is designed for easy storage.

The MSI X-Slim X340 chassis is constructed using aluminum-magnesium alloy.
The notebook top cover has a pearl white powder-coated finish. The texture varies slightly depending on the lighting conditions.

The msi logo on the top cover is covered with protective film. Once removed,
you can see that the X340's pearl white UV-coating is covered with another clear layer of UV-coating.

The X340's underside has a different kind of finish.
It has a matt surface and the powder-coating has a more silvery tint to it.

Open the lid and inside, there's protective foam printed with the msi logo cover the keyboard. The LCD has a protective film as well.
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Dec 1, 2008
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Below the keyboard is an extensive array of status lights.
The Fn key is needed to access shortcut functions.
The touch control panel is part of the chassis itself, and in practice the sensitivity is quite good.

The keyboard is big enough so you don't feel cramped while typing, though the keys feel a little spongy.
MSI has also returned the Fn key back to its normal position this time.

Ultra-slim 13.3" 16.9 mirror-finish LCD
The 1.3 Megapixel webcam is located at the top of the LCD right in the middle.
The microphone is on the left side.

There are two vents in the bottom. For this type of ultra-slim notebooks, keeping the cooling noise down is a major challenge.
The screw holes were also covered with white-colored pads more in keeping with the overall color scheme.

The 4-cell battery is spec'd at 2150mAh 32Wh. It uses the same pearl white powder coating as the notebook.

Left-side I/O
D-SUB output/RJ 45 network port/HDMI output/Card Reader


Right-side I/O
Power socket/ Audio in/out / USB 2.0 ports x 2


The streamlined ultra-thin styling
Dec 1, 2008
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The msi mark on the top cover glows white when in use.

Next, let's see how the performance benchmarks go
MSI X-Slim X340 with Intel's Core Solo CPU
Model number is SU3500 (1.4GHz, L2 3MB, single core)

CPU performance testing
CPUMARK99 201 & Super PI 1M 35.490s

Nuclearus Multi Core & Fritz Chess Benchmark

The CPU performed quite well. It's a single-core model but comes with a 3MB cache so is good enough for most applications.
The latest CPUZ 1.51 doesn't recognize it though and reported a SU9400 at 1.6GHz instead.

In standby mode the temperature is 42 degrees

When running at full speed the temperature is 60 degrees

The cooling system is controlled by the CPU workload.
In standard or standby mode, the fan turns slowly so is relatively quiet.
At full speed, the fan speeds up and the extra air flow creates wind noise.
The noise level is still within the acceptable range however.

2GB of DDR2 memory is provided.
These are clocked at 800MHz, however, which is rare to see in a notebook.
Sandra Memory Bandwidth-4315MB/s
EVEREST Memory Read-5232MB/s

Overall system performance
CrystalMark 2004R3

PCMark Vantage


With this kind of hardware specifications, there's no perceptible lag with the X340 when running Windows Vista.
It remains quite responsive even with several different programs open.
Dec 1, 2008
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Chipset is Intel GS45 with integrated GMA4500MDH.
This is the best onboard graphics chip offered by Intel right now.



While no match for standalone graphics cards, the 3D performance was quite good for an ultra-slim notebook.

TOSHIBA 320GB 5400rpm HDD Performance
HD Tune Pro & CrystalDiskMark

ATTO Disk Benchmark & FDBENCH

TOSHIBA hard disks are quieter during use.
I personally prefer 5400 rpm because it offers decent performance while still keeping temperatures and power consumption down.
I did use 7200 rpm for a while but the noise and temperature was too much so I got rid of it.

As for battery endurance, the X340 runs for about 3 hours if used just for surfing the Internet wirelessly or watching movies.
The 4-cell battery was good about 2 hours and 44 minutes of viewing time.
At this point, Vista reported that the battery was at 10% and had 18 minutes of use left.
Apparently 8-cell batteries will be an option for the X340.


MSI X-Slim X340 Summary
1. A 13.3" notebook that weighs just 1.3kg makes this probably one of the lightest notebooks now on the market.
2. The aluminum-magnesium alloy chassis, slim styling and feel of quality make for a great overall impression.
3. Careful attention was paid to the product packaging. The protective bag has a nice feel as well.
4. D-SUB and HDMI outputs available. I/O offers good expandability.
5. 4-cell battery offers decent endurance. Around 3 hours can be achieved when surfing the Internet wirelessly or watching movies.
6. Has high resolution 1366 x 768 display. DDR2 can run at 800MHz for better performance.
7. CULV CPU performs 150~ 200% faster than Atom (depending on the software) and can play 1080p videos without stuttering.
8. Uses 5400 rpm 320GB 2.5" HDD. Can be upgraded to 7200rpm or a larger capacity HDD later on.
9. The cooling system uses temperature control technology so it runs quieter when not under full load.
10. Uses Intel WiFi Link 5100 wireless network card. Supports 802.11 AGN b/g/n AGN as well as WiMAX.

1. Not used to typing on such a soft keyboard.
2. The battery is whiter than the underside of the notebook so it looks a little out of place.
3. When running at full speed, the fan noise is more noticeable.
4. Uses a mirror-finish LCD. A matt surface LCD would be better.

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The video conferencing quality was quite good.
There was no pixilation and the colors looked quite natural.
As for the speakers, the high range was a little sharp, the treble was quite clear while the bass came through relatively well though was still a little light.
This is a problem common with most notebooks.
On the 13.3" ultra-thin LCD with a native resolution of 1366x768, the font was still legible and no clear bias was noticed in the LCD colors.
I first came across this kind of compact transformer on my personal double A netbook.
It is only rated for 45W so tends to heat up during charging. It's very portable though.
While charging the X340, I tested the temperature with my hand and found that it didn't get as hot as it did with the double A product.
It took longer to charge though.
I suspect MSI lowered the power rating to keep the portability without having to worry about high temperatures.
The downside is longer charge times, but I think the trade-off is okay.

The pre-order price for the MSI X-Slim X340 in the US is 1099 USD.
The price on the DM given out at the computer fair in Taiwan in April was 36900 NTD.
Online vendors in the US have now updated their prices and hopefully Taiwan will do the same soon.
After all, it's going to be compared against ACER's Timeline series (approx. 26900 NTD).
Both have a metal casing while the X340 is lighter, thinner and looks better too.
Rumors have it that the X340 will be priced under 30,000 NTD in the future. This should make it a more attractive proposition.

Since the MSI X-Slim X340/X320 was announced, its resemblance to another major brand's product has led to a lot of online discussion.
In my opinion though, there's a lot of mutual learning and refining going on in the IT industry.
This kind of competition is what keeps things fresh in the market and produces better or more advanced products.

Of course, this kind of competition is only meaningful if no patents are being violated. ¡¡
On the consumer end, the question of imitation doesn't really matter. Patent disputes should be left up to the manufacturers to settle among themselves.
As far as the consumer is concerned, what really matters are better quality, better pricing, better technology and better cost vs. price.

The launch of MSI's new X-Slim series will undoubtedly take a bite out of the market for some high-end business notebooks.
It also means that light, slim and high quality products will finally become affordable for general consumers as well.
There are currently two CULV 13.3" notebooks on the market ¨C the MSI X-Slim and the Acer Timeline.

We can expect more CULV products of this type from other manufacturers in the future as well.
So, the biggest winners will no doubt be the consumer.
So, let's us look forward to the day when the CULV notebook market can offer more choices and lower prices :)

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