MSI's X610 is an interesting concept. It uses a 15.6" LCD/chassis, and the fact that it's very thin and weighs just over 4.5 pounds is definitely a nod to the MacBook Air. Also like the MacBook Air, the X610 forgoes the inclusion of an optical drive. Or perhaps the lack of an optical drive is more like a netbook, and the X610 certainly has similarities to netbooks, at least when it comes to CPU performance. Unlike most netbooks, MSI chooses to use an AMD processor, and while that would normally mean substantially more performance than an Intel Atom CPU, the AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 isn't going to set any speed records. Using a 65nm process, the Neo MV-40 is a single-core 1.6 GHz part, rather like the original Athlon 64 only using updated process technology.

So what we have is a relatively large chassis that's very thin, no optical drive, and a CPU that aims to be "fast enough". If you couple that with a reasonable integrated graphics approach, you should be able to get good battery life without compromising on weight or size. Except, MSI decided not to use an IGP solution and instead includes ATI's Radeon Mobility HD 4330. The discrete graphics solution isn't super fast, but it's definitely a lot faster than any current IGP and it provides all the necessary features to support high definition video decoding.

When we said the MSI 610 was "interesting", then, what we really mean is that it's interesting in the same way that Frankenstein would be interesting. MSI has chosen to mix some very low power design element (AMD Neo, a thin chassis) with other elements that are diametrically opposed to such a design (15.6" LCD and a discrete graphics solution). The question we are here to answer today is whether the final creation is impressive, or if MSI added too much brawn and not enough brains. Here's a look at the system specifications.

MSI X610 Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon Neo MV-40
(1.60GHz, 512KB L2, 65nm, 1600MHz HyperTransport)
Chipset ATI RS690E + SB600
Memory 1x2048MB DDR2-800 CL6 (Max 1x4GB)
Transcend JM800QSU-2G @ DDR2-640 6-6-6-18 2T
Graphics ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4330 512MB (450/1000 Core/RAM)
Display 15.6" Glossy LED-Backlit 16:9 WXGA (1366x768)
Chunghwa Picture Tubes CLAA156WA11A
Hard Drive 2.5" 250GB 5400RPM 8MB
(Toshiba MK2555GSX)
Networking Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit Ethernet
Ralink RT3090 802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Audio Realtek ALC888 HD Audio
(2x2 Stereo Speakers with headphone/microphone jacks + HDMI)
Battery 6-Cell 11.1V, 5400 mAhr, 60 Whr
Front Side None
Left Side Cooling Exhaust
1 x USB 2.0
HDMI
Gigabit Ethernet
VGA
Right Side Cooling Vent (no fan)
SD/SDHC/MMC reader
Microphone/Headphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
AC Power connection
Back Side None
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium SP2 32-bit
Dimensions 15.43" x 10.04" x 0.98" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.6 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras 1.3MP Webcam
Multi-Touch Touchpad
Warranty 2-year Global MSI warranty
Price MSRP: €499, Availability in Oct 2009

We should also note that the X610 is currently destined for release in the UK/Europe and it is unlikely we will see it in the USA. If after reading this review you are interested in purchasing such a laptop, let us know in the comments. Since MSI is already creating this system, they could easily sell it in the US if there's enough demand. Of course, pricing is also going to play a role in determining how successful the MSI X610 is. The X610 is essentially the AMD version of the MSI X600, a product already available in the USA. The X600 uses an Intel Core 2 Solo processor but otherwise has the same basic design as the X610 (15.6" chassis, ATI HD 4330, no optical drive). Battery life on the X600 is supposed to reach up to six hours, making it a viable alternative to netbooks if you don't mind the larger size, but with an MSRP of $800 it costs twice as much as most netbooks. Considering the competition, that's simply too much for the X600 and we think a price of around $500 for the X610 is the most people are likely to pay.

MSI X610 Overview
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  • araczynski - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    big screen and low resolution = yuck, well, unless of course you wear glasses. Reply
  • Mugur - Friday, October 09, 2009 - link

    Old 690 chipset? With integrated video disabled and discrete video card? And a weak cpu? Target for this: low power=fail, long battery life=fail, performance=fail (unless compared with an Atom).

    I have an MSI S420 with 14", 1280x800, CeleronM 1.73 Ghz and Radeon Xpress 200m chipset/integrated video. It has only 1.9 kg without the charger (with 3 cell battery - 2h). I can see no difference :-)... I bought it for ~ 400 Euros.





    Reply
  • Equ1n0x - Friday, October 09, 2009 - link

    Why are manufacturers still making these things with these big screens? Put this in a 12.1" or even better an 11.6" factor with these specs, and it will sell. People aren't going to buy big laptops with lower end specs no matter how light they are - if you are in the market for a large screen PC, you most likely want something performance oriented.

    The 11.6 and 12.1 market desperately needs some PC's with decent hardware (read, decent graphics chips). The last thing we need on the market is another Atom/GMA950 and the last thing we need is a large, slow laptop. We need small and decent for a change, without paying an arm and a leg.
    Reply
  • qwertymac93 - Friday, October 09, 2009 - link

    you mean something like the msi u210?

    i do believe i just blew your mind.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 09, 2009 - link

    The MSI U210 has the same MV-40 CPU, but it uses the RS690E IGP, which is an X1270 (or X1250). Needless to say, GPU power is quite a bit lower than the HD 4330, but it's probably a better match for the MV-40. Battery life is reported as around 4 hours - nowhere near the Atom netbook level, but probably 50-100% better performance. Reply
  • Mugur - Monday, October 12, 2009 - link

    Not to mention the lack of 1080p video acceleration (just 720p is working and not always).

    Also the drivers for 690 platforms are not updated anymore at AMD...

    It should have a 780 chipset.
    Reply
  • Mugur - Friday, October 09, 2009 - link

    ...bought it 4 years ago. Reply
  • vlado08 - Thursday, October 08, 2009 - link

    Hi Jarred,
    I'm glad that you've mentioned the POST times.
    For me it just does not make any sense. To have such fast SSDs made form flash chips and OS to load faster than the POST which is a small program written also on a flash chip.
    Something should be done here. I hope that Intel is going again to lead the way and probably every body else will follow. If they want Moblin to load for less than 10 seconds.
    But until then you should ask these questions again and again - Why so slow? How are you going to make people buy?
    And if you give information to us which system has faster POST we will make our choice (our vote)!
    Reply
  • juampavalverde - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    This people still dont get that OLD CHIPSETS + DEDICATED VIDEO eat more power than NEW CHIPSETS (780/785g or lower speed variants)... This kind of garbage could be an easier sell on a nettop, but a netbook is about low power and mobility, if they can get good enough performance with less power, why keep choosing this kind of junk? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, October 07, 2009 - link

    My personal thought is that MSI made the X600 and people said, "cool but it costs $800 and that's too much." So they took the design and said, "let's do it with an AMD CPU instead to cut costs." What they needed to do was go with an AMD CPU and IGP and ditch the HD 4330. Even then, I'm not sure if they could keep it close to 5+ hours of battery, which is what you really want if you're going for this sort of thin and light design. Reply

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