Talk about identical twins. The MSI X320, which launched at CES 2009, will be a perpetual reminder of the Apple Macbook Air. I don’t want to call it a cheap knock-off, even though it is, as prices range from $800-$1,000; there’s more to this exceptionally thin netbook than just a cheap price tag.
In fact, it’s pleasantly surprising to see just how far MSI has come with the laptops that it plans to ship in the United States later this January.
The X320, like the Air, has an all-aluminum enclosure. Granted, it’s not as sturdy nor as rigid, and the heft isn’t quite there (with the Air, there’s a heft that’s equivalent to a Rolex watch). The rest of the design is almost identical: Its slim profile measures less than an inch thick, and it weighs 2.9 pounds; the Air is a smidge over 3 pounds. The X320 is a 13-inch laptop, meaning it houses a 13-inch widescreen. It uses the 16-by-9 form factor, as is common in HDTVs, and its monitor is rated at 1,366×768 resolution; the Air, meanwhile, is designed in a 16-by-10 form factor with a 1,280×800 resolution. The LED screen is bright and pleasant to look at, not much different than the Air’s.
The keyboard appears to be full sized, with standard proportions, instead of the non-adjoining keys that the Air uses; I had very little trouble typing with it. Navigating is another story, though. For one, the touchpad is significantly smaller than the Air’s, and it doesn’t possess the gesture capabilities: pinching and enlarging with two fingers and the two and three finger swiping, for instance, don’t work.
That’s not to say that the X320 won’t have touch capabilities, though. The company expects to add gestures to the widescreen itself, with the help of future models and Windows 7. The mouse buttons are loose and not very responsive, but I’ll chalk that up to pre-production issues until I get an official review unit.
However, the X320’s other features can actually put the Air to shame. For one, like many netbooks, it has more than one USB port – a total of three, to be exact. VGA and Ethernet ports are built in, and so are the SD slot and webcam. The hard drive is a 160-GB, 5,400 RPM model, expandable to 250 GB. There’s no internal 3G wireless for the time being, but Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are present. (full Story)