The MSI CR640 features the one of the lowest-end models of the new Sandy Bridge family, the 2.1GHz i3-2310M dual-core processor
For not much more money, you can upgrade to the CX640, which features an i5 processor and dedicated graphics card, but for all non-intensive tasks this basic model is sufficient. For gaming, video editing or encoding though, you'd be better off with a higher-end model.
In our productivity test, it achieved 5152 - solid performance for a mid-range model like this, comfortably beating previous generation devices like the MSI FX600. This is down to the power of the Sandy Bridge processor, which we first saw in the MSI GT680. Gaming performance was, predictably, less impressive. It managed an almost-playable 17fps at the display's native resolution. Like any computer with integrated graphics, this isn't a gaming machine. For an extra performance injection, memory can be upgraded to 8GB, from the initial 4GB, but this will require ditching the two 2GB sticks in favour of a duo of 4GB sticks.
MSI has included a few software optimisations to help speed up day-to-day usage, but this is for the most part this is the sort of bloatware packed into the majority of laptops these days. Fast Boot is handy, decompressing the BIOS image into RAM memory for a claimed start up time half as long as a "normal" laptop. We found the CX640 made it from a fully powered-down state to the Windows 7 desktop in just over 40 seconds.
Although the MSI CR640's battery results aren't markedly higher than the Dell XPS 15, it comfortably beats the MSI FX600, suggesting increased efficiency in the new Sandy Bridge processors.
It offers a 6-cell 4400mAh battery, which survived for 273 (4 hours 33 mins) minutes in our MobileMark productivity test and 179 (2 hours 59 mins) minutes in our DVD playback test, using maximum brightness. This is lower than the claimed 8-hour battery life, but is roughly indicative of what you'll get in real-life usage.
Sandy Bridge laptops are currently flooding onto the market, and in spite of its design baubles - like the sports car-style power button - it doesn't stand out enough. The Dell Inspiron 15R offers a better keyboard costs around £50 less, and the Acer Aspire 5742 is even cheaper. The MSI CR640 asks you to pay extra for its superfluous tweaks, and it's quite simply not worth it.
The MSI CR640 is a better-looking laptop than MSI's standard fare, but an unimpressive keyboard and plasticy build rob the laptop of its chance to make an impact among its Sandy Bridge rivals. The bolder design elements, like the speakers and sports car-style power button, aren't bad-looking but they're not worth paying extra for.
Still, battery life is decent for a desktop replacement device. And with a Sandy Bridge i3 processor and the latest Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics, it'll handle most non-intensive productivity tasks and basic gaming just fine.