Most affordable multimedia laptops tend to be glossy affairs that have a fanatical fondness for accruing fingerprints, dust and scratches (like the all-gloss Samsung R590). When you see them in a shop you might go "oooh, shiny!", but after a few months of carrying them around, taking them in and out of bags (such as the Dicota Take-Off Sport) and general handling, your machine may look far less attractive unless you treat it very gently and clean it regularly.
Quite frequently, the only way to avoid this is to go for an expensive premium model with a metal finish, but MSI provides another alternative. Its 15.6in FX600 stuffs some high-end multimedia features into a chassis that may be plastic throughout, but features a textured finish making it far more rugged and lower-maintenance. With an amazing £550 price for a laptop sporting Core i3, discrete Nvidia graphics and a Blu-ray drive, it also appears to be a bargain.
Somewhat contradictory to that opening gambit, it's certainly not the most attractive machine around. Don't get us wrong; ugly this laptop is not, but its combination of textured matt black and silver plastic is just a bit uninspiring. In fact it looks more like a business laptop than a consumer one. However, for all the aforementioned reasons we still prefer this to the vast majority of shiny laptops.
In our testing the weave-patterned texture on the lid and palm-rests – which MSI grandly calls "3D totem seal coating" - held up very well, displaying few marks from sweaty palms or fingers and effortlessly resisting scratches that would have visibly marked a glossy model. Kudos to the company for producing a device that actually lives up to its marketing in at least one regard.
Build quality hasn't always been MSI's strong suite, with the X-Slim X340 being the most unfortunate example. However, we have few complaints with the FX600. It feels sturdy throughout, flex on the lid is well within acceptable parameters and our only complaint is that it's far too noticeable on the keyboard.
Specifications are nothing to sniff at either, especially considering its affordable price. Intel's Core i3 M330 might not match the mighty Sandy Bridge chips found in the MSI GT680, but it's still a very capable dual-core processor, and far better than the last-gen Core 2 offerings often found in otherwise high-spec sub-£600 Blu-ray laptops. It's backed by the usual 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a generous 500GB hard drive and GT 325M discrete graphics with 1GB of video memory. This also means Nvidia's Optimus switching technology is on hand to save battery life by using Intel's integrated graphics when the GT 325M isn't needed.
Premium touches that punch far above the FX600's value class include a Blu-ray drive, HD webcam and four speakers with THX processing.