MSI EX620 – 16in Notebook Review - MSI EX620 – 16in Notebook Review

There’s nothing missing on the connectivity front. On the left you’ll find a modem port, a single USB port and a Blu-ray drive. Audio connectivity is where the MSI truly stands out though, as it’s one of the few notebooks we’ve come across offering three 3.5mm audio jacks, thus supporting full 7.1 channel analogue audio. Considering many cheaper surround sound speaker systems still use this rather than digital audio, it will doubtless be an attractive option for some potential buyers.

At the notebook’s front there’s an IR sensor, while the back offers only another USB port and a lock slot. To the right is where most of the EX620’s connectivity resides. Here we have another two USB ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, the power socket and VGA as well as HDMI video outputs. There’s also a TV-antenna port, though a tuner is optional and not included in this configuration. As usual, you’ll also find a memory card reader and 54mm ExpressCard slot.

Now let’s take a look at what makes the EX620 tick. MSI has used the slightly long-in-the-tooth Intel T5800 Core 2 Duo processor running at a modest 2.0GHz, but this is no bad thing as it gives plenty of performance for most users while allowing the company to invest more in other components and keep the price down.

The only other sign of possible skimping is the 32-bit version of Windows Vista rather than 64-bit, which means it can’t utilize the full 4GB of DDR2 RAM included. Aside from this you get plenty of hard drive storage; 320GB of it in fact. The highlight of the internals is the ATI Mobility Radeon HD 3470 discrete graphics chipset with 256MB of RAM, which delivered a playable 24fps at Medium Quality in TrackMania Nations Forever at the screen’s native 1,366 x 768 resolution. Of course, the MSI is still no gaming machine, but will run a few more titles at low quality than notebooks with Intel integrated graphics while also handling some of the processing during Blu-ray playback. Other bits worth a mention are a 2.0 megapixel webcam, Wi-Fi up to Draft-N and Bluetooth 2.0.

Unfortunately, the EX620’s 16in screen won’t show off the Blu-ray drive’s 1080p capabilities, but its lower HD Ready resolution is something most 16in notebooks in its class have in common and of course it does have a film-friendly 16:9 aspect ratio. As to the screen’s quality, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. On the negatives side, the glossy coating results in a wealth of reflections when there are ambient light-sources present. Viewing angles are also not the best and the panel gave an average performance in our grey-scale test, failing to distinguish between the tones at the extreme ends of the scale.

In the positives column, there is no sign of banding or backlight bleed – the latter being something manufacturers are finally getting consistently right. The reflective coating can also make colours appear with plenty of verve, if you’re at the ideal viewing angle. As with most notebook displays, it will do an adequate job for films and other entertainment, but the more critical and those who require colour accuracy should consider alternatives like Dell’s amazing RGB-backlit Studio XPS 16.

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