Connectivity is also pretty decent, with USB 3.0 being the only absentee – unsurprising considering the FX600 line has been out a while. You still get three USB 2.0 ports, one of which also supports eSATA for fast external storage transfers. There’s the ubiquitous memory card reader, Gigabit Ethernet port, VGA and HDMI connectors for video and headphone plus microphone jacks for audio. On the wireless front Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1 are both on board.
Where usability is concerned, the FX600 is again decent but not great. We’re glad that MSI has now universally adopted the norm of putting the left Ctrl to the outside of Fn, and the isolation keyboard’s layout in general is flawless, though the Enter key is the smaller US-style. We especially like having brightness and volume shortcuts on the cursor keys, though there’s no secondary Function key as found on Samsung laptops like its SF310. However, in addition to the aforementioned flex, feedback is just a tad too shallow and keys are just a bit too far apart for comfort.
In addition to the intelligent shortcuts, there’s also a set of dedicated controls above the keyboard. These consist of a second set of volume controls, media software launcher, wireless switch and an especially welcome customisable launcher make for a good selection, though we wish MSI had moved the blue-backlit power button away from this selection.
The touchpad doesn’t interfere with typing, but just in case, MSI provides a handy little hardware de-activation button just above it with its own orange LED. The multi-touch pad itself is large and responsive, though its rough-textured surface may start to feel like fine sandpaper against the tips of your fingers after a few hours’ use.
Its buttons are integrated into a single glossy rocker switch, and aside from the small dead zone where the button pivots in the middle, they are quite usable. However, the Toshiba NB520 netbook recently reminded us how it should ideally be done.
Moving on to audio we were rather disappointed, but maybe that’s because we’ve been spoiled with some superlative integrated speakers on laptops recently. The aforementioned NB520, for example, or MSI’s own GT680, both sound considerably better. Of course, the latter featured Dynaudio surround speakers with a subwoofer built-in, while the FX600 makes do with a non-branded four-channel system. Two of these speakers are located above the keyboard, while another two reside at the front edge.
While they do occasionally display more depth than two-driver efforts, we found they lacked the sharpness and clarity of the more premium speakers, though bass was punchier than we were expecting. While a decent set of headphones or external speakers are still preferable, for general entertainment these are usable and for the laptop’s price they’re above average.