Unfortunately, MSI hasn’t extended the FX600’s fondness for a matt finishes to its 15.6in screen, which is coated with a glossy layer that does increase perceived vibrancy and contrast but also causes reflections when ambient light is present. Otherwise the 1,366 x 768 display holds up quite well. We saw little sign of backlight inconsistency or bleed, while colour banding was minimal.
Sharpness was good, and though vertical viewing angles were as dreadful as ever – meaning you’ll need to tilt the screen just right to get the best out of it – horizontal ones were by no means poor. Contrast was also okay with only the darkest shade being indistinguishable, though as usual white purity has been sacrificed to gain acceptable black detailing.
When it comes to general performance, the dual-core, 2.13GHz Core i3 does a great job with the average consumer’s daily workload. Though it lacks Intel’s clockspeed-boosting Turbo Frequency as found on its higher-end Core i5 mobile cousins, it still offers Hyperthreading for up to four virtual cores.
Quite aside from providing CUDA acceleration and excellent video decoding, Nvidia’s GT 325M will also let you play undemanding games. In Stalker: Call of Pripyat‘s DirectX 10 mode, it managed a just-about-playable 27.9 frames per second average (at the screen’s native resolution and with detail set to medium).
Battery life from the 4,400mAh, 49Wh unit is about what you would expect, giving you just seven minutes short of four hours in Mobilemark’s Productivity test with wireless radios turned off and screen brightness at 40 percent. That’s better than the Samsung P580 which features a slightly lighter 48Wh battery, but the Dell XPS 15 comes up trumps, with its 56Wh unit managing an extra half-hour despite its more demanding processor.
We couldn’t run the usual DVD battery test on the FX600, as the optical drive on our slightly battered review sample had given up the ghost. However, we reckon you should get about two hours at full screen brightness, and more if you turn it down. While we wouldn’t call the FX600 particularly portable, a movie on the go shouldn’t be a problem.
Of course the real strength of this MSI lies in its low £550 price. Dell’s XPS starts at £650, and while this does get you a faster Core i5 CPU, premium metal-clad chassis, USB 3.0, longer battery life and superior audio, adding a Blu-ray drive and Bluetooth to this configuration (both of which the FX600 offers) brings its price up to £769. Considering that many won’t need the extra processing power or connectivity, £220 extra might be more than you’re willing to spend.
If you’re on a budget, more of a casual than a power user and want a relatively rugged laptop that will happily handle multimedia, Blu-rays and light gaming, the MSI FX600 is a great all-round package. You can get better multimedia laptops, but only if you spend considerably more.