The display sports a resolution of 1,280 x 800 making it ideal for watching a bit of 720p HD video. Unfortunately the quality of the panel doesn’t really do justice to whatever you’re watching as colours are rather subdued and, even with a glossy high-contrast finish, blacks are not the deepest. That said, sharpness was spot on and for word processing and the like, it was more than capable.
As was to be expected from the start, the one truly weak point in the PR210s armour is the AMD CPU that powers it. A PCMark 05 score of 3086 is well below the Core 2 Duo powered Acer TravelMate 6292 and Samsung Q45 and the VirtualDub video encoding test took nearly twice as long on the PR210. That said, in general use it feels no slower than any other notebook of this calibre and even the small memory quota didn’t cause any problems.
I was somewhat surprised at the low graphics score, which fell below the integrated Intel graphics of the other two notebooks on test, as ATI’s integrated solutions tend to be better than those from Intel. Evidently the Xpress 1270 is a very cut down version of the usual ATI graphics chipsets.
The other big problem with AMD’s mobile CPUs is their power consumption which simply can’t compete with the Core 2 Duo. The upshot of this is a hotter system but more importantly, shorter battery life. Using the 8-cell extended battery I managed to get 3 hours 20 mins of very light usage (mainly word processing) out of it, which is about the same as the Samsung Q45 that uses a 6-cell battery. Watching an hour of a DVD left me with 58 per cent battery life which Windows predicted equated to another hour and 30 minutes. So, again using the laptop for simple word processing and web browsing, I ran the battery flat managing to get another hour and 20 minutes out of it. As always I tested with the brightness constantly set to full and the wireless on so you should be able to get a bit more out of it in real life usage but, knowing that a Core 2 Duo powered machine coupled with a 9-cell battery will get close to five hours, you’re looking at quite a difference.
Overall, the poor keyboard layout and below par performance and battery life do make quite a dent in the PR210s appeal, but given the price, much of this can be forgiven. While the Samsung Q45 does offer better performance and longer battery life for around £760, it also lacks gigabit Ethernet and HDMI so it’s a pretty balanced contest.
MSI has really hit the ground running with this budget highly portable notebook. It isn’t going to win any hearts in the looks department, it isn’t the fastest, and the keyboard and screen aren’t the best, but if you’re on a budget, this machine still looks attractive. The only major problem comes in the form of battery life that, at averaging under three hours, may prove too little for those working on the move.