MSI CR650 review
MSI's CR650 looks remarkably similar to recent Samsung laptops with its red fade-in stripe along the front edge of the case. It has the same underlying chassis as MSI's GE620, but has a completely different finish. Inside, too, it's an entirely different beast: instead of the GE620's Intel processor, it's equipped with an AMD E-350 running at a pedestrian 1.6GHz.
The choice to go with AMD's chip means that the CR650 is miles cheaper, although it isn't the processor alone that leads to the lower price. The graphics chip, for example, is integrated. It's capable of decoding HD content, but it failed to run our Dirt 3 benchmark even though the game isn't particularly demanding. The E-350 processor is no faster than many netbooks, scoring only 12 overall.
It came as no surprise to find no fast USB3 ports, just three USB2 ports. Video can be output via analogue VGA or digital HDMI, and the latter can also send surround-sound audio to a compatible AV amplifier. The network port supports fast Gigabit Ethernet, so you can carry out fast backups over a home network, for example. The lack of FireWire and eSATA ports is unlikely to bother many people.
The 15.6in screen has a typical resolution of 1,366x768. Contrast isn't the best, and this isn't helped by the glossy finish (which reflects overhead lighting) and the limited vertical viewing angles. At least you can adjust the screen's tilt easily to get the best picture. The backlight is evenly distributed across the screen, and the slight blue cast can be overcome by adjusting settings in the AMD Catalyst Control Center.
Some laptop designs split opinion within our labs, but the MSI's design was universally considered to look rather cheap. The resemblance to models from last year's Samsung range extends only to the red colouring on the case: build quality isn't quite up to the same standard. The plastic lid flexes under pressure, so you'll want to protect it well in transit.
Good Specs, but Loses on Durability
OK, so I own an MSI CR600. Now, that is the model year previous to the CR620, but it remains essentially the same computer. I've used it pretty faithfully for about a year, it serving every role from office machine to use on the go, mainly during train commutes. It's been quite hard for me to find something to criticize about this computer (if I had to criticize something, it'd be the slightly wobbly design on the screen/lid hinges) - a most worthy purchase.
Or, I thought that, until December of 2010. Then, during routine use while I was opening the screen, the plastic around the hinges failed with an audible "crack." Now, a caveat, this computer has taken, I believe, one short in its lifetime, and the screen has been lightly hit a couple of times, but neither of these were very hard impacts at all, and I've had computers take much worse. Since that, I cannot adjust the screen at all; it needs to be immobilized to use normally (of course, the people at Frys forcing the screen shut didn't help at all). Of course, since its primary use was as a desktop machine, and I could easily get ahold of a netbook, this wasn't too much of a problem for me. But then, something worse happened. I got a notification that the hard drive was in failure. To confirm this, I downloaded a utility to read the S.M.A.R.T. data, and, sure enough, my 1-year old laptop's drive is in bad health (Reallocated Sector Count = 51). I was pretty disappointed when I found this out; I still have a Dell Inspiron that I bought in 2005, and it can still run perfectly, with no disk errors.
So, overall, despite pretty major problems with my particular unit (that may or may not have been faults in mine), the MSI CR600/620 is a pretty good midsize laptop, one able to fulfill both office and mobile roles. Note, however, that this does not work perfectly in all the situations that a netbook does, and I didn't do much more moving around with it besides train rides and coffee shops.
*** P.S. If you will buy this laptop I suggest you have compare price before you decide at: www.amazon.co.uk/gp/redirect.html?ie=UTF8&location
By Robinson2012 on 2 Aug 2011
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