15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 2.3kg, 1.6GHz AMD E-350, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
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.