Other than the ageing Rock Pegasus 210, there's no other computer that's quite like the MSI X-Slim. That's not to say it's completely unique: rather that it blends together ideas from all over the silicon spectrum in a way no-one else has quite done before.

The most obvious inspiration for its design is the MacBook Air. The plastic chassis is very nearly as thin as Apple's razor-honed aluminium accomplishment, and houses a similar 13in LED backlit screen. Although it crams in all the extra ports and connectors that Air purchasers were forced to eschew – including HDMI out – it still weighs in at 600g less than its rival.

Low cost

The real win, though, is the price. Compared to the rest of the Air-aping market that's sprung up over the last year, this is the netbook of superslim equivalents – and yet in performance terms it doesn't feel like you're buying a cheap laptop.

The machine is based around Intel's latest Ultra Low Voltage Core 2 processor. Although it's only clocked at 1.4GHz, it's technically more powerful than the Atom found in most netbooks. Vista runs smoothly, but HD video is better on MSI's dual-core Wind Top.

That's possibly because this is a single-core CPU, so don't expect performance akin to a 'normal' laptop when you're video editing or working with lots of windows open. It doesn't require a lot of cooling, though, so at least the X-Slim is very quiet, if not absolutely silent.

No optical drive

In another cost-shaving lesson learned from its netbook department, MSI has forgone the option of putting an optical drive into the X-Slim. But with wireless N, Bluetooth and a card reader, you really won't miss it.

There are many things about the X-Slim that are better than you could reasonably expect them to be. The screen, for example, is higher resolution than the Air and surprisingly sharp and accurate with it.

Netbook build

Overall, though, the design feels more akin to a netbook than a MacBook: it's plasticky, the screen wobbles on its hinges and the keyboard flexes in the middle when you type.

It's hard to judge the X-Slim too harshly, though. It's clearly not a five-star ‘Hot Buy’ on account of the materials used, and while it's cheap, if you're after real value for money you'll buy a Wind.

If you can live with the smaller screen, the Asus EeePC S101 is a much better built machine for almost half the price. It is inherently likeable, though, and fun. And purely on account of it's ridiculously narrow waist, it’ll turn heads when you pull it out of your bag, too.


Stuff says... 

MSI X-Slim X340 review

More than a netbook but not quite a proper portable PC, this is a good compromise but not an essential purchase