Good performance but a disappointing user experience
The design of the MSI CR640, we are told, is inspired by top-of-the-range luxury sedan cars, with the aim of giving the computer ‘unassuming sophistication and beauty'.
The reality is closer to a delivery van: large, clunky-looking and grey. The ‘luxury sedan' design is mainly evident in the laptop's power button, which looks a bit like the Start button found in some cars.
The connection for the power charger mimics this look too, but the promised brushed aluminium-style finish of the case turned out to be shiny grey plastic, which bent when we pressed on it.
It uses one of Intel's most recent processors, a Core i3-2310M with 4GB of memory. The Core i3 processors are cheap but not very powerful, and while this laptop was fine for general office and internet tasks, it struggled when it had to perform more intensive tasks, such as video editing.
In our performance test, which simulates converting a large video into one suitable for playing on a mobile phone, it did worse than more expensive laptops, but not too badly on the whole.
It doesn't have a dedicated graphics card: Intel's new ‘Sandy Bridge' processors, of which the i3-2310M is one, are supposed to be able to perform well in this area, but the CR640's performance in modern games was poor.
More disappointingly, it had four USB sockets but none that used the faster USB3 standard, something that's becoming common on new PCs. USB3 is available as an option, according to MSI, but it's not on this model.
Otherwise, connections were reasonable: there are HDMI and VGA sockets for connecting a flat-panel TV or a monitor, a memory card reader and a DVD drive. It will connect to the newest, fastest wired and wireless networks, and Bluetooth devices.
It comes with the 64-bit edition of the Windows 7 operating system, along with some MSI software that was fairly useless and badly put together.
The touchpad is made up of hundreds of concentric circles of raised plastic, which made it uncomfortable as we encountered different levels of friction from the raised circles depending on which way we moved our fingers.
The keyboard felt spongy and made typing awkward. The 15.6in screen was disappointing. While it was good enough when viewed straight-on, tilting away caused the darker areas to lose clarity.
Battery life was reasonable, however, at around three hours for watching video, or more for office tasks. Still, given the size and the 2.6kg weight it's more likely to be used at a desk.
The MSI CR640 performed quite well for the price, but its quality and comfort problems let it down.
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This is a cheap laptop that is unpleasant to use but works reasonably well for the price
Fair performance; large screen
Looked and felt cheap; poor-quality keyboard
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