TheONbutton Durham Computer Services

Remote IT Support and Computer & Technology Help in Durham, Chapel Hill and Raleigh NC

theONbutton@CES: MSI introduces new X-Slim and Netbook models

MSI has gone from strength to strength in recent years, and while its initial X-Slim range was judged to be a little flaky the company is hoping to change that with its updated 2010 models.  MSI has also been showing new netbooks here at CES and you can catch their latest X-series and netbook models in the video above, including the new X350, X420 and X6xx laptops.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Advertisements

Jan 9, 2010 Posted by | CES, Computing, Mobile, News, Video Features | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X-Slim: Time for a Slimmed-Down Price?

X340With Acer’s well-received Timeline series already seeing decent discounting, pressure must be mounting upon MSI’s X-Slim range.  Even though the X340 appears to be good value for its handsome exterior and light weight, it’s around $200 more expensive than Acer’s 3810T.  Even without the 3810T standing by, it’s hard to imagine the X340 selling well at such a high price given its mediocre press reviews.

At the time of writing there are still only four mixed consumer reviews on NewEgg, whilst the 3810T has nine.  Even worse for MSI, the SSD version of the 3810T costs the same as the typical $799 street price of the X340.

Let’s see a price cut MSI, or perhaps at least a 2.0 with a better keyboard?

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 3, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Rants | , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X340

IMAG0093Hmm…the eagerly anticipated MSI X340; this one turned out to be a mixed bag.  Looks great, feels just OK to hold.  Keyboard is big enough, feels just OK to use.  Some reviewers have said the keyboard is horrific, it’s not quite as bad as that, but it does flex downward in the center more than it should.  The battery is replaceable but is outpaced by the Acer Timeline.

IMAG0100But for $899 it weighs under 3lbs, does HD video, has a bright 13 inch screen and a real-life-useful 1.4GHz Intel CULV processor.  That’s a tempting prospect…especially as many retailers are listing it at nearer $799.  If you like the form factor and can survive with less power the X320 sports an Intel Atom for $599, but also sacrifices the HD capable graphics chipset.

Crucially is the $899 X340 better than a $999 refurbished MacBook Air Rev A?  For HD video, connectivity and battery life I’d say yes; for coolness and build quality probably no.  Then there’s also the Acer Timeline series and the semi-light but powerful Acer AS3935-6504 with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo for $899.  It’s a difficult, but consumer friendly, choice.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jun 28, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laptop prices falling hard

Today’s MacBook price cuts were both welcome and not unique in the current laptop market.  Ultraportables and desktop replacements alike have been suffering from netbooks and Intel CULV powered thin ‘n lights pulling down the whole sector.

It’s pretty cool that you can finally get a decently powered 3-4lb laptop with a 13 inch screen for well under $1,000; MSI’s X340 and Acer’s Timeline are good examples.  Both are HD video capable and provide enough power for day-to-day computing.

These machines pull down the premium end of the ultraportable market like the Dell Adamo and MacBook Air, which don’t really offer much more hardware than the MSI or Acer.  In fact the Dell is probably slower than both.  So now we have a $1,499-$1,799 MacBook Air, which is great news for consumers and effectively sets a glass ceiling for ultraportable prices.

At the heavier end of the market 17 inch laptops are under strain from all-in-ones like the Asus EEE Top which are semi-mobile and keenly priced.  I found a new Toshiba dual-core T3400 17 inch laptop on Amazon this evening for $529.  This thing was fully loaded, you really wouldn’t need much more for a day-to-day desktop replacement…and of course you can install Windows 7 RC and get almost a year of usage before you need to buy a license.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jun 8, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Update to ‘MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?’ Acer throws an $899 curve ball

Acer 13" P7350Wow this bout just got a whole lot more interesting.  After initially pricing the X340 at $1,099 MSI are now listing it at $899…and several mainstream e-tailers are taking orders for $799.  That kind of pricing makes the whole proposition turn on its head.  Even as a refurb, the MacBook Air Rev A looks too expensive in this company.

On the downside for the X340, initial reviews have been mixed.  Praise for its battery life and video performance have been tempered by concerns about chassis quality and a poor keyboard.

There is another curve ball mixing up the X340’s home run plans in the form of Acer’s recently released 13″ AS3935-6504.  At 1.3lbs heavier than the X340, it offers a full power P7350 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB RAM, DVD-RW and the same Intel GMA4500MHD 1080-capable GPU.  And the Acer looks and feels great.

At 2.9lbs and $799 the X340 would be my choice if running Windows 7 RC, but those needing more power or running the out-of-the-box Vista Home Premium I’d have to recommend the Acer for the greater horsepower.  Price/performance-wise the MacBook Air needs to do more to move out third place in this contest.  Especially as you could swap out the hard drives in the MSI and Acer with latest gen SSDs and still save megabucks compared to the MBAir.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?

mba-999I was excited to talk to MSI in January about their upcoming X320 and X340.  The ultra-light 13″ laptops closely resembled the MacBook Air with the bonus of offering a removable battery and better connectivity.

It seems the $700-1,000 price target is hopefully looking accurate for when the X340 starts shipping.  The HDMI equipped X340 briefly appeared on MSI’s website recently at $1,099.  The lower powered X320 is likely to be in the $700-800 range.

In January this pricing seemed sensible…until MacBook Airs started appearing for $999.  This week MacMall and Apple were both listing Airs starting at $999, although these may be refurbs.  Given that the Air has a way faster CPU than the X340, this looks like MSI is going to have a difficult job convincing buyers to choose their laptop over the Air.

The only sore points for the Air continue to be the weak connectivity and low capacity battery, which is outperformed by many similar weight netbooks for runtime.

On the plus side $999 now buys a super-svelte 3lb 1.6ghz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air, which a year ago cost almost twice as much and is capable of running OSX and Windows.  Nice.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

theONbutton@CES – MSI booth walking tour including X320 and U115

MSI’s X320 is about as close as you’ll ever see to a Macbook Air without an Apple logo on the back of the screen.  When the lid is closed the laptop is a dead ringer for the Cupertino model, aside from MSI’s black and white color models which accompany the silver one.  The X320 should be released in the US in Q2 this year for under $1,000, sporting an Intel Atom and 13″ screen.

The U115 hybrid has a SSD and a traditional hard drive as well for mass storage.  The spinning hard drive can be turned off for extended battery life, MSI claims up to 12 hours of total usage.

Note that the white X320 in the video is a mock-up concept.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jan 9, 2009 Posted by | CES | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

iMac Sales Plunge, Apple Slashes Refurb Macbook Air to $1,149

It’s been a week that Apple fans will want to forget.  NPD reported that Apple sales for November were flat year on year whilst Windows PCs gained 7%, iMac sales collapsed by 38% whilst Windows desktops fell only 15% and Apple announced that the company will stop attending Macworld after the 2009 show.  Apple laptop sales rose 22% compared to 15% for Windows laptops.

mb-air

What does this mean for Apple?  Most likely something needs to be done…and pretty fast.  Apple has responded by slashing prices of its refurbished models, a move likely aimed at removing the carrying costs of old inventory.  Macbook Airs are available for $1,149 on Apple’s US website at the time of writing.  Deep reductions are offered across other lines as well and online stores are offering serious discounts on new models.  After a while this discounting could erode the premium perception of the brand and hurt Apple retail store sales, which are typically made at full price.

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

Netbooks captured the the public's imagination in 2008

This may be a short term band-aid to improve working capital, but Apple needs to look deeper at its product line and offer models at prices which relate to the current economy.  The company has been too late in coming to the Netbook market, which exploded with colossal growth this year following the arrival of the Asus EEE in late 2007.  Apple needs a Netbook quickly, and it will need to compete with the quality of the MSI Wind, Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE range, which all sell for around $300-400.

Steve Jobs said that “We don’t know how to build a sub-$500 computer that is not a piece of junk.”  Well Apple might have to learn how.  Five hundred dollars is now premium Netbook territory as prices have been falling throughout 2008.

I expect that if Apple enters the market they would choose the $600-800 range with a couple of configurations.  They need this because Macbooks are no longer the coolest laptops to pull out of your bag…Netbooks are.  A glance at the Amazon bestseller list shows Netbooks occupying slots which Macbooks used to live in. 

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

The MSI Wind Netbook was one of the most hotly anticipated products of 2008. Can Apple introduce its own competitor to stop the rising Windows sales?

Whilst Macbooks used to be the laptop of choice for Manhattan coffee shop outings, Netbooks now get the curious admiring looks.  In an America looking to downsize cars, energy usage and spending, Netbooks are the Prius of today’s laptop showroom.

Clearly the slowdown in the economy has affected Apple as a seller of premium products.  It also seems that Apple’s negative advertising campaign throughout 2008 against PCs may have not had the positive sales effect Apple was hoping for.  In fact the plunging iMac sales figures indicate that Apple might have done better through a positive campaign promoting the benefits of the iMac compared to Windows desktops.  It may be that consumers simply were unable to identify a positive value of spending the extra bucks on an iMac, which is a classic outcome of a negative advertising campaign, unless the competing product is seen as truly worthless.  Clearly not the case in this instance as iMac sales plunged 23% more than Windows desktop sales.

Whilst I think Apple will pull through, it needs to revitalize its line-up to be attractive in today’s economy.  And hopefully that revitalization effort will give us reasons to buy Macs, instead of reasons not to buy PCs.  I want to want Macs for good reasons, not because I’m told the competition is bad.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Dec 18, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Hardware, Microsoft, News | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Speaking Of Glossy Screens…

Here’s one that got it right:

This, for all you daywalkers, is a MSI Wind in full-on sunlight.  And here is how it compares with a glossy-screened Acer Aspire One (which is switched on, honestly):

…and with some general non-sunny window reflections:

…and compared directly to the Wind below with non-sunny reflections.  It’s worth noting that the Aspire One actually has a really nice LED backlit screen, it’s just that the Wind has the best screen I’ve ever seen on a notebook.

The Wind works if you’re a daywalker – and it’s also a little cheaper than one particular newly-announced-glossy-screened laptop.  Ye pays yer money…

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Oct 15, 2008 Posted by | Apple, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI Wind / Advent 4211 Review

After a gust of initial promise, the MSI Wind blew into the US market in a flurry of overpricing, stock delays and battery shortages. Whilst the pricing still remains questionable, the stock situation has slowly improved. I managed to spend some time with the Advent 4211 clone in London this week to see if it was a full force tornado or just hot air.

Acer Aspire One on top of MSI Wind

Acer Aspire One on top of MSI Wind

Appearance of the MSI Wind

The Wind is one of the larger netbooks, not quite as ‘notebook looking’ as the Asus EEE 1000 but sizeable nonetheless. Sitting under the Acer Aspire One the MSI Wind shows a centimeter of clearance all round, which is not bad considering it boasts a full inch of extra screen space due to the Wind’s narrower bezel.

As for overall appearance, the MSI Wind looks OK. In Advent 4211 silver plastic guise it misses out on the eye catching looks of the EEE 1000 and Aspire One which are definitely a step ahead in the fashion stakes with their design details.

Keyboard and trackpad of  the MSI Wind

Opening the lid reveals a good size keyboard with a smallish trackpad. The keys themselves sit up high and seem initially stodgy to press. Due to their angled sides they actually have a smaller contact area than the Acer Aspire One, which sit almost flat giving a sleeker look and for me a more reliable typing experience. The Wind’s keyboard is perfectly functional however and would be easy to adapt to. I wasn’t a fan of the right Shift key’s position and there is some empty space where MSI haven’t fully utilized all the available real estate.

The trackpad is responsive enough, but might ideally have been wider. It’s reminiscent of the first EEE PC, which had an even smaller square. The EEE 1000 definitely leads the netbooks in this regard with its lurvely multitouch pad.

Performance of the MSI Wind

The MSI Wind and Advent 4211 ship with Intel’s Atom N270, 1GB RAM, an 80GB hard drive and Windows XP Home, which took just under sixty seconds to boot and turn the egg timer into a full arrow. That’s passable, but this is a bare machine. I expect that once you install a firewall, antivirus, Skype and other apps which load at boot-up you’re probably looking at nearer ninety seconds plus another ten to lock on to a wireless router. By contrast the Linux Aspire One boots in eighteen seconds plus wireless lock-on time.

Once the MSI Wnd is up and running the Atom hustles along speedily enough for general uses with applications loading in acceptable if not lightning time. Again performance on the Aspire One Linux feels snappier with faster application load times. Music sounds reasonable through the built in speakers and the webcam puts in a good performance compared to some of the other current netbooks.

The screen is also nice enough too. I was expecting to be dazzled given early claims about its quality but it’s actually very similar to the Aspire One and EEE 1000 in terms of brightness and clarity, which is still a good thing. I was unable to test DVD playback as I did not have an external drive to hand.

The MSI Wind is well connected with three USB ports, ethernet, VGA, audio in/out and an SD card slot, although it lacks the Acer Aspire One’s second SD slot.

Did the MSI Wind blow me away?

So was I blown off my feet? Not quite. The MSI Wind is a nice netbook, it does everything well but just looks and feels a bit ordinary at $499 for the 3-cell version or a whopping $599 for the 6-cell. By contrast the Acer Aspire One XP is $349 and $449 for the 3 & 6-cell versions respectively and the longer lasting EEE 1000 is yours for $549. Last time I looked the Wind had fallen out of Amazon’s top 100 computing bestsellers, whilst the Acer Aspire One and Asus EEE 1000 were both in the top 5. Until MSI revises its pricing I have a feeling it might stay that way.

Neil Berman

www.thonbutton.com

Gallery:

Sep 6, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Netbook market grows further, has Aspiring winners and falling Stars

A glance at Amazon’s top 25 bestsellers gives a window into today’s netbook market.

The recent $100 price drop of the Asus EEE 1000H has it selling strongly, Acer’s Aspire One Linux is sitting at number 11 and the pre-order XP version is at 14. Various other EEEs make up much of the middle groung and Micro Star International’s Wind is caught up in turbulence at 24.

Given its $399 price tag I expect the 3 cell XP Aspire One to climb that chart, although hopefully they won’t suffer from the quality control issues which sent my Linux One back for repair only days after its unboxing.

Lenovo announced its entries, the S9 and S10, a few days ago. Only the S10 will be coming to the US and will bring a ten inch screen, Atom processor and XP starting from $399 in October…and it looks great.

An unfortunate characteristic of the Wind since its missed launch date of mid-June has been rumored, and now official, price hikes. The 3 cell XP model is now at $499, which looks forgettable compared to the pricing of the One and S10. This Wind is blowing in the wrong direction.

We’re still waiting to see what Dell’s E is going to throw at us, shouldn’t be too long now. Their rumored $299 entry price will ruffle a few feathers and their marketing might will ensure a sale or two.

Then there are still more models expected to launch in Q4 with VIA’s celebrated Nano CPU, just to make buying decisions that little bit harder.

If I was a betting man I’d say that Acer’s Aspire One and Lenovo’s S10 are set to be strong sellers in XP guise. Dell won’t take any prisoners either when they launch. So within a year I expect the Wind and Mini-Note to be shaken out of the market or forced into price cutting. Perhaps the savior of the Mini-Note will be if HP can swap in the Nano for the C7.

For the Wind, price cutting alone may be too late for mainstream buyers. If broad stock fails to arrive soon then how will they break onto retail shelves which already have Acers, Dells and EEE on display? It may end up being too little too late for this great product.

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Aug 9, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mini laptops = mini prices?

Don’t you just love market forces? Only a week after it’s launch at $649 and the Asus EEE PC 1000 is already down to $549 at NewEgg.

Part of the greatness of the original EEE was its price tag, and sales figures were through the roof. As everyone else caught up with models from HP, Acer, Dell and MSI all announced or launched, Asus’ pricing seemed off the pulse. So it’s good to see this correction, but more is still needed especially for the EEE 901 given Acer’s 8.9 inch Atom powered Aspire One is retailing for $379. By comparison the 901 is over $200 more expensive!

Now spare a thought for MSI’s Wind. The Wind is a great product ‘almost’ competing with the EEE 1000. I say ‘almost’ because although the Wind was due to rock the market over a month ago, the only model released was a low capacity battery version which had reviewers telling everyone to wait until September.

I expect by then the 10 inch early adopters will have bought the reduced price EEE 1000 and the Wind will be scrapping in the trenches for leftovers in a price-cutting market.

Did I mention the Dell E will be launching around then starting in the region of $299…?

Neil Berman

www.neilberman.com

Jul 21, 2008 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Hardware, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Asus EEE 900 vs. HP Mini-Note 2133 mini review

It’s been just six months since the launch of the first Asus EEE PC and the sector has exploded. The original UMPC (Ultra Mobile PC) name has been supplanted by Microsoft’s ULCPC (Ultra Low Cost PC), Intel’s MID (Mobile Internet Device) and various manufacturer led acronyms – MSI’s forthcoming Wind is actually an abbreviation of WiFi Network Device.

Screen sizes and storage space have increased, but in most cases so have price tags. Asus itself is a case in point, with its recently launched EEE PC 900 offering a nine inch screen and up to 20GB of onboard storage but a hefty $549 sticker price. The majority of the hardware on the inside is similar to the 701, but the increased screen real estate in a similarly sized package makes web browsing and general working more manageable.
Unfortunately the keyboard feels the same size as the original, which I struggle with after a few months of daily use. It’s fine for occasional emails etc but for more consistent work I make too many typos with it as my fingers sometimes land on two keys at once.

The screen seems a bit brighter than the 701 and fills the (slightly larger) lid nicely, with the webcam still preserved. Looks and build quality haven’t kept pace with the competition however, as we segway into the HP Mini-Note…
…which is one of the best looking laptops money can buy.

Powered by a range of VIA C7 processors up to 1.6GHz it sounds at first like it will outperform the EEE’s 900MHz Celeron, but user testimonies indicate that the Mini-Note often gets stuck in the slow lane.

When I tried it out running Vista it was actually pretty decent, loading apps quickly enough for general usage. In fact if you write a lot and have limited multimedia requirements, then the Mini-Note is a fair choice because the keyboard is absolutely awesome.

The keys are large, almost as large as a full size laptop, and I was able to type fluently from the get-go. The trackpad is responsive too and although the buttons are oddly placed on either side, this makes the pad’s area larger and is not a problem if you tap-to-click.

The looks, screen quality and overall usability beat the EEE and the whole thing seems better constructed too, if larger, whilst pricing is similar. The Mini-Note starts at $499 for a Linux build, compared to $549 for the Linux EEE 900. The top of the range Vista Mini-Note model sells for a not so appealing $749.

Unfortunately for both the EEE and Mini-Note, their respective Celeron and VIA processors have a tough time managing multimedia applications fluidly. This is forgiveably in the $299 EEE 2G, but less so in a unit costing around twice as much.

Overall the HP Mini-Note and Asus EEE 900 have strayed away from the original EEE ultra-low-cost concept and are competing with budget laptops but offering limited power. Of course these machines are all about portability but other models due out soon may offer a better balance…

Speaking of which, we will see MSI’s Intel Atom-powered Wind in June. With an 80GB hard drive, ten inch screen and rumored six hour battery life under Windows XP, I’d wait to check out the Wind before handing over the plastic on either the HP or Asus just yet.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 18, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

%d bloggers like this: