It is not likely to win any awards for design and style, but MSI’s CX61 provides good multimedia features and performance at a competitive price.
MSI’s marketing materials waffle on about the CX61′s “tapering silhouette… evocative of F1 racers”. But with its built-in Blu-ray drive, the CX61 measures a chunky 38mm thick and weighs a big 2.5kg. This is not a laptop that you are going to casually sling into a backpack and carry every day.
The MSI’s display is a highlight, providing a bright, sharp image with a full-HD 1920×1080-pixel count. It also has an anti-glare coating and wide viewing angles that will be useful when watching video at home or running presentations at work.
The speakers are a cut above average, too – there’s a metallic twang on the higher frequencies, but the bass is enough to add a welcome firmness to the overall sound quality.
The keyboard feels strong enough, with a lot of travel on the keys and room for a separate, full-sized number keypad. However, the single Windows key is situated to the right of the Space bar, which some people may find getting used to difficult.
A set of cursor keys are squeezed in to the right side of the keyboard, with the result being an off-centre Space bar, leaning noticeably to the left of the keyboard.
The trackpad is rather small – just 75x45mm – with two narrow buttons below. Less nimble-fingered users may not find the MSI CX61′s ergonomics to their liking.
Originally released last summer, this newest version of the CX61 steps up from a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor to a quad-core Core i7-36300M running at 2.4GHz, along with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard disk, and both an nVidia GT 645M graphics card and integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000.
This specification comes in at a reasonable £700, which can be reduced to £612 if you’re happy to forsake the Blu-ray for a DVD drive.
The 5,400rpm hard drive lets down the side a bit, and with it the MSI could record just 3,046 points in our PCMark 7 benchmark. You’ll also notice the lack of pace of this drive when booting the CX61. It boots into the Windows 8 Start screen in just 15 seconds, but takes another 30 to gather its thoughts and launch another application.
Once it’s got its act together, that Core i7 processor provides enough power to handle a wide range of applications, such as challenging photo- or video editing. It can also handle a spot of casual gaming. Running Batman: Arkham City at 1920×1080 was a struggle, but at 1280×720 pixels we saw 25fps with High detail, and 35fps with Low.
The cooling fan kicks out some hot air when using the nVidia graphics during gaming sessions, but this wasn’t loud enough to be annoying or obtrusive over the Batman soundtrack.
The MSI’s battery life isn’t great. We recorded just three hours when streaming video over Wi-Fi with the integrated graphics – and that was with power-saving mode engaged.
The MSI CX61 ONF looks chunky and old-fashioned when compared with modern laptops, but its powerful processor and attractive full-HD display make it a good, affordable desktop-replacement laptop that’s suited to multimedia work and entertainment.
2.4GHz Intel i7-36300M (quad-core, 3.4GHz with Turbo Boost); Windows 8 64bit; 8GB DDR3 RAM; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive; 15.6in (1920×1080) matt TN display; Intel HD 4000 and nVidia GT 645M (2GB); 802.11b/g/n; gigabit ethernet; Bluetooth 4.0; 2x USB 3.0:1x USB 2.0; HDMI; VGA; tray-load Blu-ray/DVO drive; SD slot; headphone socket; microphone socket; 49Wh lithium-ion battery; 383x250x38mm; 2.5kg