Cons: Very reflective screen; Poor colour quality; Cramped keyboard
Bottomline: The EX700 is a good-looking notebook with impressive features for people who want an all-round multimedia computer
Although many technology products get smaller by the year, some notebook computers defy this slimming process by getting bigger, in order to give their desktop cousins a run for their money.
MSI makes both big and small notebooks but the EX700, the company's latest, is on the larger side.
It comes with a 17in widescreen display that, it claims, has an anti-glare coating to prevent reflections from light sources. However, this must have been in hiding on the one we looked at, because it suffered terribly from reflection and glare at almost every angle.
This is acceptable enough given that the Nvidia Geforce 8400M GS 3D graphics card provides enough processing power for the computer to easily deal with decent game graphics and DVDs. Colours on screen appeared a bit washed out though, meaning that films and games were less fun than they should have been. This is a shame: the EX700 otherwise has all the makings of an excellent media PC.
It has a five-speaker surround sound system built in, which even has its own subwoofer for deep bass sounds. There is an HDMI output for connecting an external high-definition screen such as a flat-panel television.
It has an integrated digital (freeview) TV tuner, which lets users watch and record TV programmes, and at the heart of it is a 2.2GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 processor, which performed well in our lab tests. Overall, the EX700 was fast and, unlike many notebooks, it was able to run recent games in fairly good quality. The 2GB of memory also makes for good, fast performance.
But in reality all the 17in screen does for this notebook is to make it look big. One saving grace is that it is slimmer than some of the similarly sized notebooks we've looked at, and it's not as heavy, although it's not light enough to be considered an easily portable computer. The large case makes room for a bigger-than-average keyboard.
However some of that extra space is wasted here as the keyboard doesn't stretch to the edge of the chassis. There is a dedicated numeric keypad but some of the keys on the main board are smaller than we'd expect. This makes it easy to strike the wrong one when typing quickly and in general it isn't a very comfortable keyboard.
The arrow keys are bunched up at the end of the keyboard, making them cramped and uncomfortable to use. The mouse trackped is large, but although it is spacious and very responsive it is let down by the mouse buttons attached to it. They work only when clicked directly in the centre, meaning the remaining space on the large buttons is wasted.
Along the top of the keyboard sit handy shortcut buttons for features such as firing up the internet browser or using the 1.3-megapixel webcam or the Bluetooth connection. Software-wise the EX700 comes with Windows Vista Home Premium. Looks-wise the MSI is less sleek than other recent notebooks but it’s inoffensive. It is plain black and wouldn’t look out of place in a study or living room.
Battery life on the notebook was fair, it ran for two hours before conking out but, as this notebook is predominantly for home use, this isn’t a great problem.