3.0 star rating

MSI VR220 YA Edition Review

$699.00
Pros: Affordable; Better performance than typical netbook; Colorful lid options ; Extended battery standard  ;
Cons: Heavier than most 12-inch notebooks; Cheap feeling keyboard; Polarizing design; Weak speakers;
The Verdict: This portable 12-inch notebook offers good productivity performance and decent battery life for a bargain-basement price.

REVIEW

SPECIFICATIONS

Given that most ultraportable notebooks have traditionally cost north of $1,500, a budget 12-inch laptop might seem like something of an oxymoron. But the colorful $699 MSI VR220 YA Edition is among the first notebooks to shake up this once expensive category. Using an older-generation Pentium processor, the VR220’s performance is nothing to write home about, and its keyboard is ridden with flex, but students or consumers scouring for a notebook with an optical drive and more performance than a netbook will find it to be an acceptable choice for light everyday use.

Article Continued Below

Colorful, Potentially Off-Putting Design

The VR220’s design reminds us of a mismatched '70s outfit. Its matte Wasabi Green lid is an attention getter; a black option may best suit those looking for something more demure (it’s also available in Coral Pink and Denim Blue). The lip and interior match the exterior color but in a lighter, metallic shade. At the top of the deck is a silver speaker bar, and below a white keyboard that looks completely out of place. While the overall build of the MSI VR220 is solid, it isn’t anywhere near as sleek as the similarly sized and priced Dell Inspiron Mini 12.

While the MSI VR220’s size (11.9 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches) is comparable to some of the most expensive ultraportables, its weight of 4.4 pounds (5.2 pounds with the AC adapter) makes it much heavier and more akin to a thin-and-light. For example, the VR200 is just 0.4 inches thicker than the Toshiba Portégé R500, but is 2.2 pounds heavier. (Then again, the Portégé’s starting price is $1,000 higher.) Part of the reason for VR220’s bulk is its standard eight-cell battery, which weighs 1 pound by itself and bulges out of the back. 

Decent Screen, Weak Audio

The 12.1-inch 1280 x 800-pixel glossy display on the MSI VR220 is surrounded by an inch-thick bezel, and is large enough for long viewing stretches. We were able to watch DVDs comfortably off its optical drive and when cranked up to full brightness, Dazed and Confused looked crisp. Vertical viewing angles were decent, but moving off-axis horizontally to the screen’s maximum viewing angle of 130 degrees made for a substantial reflection shift. The integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam above the display provided decent video in a video call over Skype. Our caller could see our new hair-do, but mentioned that we looked a bit washed out.

The speaker strip above the keyboard is far from booming; we struggled to hear our favorite lines while watching our DVD, even with the volume cranked up all the way. Listening to an MP3 in Windows Media Player was slightly better, but still not loud enough to fill a small bedroom. We recommend plugging in a set of external notebook speakers or headphones.

Flexy Keyboard, Loud Mouse Buttons

The keyboard on the MSI VR220 is comfortable and well spaced for touch typists, but its make feels cheaper than the rest of the system. The white keyboard had too much flex. We got used to the keyboard over time, but it’s a sacrifice we wish we didn’t have to make.

The touchpad is decently sized and offered a nice textured feel as we navigated around the desktop. The right and left click buttons are a bit loud, however; we preferred to double-tap the pad to keep things quiet.

Like most 12-inch systems, the MSI VR220 is well equipped with ports: VGA, three USB, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone. A 3-in-1 card reader and a TV tuner port (though an antenna not included in the box) is on the right side. There are plastic coverings over an empty HDMI port and ExpressCard slot; MSI clearly stripped these components from the chassis to lower the price.

Performance

The MSI VR220 is powered by a 2.0-GHz Intel Pentium T3200 processor with 2GB of memory (expandable up to 4GB). It notched 2,511 on PCMark Vantage, which is around 300 points below both the ultraportable and thin-and-light averages. While the VR220 won’t win any performance awards, it is perfectly capable of everyday tasks. We didn’t notice any system hang-ups during normal activities, and we wrote a document in Microsoft Word, surfed the Web in Firefox 3, and ran a DVD in the background simultaneously without a hiccup.

While the Intel GMA graphics aren't going to blow gamers away, it notched 1,545 on 3DMark03 and 602 on 3DMark06, which is 1,254 and 714 points, respectively, below the thin-and-light category average. However, we found that the system handled the virtual world of Second Life well; there were no hang-ups while running through a virtual mall. Similarly, watching a streaming, high-def episode of The Office on Hulu.com at full-screen was not an issue.

The system’s 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive excelled on the LAPTOP Transfer Test, copying 4.97GB of mixed media files in 4 minutes and 31 seconds, a rate of 18.8 MBps—1.9 MBps faster than the average. The drive booted Vista Premium in an acceptable 46 seconds.

Wireless and Battery Life

The VR220’s 802.11b/g/n connection delivered decent throughput. At 15 feet, it pushed data through at 19.6 Mbps, and 15.0 Mbps at 50 feet. Our Web-surfing experience was smooth; watching an episode of NBC’s Lipstick Jungle on Hulu.com was fluid and void of pauses.

The system’s eight-cell battery lasted 3 hours and 58 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which is about 20 minutes shy of the thin-and-light average, and nearly 1:20 short of the ultraportable average. The eight-cell battery comes standard, so MSI offers no other extended battery options. MSI’s power-saving Eco Engine switch, located above the keyboard, allows for swapping among five different modes: Gaming, Movie, Presentation, Office, and Turbo Battery.

Software and Warranty

Besides Windows Vista Home Premium, the VR220 comes preinstalled with Adobe Reader 7.0, CyberLink DVD Solution 4, a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, and a 90-day trial of Norton Internet Security 2006. MSI preloads the system with CrazyTalk CamSuite, which allows you to tweak the webcam and take still shots and record video. MSI backs the notebook with an 18-month warranty and offers tech support from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (PST) Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (PST) on Friday.

Verdict

Instead of putting a mini-notebook’s insides into a larger case (as with Dell’s Inspiron Mini 12), MSI took the guts of a budget mainstream notebook and crammed them into a 12-inch chassis to create the VR220. And as with most budget systems, you have to expect budget performance. While it costs nearly half as much as more traditional 12-inch notebooks, such as the Lenovo ThinkPad X200, it’s not nearly as light, nor does it have the endurance of those systems. But those machines are meant for road warriors with expense accounts. The MSI VR220 is intended for students who need something relatively light and inexpensive for day-to-day tasks. As long as you can live with its subpar keyboard and relatively large size, MSI’s netbook alternative is worth a look.

Tags: MSI VR220 YA Edition, MSI, Ultraportable Notebooks, notebooks, reviews, laptops

Technical Specifications
MSI VR220 YA Edition
http://www.msimobile.com


The central processor unit, or CPU, is the brain of your notebook.
Learn More
CPU
2.0 GHz Intel Pentium T3200
Operating SystemMS Windows Vista Home Premium
The amount of memory our reviewed configuration comes with.
Learn More
RAM
2GB
The maximum amount of memory this notebook supports.
Learn More
RAM Upgradable to
4GB
Amount of data your storage drive can hold.
Learn More
Hard Drive Size
250GB
The rotation speed of a mechanical hard drive.
Learn More
Hard Drive Speed
5,400rpm
Your notebook’s storage drive (hard drive or solid state drive) holds your operating system, your programs, and your data.
Learn More
Hard Drive Type
SATA Hard Drive
Your notebook display is the primary viewing device for your laptop computer.
Learn More
Display Size
12.1
The number of pxiels (wxh) displayed on your screen at once.
Learn More
Native Resolution
1280x800
An optical drive allows you to play or record to DVDs, CDs, or Blu-ray discs.
Learn More
Optical Drive
DVD+/-RW DL
The speed of the optical drive.
Learn More
Optical Drive Speed
8X
Graphics chips are responsible for processing all images sent to your computer’s display.
Learn More
Graphics Card
Intel GMA 4500M
The amount of memory available for graphics processing.
Learn More
Video Memory
782MB
Wi-Fi connects you to a router or hotspot for wireless Internet access.
Learn More
Wi-Fi
802.11b/g/n
Ports allow you to connect to external devices such as monitors, printers, MP3 players, and hard drivse.
Learn More
Ports (excluding USB)
Ethernet; Headphone; Microphone; RJ-11; TV tuner/coaxial; VGA
USB ports allow you to connect many external devices, from MP3 players to external hard drives.
Learn More
USB Ports
3
Card readers allow you to plug memory and expansion cards directly into a notebook.
Learn More
Card Slots
3-1 card reader
Warranty/Support18 month limited/phone Mon-Thurs. 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (PST) Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. (PST)
Size11.9 x 9.1 x 1.2 inches
Weight4.4 pounds
FIND A REVIEW
Laptops
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Brand
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
Resolution
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 3840 x 2160 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options
SUBSCRIBE