Sharp full HD display; Exceptional audio quality
Takes too much effort to slide; Below-average battery life; Cramped keyboard; No touchpad or pointing stick; Sluggish SSD
MSI's Slidebook S20 offers a gorgeous display, but its lack of a pointing device, awkward sliding design and cramped keyboard leave us wanting.
It's an Ultrabook. It's a tablet. But is it a good Ultrabook or tablet? That's the question we kept asking ourselves while using the $1,199 MSI Slidebook S20. Packing an Intel Core i5 processor and an SSD, the 11.6-inch Slidebook S20 looks like a Windows 8 tablet at first glance. But slide up the display, and you've got a fully functional keyboard. Unfortunately, this hybrid doesn't offer the best of both worlds.
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Like Toshiba's Satellite U925t--and unlike the Sony VAIO Duo 11--the Slidebook S20's display can be angled as far backward or forward as you want. Unlike the Satellite, however, the Slidebook's hinge is positioned closer to the center of the convertible, which results in less available space for its keyboard. The Satellite's hinge is much closer to the rear of the notebook, making enough room for a keyboard and touchpad, something the MSI lacks.
The S20's 11.6-inch display is framed by a thin black bezel bordered by a second white bezel. Above the display is a 1-megapixel webcam. Below is a gray MSI logo and physical Windows 8 home button. We actually prefer a physical key to a capacitive one, but we found the button to be a little small. To the right of the Slidebook's keyboard are three indicator lights for the notebook's battery level, drive status and power state.
The glossy white plastic adorning the Slidebook's keyboard and black display bezel are nicely balanced by the matte silver paint on the convertible's aluminum base. A gray MSI logo, flanked by the laptop's small speaker grilles, serves as the underside's sole design flourish.
The Slidebook S20's 284 lux brightness rating was equally impressive, especially when compared to the ultraportable category average of 224 lux and the Toshiba Satellite U925t's 242 lux. Still, the tablet category average of 361 lux and the Sony VAIO Duo 11's 402 lux rating blew away the Slidebook.
On the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor, we registered an average score of 68 words per minute and an error rate of 3 percent while using the Slidebook. On our desktop keyboard, however, we scored 80 wpm with a zero percent error rate. We also noted several instances when the physical keyboard would become unresponsive when switching from tablet to Ultrabook mode. On one occasion, the physical home button beneath the display stopped working, too. A reboot fixed the issue.
Unlike the Sony VAIO Duo 11, which offers a thumbstick in the center of the keyboard, and the Toshiba Satellite U925t, which features a small touchpad, the MSI Slidebook S20 doesn't include any kind of touch input beyond its screen. As a result, using the Windows 8 Desktop interface at the display's 1920 x 1080 native resolution proved extremely difficult. The small icons and minimize, maximize and close buttons were a challenge to accurately tap. Even selecting text--a very common task on any laptop--proved to be nearly impossible. The experience was such a pain that we eventually connected a wireless mouse.
Thanks to an ample amount of vents, the MSI Slidebook S20 mostly kept its cool under pressure. After streaming a full-screen Hulu video for 15 minutes, the underside of the convertible reached just 79 degrees Fahrenheit. That's much better than the category average of 89 degrees and well below the Toshiba Satellite U925t's 88 degrees and the Sony VAIO Duo 11's 85 degrees. However, the bottom area of the display bezel reached 97 degrees. We consider temperatures below 95 degrees to be comfortable.
The S20's left edge features an Ethernet jack, while the top edge is home to a silver volume rocker and screen orientation lock button. We'd much prefer a switch, as it's too easy to activate this button accidentally.
When in laptop mode, the volume rocker's position can prove awkward, as you have to reach your hand around to the back of the laptop to adjust the sound level. Positioning the rocker on the laptop's left edge, where there is plenty of empty real estate, would have been far more convenient.
Unlike the Sony VAIO Duo 11 and the Toshiba Satellite U925t, which both sport front- and rear-facing cameras, the Slidebook S20 only offers a 1-megapixel front-facing webcam. Images shot using the webcam were heavily pixelated, making fine details difficult to see if at all. Color reproduction, however, was fairly accurate. As expected, image quality suffered under dim lighting.
Though the Slidebook S20, like the VAIO Duo 11 and Satellite U925t, includes a 128GB SSD, the MSI was slightly slower to boot than the competition, 21 seconds to the Toshiba's 14 seconds and the Sony's 13 seconds.
It took the Slidebook S20 2 minutes and 21 seconds to copy 4.97GB of mixed media, a rate of 36.1 MBps, far lower than the category average of 83 MBps. Sony's VAIO Duo 11, meanwhile, copied the files at a rate of 145 MBps, while Toshiba's Satellite U925t completed the task at a rate of 150 MBps.
The Slidebook performed well on our OpenOffice Test, matching 20,000 names to their addresses in 6 minutes and 3 seconds. That's faster than the category average of 7:04. Still, the Toshiba Satellite U925t and Sony VAIO Duo 11 beat out the Slidebook, taking 5:54 and 3:00, respectively.
The Slidebook S20 didn't fare much better when gaming. With the graphics set to autodetect and the resolution set to 1366 x 768, the MSI averaged just 17 frames per second while playing "World of Warcraft." By comparison, the Toshiba Satellite U925t and the Sony VAIO Duo 11 registered 26 and 31 fps, respectively, at these same settings.
With the graphics pumped up to max and the resolution set to 1920 x 1080, the S20's frames rates fell to 9 fps.
Our Slidebook test unit, which comes equipped with a 1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3371U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and Intel's integrated HD Graphics 4000 GPU, will set you back $1,199. Currently, MSI says there are no other versions of the Slidebook S20 available in the U.S.
|CPU||1.7-GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Operating System||Windows 8|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||128GB|
|Hard Drive Speed|
|Hard Drive Type||SSD Drive|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Wi-Fi Model||Jackson Peek 2x2 802.11 b/g/n|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Mini HDMI|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Ethernet|
|Ports (excluding USB)||DC-in|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 3.0|
|Card Slots||2-1 card reader|
|Warranty/Support||1 year Limited warranty (Include 1 Year Global)|
|Size||11.8 x 7.7 x 0.8 inches|