Hands-On With the MSI X320

First stop at CES Unveiled tonight was MSI's booth to check out the new X320. Always good to us, MSI gave us some exclusive time with the very slim and affordable ultraportable (the video below gives a good glimpse of the hardware). When MSI first told us about the notebook (then called the U300) they said we would be "shocked" by its ultra-thin stature. Indeed we were  pretty damn shocked when we laid eyes on the thinner than a rail 13-inch notebook.   Think MacBook Air (those clever guys at SlashGear even grabbed some shots of it next to an Air). More impressive is that even despite its thinness it packs a good amount of ports, including 3 USB, Ethernet, VGA Out and a mic and headphone. It also has a card reader. As for weight, we sure believe the 2.9 pound claim since the notebook was very light. Like the Wind, the X320 has a minimalist design and is available in champagne, black and white.  The glossy champagne lid wasn't flashy and we appreciated how the MSI logo centered on the lid was backlit (stealing yet another design cue from the Air). Under the lid is a 13.4 inch glossy display surrounded by a fairly thick, glossy black bezel. The X320 has a full-size keyboard with a similar feel to the one on the Wind. While the trackpad is large and spacious, there is that same single mouse button that we didn't exactly love on the original Wind.

Did we mention that this system will retail between $700 and $900? No longer will you have to pay top dollar for one of the thinnest laptops on the market and Intel's Atom Z520 processor receives the thanks for that. The pre-production model that we saw packed 2GB of RAM and was running Microsoft Vista Basic. Of course, we can't really judge the performance from the brief hands-on, but we did test application open times and they were nowhere near as sluggish as we saw on the Dell Inspiron Mini 12 with the same processor and Vista, but only 1GB of RAM. Let's hope that extra memory really pushes performance a notch above what we saw on the Mini 12. According to MSI, the flush with the system battery will provide 10 hours of battery life in its ECO mode. We look forward to testing that. Shocked is definitely our reaction to the X320. Not only because it is so slender, but also because this type of ultraportable notebook will be more affordable than ever at a price point between $700 and $900. We plan to check out the system more at the show. MSI plans to ship this notebook in April.