The Bottom Line
Dec 5 2012 - For those on a limited performance that want performance, 3D graphics and a a high resolution display, the MSI CX61 0NF-258US is certainly going to be an attractive option thanks to its $800 price tag. At this price, there is almost no competition that can match these features but the system does have its drawbacks that buyers will have to put up with. This includes an almost entirely plastic exterior that lacks the quality and feel of many other laptops, a trackpad that has difficulty navigating the new Windows 8 with multitouch and a hard drive that holds back the performance. If one can spend just a couple of hundred more, a lot more possibilities open up.
- Affordable For Performance
- High Resolution Display Panel
- Design Heavily Uses Plastics Which Lessens Quality
- Trackpad Has Issue With Multitouch Gestures
- Drive Holds Back Overall System Performance
- Intel Core i7-3630QM Quad Core Mobile Processor
- 6GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 750GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 8x Dual-Layer DVD Burner
- 15.6" WUXGA (1920x1080) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M Graphics With 2GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Two USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 5-in-1 Card Reader
- 15.1" x 9.8" x 1.5" @ 5.3 lbs.
- Windows 8, Office Starter
Review - MSI CX61 0NF-258US
Dec 5 2012 - MSI is probably best known for making its affordable G series gaming laptops. Models such as the GE60 offer affordable options for those looking to have a high performance 3D machine. The CX series of laptops offers a more utilitarian design that also comes with a more affordable $800 price point. It has the same dimensions as the GE series laptops but lacks much of the design flourish that exists on the lid of the display for a more plain color design with a simple brand logo. The system does use a lot of plastics throughout to keep the costs down but it also means that it doesn't have the same level of quality and solid feel as more expensive laptops.
Powering the MSI CX61 0NF-258US is the quad core Intel Core i7-3630QM which is surprising to see in a laptop that costs just $800. Most at this price point would be using a slower Core i5 processor or be limited to dual core processors. This combined with the 6GB of DDR3 memory means that the system is typically faster than other laptops at this price point for more demanding applications such as desktop video editing or PC gaming.
The storage capabilities for the MSI CX61 is much more about capacity than performance. It comes with a large 750GB hard drive that provides it with plenty of space for applications, data and media files. The downside here is that it is a traditional hard drive only with a slower 5400rpm spin rate that decreases the performance. Boot times suffer with a typical forty seconds or more to get into Windows 8 which is much slower than those drives using either hybrid drives or solid state drives. If you do need additional storage space, there are two USB 3.0 ports for use with high speed external hard drives. The system does still use an optical drive and provides a dual layer DVD burner for playback and recording of CD or DVD media.
Probably the best overall feature for the MSI CX61 is going to be the screen. For such a low priced laptop, MSI has taken a very high resolution 15.6-inch panel with a native resolution of 1920x1080 which is practically unheard of under $800. The panel itself does a decent job with color and brightness but it isn't going to be outstanding in those areas other than sharpness from the extra resolution. Driving the graphics is the NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M processor with 2GB of memory. This is nearly identical to the GT 650M except that it runs at a lower clock speed. This means that the graphics performance is not going to be as high as the GE series laptops. It will be able to play 3D games but it will struggle in most to run at the full resolution of the display panel. The graphics processor does also provide a wider range of acceleration for non-3d applications such as Photoshop which is also an advantage over any laptop with integrated graphics at this price point.
The keyboard and trackpad design are identical to those found on the GE 60 laptop. It features an isolated or chiclet style design with a full numeric keypad on the right hand side. Overall it works well for most cases but it is a bit software than some other keyboards on the market. There is no backlight for the keyboard likely to keep the costs down. The trackpad is a bit smaller and recessed into the keyboard deck but centered on the main keyboard rather than the deck. These traits certainly help to keep one from brushing it with one's palms while typing. There are dedicated right and left buttons which is nice as most are moving to integrated buttons. The big downside here is that the multitouch support for Windows 8 was very problematic which is disappointing as which would make navigating the new UI much easier.
The battery for the MSI CX61 uses the standard 48WHr capacity ratings that is used on most of the MSI laptops as well as most 15-inch laptops on the market. In digital video playback testing, this resulted in three and a half hours of playback before going into standby mode. This is pretty typical of a 15-inch laptop system but it falls well short of the seven hours that the far more expensive Apple MacBook Pro 15 with Retina is able to achieve.
With such a low price point, there is little competition against the MSI CX61 that matches the features. In most cases, the competition is charging around $1000. Such an example would be the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 and HP Envy dv6. Both of these systems cost more and offer a better overall build quality to the MSI. They also feature a Blu-ray compatible optical drive over just DVD. The HP offers faster storage through a hybrid drive while the Lenovo uses an even larger drive with an SSD cache. The HP is a bit better suited for general purpose while the Lenovo is better for gaming as it also features as NVIDIA GTX 660M graphics processor. Still, if you are restricted to a tight budget, it is hard to find an equal to the MSI for price.