MSI PR200 Notebook (Intel Santa Rosa)

Portrait of an Award Winning Design

Portrait of an Award Winning Design

The MSI PR200 notebook that we received came in its professional guise of silver and black, giving it a very corporate look and feel. This is apparent too from the fingerprint sensor found at the touchpad, which is complemented by the built-in TPM 1.2 (Trusted Platform Module) chip that adds security and verification functionality demanded by most business users.

Only the microphone and headphone jacks are located at the front of the notebook, along with the status LEDs. No volume control or mute that we could find.

The status LEDs on the PR200 include the usual hard drive disk activity LED, the battery, wireless and notebook hibernate status indicators.

Notable ports here are the HDMI port, the mini port for a digital TV receiver (optional and not included in our package) and this side is also where the exhaust air exits the notebook. The notebook is quite cool and quiet, no doubt due to the low TDP of the CPU architecture.

On this side, you'll find a VGA analog output, USB2.0 port and the Gigabit LAN jack. The SuperMulti DVD writer is also here.

As for connectivity options, the MSI PR200 does have a HDMI output, handy for those presentations and even for viewing videos as the new integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics engine embedded in the Intel GM965 chipset is capable of processing high definition 1080i videos and even certain 1080p video content. There's also a mini coaxial port to interface with an external antenna for an optional digital TV receiver which can scan and pick up DVB-T signals off the air. This digital TV receiver hardware is however an optional feature and wasn't included in our review unit (thus the port is just part of the standard design to facilitate add-on functions). With these extra ports, there is no space for FireWire and there are only three USB2.0 ports on this small notebook.

Weighing around 1.8kg including the battery, this 12.1-inch notebook is sufficiently handy. MSI has gone for the trendy widescreen LCD display with some in-house enhancements which they've dubbed as Amazing Crystal Vision (ACV). However, what seems to us about this glossy LCD screen is how amazingly bad the viewing angle can be. In a strict sense, one could still discern the icons and colors onscreen at an angle but the highly reflective surface means that the reflections end up muddying the view. The brightness also suffers a severe drop when viewed at an angle and also when the default power saving feature kicks in, e.g. while the notebook is running on its battery, the brightness level takes an even bigger dive (this happened during our testing with the Windows Vista power scheme set to Balanced mode). The reflective screen also makes viewing movies and videos less than ideal, unless one is watching it in a perfectly dimmed environment.

There's a decent 1.3-megapixel web camera that is unfortunately not adjustable (no tilt or height) but that is somewhat alleviated by the array microphone that offers better voice clarity and helps to reduce ambient noise.

A 1.3-megapixel web camera is mounted at its standard position just above the LCD screen. Unlike other notebooks that we have seen, the camera cannot be adjusted but it does feature the rather popular array microphones that help reduce ambient noise and boost voice clarity. The keyboard too is a fairly standard compact version, since there is no room on a 12-inch notebook to have a full keyboard. MSI also has a row of shortcut or quick launch buttons above the keyboard, bounded by two internal speakers. Instead of the usual options like volume control, mute or the email application, these shortcuts are simply named P1 and P2. As for what they do, your guess is as good as ours.

A standard compact keyboard and touchpad. The fingerprint sensor is located between the buttons, which felt a bit stiff and plastic.

These shortcut or Quick Launch keys could have been better designed as the rather cryptic P1 and P2 labels on them are not exactly enlightening about their functions. The smaller squares besides them are indicator lights for Caps Lock, Num Lock and Scroll Lock. \

The only way to find out is obviously to press them, or if you're the rare sort, read the user manual. Their functions are easily sorted out with a click - P1 fires up the Windows Media Player application and P2 enables the web camera function. There seems to be no way to customize these shortcuts within Windows, leading us to wonder what would happen if one uninstalls Windows Media Player. MSI notes in the manual that they work only if the proper drivers are installed and presumably included in the standard restore/backup disc bundled with the notebook.

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