Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
Just when you think you’ve a handle on $2,000 notebooks, MSI goes and releases a unit with a 17″ display. While this adds nearly a kilo to the overall weight of the machine, it also means you get nearly as much screen real-estate as on a standard aspect ratio 19″ desktop monitor. The fact this machine also has a full keyboard makes it a realistic desktop replacement, and an answer to all your computing needs.
Well, the display is the obvious thing. It’s big. Don’t get too excited though: despite the impressive size (you’d expect a 17″ display on a $3,000 machine), it actually has a lower native resolution than the Dell at 1440 x 900 (over the Inspiron’s 1680 x 1050). It’s still a higher resolution display than you find on the Toshiba or the ASUS though.
Like the ASUS, there’s a 1.3MP digital camera built-in, Mac-style, above the display. The other multimedia goodness is the small but capable subwoofer which beefs up audio performance from the built-in speakers.
The graphics chip is a GeForce Go 7600, which is very pleasing indeed. This chip can handle all current games with some compromise on detail settings for newer titles. A good choice of chip for the gamer in your family, though.
The L745 came with Windows XP preinstalled, of course, but we had to go through the familiar and irrtating setup procedure. While this is time consuming, it does allow you to set your username and network preferences right from the get-go, which can be handy. More experienced Windows users can do all this from the desktop, though.
MSI’s use of standard components means you’ll find updates to drivers and such readily available, and this will further tweak performance.
We should point out that this L745 is a “cut down” version of the standard model, which has a faster CPU, bigger HDD (although 100GB is still better than most), and a digital TV tuner. If you want to include all those things it’ll cost you an additional $500.
Meanwhile, the machine we have today is still an excellent performance thanks to the combination of CPU and graphics chip. Gaming is smooth, movies and music look and sound great (in part thanks to the subwoofer), and desktop performance is all we expect from the T5500.
The L745 is a bit of a surprise in this market. While some people will look for portability and will thus begrudge it the extra weight the bigger screen brings with it, it’s hard to deny that MSI has made use of the bigger footprint in a very clever way. The subwoofer and the numeric keypad (both available because of the bigger case) make this a more flexible machine and the DVI port means you can use it with your TV.
This is an excellent notebook for the price, and a realistic alternative to a huge and ugly tower PC clogging up your stylish loft apartment.