MSI is not a name that you would normally associate with notebooks, but I have been using one of the company's notebooks for well over a year now. The notebook I have is a Mega Book S250 - it's essentially the same as the new S271 model we have here, but MSI has made some refinements in the S271. As I have been using a very similar notebook with virtually the same shell, I have a good idea of how well this notebook should stand up to the test of time.
When part of your job is to travel around the world, one of the most important aspects of a notebook is its portability. Covering trade shows can be a very tiring experience, especially when you've got to carry everything with you for the day's work because you will not be returning to your hotel room until later that night (or possibly in the early hours of the morning). One of my first trade shows was CeBit 2005, where I carried a 15" HP notebook around the show for a week. By the end of the show, I had vowed that I would never carry such a heavy notebook with me again because I'd developed back pains from carrying it everywhere I went.
The S250 I have has travelled with me around the world - it's been to the USA, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Thailand and several places in Europe too. Even with the larger 8-cell battery installed, the S250 is not heavy and cumbersome. The S271 is essentially the same laptop and the same can be said for it - I've travelled into London a couple if times with the S271 and it was no different to carrying my S250 around. Despite having virtually the same chassis, the S271 is a different kettle of fish when it comes to the hardware inside.
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The build quality and styling are a definite improvement on my current notebook, but there are still some areas where there is room for improvement. The facia on the slot-loading DVD drive was a little loose, and actually came off in my hand at one point after picking up the notebook one-handed in a routine fashion. In saying that though, the model we have here is an early model, and we would hope that this issue would have been fixed by the time the notebooks made it to retail.
One weakpoint on my S250 is the silver covers on the edge of the hinges for the screen - they have come off a couple of times during the time I've owned the S250. Having said that, they weren't that secure to begin with. Thankfully, it seems that MSI has addressed this issue with the S271, as the silver covers seem to be attached more securely this time around.
This is the first AMD Turion X2 notebook that we've had a look at, and it is fitting to see that it comes with such a small form factor. The S271 comes with a 12.1" WXGA screen with a high contrast glossy coating and the notebook itself measures up at around 303mm (L) x 250mm (D) x 45mm (H) with an eight-cell battery installed. With the smaller four-cell battery, the dimensions are 303mm x 225mm x 30mm. It's certainly not the smallest notebook out there, but there aren't many that come with a price tag as attractive as the one that MSI has put on the S271 model we have here.
There is very little that we would change in the specification - in an ultra-portable notebook, you're looking for a compromise between performance and battery life. One thing that we would change is the inclusion of the Express Card - when I'm out on the move, I sometimes use a 3G Data card when it's impossible to find a WiFi connection. Virtually all 3G Data cards use a PC card slot, meaning that it is impossible to use your current 3G Data card on the MSI Megabook S271. However, Vodafone has recently announced the first USB-based 3G Data card, so all is not lost.