Author Topic: MSI 1039 Barebones Laptop  (Read 1125 times)

Offline Carskick

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MSI 1039 Barebones Laptop
« on: Jul 22, 2006, 09:01 PM »
MSI 1039 Laptop barebones kit

Introduction

This is a review on the MSI 1039 Laptop barebones kit and it?s functionality, not it?s ease of assembly internally. I cannot cover this section, as I ordered the kit with my parts already assembled within. Upon beginning this review, I have only owned the laptop for several days, so I may add updates later.


Specs
MSI gray case
MSI main board socket 754 (25watt Turions recommended)
ATI Mobility Radeon x1600 GPU w/ 256MB VRAM
ATI RS 480M + ATI SB 450 Chipset
Realtek ALC 882
DDR333/400 SO-DIMM x 2 slots, MAX: 2GB
Supports 2.5" 9.5mm IDE HDD with Ultra ATA-100 up to 120GB
Built-in 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet LAN and modem Module
Optional 802.11b/g WLAN
Optional 802.11b/g WLAN w/Bluetooth connection
PCMCIA 2.1 Compliant, Type II x 1, Express Card x 1
15.4inch screen glare or non

Battery Pack & Life Li-ion 6 cells battery (4400mAh)
AC Adapter 19V DC, 65W/Input: 100~240V AC, 50/60Hz universal
Dimensions 14.09" (W) x 10.20 (D) x 1.06~1.30" (H)
Weight < 7 lbs (complete system)


How mine is setup
Windows XP Pro / Windows Vista Ultimate Beta 2
AMD Turion MT-37 2.0Ghz 1MB L2
1.0GB corsair DDR400
Fujitsu 5400RPM 100GB Hard Drive
LG DVD?RW/RAM
RiTech 802.11b/g WLAN w/o BT


Case and Appearance
The case seems to be of average build quality, mostly made of smooth plastics that are not glossy, but show hints of finger prints. Plastics can get a little thin around parts such as the optical drive, but this is nothing unusual, or prominently bad. The standard case is a gray color on top and inside with black accents and a black bottom. Hinge action is very good. It is so stiff, that you have to hold the body of the laptop down while pulling the screen up. The locking mechanism seem slightly above average for durability.

The case features most of it?s lights on the front right of the computer, indicating power, hard drive activity, battery charging, num lock, caps lock, scroll lock, and wireless activation, respectively from left to right. The lights are very obvious, but not obstructive.

In the middle front of the case, the opening mechanism, universal card reader, and 3 audio ports are positioned, and work quite logically. A majority of the ports are positioned on the right hand side, including PCMIA, PCIe(MIA), 1394, 2xUSB 2.0, S-Video, DVI, and AC/ power, respectively front to back. I would have preferred more of these ports on the rear, as very few are place their. This is especially true of the AC adaptor port, DVI, and S-video. On the rear of the laptop, there are no ports, only an exhaust. On the left side, you have the optical drive, 2xUSB 2.0, Ethernet, and 56k, respectively, going front to back. Again, I am curious as to why they decided to have more ports on the right side as opposed to putting them on the rear.

The size seems to be a little smaller and lighter than average 15.4? screened laptops, especially for being one that is semi-Desktop Replacement with the good video card. Carrying this lappy around isn?t much of a hassle.
« Last Edit: Jul 22, 2006, 09:04 PM by Carskick »
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Offline Carskick

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Re:MSI 1039 Barebones Laptop
« Reply #1 on: Jul 22, 2006, 09:01 PM »
Screen, sound, touchpad, and keyboard
The screen is standard 1280x800 resolution, and picture clarity is very sharp. Coloring is slightly bland, but I found increasing contrast in the ATI control panel completely remedies the issue, creating colors which are vivid and relatively accurate. The glossy coating is nice in low to medium lighting, but in sun or a very bright room, reflections and glares are noticeable, but this is to be expected for the glare screen. The non-glare screen could be completely different in this category. Also, the screen would be nice if could go a little brighter. It is almost there, but when battling glare in the sun, an extra boost could make the difference. Overall, the screen is a little above average in it?s class, giving very good color and sharpness, especially after tweaking, and having mostly even brightness throughout.

The HD Realtek sound chip provides pretty good sound compred to most integrated solutions, and it has surround capabilities, which is not included on all laptops. The realtek website talks about the ALC882 being geared towards media PCs, and has performance and sound optimizations more than other Realtek chips. The built in speakers are slightly above average, but are by no means great. The Realtek drivers allow you to adjust them using a 10-band EQ, but the sound from the built in speakers is a little weak, but does have good stereo separation and 3D effect. I like their positioning behind the keyboard. The case also has a built in microphone which is a nice touch and has surprisingly good quality for being integrated.

The touchpad is average except for it?s lack of one essential feature; an off switch. For those who type a lot on a laptop, sometimes the sweeping of a wrist on the touch pad can move your cursor elsewhere, which can be very irritating. Many laptops have a button or function key which allows the user to turn of the touchpad temporarily if you are typing or have an external mouse. The computer comes with no touchpad driver which turns it off either. The solution is to download the Synaptics touchpad driver. While the touchpad is not a Synaptics, the driver allows the user to turn off the touchpad at will and use a USB mouse instead. The touchpad is most likely actually by ElanTech. Their driver allows you to make many changes to the behavior of the touchpad that really are effective, but it does not allow you to turn it off entirely! Also, the Synaptics driver made the pad more responsive IMHO.

The Keyboard is average for a laptop. Keys are flat, and have a good feel, but some can be slightly harder to push than normal until breaking in. However, this is not a major drawback. What is a major drawback is the right hand shift key. MSI decided to make the right hand shift bar a key shorter and put a duplicate backslash button there. This is very annoying, and moronic in my opinion. I always use the far right portion of the shift key, and this screws up my typing on a regular basis. All keys are well placed except for this one. Also, they decided to put the ?Fn? key where the ctrl key normal goes, and the right side ctrl key is to the left of the Fn key. I would prefer them switched, but many laptops have these two keys in both configurations. Otherwise, the keyboard is comfortable and easy to use. It is above average in feel, but slightly below in layout, due to a few dumb decisions.


Battery and Heat

This laptop is very efficient for it?s specs. The video card automatically adjusts to whether the laptop is plugged in, on battery, or low on battery, and the user can adjust it?s behavior for each. I would have preferred an overridable ?use as needed? method like the CPU?s PowerNow!, but it?s not a big deal. The recommended CPU is 25w, and the screen does not shoot out ultra high brightness, so consumption is low, and the AC adapter is a mere 65watt setup. HOWEVER, the battery in this size laptop is sized at Li-ion 6 cells battery (4400mAh). This means decent battery life in an efficient laptop, which could have had an amazing battery life. It is like a hybrid car with a really small gas tank, so refills are often despite good mileage. My battery might still be breaking in, but in my experience, battery life generally ranges from 1.5-2.5 hours. This is with wi-fi on the whole time, and the video card set to balanced, but it varies based on what you do. You may get 3 if you do not actually do anything but let your laptop run unplugged. Do not get me wrong, these numbers are not BAD, but for a medium sized laptop with small laptop power consumption, the life could have been so much better. I have heard rumors of a 9-cell 8000maH battery being available, but I have yet to confirm this or find one for sale. Going from 4400maH to 8000maH could nearly double the battery life, meaning 3-5 hours, which would be great. As of yet, this is difficult to find, but the computer is still new?

Battery life update:
I discovered a program called Batterymon, which monitors a laptops battery comsumption, current remaining out of cappacity, etc. I messed around, as based on current usage and capacity, it tells how long you could get at current usage in time. The worse battery life I could get was when I put screen at 100% brightness, GPU at full power, ran SuperPi in the background, a wireless network connection, and a WMV video in zoom player in the foreground, and the estimated time by the program was about 1:15. Lowering screen brightness to the minimum, turning off Wi-fi, optimize video for battery life, and have nothing running but windows, my normal background programs, and Batterymon, about 2:40 was predicted. In normal battery usage, I get between 1:40 and 2:10. After several months of using the computer quite a bit on both battery and AC, Batterymon says my full charge capacity is 3857mAh out of the 4070mAh , which is the design capacity. So according to this program, the advertised 4400mAh is an overstatement. However, a laptop that does not use over 40watts in even the most extreme conditions seems pretty efficient, taking advantage of it's small battery. I think the small battery is an attempt at making a lightweight power house, as many manufacturers have models akin to this.

The BIOS does not indicate any temperature monitoring, nor much else, as it is pretty limited. Speed fan may prove otherwise, but I have yet to try it. The laptop does get warm, but never hot or unbearable on your lap. I believe there is only one fan, and it is very quiet, but effectively cools the low power system. Even leaving the computer on thick carpet for hours did not prove to be issue or cause any sever heat feeling on the case.


Included Drivers
The ATI video, ATI chipset, Wireless, and card reader drivers are all included on the CD and work very well. The built in camera drivers allow the camera to work to an extent. The driver puts an icon in the task manager that is supposed to take stills, but it is always grayed out. A program is installed that does videos, but ends up taking about 14MB per second, and has no options to change it, and is very bad software. Maybe with 3rd party software, the camera could be good. The included stuff is not good though. Also, the disk did not give me Ethernet drivers. I had to go online, and found Realtek Gigabit drivers, which work fine.


Performance
Most performance topics related to other parts have already been discussed, including sound, the screen, etc. The video card performance will be just like any other setup with the same specs, and other performance factors depend on your specific components setup. The ATI chipset performs well, and the video is fairly good.

With my setup listed earlier, bootup is fairly quick, it is responsive for a laptop, and performs very similar to my desktop, save a slower hard drive and a weaker video, both of which are noticeable.


Conclusion
The MSI-1039 is a well made and well designed barebones laptop with a good video card for its price point, weight, and size. It ends up being perfect for what I need it for, though more graphics power and a bigger battery would be optimal. The computer seems as if it will hold up, and MSI appears to have taken special care in some trouble spots on laptops such as the hinges and latch.

Comparing this to comparably priced HPaq, Dell, or Gateway, the MSI feels like much better quality, and should satisfy many computer enthusiasts who do not want a heavy ultra power house. This laptop?s true strong point is it?s balance in all areas.


Discuss Here
« Last Edit: Sep 24, 2006, 08:08 PM by Carskick »
Athlon64 X2 3800+ Machester@2.45Ghz, 4x1GB A-DATA PC3200@204(2.5-3-3-6), XFX 8800GT, ASUS A8N5X NF4, Antec 300 case, Antec EarthWatts 650w, 640GB 16MB and 200GB 8MB 7200RPM SATA WD HDDs, NEC3540, NEC3550, Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate<br />Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/Carskick