Granted, this is a $600 machine, so it's not out of character, but we were able to hear a few creaks and squeaks when just handling the notebook as we normally would -- toting it from couch to desk, for example. The keyboard is a non-chiclet design. We get the feeling that the hot-and-heavy chiclet bandwagon is losing members left and right, and we aren't particularly saddened. They have their place, but a spacious 13.4" ultraportable deserves a spacious keyboard.
Unfortunately, MSI chose to drastically change the lengths and placements of a few vital keys, requiring us to acclimate to it. We made a number of typographical errors thanks to the shortened right Shift key, and very awkward placement of the Home, Page Up, Page Down and Edge keys means that the Delete and Backspace keys -- two that are very important -- aren't where you'd normally expect. We have to believe that there was a better solution out there than changing the keyboard layout we've all grown used to.
There's also no backlight underneath the keyboard. That's not shocking given the price, but it's a bit of letdown. The saving grace here is the trackpad. It's not perfectly center (instead it's justified underneath of the space bar), but it's spacious and perfectly tactile. The gentle texture is great for scrolling your finger across, and the single silver trackpad button is the first of its kind that we actually enjoyed. Asus should really take note here. Clicks were recognized easily, and we found it remarkably easy to scroll around the screen with the trackpad; precision was top-notch.
Sadly, the keyboard travel was lacking. The keys felt too light and plasticy, and we felt a lot of give and wiggle -- more than we hoped for. There's also four palm rest stickers, or around four too many for our liking. Along the front edge, you'll find a smattering of status LEDs, and along the right edge you'll see two USB 2.0 ports, audio in/out ports and an AC input. The rear isn't home to any ports, and the left side is home to an SD card slot, full-size HDMI output, VGA output and Ethernet jack. The front edge, or just under it, is where you'll find two exhaust vents, and believe us when we say that these get used.
The 13.4" (1366x768) panel is surrounding by a glossy black bezel, and a 1.3MP webcam sits above it. The panel itself isn't much to write home about. The viewing angles aren't great; get off-center by a few inches, and colors start to wash out pretty quickly. Not so much a problem if it's just you, but if you're asking colleagues to have a look at a presentation, some may not get a good view.
Overall, the build quality on the X370 is average. But it's exactly the kind of build quality we'd expect in a $600 ultraportable. It's light, though somewhat flimsy in spots, has a subpar keyboard, an easily washed-out display and an above-average trackpad. Honestly, it's a mixed bag as far as build quality is concerned, but what about the overall user experience and performance? Let's find out…