MSI X460DX 14" Core i5 Notebook Review

Design, Build Quality and User Experience

The design of the X460DX is clean, thin and understated. At just 4.3 pounds, it's one of the lighter 14 inch notebooks on the market. MSI decided to keep this one pretty simple, with a softly textured lid and a matte black bottom. The ports are evenly distributed, though the tray loading optical drive on the right side dominates the most of that edge of the machine.

Along the front edge, you won't find any ports, but you will find a litany of blue LEDs that serve as status indicator lights for hard drive activity, etc. Upon opening the lid up, you'll find a decently–sized trackpad, with a single, non-–divided click button below. That design choice is definitely not our favorite, but for what it's worth, left and right clicks seemed to register without too much trouble. The trackpad area itself was fairly smooth, with no real texture to speak of. Unfortunately, the areas to the left and right of the trackpad are littered with gaudy stickers that detract from the overall classiness of the machine.

We've noticed a gradual shift of the chiclet keyboard out of the netbook world and into the mainstream notebook world, and MSI's continuing that trend here. The keys are standard squares with conventional spacing in between each, though each key does have a bit of texture on top. Unfortunately, there's no backlit option here, so those typing in the dark better have their touch typing down pat. The only keyboard oddities we noticed were a truncated shift key and an oddly placed function key on the lower–left side. Overall, the learning curve for typing was fairly low, and given the ample spacing we didn't find it to be too cramped.

Along the right side, there is a Kensington lock port, tray–loading optical drive, a single USB 2.0 port, a 2-in-1 media card reader, 3.5 mm input jack, and a 3.5 mm headphone port. Over on the left edge, there's an AC input jack, and exhaust vent, a full–size HDMI port, a full–size VGA port, a Gigabit Ethernet jack, and two USB 3.0 ports.

The bottom of the machine is riddled with exhaust vents, and it doesn't take too long before you find out what those are all about. After a good bit of benchmarking, the X460's fans  kicked into high gear and the vast majority of the excess heat was being pushed out through the bottom. The fans themselves never got too terribly loud, but we found our lap getting plenty warm after an hour or so of use. That's pretty much par for the course these days, but those who tax this machine heavily may pay for it with a bit of sweat equity.

The 14 inch glossy display is decent. We aren't huge fans of glossy screens, and we were a bit disappointed with the lackluster resolution supported. The native resolution here is only 1366 x 768, which is the same resolution found on most 13 inch ultra-portables.

In other words, you're paying for a 14 inch unit, but your pixel density doesn't really change compared to most 13 inch machines. Those of you who have trouble seeing the native resolution on 13 inch machines may appreciate this one, but if you were hoping to buy more screen real estate and in turn get more pixels for the money, you're going to be disappointed.  It's still a decent resolution for this size screen though and we've even seen 15" models at this res. Sharpness and viewing angles were better than average here, but fingerprints and dust found their way onto the screen rather easily. Additionally, the biggest hardware flaw we found was on the bezel. Both the left and right edge seemed dangerously fragile, and were separating from the lid slightly in a few places.

As for overall responsiveness? For an $850 machine, we found usability to be well above average. Boot up only took 30 or 45 seconds, and outside of the stray antivirus program, bloatware was kept to a minimum. One unique software feature with the X460DX is the pre-installed S–bar. Basically, this is a software overlay that sits at the top of your Windows desktop screen. When you hover over it with your cursor, you'll find easy access to an array of options. Things like disabling or enabling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are here, not to mention volume, brightness and other system settings. In use, we found it nice to have these perched above, and having the overlay enabled didn't seem to detract from system performance.

Our machine's installed 6GB of system memory was certainly a plus, and the Core i5 processor was definitely no slouch. In fact, we found the machine to be quite snappy in handling most of our mundane desktop chores. Opening up a Firefox browser, a Word document, or even Photoshop happened without too much noticeable lag, and even playing back high definition videos on YouTube was handled with ease. Overall, we never found ourselves longing for more power than what we had. Quite the contrary, in fact. Many $850 machines from last year left us wanting better responsiveness, but with the X460DX, we never found the system to be sluggish, when it came to handling our most common tasks.

3D gaming definitely isn't the strong suit of this machine, but having a potent discrete NVIDIA graphics chip enabled it to hang tough with most of our gaming demands. We wouldn't recommend this kind of machine for those who need to play the latest and greatest at high resolutions, but if you're fine with kicking the details down a few notches or playing games that hit their prime a year or so ago, there's plenty of power for you here.

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