MSI M677 Crystal Collection Laptop Review

by Reads (31,445)

by Sergio Kappel, The Netherlands

Overview and Introduction

The MSI M677 Crystal Collection is a 15.4-inch widescreen "Exclusive laptop", meaning it is a truly unique laptop with crystals embedded in the lid around the MSI logo. In addition to being pretty the M677 packs some punch with an AMD Turion X2 processor and Nvidia Go 7600 graphics card. You can compare the exclusivity of the MSI Crystal Collection with Acer’s Ferrari and Asus’ Lamborghini laptops. But in my opinion this MSI is better than those two, read the review to find out why!


MSI Crystal badge (view large image)

MSI M677 Crystal Collection Specifications

Processor & Cache AMD Mobile Processor Turion64x2 TL-56 1.8GHz with 512 kb Cache for each core
Operating System Windows XP MCE

Chipsets nVidia GeForce 6100 (C51MV)+ nVidia MCP51M Chipset
System Memory Two SO-DIMM Sockets for expansion up to 2 GB DDR2 (667 MHZ), currently 1GB installed
LCD Display 15.4" WXGA(1280 X 800)
Graphics & Video Module nVidia GeForce Go 7600 , 256 MB Dedicated
Audio Realtek ALC883, Azalia and SoundBlaster compatible
HDD SATA HDD 120GB @ 5400RPM
Web Camera 1.3M Mega pixel CMOS
Optical Drive DVD-Supermulti writer
Communication Port Built-in 10/100/1000Mbps Ethernet LAN and Modem Module, IEEE802.1b+g, Bluetooth Supported
PC Cards Slots PCMCIA 2.1 Compliant TypeII X 1, PC Card ExpressCard x 1
Card Reader 6-in-1 Card Reader, SD/MMC/XD/SM/MS/MS Pro
I/O Port Monitor(DVI) Port X 1
USB2.0 Port X 4
Mic-in Port X 1
IEEEE 1394 X 1
Headphone Out X 1
Internal Microphone X 1
SPDIF-out (Share Headphone Out)
RJ-11 Port X 1
RJ-45 Port X 1
TV-out Port X 1 (S-Video)
AC Adaptor 19V DC, 90W / Input: 100~ 240V AC, 50/60Hz universal
Battery Pack & Life Li-Ion 9 cells, 7200mAh, 65W (3 hours)

Dimension & Weight 358(L) X 259(D) X 27-33(H)mm
2.9KG (with 9 cell battery)
Hot Keys 5 buttons, power, IE, Email, WLAN, P1

 


MSI M677 box (view large image)

Reasons for Buying:


MSI M677 right out of the box (view large image)

I purchased this laptop after owning an HP dv1000 series notebook for two years.  It was time for me to buy a new laptop with better specifications. At the time I bought my HP notebook, I had originally wanted a PC with a serious video card, but where I used to live (a small island in the Caribbean), they didn’t sell performance laptops, so I was forced to buy the integrated graphics equipped HP dv1000.


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Now I live in the Netherlands and have a lot of choices when it comes to laptops. Acer, Asus, HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, Fujitsu-Siemens, and MSI all sell here. I was looking for a new laptop that could run Vista with Aero and that offers some serious performance for casual gaming.  Given my requirements and the notebooks available on the market at the time I had the choice between Acer, Asus and MSI.  The first two were scrapped from my list because they were sold out and they weren’t on par with what the MSI M677 has anyway. The MSI M677 was the only available 15.4” screen laptop on the market with dedicated graphics that has an integrated numpad as well! You usually see this extra in 17” laptops, it’s rarely seen in 15.4” laptops. Another crucial factor was that this MSI is just unique. It has 120 Swarovski crystals embedded into the MSI logo and the whole exterior of the laptop has a glossy black paint. You won’t see anyone nearby with the same laptop!  Both Acer and Asus have unique laptops (the Ferrari and Lamborghini) but these laptops come with a premium price (around 2000 euros) and they have mediocre performance so you’re paying more for the looks and branding than what is inside. MSI has created a powerful combination with the M677 Crystal Collection. Keep on reading and you will find why…


Included accessories (view large image)

Where and How Purchased:

I purchased the MSI M677 at an online retailer named Alternate BV. I read some seller surveys indicating they were reliable in the past and that they still are. They were also the only place that had this model in stock and happened to be situated in a nearby city. Also their price was just right. I ended paying 1,245 euros for the laptop and 18 euros for shipping & handling costs, which comes to a total of 1,263 euros.

Build & Design:

I have owned two MSI products in the past.  To be more specific, two socket A motherboards:  the famous K3 Ultra and the K7N2 (Nforce 2) platform. So I did have some experience with MSI’s support and build quality. The M677 is no exception. Since it is a unique laptop, it has to be built to last. The whole body is made of a magnesium alloy which gives it a sturdy and robust look.

On the front side you have the 6-in-1 card reader, three audio jacks (mic-in, line-out, headphone) and the latch that opens up the screen.


Front side of MSI M677 (view large image)

On the left side you will encounter the DVD-writer, 2x USB 2.0 ports, modem and gigabit Ethernet port and a kensington lock slot.


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Going to the right side you will find 1x PCMCIA port and 1x ExpressCard slot, 1x IEEE1394 (FireWire), 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x S-video output, 1x DVI output, 1x power jack.


Right side of MSI M677 (view large image)

Finally on the backside of the machine you will see only the heat vent where all the heat will be pushed out and then the battery.


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When you open the laptop you will notice that the screen has a 1.3 Megapixel webcam integrated and at the top of the keyboard you will find the microphone-hole 


The under side of the M677 exposed! (view large image)


More internals (view large image)

Screen:

I cannot commend this screen more. It has the WOW-factor! It dwarfs my dv1000 14.1” matte screen which seems so dull and dead now. The colors are vibrant and the contrast is superb.  There are no dead pixels, for which I am thankful. I almost can’t believe what I have been missing! The mirror effect from a glossy screen can get frustrating at times when you are in bright light, especially when on battery where you have to dim the screen.

Speakers:

The speakers are average. They are worse than the dv1000’s which was equipped with Harman-Kardon speakers.  They are just fine for the Windows sounds, but not recommended if you plan to game on this laptop or listen to music. I primarily use external speakers and headphones so the line-output quality is more of an issue to me. Still, the speaker performance is a bit disappointing. The speakers lack bass and when you play music at the highest volume you can hear some crackling. But a majority of laptops have bad speakers in them, so I’m not surprised and don’t consider it a big fault. The good news is that the audio output (soundcard) on the M677 is far superior to the dv1000 so external speakers and headphones work well.

Processor and Performance:

Performance has been superb. Multi-tasking is great, I can fire up four programs at once and wait for them all to load and they go remarkably fast. I usually play UT, UT2004, NFS: Carbon and FEAR. All games play fine at 1280*800 or at 1024*768. In fast-moving games like FPS or Driving you can notice some ghosting, but not on this machine.

Benchmarks:

Super Pi Comparison Results

Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy and gives an idea of the processor speed and performance:

Notebook Time
MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2) 1m 53s
Asus Z96Js (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 53s
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo) 1m 11s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

 

Comparison results for 3DMark05

3DMark05 tests the overall graphic capabilities of a notebook, below is how the MSI M677 did compared to other notebooks:

Notebook 3D Mark 05 Results
MSI M677 (1.8GHz AMD Turion X2, NVidia Go 7600) 3,765 3DMarks
Asus Z96Js (2.0 GHz Core Duo, ATIX1600 3,842 3D Marks
Alienware Aurora M-7700(AMD Dual Core FX-60, ATI X1600 256MB) 7,078 3D Marks
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,092 3D Marks
Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI x700 128 MB) 2,530 3D Marks
Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB) 2,273 3DMarks
HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB) 2,536 3D Marks
Dell XPS M1210 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7400 256MB) 2,090 3D Marks

 

HD Tune:


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Heat and Noise:

There is no sign of fatigue when I use the laptop. Even when I’m gaming, the palmrests are just cool. This is due the patented airflow design of MSI’s laptops. The fan always stays on, but it’s not disturbing. Some users on our forum find this staying on annoying, but I hope that MSI will release a bios that regulates better the fan spinning time.

Keyboard and Touchpad:

The keyboard isn’t that great. It’s a bit hard to press in the beginning, but if you use the laptop every day, the key press will loosen up. I rate the keyboard to be definitely tolerable. The keyboard layout though is very nice. And the big positive is that you of course get a numpad.  The only downside to this keyboard is the small cursors keys (which I find irritating when I have to drive in a game).

The touchpad however is roomy and feels pretty good beneath my fingers.  The touchpad also has a scroll area, which is great.

Battery:

I managed to work 2 hours and 45 minutes with this laptop. I used the “max battery” profile in Windows. This reduced the working speed of the CPU to 795 MHz and I dimmed the screen brightness to the 4th bar out of 8(with 8 being the brightest). These times were acquired using the 6-cell battery that I received with the laptop. With the 9-cell battery MSI claims you can work for about 4 hours nonstop.

Operating System , extra software and goodies:

One great thing about this machine is that it comes only with the operating system and a few system utilities to update your drivers and bios (if needed). You will find a functional copy of Norton Internet Security 2006 and PowerDVD 6. The operating system that it came with it was MS Windows Media Center Edition.  MSI includes 3 DVD’s with the system, they do not force you to create backup discs like other manufacturers these days. Each DVD contains a different Windows MCE language. I received the three DVD’s with the following languages: Dutch, English and French.

When you have to restore your computer, you just put the DVD in and it will autorun. Just follow the steps and everything should be fine. Kudos to MSI for not skimping on the recovery procedure!

MSI also gives you a micro fiber cleaning cloth to keep your laptop free of smudges and to keep the exterior shining. You also get a free mini USB mouse in the package and a bag to carry your M677 everywhere. The carrying bag is just ok for carrying the laptop itself, the charger, a mouse, pens and a few papers/books.  Only Asus and MSI are nice enough to include these little extras with a notebook purchase.

Customer Support:

I sent an email to MSI support here in the Netherlands, and they replied back to me within 3 hours. They didn’t ask silly questions like: have you tried to restart the laptop, or have you tried to pull out the battery and then insert it back?  With MSI support when you get straight to the point with a question they give you a straight answer. I contacted them about a strange high pitched noise that (I actually used to have the same thing on my HP dv1000 and HP fixed it with a bios update).  MSI told me that I was to first one to report this high-pitched noise and that they would investigate it. One day later, they emailed me back with a beta bios that MSI is currently testing. I flashed my bios (version 1.12) to version 1.14(beta) and the high-pitched noise disappeared!  I hope that I don’t have to contact them ever again, because I truly trust the quality of this laptop.

Conclusion:

Overall for the price and performance I am satisfied. I don’t think I would have found the specs I wanted in anything else for the same price range. And if you don’t care about the embedded luxury crystals, you can buy this same laptop for even less. You will find it online as the M677/M675 without the CC (Crystal Collection) at the end.

Pros:

  • Price
  • Uniqueness
  • Screen
  • Audio
  • Performance
  • Support

Cons

  • Speakers
  • Fan always on


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