MSI MS-1022 Notebook Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (29,797)

by Tyler Tupa, North Dakota USA

Introduction

MSI 1022 notebook (view larger image)

I was looking for a well-rounded 13″-14″ notebook, and I found a diamond in the rough: the MSI MS-1022.  It is a powerful thin and light offering from the MSI Computer Corporation.  The 1022 is one of the few 14″ notebooks with a dedicated graphics solution.  It is also lighter than many comparable offerings from the competition, weighing in at 4.96 lbs. 

I received my MS-1022 from RawPowerPC.com on January 31, 2006 with the following configuration:

  • 14″ WXGA TFT monitor (1280 x 768 max resolution)
  • Windows XP Professional w/ SP2 (Windows install disks also provided)
  • Intel Pentium M Processor 750 (1.86ghz)
  • 1024 mb DDR2 533 RAM (1 soDIMM stick, 2.0 gb max supported)
  • nVidia Geforce go 6200 PCI-E video card (64mb dedicated w/ turbocache for 128mb total)
  • 100 gb 5400 RPM HD
  • Intel Pro 2915 a/b/g Wireless card
  • DL DVD-RW drive
  • Additional 6 cell battery (6 cell battery provided with computer)
  • Integrated Bluetooth wireless
  • 2 year Rawpowerpc warranty
  • 4 in 1 flash memory card reader

Reasons for Buying

My university requires me to lease a Dell Latitude D505 for Aviation classes.  After paying $500 per semester, I did not want to pay another $1,500 to buy the computer after graduation.  I do not like the keyboard on that machine, and it bends and flexes every time I pick it up.  Instead of paying that premium to purchase the obsolete machine, I decided to buy a laptop to replace it.  Because I’ll be moving around a lot I decided to sell my custom built desktop, and replace it with my new laptop.  Clearly I needed something versatile, powerful, and with lots of hard drive space.  I will be leaving school soon, and most likely traveling frequently, so I wanted something in the thin and light category.

I work at a big box electronics retailer, but was unimpressed at our offering in the 14″ screen size of laptops.  When I found out that I couldn’t save much by utilizing my discount, I knew I would be better served by customizing online.

I began searching through the big name brands: Toshiba first, then Dell, HP, Gateway, and Sony.  Each offered their own certain draw, but none offered the right combination for me.  I was especially disappointed when I found out how few thin and lights offered a dedicated graphics solution.  Though I don’t game much, I like to have the option; especially when I’m replacing a desktop. 

The forum at NotebookReview.com, was an extremely big help when deciding between computers.  First, I was set on the Dell XPS M140, I decided against that because of the lack of dedicated graphics memory.  The posters at this forum turned me on to smaller brands and ODMs that I had never thought about.  My final decision was between the Asus W3V and this MS-1022.

Order Process

I chose the 1022 because of the value for my money.  At its cheapest the Asus W3V priced out at $1,699 with a 4200 RPM hard drive, a standard warranty and standard 8 cell battery.  With the 1022 I got a 5400 RPM hard drive, a 2 year warranty, and an extra 6 cell battery for $1,770 shipped.  This was enough to draw me away from the beautiful W3V.  In my opinion, the value offered by Rawpowerpc was great.

I chose RawPowerPC after doing a quick search of 1022 retailers.  I saw their rating on resellerratings.com and was impressed.  I e-mailed buying questions to a few of the dealers to test their customer service.  Rawpower responded to all of my e-mails within 24 hours, and often I received them soon after I sent in the question. 

I was very impressed with Rawpowerpc.  They were extremely professional, courteous, and patient.  They answered all of my questions, and continue to do so even after the sale.  Rawpower’s customer service constantly updated my order status with e-mails, and when it shipped I received a UPS tracking number.  I used UPS Ground service, and the computer arrived 5 days after it shipped and it was packaged with extreme care.

Chassis Quality and Overall Design

From the moment I picked up the 1022, I could feel the difference in quality versus my Dell.  It feels extremely solid, with absolutely no flex in the casing.  The lid is made out of a strong plastic while the body is composed of aluminum alloy and that same hard plastic.  These materials contribute to the protection, the solid feel and the light weight.  The LCD screen has better than anticipated protection.  If enough pressure is applied ripples can be seen, but that much pressure should not be applied in the first place.  The hinges are excellent, much better than my Dell.  I enjoy the firmness; there is very little play in the hinge movement.  The lid closes securely, and latches in two places keeping it balanced.  The black color of the lid tends to attract smudges or dust, but is easy to clean and looks great.

MSI 1022 above view of lid (view larger image)

MSI 1022 power button (view larger)

The only slight disappointment is the keyboard.  It is far and away better than my Dell, but it is not as comfy as I had hoped.  It is firm, with good responsiveness, but is louder than I expected.  There is very little flex, noticeable more on the right side than the left.  Overall, it is good, but not great.

MSI 1022 keyboard view (view larger)

The touchpad feels nice, and is responsive.  I am not thrilled with the small buttons, but am becoming used to them.  I think my Dell’s touchpad was more sensitive, but this one feels nicer.

The speakers put out crisp, clear sound.  Volume is more than adequate.  In fact, if I plug headphones in, I often have to turn the volume nearly all the way down to attain a natural listening level.  There is very little distortion through speakers, and the audio output quality is fantastic.  I was really surprised to see that the 1022 has a built-in optical output, which it shares with the headphone port.  I haven’t seen a notebook with this feature, but my desktop had an optical out, so I don’t have to change wires; I just added an adapter to the optical cable and I was ready for high quality audio.

Screen

MSI 1022 screen view (view larger)

The screen was sexy right out of the box.  Contrast and brightness are good, and there are no dead or stuck pixels.  I was fearful of these dead pixels because they really annoy me.  I rarely put the screen to max brightness, and at lowest brightness I can still read the screen enough to take notes in Word.  When viewing angles change slightly the first thing noticeable is that the colors appear washed out.  However, I feel that the viewing angles are good, and the colors are vibrant from most angles.

Performance

I am very impressed with the performance of this computer.  I typically don’t use the full 1.86 ghz of my Pentium-M, but it clocks down and runs very efficiently.  I purchased the computer with 1,024 mb of DDR2 533 RAM.  Basic office and internet tasks are handled quickly and easily.  The processor stays in the low to mid 40’s during most operation.  Programs load and run quick as well, partly due to the fast hard drive.  After timing the boot process I find that the 1022 boots to the windows login screen in 30-33 seconds.  This rivals my desktop, which has a 7200 RPM drive.  The Samsung hard drive that was installed by Rawpowerpc is louder than I hoped, but very quick.  After running HD Tune (results in next section) I was happy with the average read/write speed and constantly low temps.  This program also reported that the hard drive has no errors, which I was happy to see.

The 1022 did have trouble with a few of its original drivers.  I got a few BSODs during initial Windows Media Player usage.  After all of my migration was done, I proceeded to update the drivers that I could.  I used the original drivers for the sounds card, the updated ones proved to be unstable.  Now everything runs exceptionally stable, with no random restarts or dreaded blue screens (aside from the login screen ;-).

I don’t play any intense games, but I have watched several video/dvd files.  The graphics card should be able to handle pretty intense video and games on lower settings.  There are a lot of settings in the nVidia control panel for handy adjustments.  The 6200 seems to hold up pretty well in benchmarks as well.

Benchmarks

I ran a few benchmarking programs to test the system:

Everest Home Edition:

Memory Read:

(view larger)

Memory Write:

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Memory Latency:

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PCMark 2004

HD Tune

(view larger)

The benchmarks were taken under normal conditions, without altering any of the running processes.  This shows what the machine can do in a real situation, and I feel they are an accurate representation of the 1022’s abilities.

Heat and Noise

During data migration and times of high disk usage, warming is apparent on the right palm rest as well as underneath that area.  I believe this to be typical of most notebooks, especially ones of smaller form-factor such as this one.  I don’t think the warming is excessive or unique compared to other brands; if anything, it is slightly better than average.  It is only slight warming, and both the hard drive and processor operate at nice cool temperatures (HD averages at 44, CPU at 45).  I use the notebook on my lap often, and have no trouble with heat. 

The processor fan is very quiet, and I rarely hear it without holding my ear to the machine.  When it is blowing at minimum speed it is almost inaudible.  In fact, I hear the hard drive much more often.  The Samsung hard drive is the loudest part of the 1022, but even that needs to be close to be audible.  I was happy with the noise level when playing DVDs.  The optical drive is quick, but quiet.  When spinning at full speed, it is not as loud as I thought it would be.  Overall, the 1022 provides a good mix of heat dissipation without expelling much, if any, noise.

I/O Ports and Wireless

MSI 1022 left side (view larger image)

MSI 1022 right side (view larger image)

MSI 1022 back side view (view larger image)

MSI 1022 under side view (view larger image)

I enjoy how sleek the 1022 looks without bulky legacy connections taking up space in the back.  However, since these ports don’t take up that space I think something else should.  The only port in the back of the machine is for the modem.  This leaves the sides of the machine to carry the load of connectors.  On a few sites I read that it has 4 USB 2.0 ports, however, mine only came with 3.  Two are located on the right and one on the left.  It would have been helpful to have the ports pushed toward the back, but I don’t find any trouble connecting peripherals where they are currently located.  The USB ports are nice and tight, they hold plugs securely, but plugs are easy to insert and remove.  The 1022 boasts the following connections:

  • VGA Port (D-Sub, 15-pin mini D-Sub) — left side
  • TV-out (S-Video) Port — left side
  • USB2.0 Port x 3
  • IEEE1394 Port — left side
  • Mic-in Port – front
  • Headphone Out — front
  • Modem Port — rear
  • LAN Port — left side
  • PCMCIA Card Slot — left side

I do like that the USB ports are not stacked vertically, but rather sit next to each other.  This prevents a blockage when connecting an oversized dongle/jump drive.

I ordered my MS-1022 with Intel’s 2915 a/b/g wireless card.  I have grown attached to Intel’s Pro Wireless tray service.  It is much more intuitive and user-friendly than the built-in Windows service.  I especially enjoy the level of control the Intel program gives me.  After setting up “profiles” for my university buildings and home router, and excluding conflicting APs, I have no problems connecting and maintaining a signal with good throughput everywhere I go.  This wireless solution works much better than my Dell’s Intel 2100 b card.

Battery Life

I ordered an extra 6 cell battery because I have a few long days a week, when I would need about 5 or 6 hours of use.  With only wireless on and the screen brightness turned down to the 3rd lowest setting, I can get about 2 hours 50 minutes.  I believe that with very mild undervolting and wireless off the 1022 would get 3:10 or 3:30 tops.  These results are very reasonable for a 6 cell battery.  I have no trouble going the necessary 6 hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this is with the brightness turned to the 2nd lowest setting, wireless on and only using Word and web surfing.  The batteries also charge quickly, which is a plus.

Included Software

I chose Windows XP Professional for my MS-1022s operating system.  Rawpowerpc also included Cyberlink’s DVD solution, the MSI driver disk, and the Intel wireless driver disk. 

I really enjoy MSI’s system control manager.  I used it to setup my user-configurable quick launch button.  The SCM program also provides on-screen pop-up icons for Bluetooth and wireless button status, and for LCD brightness.

Rawpower was very receptive when I asked about included software.  They even offered suggestions for free anti-spyware and anti-virus software.  The customer support was extremely top notch!

Conclusion

The MS-1022 thoroughly impressed me with its solid build quality and above average performance.  Even its quirks, the rectangular backlit cutout on the lid, the small mouse buttons, and the quick launch buttons, have really grown on me.  After owning my MSI for a couple weeks, I really like the cutout and don’t think I’ll get a badge for it.  People are constantly taking notice of its stand-out, yet, subtle looks.  Of course I often have to explain what an ODM is, which gets annoying, but generally people are impressed with my notebook…perhaps envious, haha.  I have already agreed to help a few people purchase notebooks, and have no reservations about recommending this MSI to those looking for a well-built, well-rounded thin and light.

Pros:

  • Strong build quality
  • Excellent screen
  • Powerful, fast, and very quiet
  • Exceptional size and weight (13.07″ (W) x 9.04 ” (D) x 1.28″ (H), and 4.96 lbs)
  • User configurable quick launch button
  • Shared optical output with headphone output

Cons:

  • Noisier keyboard (being fairly picky)
  • Noisier hard drive
  • Small mouse buttons
  • USB port location


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