Windows 8-powered hybrid ultrabooks come in different forms and designs. We have those that folds, twists, and slides just so it can transform from a laptop into a tablet, and vice versa. The MSI Slidebook S20, as the name suggests, caters to the latter design. Cool design, yes, but what else does it have that stands out in the crowd? Let’s find out by reading our full review.
Design and Build
The MSI Slidebook S20 comes in white and is made of durable plastic which is glossy on top and has an aluminum finish at the bottom. This is a sliding Ultrabook meaning the keyboard is hidden away in its initial tablet form. Found on the front is the 11.6-inch 1080p IPS display with a 10-point multi-touch screen. Right above it is the 720p web camera along with other sensors, while below is the Windows home button.
On the right-hand side are the charging port, USB 3.0 (x2) ports, headset jack, mini HDMI, power button and LED light indicators. Isolated on the left hand-side is the Ethernet port. Found on the rear are the air vent, auto-rotate button, volume rocker, and SD card reader. Take a peak at its belly and you’ll see two speakers placed on the right and bottom left side of the device.
The fun begins when slide out the display to reveal the keyboard. You’ll notice that there are metal strips placed on the left and right-hand side of the keyboard. This doesn’t serve any special purpose aside from protecting the surface from potential damage done by constant sliding. As for the sliding itself, you’ll have to use both hands as MSI made sure that the parts are tight and secure. That way you won’t have to worry about the display sliding off when the device is tilt.
We’ve also noticed some manufacturing and design flaws like the bezel which protrudes at the bottom – a sign of adhesive problems with the unit. And the exposed flex at the rear when you tilt the display on ultrabook mode.
Overall, the S20’s design isn’t new but it can still steal some glances and collect some ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ everytime you slide it out. The review unit we received though already have some chipped-off paint and smudges on the keyboard caused by numerous sliding. This indicates that the unit has been used for some time now which gives us a good idea how it will look like after a period of use.
The Slidebook S20 uses an 11.6-inch full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS LCD with a 10-point multi-touch display. Full HD resolution on smartphones and tablets are great but I don’t think you can say the same thing on ultrabooks.
Texts appear tiny on a full HD display so it’s a bit cumbersome if you’re browsing the web, working on some Word documents, or reading PDFs. You can scale down the resolution to make it more comfortable to the eyes but it won’t look optimized which is evident when browsing websites. And since everything is smaller interacting with the Desktop using touch can be a bit cumbersome. It won’t be an issue though if you’re using a mouse.
On the bright side, the full HD display coupled with an IPS panel is a sure treat when watching high-resolution movies. Glare can be a problem sometmes but it’s a small sacrifice for a having a bright and crisp display with great colors. In addition, there’s a light sensor located above the screen which automatically adjusts the brightness for you.
Keyboard and Touchpad
MSI used Chiclet keys for the S20’s keyboard which really feels good on the fingertips and provide good tactile feedback. Although well-spaced, the keyboard feels cramped and feels like you’re typing on a netbook instead of an ultrabook.
The keyboard size is no big deal though as you can easily get used to it over time but what’s going to put you off a bit is the lack of space below the keyboard where the touchpad is normally placed. The touchscreen is a worthy compensation for lack of other built-in pointing device but the absence of the palm rest can be a small problem as it can quickly put some strain on the wrists.
The S20 utilizes two speakers located underneath the left and right hand side of the laptop. I thought the speakers were going to be on the weak side due to its size and placement but I was wrong. The S20’s speakers were loud, clear and crisp, even when placed on a soft surface like a bed or a pillow.
In addition, Creative’s THX TruStudio Pro comes bundled with the Slidebook S20 so you can be sure you’re getting high-quality sound.
Performance and Battery Life
The Slidebook S20 uses an Intel Core i5-3317u processor clocked at 1.7GHz, 4GB of RAM, 128GB of SSD, and runs a 64-bit Windows 8. The Windows Experience Index gave a subscore of 6.9 for the processor, 5.9 for the RAM, 6.1 for gaming graphics, and 7.6 for the hard disk. Intel HD graphics got the lowest thus ending up with an overall score of 4.9.
As far as performance is concerned, the S20 didn’t show any sign of problem. Multitasking was a breeze, there were no crashes, no random reboots, and it’s lap-friendly too as it doesn’t get toasty unlike some ultrabooks we’ve reviewed before.
As for battery life, the S20 carries a non-removable 3-Cell battery. During our use which involves constant WiFi connectivity, display brightness at 50% (auto-bright off), heavy web-browsing, word processing and light photo editing, the S20 was able to last for a little over 5 hours. With video playback using a 1080p MP4 file with volume set to 50% the S20 was able to last for almost 4 hours.
The MSI Slidebook S20 is a good hybrid ultrabook offering that can certainly provide its user the benefits of having a tablet and a laptop in one. If you’re a desk guy with serious tasks on hand, you might find the S20 a bit limiting due to the lack of a built-in pointing device, small display and cramped keyboard.
On the other hand, if you’re one of those who are frequently on the go and need to work inside limited spaces like in a coffee shop with small tables, inside a car, or in an airplane, then the S20’s size, ergonomics and performance will certainly serve you well.
MSI Slidebook S20 specs:
1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U CPU
11.6 Full HD (1920×1080) LED backlight, IPS LCD Display
Intel HD Graphics 4000
4GB of RAM
SD/MMC card reader
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
USB 3.0 (x2)
3 Cell battery
302.6 x 196.1 x 19.8mm
What we liked about it:
* Cool sliding design
* Great display
* Good performance
* Great speakers
What we didn’t like about it:
* Lack of other pointing device
* Exposed flex on the rear
* So-so battery life
* Cramped keyboard
* Small display size for a full HD resolution