MSI to sell MacBook Air rival with Intel Pentium chips

MSI X-Slim laptop will sport high-powered Pentium chip and Windows Vista to better compete against Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air

Micro-Star International (MSI) plans to sell a laptop in its X-Slim series with a high-powered Pentium chip to better compete against Apple's ultra-thin MacBook Air.

The company showed off its first X-Slim device, the X320 netbook, at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last Thursday, a 1.3-kilogram (three pounds) ultra-thin device with a 13.4-inch screen that runs on a 1.33GHz Intel Z530 Atom microprocessor.

[ Check out the InfoWorld Test Center's product review: "MacBook Air is light as, well, air." ]

The Atom-based X320s will cost less than $1,000, while X-Slim laptops with Pentium chips inside will cost over $1,000, said Vincent Sung, assistant vice president of notebook research and development at MSI.

Intel's Atom microprocessor family is aimed at small, mobile devices because it consumes less power so batteries last longer. But the chips are also far less powerful than microprocessors aimed at mainstream laptop PCs, such as Intel Pentium microprocessors.

The difference in the two families of microprocessors is more pronounced when using data-intensive programs. For example, most netbooks with Atom chips use Microsoft Windows XP or a Linux OS, while Microsoft Windows Vista is used on mainstream laptop PCs.

The Atom chips are designed on devices that are mainly used to surf the Web and for Office-like programs. More intensive programs such as video-editing software and high-speed games don't work well on systems designed around the chips.

MSI's Pentium-based X-Slim laptops will come with Microsoft's Vista Premium OS.

The MSI X320 is just 6 millimeters (1.98 centimeters) at its thickest point. The netbook comes with a choice of batteries, from a four-cell battery to an a eight-cell battery rated for up to 10 hours of runtime. It also includes three USB ports.