I’ve got the chance to get fairly acquainted with the MSI Wind U100, one of the early competitors in the 10″ range of the UMPC market. Check out some photos and the full review after the jump.
MSI did the right thing by skipping the 7-inch segment and went all-out with a 10-incher (there’s an MSI Wind U90 at 8.9″ but was never launched in the Philippines and the version I got was the MSI U100XP 10″ running Windows XP). See unboxing pics here.
From a usability perspective, between the small 7-inch UMPC and the regular 12″ laptops, the 9 and 10 inches seem to be the sweet spot in terms of form and function. One is the size of the keyboard as well as spacing of the keys and the other is the size of the display screen and the maximum resolution.
The 9 and 10 inch screens that support 1024×600 provides perfect fit for most websites without ruining the layout. Likewise, the keyboard is more comfortable to deal with and touch typing is bearable (i.e. much less typos).
MSI was among a number of manufacturers that chose the Intel Atom CPU on the first round so they enjoyed the hype the came with it. True enough, the system can play DivX movies smoothly using an average 20% of CPU load. Likewise, the CPU core averages at 57 degrees Centigrade but because there was ample ventilation at the bottom and an exhaust fan blowing out from the left side, the MSI Wind does not heat up as much as the Asus Eee PC 701 running a Celeron M 900. In comparison, my Compaq Presario b1200 (T7250 Core 2 Duo 2.0GHz) is much hotter at an average 65 degrees Centigrade .
And since MSI went with a hard drive instead of the SDD or flash disk, you get more storage capacity. The 2.5″ 80GB Western Digital HDD (Scorpio 5400 rpm) that came with the Wind U100 runs very well and only clocks at 44 degrees Centigrade (under prolonged usage) so it didn’t add much trouble with heat dissipation. In the weight department, typical 2.5″ drives only add about 115 grams so there’s not much sacrifice choosing this over an SSD. This is probably the least skin-scorching laptop I’ve ever used so Intel did a good job with the Atom.
The unit that was lent to me is one of the U100XP models — runs MS WIndows XP Home SP3, Intel Atom 1.6GHz N270, 1GB RAM, 80GB HDD, WiFi 802.11 b/g, Bluetooth, 1.3MP webcam, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a LAN port, SD card reader, with a 10″ wide screen display (1024×600 resolution). Weighs 2.3 lbs or 1.04 kg.
Speakers are placed below the front ends of the laptop so sound volume is loud enough but not maximized. There are several LED lights on the front right side indicating activity for Bluetooth, sound, HDD, and battery life among others. The 3-cell battery is rated at 2200mAh and only lasts just over 2 hours on continuous use.
If you looked at these specs (including possible upgrades to 2GB RAM and 320GB HDD), they’re very comparable to a lot of entry-level 12.1″ to 15.4″ laptops from last year. In a way, we can now say that the MSI Wind has a good potential to be a primary laptop (see related story on Intel Atom here). The design is simple yet elegant with a glossy finish on the screen lid so expect it to be a fingerprint-magnet.
Of course, the unit didn’t come without some software/hardware bugs at first. Most common of all is the Wifi device from Realtek but after re-installing the latest drivers, this was quickly resolved.
At a median price of about Php26,000, the MSI Wind came in at the top of my choice for currently available netbooks in the market (see the complete price range here).
Notes: VLC Media Player was used to run a DivX movie. PC Wizard 2008 was used to monitor system and CPU temperatures as well as CPU load while running VLC. Click on thumbnails to view larger pictures.