Hands-on with the MSI Wind ultra-portable
MSI dropped by this morning with an early production sample of its £329 Wind ultraportable and we spent some time getting familiar with this direct competitor to the Eee PC 900.
The MSI Wind goes on sale the second week of June in the UK, and will be formally launched at Computex on 3rd June. The full specification is already widely known, but we promised to play coy and not reveal what processor can be found in this particular model until the formal annnouncement. So, bear that in mind as you take a gander at the photos after the cut.
First impressions are very, very good – the MSI Wind feels very solid and despite the case being all-plastic, it feels far from cheap. The white case has a similar pearlescent finish as the Eee PC 900 and 701 4G, but it isn’t quite so glossy – we liked it, but we think it’ll look better in black. The first batch of MSI Winds to go on sale will be white and MSI doubts the pink model will make it to the UK...
At 260 x 180 x 31mm and 1.26kg, it’s closer in size and weight to the HP 2133 Mini-Note, but this is a model with an optional six-cell battery (more on this later) – the three-cell model that will actually be on sale will weigh closer to 1kg.
The two most striking things about the MSI Wind are the screen and keyboard – both are bigger than the Asus Eee PC 900’s. The screen has a 10in diagonal and a 1024 x 600 resolution, and is very crisp – it’s easily as good as the Eee PC’s. The keyboard is bigger than the Eee PC’s and a little smaller than the HP 2133 Mini-Note’s, but it extends right to the edges of the case. The key tops are large and comfortable to type on. The the trackpad is small, but it’s responsive and works well –take note, HP!
The MSI Wind we saw was the highest specification model with, ahem, that processor, 1Gb of DDR2 RAM, 80Gb 5400rpm hard disk and Windows XP SP2. This will be the model on sale initially for £329 inc VAT, but less well-equipped models, some with SUSE Linux and an 8.9in screen, will follow later in the year. The 80Gb hard disk is standard across all models, though.
MSI has also added a novel feature to the Wind – a two-mode ‘turbo’ function, accessed via a keyboard shortcut. One mode overclocks the processor by a small amount to increase its performance; the other drops the clock speed (along with screen brightness) to prolong battery life. Since this is a hardware feature, it will be available on both Windows XP and Linux versions, too
In underclocked mode, Windows XP’s battery status indicator reported battery life to be 7 hours and 10 minutes with a 99% charge – though bear in mind that this was with the optional six-cell battery and no applications running. Even so, this bodes well for the MSI Wind – we’ve yet to see an ultra-portable of this type with a battery life that lives up to expectations.
Most impressive of all, however, was performance. We didn’t run any benchmarks, but the MSI Wind felt extremely snappy in general use – little different to a laptop with a mid-range Intel Core 2 Duo processor, in fact. The base also felt quite cool to the touch and MSI reckons that this is the case even with the processor in overclocked mode (the processor is actively cooled).
All in all, we were extremely impressed by the MSI Wind and based on the short amount of time we spent with it, we reckon that it’s the first low-cost ultraportable to deliver on all counts – and again, that processor plays a significant part in this.
We’re hoping to see a final production model of the MSI Wind in a week or so, so we’ll run some benchmarks and provide a more detailed write-up then. In the meantime, if you’re eyeing up an Eee PC 900 or HP 2133 Mini-Note, we’d strongly advise you to hold on to you money until the Wind is launched – MSI looks like it have a monster hit on its hands.
© Dennis Publishing