Monday, June 9, 2008

MSI Wind

It's getting awfully crowded in here. Not long ago we had just the Asus Eee PC to content with, but now the market for small, basic and affordable sub-notebooks is quickly heating up, with the likes of Dell, HP, Acer, Via and MSI, whose effort we're looking at today, lining up competitors to snatch some market share.

So, what do you need to know about MSI's effort, the Wind? Much like the HP 2133 Mini-Note it weighs a little more than an Eee PC, at around 1.3kg. In turn that makes it just a smidgen heavier than a Sony TZ, which typically weighs around 1.2kg. In any case it's perfectly portable and unlike the HP Mini-Note or the Asus Eee PC 900, the first edition of the Wind will come equipped with a comparatively large 10in screen. However, despite its screen being significantly larger, it surprisingly doesn't have a resolution to match, with the screen running at 1,024 x 600.

This will no doubt disappoint those who want to watch high resolution video - of which there are many - but there is some crazy kind of logic to this move. Though it may appear wasteful to have such a large screen at a comparatively low resolution, it's a combination that makes the Wind very usable. Text is large and sharp, icons well defined and it's a scale that arguably suits more people than it disappoints.

Naturally enough, it's going to be a cheap machine. On launch the Wind will come loaded with Windows XP - a Linux version will follow at a later date - and will be retailing for a very palatable £329. This will net you 1GB of RAM, an 80GB standard mechanical hard drive and all the usual bit pieces like wireless, wired networking and even Bluetooth as well. Unfortunately we still can't officially confirm the CPU inside the Wind, but the consensus in the rumour mill has it using a certain new Intel CPU that begins with an ‘A', ends with an ‘m' and has ‘to' in the middle.

And, from our brief time with the machine, we found the Wind to be a nippy little thing. Programs loaded efficiently and were responsive to use, something that can't be said of the HP Mini-Note and its lackadaisical 1.2GHz Via CPU.

That's enough with the introductions, though, so let's take a much closer look at the MSI Wind has to offer...

Though not quite as accomplished as the HP Mini-Note, the keyboard on the Wind is nonetheless very good and a definite improvement over the Eee PC. Keys have a nice crisp response to them and most of the important elements of the layout are very good, though the Fn seems to have been directed to an incorrect location!

If you look closely at each bottom corner you'll see the two integrated speakers. They're not really up to much but then we weren't expecting anything special and these will do just fine for Windows' various chimes. Meanwhile, the battery you see at the back is the standard 3-cell that'll ship with the machine, though there's a 6-cell available separately as well.

Status lights for pretty much everything are on the front edge. Here you can also see the Page Up/Down, Home and End keys have been mapped to the cursor keys, which themselves are quite intelligently placed and shouldn't get in the way.

There's a 1.3 Megapixel, with its own microphone, set into the bezel. Here you can also see the new MSI logo that'll be seen on all its new notebooks.

Here we see one of the Wind's most important features. Can't you see it yet? No? That's because it's the F10 key. Nothing exciting about that, of course, however it activates a feature unique to the Wind: hardware over and under-clocking. This, at the touch of a button, will either overclock or underclock the CPU, providing you with extra performance or improved battery life. Indeed, it's something MSI seems particularly keen on and here we can see it becoming a very useful feature.

Here we can see the MSI Wind set against HP's Mini-Note. It's both taller and deeper than the Mini-Note and this extra size accounts for the larger screen, while also allowing for a touchpad with buttons below it rather than either side.

On the left edge you'll find one USB port, a memory card reader, microphone and headphone jacks, a D-SUB (VGA) video output and an Ethernet port for wired networking.

And, on the right, there are a further two USB ports for a total of three, a lock slot and power input, with the rest of the space taken up by an air vent.

Side-by-side the Wind is perhaps slightly thinner than the Mini-Note.

Likewise, this shot shows the extra depth of the Wind as well.

Overall, though the Wind lacks the classiness of the Mini-Note's metallic finish and gloss black bezel, it's a good looking machine that shares a very similar visual style with the Eee PC - albeit in a slightly larger chassis. Either way it looks as though MSI has put together a very commendable effort and with Acer and Dell due to officially announce their efforts shortly, the Eee PC will have plenty more competitors to worry about.

msi wind.jpg

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