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Review: MSI Wind

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For those of you looking for a reason NOT to buy the MSI Wind, I can’t really give you a good one. It’s a great little machine. Go ahead and buy one if you’ve been waiting. For everyone else, read on for the pros and cons of this aggressively-priced, yet impressively-performing netbook.

Overview

The MSI Wind is an ultraportable notebook that weighs about two and a half pounds, features Intel’s new Atom chipset (1.6GHz), and runs Windows XP Home Edition. There’s also a Linux version that’s coming out in a couple of weeks, but the configuration I tested included XP and the larger six-cell battery (the three-cell version is available now, the six-cell will be available within a couple weeks).

There’s a 10-inch LED screen with a 1024×600 resolution, 1GB of RAM, 80GB SATA hard drive, built-in 1.3-megapixel webcam, three USB ports, built-in memory card reader, and Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Bluetooth connectivity.

I ran a bunch of tests on the review unit I had, check them all out here.

Price versus Performance

I’d say that the overwhelmingly positive aspect of the MSI Wind is found in the price versus performance department. It doesn’t feel like a cheap $500 notebook, it doesn’t perform like a cheap $500 notebook, and it doesn’t look like a cheap $500 notebook. About five years ago, I purchased a wonderful and tiny Sharp Actius MP30 notebook for well over $1,500. The Wind reminds me of that computer, except the Wind is even smaller and more powerful – it would work perfectly for anybody looking for an inexpensive laptop, not just people looking for a tiny one.

Battery Life

The good performance exists thanks to Intel’s new Atom chip, which is quite impressive on its own, but really shines when it comes to battery life. MSI claims a maximum five and a half hours of battery life out of the six-cell battery and I was able to easily squeeze more than five hours out of the Wind while doing some simple web surfing. If you needed to go somewhere for a weekend and wanted to be able to access the internet and your e-mail sporadically, you could confidently leave the AC adapter at home.

Form Factor

The form factor is great, too, provided you’ve prepared yourself for a small machine. The keyboard is 80% full size, which is a fair tradeoff. You won’t, however, enjoy typing on the Wind for extended periods of time. If you’re planning to purchase the Wind as your primary computer, you’ll want to have a full-sized keyboard around for when you really want to hammer out some text. As a world-famous professional blogger, I wouldn’t, unfortunately, be able to take the Wind to a convention or to cover an event for more than a day or so. The keyboard’s just too small.

That being said, what you trade in keyboard size comes back to you full circle in chassis size and weight. The Wind weighs 2.6 pounds with the six-cell battery and can easily be toted around anywhere. I took it on vacation with me for over a week and was able to slide it into a large camera bag, if that gives you any indication of its size.

Screen

When Windows booted up for the first time, I was really impressed with the screen quality. Even though it’s only 10 inches and 1024×600 resolution, the screen is vibrant, clear, and easy to read — no complaints there. If you’re someone who needs a large screen, you’ll want to pass on the Wind, but if you’ve been using a laptop with a 12- or 13.3-inch screen, you’ll feel at home on the Wind’s 10-inch screen. It’s a little bit narrower and shorter than the standard 1280×800 screens found on most notebooks but for basic web surfing, games, and that kind of stuff, it’s just fine.

Other Features

The Wind features some nice little touches, like a 1.3-megapixel webcam, Bluetooth connection, and a variable CPU speed setting that conserves battery life when the computer’s unplugged or kicks it up to full speed when plugged back in. The 80GB hard drive, too, is a welcome feature as compared to much smaller flash-based hard drives on similar netbooks.

Even though the Wind has a conventional hard drive, the computer itself is dead quiet. Eerily quiet – like, as in you have to hold the thing up against your ear to hear that the fan is even running. And it doesn’t get uncomfortably hot on your lap, either, which was a common concern for some people when the Wind was first announced.

Cons

One downside to the Wind, in my opinion, would be that the extra girth added by the six-cell battery makes the computer a little bit wobbly if you’re trying to balance it on your lap or when you first pick it up. I’d trade that awkwardness for the excellent battery life, though. The other downside (for me, at least) is that it’s not quite powerful enough to use as my main computer — I don’t require much beyond word processing and light image editing but I need something that I can use to edit video – that, and the keyboard wouldn’t work out for me, as I need to have a full size keyboard due to the nature of my work. I could get by with using it to patiently edit video — the keyboard is pretty much the only thing keeping me from buying one of these for myself, though. It’s not a bad keyboard, technically, it’s just the size issue. Finally, I’d want to upgrade the RAM to 2GB, but there’s no easy way to do that. You’d have to take the thing apart first.

Conclusion

I can (and will) safely recommend the MSI Wind to just about anybody who’s not a hardcore computer user or who needs to type all day long. The price is right, the performance is right, and the portability is so right that it’s somehow wrong (in a right kind of way). I’m really impressed with this machine — MSI has a winner on its hands.

MSI Wind [Product Page]

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