MSI Wind NB U100 Mini-notebook

MSI’s Wind NB U100 is one of the first Intel Atom-based mini-notebooks to appear. And like the Acer’s Aspire One, it gives a clear idea of what the bargain-priced CPU can handle. Other components include 1GB of RAM, an 80GB 2.5-inch hard drive, and Windows XP–not too shabby for US$550. The Wind is roughly the size of a super-small ultraportable laptop, like Lenovo’s IdeaPad U110, but mini-notebooks and ultraportables by no means overlap in price or performance.

The Wind manages to one-up earlier mini-notebook designs with a 10-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display and a keyboard reasonably appropriate for human hands to type on. It’s also larger (10.23 by 7.08 by 1.24 inches ) than most other mini-notes, and its construction seems solid (bonus points for the well-constructed hinges inside the case). The Wind comes with three USB ports, a Webcam/mic that camps atop the display, an SD Card slot, and ethernet and VGA-out jacks. Most current mini-notebooks offer the very same features.

The bundled software is pretty skimpy: a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 and a BurnRecovery App that crafts a recovery CD (not much good on a computer that lacks an optical drive).

In the past we haven’t been able to squeeze WorldBench 6 onto the miniscule hard drives of most mini-notebooks. With the Wind we succeeded, but its performance was predictably weak. It earned a wimpy overall score of 36, and some tests simply wouldn’t run properly on the device.

The Wind’s most touted feature is TurboDrive–a feature that amounts to overclocking at the touch of a button. Essentially, TurboDrive appears to be a power management shortcut that shoves the Atom processor into its (relatively) high-power mode. Battery life was a letdown: The three-cell battery that shipped with our unit lasted for just 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Navigating documents and files was reasonably painless. I even liked the single bar at the bottom of the mousepad, which serves as both the left and right mouse click–a far better solution than what HP’s 2133 and Acer’s Aspire One came up with for their mouse button layouts.

However, the Acer Aspire One came through with a slightly bigger (and slightly better) keyboard.

There are some solid reasons to consider MSI’s Wind. It’s small and fairly light (about 2.6 pounds), and it’s sturdy enough to take a beating. But other solidly-built mini-notebooks are just around the corner, including Lenovo’s S10 and probably an entry from Dell this fall. My advice? If you can, wait.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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