Some important revisions make the original MSI Wind U100 the netbook laptop to watch.
MSI may not have been the the first company to join the netbook mêlée with its little MSI Wind U100 notebook, but the past few months have demonstrated that it has created one of the finest of the breed. So fine that other brands have come to agree - it has inspired a string of not just copycats, but rebadged versions of, in effect, the exact same model. So far we have seen the Advent 4211, which won a Best Buy award in our October issue group test, and the Medion Akoya E1210. These low-cost marvels are selling in the UK through Dixons Stores Group (DSG), and Lidl and Sainsbury's, respectively.
In fact, with their reduced price over the original MSI Wind - around £280 versus £330 for the MSI - they have nudged the spotlight somewhat from the original Micro Star International U100 netbook. But now the MSI Wind is fighting back with some enhancements that should lift it above its brethren.
To recap, the MSI Wind U100 is a lightweight laptop with a 10in screen that's backlit by white LEDs for a better colour balance and improved power consumption. For CPU it takes the new Intel Atom processor. Clocked at 1.6GHz, this CPU was developed by Intel for just such applications as netbooks, as it has incredibly low thermal design power (TDP), meaning it requires less battery power and cooling than traditional processors.
It's not especially powerful though, as borne out by our tests that recorded a WorldBench 6 score of just 35. Then again, it's longevity that counts for a portable you'll want to run all day. And that's been exactly the achilles' heel of the MSI Wind U100, and its related models, as it was only supplied with a small 3-cell battery good for almost 2.5 hours of use. MSI had always planned a longer-lived 6-cell option but cited worldwide shortages on its initial tardiness to ship with the larger battery.
Now, the MSI Wind U100 comes as standard with the larger battery, and in our tests this stretched unplugged lifespan to a more practical 314 minutes, or just under five and a quarter hours.
The new battery may add a few grams to the weight but another benefit besides useful runtime is that it actually raises the Wind into a more comfortable position for typing when it's placed on a desk.
Other changes wrought to the Wind include the fitting of a larger hard drive, now double the capacity at 160GB; and the upgrading of its wireless facility to 802.11n, giving it the most up-to-date networking standard. And beware that not all the cheaper Wind tributes will include Bluetooth as standard.
Larger storage, better networking and the all-important extended battery life make the revised U100 a winner. Combined with the more attractive choice of colours, free carry bag in the box, and an extended warranty to 2 years, we feel the original MSI Wind U100 is not just the first Wind, it also breezes into first place.