A Closer LookBy Frank Ohlhorst | Posted 2008-09-15 Email Print
With the release of the Atom processor, Intel has helped manufacturers create a new notebook computer market segment called “netbooks.” MSI has jumped on the netbook bandwagon with the Wind Notebook U100 and aims to blow ahead of the competition.
The MSI Wind NB U100 proves to be a very usable system that delivers on many promises. Our review unit came with the 3 Cell lithium-ion battery, which offered us about 3 hours of usable life. Users can stretch that time out by disabling the wireless transceivers, diming the screen and using a few other power-saving tips. MSI also offers a 6 Cell Lithium-Ion battery that adds about a third of a pound of weight to the system, while extending battery life to near 7 hours of use. The higher capacity battery is probably a worthwhile option and helps to deliver "all-day" computing and make the device truly portable.
MSI was able to cram a near full-size keyboard into the system. The keyboard, despite being about 20 percent smaller than a typical notebook keyboard, lent itself well to touch typing, offering acceptable feedback with very little flexing. Pointing chores are handled by a touchpad integrated into the palm rest of the system. While usable, the touchpad seemed to have a cheap feel to it, only exasperated by single full-length button that served double duty for left clicks and right clicks. A traditional dual mouse button setup would be greatly preferred.
Performance-wise, the system was surprisingly quick and offered an overall PassMark Rating of 207.4. Bootups took less than 30 seconds and we were able to launch multiple applications, while still surfing the Web. The unit does not offer an integrated optical drive, so those looking to install applications from CDs or DVDs will need to use an external drive. Luckily, the U100 features 3 USB 2.0 ports, so hooking up an external optical drive should be no big deal. The U100 features a pair of stereo speakers, which are surprisingly loud, and an integrated microphone. That combined with the built-in Web camera makes the U100 usable as a Skype (or other service) video chat system.
Testing with various online applications, such as Google docs, Google Mail, Zoho Office, Skype and a few others, showed that the system was up to snuff when it came to Web 2.0, SAAS or cloud-computing solutions, and perhaps that is the best configuration for the U100.
MSI’s take on the Atom processor and sub-note market is sure to make other vendors stand up and notice. Currently, the only other two big names in the Atom netbook market are Dell and ASUS, but others are sure to follow. What remains to be seen is if the companies are willing to move over to cloud computing solutions, which will surely fuel the growth of the netbook market.