Who'd have thought super-small, super-cheap laptops would be the hottest property in the world of computing? Asus certainly did and its success with the Eee PC has led to other manufacturers competing for a slice of its pie.
MSI -- peddlers of graphics cards, motherboards and the occasional overclockable laptop -- is the latest to try its hand in this area. Its effort, dubbed the MSI Wind, isn't just here to make up the numbers. It's stylish, has a strong enough specification to give its rivals a scare and is cheap -- just £320 from online retailers.
The Wind is very pretty. MSI will sell it in a variety of colours, but we're very happy with the white review sample we were sent. It's the sort of thing the Sex and The City characters would love to show off in a trendy NY coffee shop. The curved corners and pearlescent white finish give it a very contemporary look and although the MSI logo on the lid might spoil it for Carrie and company, the rest of us will adore it.
It's very portable, too. It only weighs 1kg with the 3-cell battery -- or 1.1kg with the 6-cell battery -- so it's easy to carry. It's large by netbook standards: its dimensions are 260 by 19 by 180mm, so while it dwarfs the Eee PC 901, it lacks some of the cute factor people find so appealing in netbooks.
The main reason for its extra girth is the fact it's designed to use a 10.1-inch screen, instead of the more common 8.9-inch display used on most of its rivals. There's a large bezel surrounding the screen -- complete with a 1.3-megapixel webcam and mic -- but that doesn't negatively affect the looks. MSI has said it will release an 8.9-inch version of the Wind later this year.
The biggest benefit of the Wind's large chassis is the fact it can accommodate a large keyboard. This one is infinitely more comfortable than the keyboards on most netbooks and large enough to touch type on. The shift keys are an ample size, as are the return and cursor keys. The only flaw for user is the left-most CTRL button, which isn't at the bottom left of the keyboard -- the Fn button is and that can be annoying to anyone that uses CTRL-based keyboard shortcuts.
We're not so keen on the mouse track pad, either. It's about 51mm square, which is unnecessarily small. It also lacks a dedicated scrolling strip or any sort of gesture-related input. We suppose we've just been spoiled by the Eee and MacBook Air's multi-touch systems, but having the ability to scroll Web pages with a swipe of the finger really is handy on devices of this type.