The MSI Wind series is well established as one of the finest, most progressive netbook ranges in the industry. The original Wind U100 was one of the first netbooks to embrace the 10-inch form factor and the company's latest model, the Wind U135, is amongst the first to use Intel's next-generation, battery-friendly Atom N450 CPU. It's available now for around £280 from all good netbook retailers.
Like all the best netbooks, the U135 is lightweight, compact and fits into a small bag without any fuss. The 310 by 80 by 225mm chassis is slightly fatter than that of an Eee PC Seashell, and 100g heavier, at 1.4kg, but most people won't even notice it's carrying some extra lard once they've taken it out of its box. It's a good-looking unit that's available in a variety of colours, including black, white, blue and red.
Brains of the operation
Intel's 1.66GHz Atom N450 chip is arguably the U135's most important feature. On the surface, it doesn't seem to offer much more than the 1.6GHz N270 or 1.66GHz N280 processors that it replaces, but look closer and you'll see it's the biggest thing to happen to netbooks since the arrival of the original Asus Eee PC. Unlike previous Atoms, its memory and graphics processors are integrated directly onto the chip, instead of on separate, power-hungry components. This approach results in a 40 per cent reduction in power consumption, which translates to longer battery life.
Give us some speed
The N450 may bring great savings in power consumption, but it delivers the same sub-par performance as its predecessors. The U135 scored a PCMark05 benchmark score of 1,491, which is about the same as you'd get from the N270 or N280 chips. Despite Intel shifting its GPU onto the CPU, there's no perceptible difference in 3D performance, either. We sent the U135 off to run 3DMark06 and it came back with a score of 382, which is rubbish.
The good news is that the CPU helped the U135 last a very impressive 4 hours and 29 minutes in the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at full pelt until the battery dies.
In this day and age, 10 inches is the netbook screen size of choice. The U135 doesn't do anything to rock the boat. Its screen runs at the usual 1,024x600-pixel resolution, which gives you just enough room to comfortably run one application in the foreground at a time, but you may need to opt for a larger 11.6- or 13.3-inch display if you want a higher resolution and need to keep track of more than one application at once.
That said, the U135's display is bright enough to remain viewable in bright sunlight, despite its glossy finish, and it's a pleasure to watch movies on. Sadly, you may need to invest in a set of earphones, as the U135's internal speakers are -- like those on most netbooks -- pretty diabolical. They're loud enough so that you can hear what's coming out, but they're so tinny that they ruin almost all music.
The U135 was designed primarily as a Web-surfing device, but goes beyond that remit. It has an excellent chiclet-style keyboard, whose well-spaced keys allow for accurate, high-speed text entry. The buttons have relatively short travel, but we defy anyone -- after a little practice -- to find serious fault with the keyboard. Sadly, we can't issue the same challenge over the U135's trackpad. It's certainly large enough, but it lacks the multi-touch support that's enjoyed by some of its rivals, so casual Web browsing isn't as quick and care-free as it could be.
The MSI Wind U135 isn't very different from its rivals -- it's small, highly portable and cute. But its long battery life and excellent keyboard help it stand toe to toe with well-regarded rivals such as the Eee PC 1005PE.
Editing by Charles Kloet