In these increasingly tablet-focused days, we expect a netbook to do something pretty special in order to stand out. One of the more recent machines to enter the breach is the MSI Wind U135DX. It'll set you back around £230.
Star light, star bright
The U135DX is available in black, white, silver, blue, red and pink versions. The screen's bezel has rounded edges that should stop this netbook poking you through your handbag or rucksack. The plastic chassis has the same rounded appearance. The only stylistically interesting features on the inside of the machine are an asterisk-shaped power light and a chrome click button on the trackpad.
Our version of the U135DX was the 'One Million Dazzling Stars' edition, which means the lid boasts a smattering of shiny faux crystals. These might look pretty from a distance when they're catching the light, but, up close, they look tacky, and the glue used to attach each nodule isn't very strong. You'll probably be finding the tiny beads in the bottom of your bag for months to come.
These 'stars' also aren't arranged in any kind of pattern. We reckon MSI is going for a night-sky vibe, but the distribution of these wee twinklers looks untidy. We'd opt for a version of this netbook that doesn't have these beads.
Around the sides of the U135DX, you'll find an Ethernet port, VGA out, 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic, a multi-format card reader, and three USB ports. That's pretty standard in terms of connectivity, but at least nothing vital is absent.
As far as portability goes, the U135DX is light enough, at 1.2kg. It's not the slimmest device we've ever seen, though, measuring 32mm at its thickest point.
We were impressed by the keyboard, which stretches right to the edges of the chassis. There's a generous gap between each key, which should reduce the chances of you making a typo. The small trackpad is aggravating, though -- you'll probably find your digits constricted. But most netbooks suffer from this problem.
The display is more promising. It's a 10-inch model with a 1,024x600-pixel resolution. Although we've seen some netbooks with a higher-resolution screen, the panel is sufficiently bright and colourful to make up for any shortcomings in the resolution stakes.
Under the hood
The U135DX's innards are standard netbook fare, and include a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N455 CPU and 1GB of RAM. This machine also ships with Windows 7 Starter and a 160GB hard drive. It kicked up a fuss when we tried to run our usual PCMark05 full-system benchmark test, but we were able to run the CPU benchmark test, in which this machine scored 1,661. That's a pretty weedy score, but indicates that the U135DX offers standard netbook performance.
When we ran the Battery Eater Classic test, which runs the CPU at 100 per cent until the battery dies, the U135DX ran out of juice after 1 hour and 52 minutes, which isn't very impressive. You'll get much better battery performance with more moderate use, but we've seen many other netbooks that have lasted longer in the same test.
The MSI Wind U135DX's performance is average and we thought the crystal-laden design of our model was slightly suspect. While this netbook is comfortable to use and reasonably priced, it doesn't do much to raise its head above the ocean of near-identical machines.
We prefer the stylish Dell Mini 1012, which is more expensive but offers a higher-resolution display and a neat design.
Edited by Charles Kloet