When you think of cutting-edge innovation, MSI Computers isn't usually the first you'd think of and while the Wind is travelling on the tail of the Asus Eee PC it's a masterstroke in timing as this is the first notebook to reach the UK with an Intel Atom inside.
The Atom is a brand new chip especially designed for mini-notebook PCs. It's not as quick or as powerful as Intel's other notebook chips but as it uses a fraction of the power – roughly about 8 watts as opposed to 35 watts, so it's ideal for devices such as the MSI Wind.
The Intel Atom N270 runs at 1.6GHz but as the core of the chip is based on older technology, you won't see much of a performance boost over the Celeron chips found in the Asus. However, as it runs at a lower voltage, it impacts less on battery life and also means it can run in fanless devices.
The Wind has a fan but it only ran whenever we tried to force the system to run multiple tasks. At all other times we found this a quiet and cool running notebook.
In styling, it takes a leaf clearly out of the Asus Eee PC design book, being white plastic that has a rather younger audience in mind rather than the businessman. It feels great to the touch and is certainly tougher than we were expecting.
Pull open the lid and you'll be presented with two interesting features straight away – the screen and the keyboard. The screen is a 10-inch Super-TFT panel, which makes it the biggest mini-notebook to date. It has a standard 1024 x 600-pixel resolution so Windows XP looks sharp. MSI will be making a Linux version available but we've yet to see if the specification will alter for this version.
The main advantage of the larger screen is it allows for a good size keyboard and MSI has certainly made the most of this feature. The keys are almost full size and have a great typing action and in using it you don't feel compromises have been made to make it fit into the size of machine. The trackpad and mouse buttons are less impressive, being on the small side, but they're still more than usable.
Our test unit was a pre-release sample and we weren't allowed to test the battery life but MSI are quoting over 3 hours for the basic 3-cell and a 6-cell will be made available that should offer up to 5 hours. When it comes to weight, the Wind weighs 1kg, which is great if you take the screen size in to account, as it’s the same weight as the Eee PC 900. However, the larger battery will take it up to 1.3kg, which is still lighter than the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.
The specification is rounded out by 1024MB of memory and 80GB hard drive, which is a standard disc and not SSD like on the Eee PC.
Connections consist of three USB ports, Ethernet, 802.11g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth as standard. There is also a memory card reader and VGA-out port for connecting external monitors.
So, were we impressed with the MSI Wind? Initially we were sceptical the larger screen would make it less ideal for the commute but it still fits comfortably on a train seat's table, but only just, so it passes that test. The new chip improves usability but not performance, which is another bonus, making the MS Wind a winner in our book.
The MSI Wind takes everything Asus learnt from its first generation Eee PC and improves on it. If you're looking to use this machine for the daily commute, you may find it a little large but as a basic everyday machine it's simply fantastic.