By September 11, 2008

MSI Wind U100 Review

The MSI Wind U100  – Less is more

Only just recently I was writing in the Gigabyte M912 review about how yet another sub-notebook had appeared and, guess what? Here’s another! For those of you, who like to fast-forward to the conclusion bit first, let me save you the trouble: this is my idea of a proper portable computer.

Buy one!


The MSI Wind


Right, now that we’ve got that out of the way, if you want to know more then read on.

It seems that the sub-notebook/ultra-portable market has exploded like an egg does in the microwave. From the pioneering EeePC of a little over a year ago, we suddenly find ourselves swamped with the things. There’s very much a bandwagon feel about the whole idea these days with so many manufacturers getting in on the act and with not much innovation going on. To some extent Asus have themselves to blame for that with their very own bloated range of EeePCs.

MSI themselves are well-known for making motherboards and graphics cards, but like Gigabyte they are less well-known for their computers. How does their interpretation of the sub-notebook stack up? Well if you read my opening paragraph then you’ll probably know.

What’s in the box?

  1. MSI Wind.
  2. Mains charger.
  3. Drivers/utilities CD.
  4. Sleeve case.
  5. Quick-start guide.


The form factor of the Wind is entirely conventional: a sub notebook of approximate EEPC 900 size, but with a larger 10” TFT screen. It’s conventional in all senses in terms of appearance – there’s nothing really new or revolutionary about it, but where it differs is in the complete sum of its parts, the quality of the build and design, and the way it translates into the user experience.

Overall the Wind is a little bit bigger and heavier than the EeePC, but the upside of this is that the chassis feels sturdy, it doesn’t creak or distort and it feels right in the hand. Its appearance is fairly sober being dressed in all black (the more flamboyant might elect for the pink version though!). I like the result – it looks right too.

Controls and ports:

  • On the main chassis, right side beneath the screen: On/Off switch.
  • Above the screen: 1.3Mp webcam and microphone.
  • Below the front lip: two speakers.
  • On the left: Kensington lock socket, power socket, cooling vents, 2 x USB2.0 ports.


MSI Wind left side


  • On the right: Ethernet port, VGA out, headphone socket, microphone socket, SD card slot, 1x USB2.0 ports.


MSI Wind right side


  • On the back: access to the battery.



The MSI Wind U100 closed


MSI Wind U100 Specification:

  • CPU: Intel ® N270 Atom 1.6GHz
  • Operating System : Genuine Microsoft Windows XP Home
  • Chipset: Intel ® 945GSE
  • System Configuration Memory: 1GB
  • 10”LCD panel, 1280×600 pixels with LED backlight.
  • HDD 2.5", 9.5mm SATA HDD
  • Keyboard 80 key keyboard/Touch Pad
  • I/O Port USB X 3,Mic in, Earphone out, D-SUB RJ45, SD/MMC/MS/MS pro
  • Audio Speaker x 2
  • Bluetooth 2.0 built-in
  • Web Camera 1.3M pixel web camera
  • Networking: Wireless LAN 802.11b/g, 10/100 LAN
  • Protection: Kensington lock
  • Battery: Li-ion 2200mAh, Battery life 3.5 hrs (claimed)
  • Dimensions: 260 x 180 x 19-31.5mm
  • Weight 1.15kg
  • 1year RTB warranty


  • Bright, large and sharp screen
  • Speedy performance
  • Lightweight
  • Ample connectivity
  • Good hardware specification
  • Good build quality


  • Battery life
  • Not easily expandable


The Wind comes in a variety of specifications with the differences being a choice of combination between Windows Home or Linux and 1GB or 512MB or RAM. The review machine ran Microsoft Windows XP Home. XP Home is not my favoured version of XP, but its choice for this application is a sensible one well-suited to modestly-specified hardware.

In use the machine proved to be very responsive at all times. The 1GB of RAM and 1.6 GHz Intel Atom cpu were more than amply sufficient for all tasks I threw at it. Applications launched quickly, menus popped up with no noticeable lag and boots times were very short. In general use it felt as fast as my dual core Toshiba laptop. I am the sort of geek who likes to strip out unnecessary clutter from operating systems and using something like XP Lite would probably yield some significant performance improvements again.

As a test of the Wind’s portability and usability I took it with me on holiday to the wilds of north-west Scotland with my very limited luggage aboard my motorcycle. The Wind was ideal – back at base in my hotel in the evening I was able to view high-quality photos I had taken on my travels and watch high-quality video filmed with my onboard camera, whilst picking up mails, doing a bit of surfing and drinking some very fine Isle of Skye Blaven beer in the bar. Fantastic – this is what the portable computing experience should be about.

The keyboard was spacious; it felt solid and better than many vastly more expensive laptops. It gave good tactile feedback and proved to be easy to use – again the best by far of any sub-note I have used. As one might expect, there’s a number of function keys situated on the top row of the keyboard to allow quick access to wi-fi/bluetooth, speaker mute, screen brightness and lock controls.


The MSI Wind keyboard


The mouse glidepad was good for a machine of this size and the mouse buttons I am pleased to say were the best of any sub-note that I have used to date – better than the Acer Aspire One or any of the Eees. Nothing more needs to be said.

The screen is a 1024×600 affair capable of displaying enough information for the sort of use intended. Unlike the M912 I reviewed it’s bright and sharp. It is also physically bigger than any other machine at 10” which, means that everything is bigger and clearer. I suffered no eye strain using it for several hours at a time.

Video and mp3 playback was faultless. As with all laptops the speakers were lightweight, but audio performance through headphones was just fine. This is a machine I would be happy to watch a movie on at any time. Several movies in fact.

The 80GB 2.5” SATA hdd was speedy and capacious enough. It was also divided into several partitions with one for the main operating system, one for data and another for backup purposes. I’m pleased to note that the latest revision of the Wind at the time of writing had received an upgrade to a 120GB drive for no price increase. Nice.

The MSI Wind comes with built-in 802.11/g wi-fi, Bluetooth and an Ethernet port to satisfy all connectivity requirements. For me these are essential and I suspect that this would be so for anyone else. There’s no firewire port, but one could argue that it’s superfluous on a machine that is unlikely to be used for video editing work.

The battery is a 2200mAh item that proved to be disappointing when it came to endurance – lasting only for about 2hrs of general use. More could possibly be squeezed from it when using the “turbo battery” mode which basically downclocks the processor to 800Mhz, but as most drain is due to the hard drive and screen then I doubt it would deliver a significant improvement. This sort of life is perhaps the only chink in the Wind’s armour because its sheer usability encourages one to use it lots and this is only limited by the short battery life. The battery itself is housed very securely within the rear of the chassis which, adds to the overall feel of good quality.

One other disappointment is the lack of access to the hard drive bay and memory slots/s. Basically there is none – access would require the machine to be taken apart and would, of course, void the warranty. The good news is that with XP Home extra RAM is not really ever going to be necessary.


As already mentioned this machine comes with Windows XP Home. It also comes with a trial version Office 2007. I’d be tempted to take this off straightaway and install the free Open Office instead. I am glad to say that there was no other software installed, this is good because I prefer to add software of my choice rather than have the price lifted by unwanted clutter.



So how does the MSI Wind stack up? As you can tell, I liked the machine a lot. As a portable computer it succeeds totally. Whilst the individual components differ little from much of the opposition, the end result is somehow “more” and incredibly effective. It’s small without being too small. It’s light but feels well-built, it’s roomy but highly portable, it’s reasonably powerful and noticeably quick. It’s a proper small computer that feels like it has been designed to be an effective proper small computer without being toy-like.

EeePC devotees might complain that the price is perhaps getting on for being on the high side of the market at £349 (it can be found cheaper), but it’s a price worth paying and one that I am happy to dig into my pocket for considering the quality of the overall package. Of course, full-size laptops can be had for this amount of money, but that ignores the merits of this machine.

It’s by far the best of the breed to date and puts everything else in the shade.


Review by: Nigel

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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