With variants of the Eee PC dominating the burgeoning netbook market, it seems as though every manufacturer is now rushing to squeeze out its variant on the theme. MSI's Wind U100 was announced early on. It was initially pegged as a competitor for Asus' original Eee PC, promising a brighter ten-inch screen, a bigger and nearly full-size keyboard, a higher capacity mechanical hard drive, and improved battery life. Those initial specifications proved prescient, foreshadowing the eventual direction the netbook market would take.
The Wind U100 sits as a sort of standard bearer for this new wave of netbooks. It's a remarkably balanced piece of engineering, delivering on nearly all of MSI's early promises. But rather than facing off against the original Eee PC, the Wind must now contend with a fresh batch of rivals, including HP's Mini-Note, Acer's Aspire one, and new Eee PC 900 and 1000 series models from Asus. Keep reading to see whether MSI has crafted a worthy competitor in the U100, and whether the system is a compelling netbook in its own right.
Wind, stars, and waves
Welcome to MSI's entry into the netbook market, the Wind U100:
|Processor||Intel Atom N270 1.6GHz|
|Memory||1GB DDR2-400 (soldered to motherboard)|
|North bridge||Intel 945GSE|
|South bridge||Intel ICH7M|
|Graphics||Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950|
|Display||10" TFT with SWGA (1024x600) resolution and LED backlight|
|Storage||80GB 5400-RPM Western Digital Scorpio|
|Audio||Stereo HD audio via Realtek ALC6628 codec|
|Ports||3 USB 2.0
1 RJ45 10/100 Ethernet
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
|Expansion slots||1 4-in-1 SD/MMC/MS/MSpro card reader|
|Input devices||92% keyboard
|Camera||1.3 megapixel webcam|
|Dimensions||10.23 x 7.08 x 0.748-1.24"|
As far as specifications go, the U100 doesn't diverge wildly from the modern netbook template: it features an Atom N270 processor clocked at 1.6GHz, an 80GB 5400-RPM hard disk in a 2.5" form factor, 1GB of DDR2-400 RAM, and 802.11b/g wireless connectivity. The Wind also houses a comfortably-sized 10" widescreen running at 1024x600 resolution. You can get the system in black or with our review unit's simple and attractive white finish.
The U100 measures 10.23 inches wide, 7.08 inches deep, and 1.24 inches at its thickest point. Shaped like a wedge, the Wind slims down from its beefiest point at the rear hinge to just 0.78 inches thick along the front edge of the system. On its own with the battery installed, the U100 weighs about two-and-a-half pounds, putting it right in the mix with the competition. While a bit larger than the first Eee PCs, the Wind's form factor still fits well within the confines of netbook classification. In fact, it's actually a little smaller than Asus' new Eee PC 1000.
Ultimately, the Wind hits a sweet spot in terms of scale. As you can see, it's basically the size of a pair of Blu-ray cases placed side by side. That makes the U100 large enough to accommodate a big screen and relatively spacious keyboard without impinging on portability.
Overall, the build quality of the Wind is actually quite sturdy. The lid is latchless as is typical of most modern notebook designs. However, there exists one substantial flaw that I have never experienced in a notebook: the Wind is top heavy. If the lid is opened and tilted back too far, the unit actually leans back, lifting its front edge off the table. The U100 doesn't outright topple, but it becomes much more precarious in this position.