August 25, 2008, 12:03 PM — MSI's Wind NB U100 is one of the first Intel Atom-based mini-notebooks to appear. And like the Acer's Aspire One, it gives a clear idea of what the bargain-priced CPU can handle. Other components include 1GB of RAM, an 80GB 2.5-inch hard drive, and Windows XP--not too shabby for US$550. The Wind is roughly the size of a super-small ultraportable laptop, like Lenovo's IdeaPad U110, but mini-notebooks and ultraportables by no means overlap in price or performance.
The Wind manages to one-up earlier mini-notebook designs with a 10-inch, 1024-by-600 resolution display and a keyboard reasonably appropriate for human hands to type on. It's also larger (10.23 by 7.08 by 1.24 inches ) than most other mini-notes, and its construction seems solid (bonus points for the well-constructed hinges inside the case). The Wind comes with three USB ports, a Webcam/mic that camps atop the display, an SD Card slot, and ethernet and VGA-out jacks. Most current mini-notebooks offer the very same features.
The bundled software is pretty skimpy: a trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 and a BurnRecovery App that crafts a recovery CD (not much good on a computer that lacks an optical drive).
In the past we haven't been able to squeeze WorldBench 6 onto the miniscule hard drives of most mini-notebooks. With the Wind we succeeded, but its performance was predictably weak. It earned a wimpy overall score of 36, and some tests simply wouldn't run properly on the device.
The Wind's most touted feature is TurboDrive--a feature that amounts to overclocking at the touch of a button. Essentially, TurboDrive appears to be a power management shortcut that shoves the Atom processor into its (relatively) high-power mode. Battery life was a letdown: The three-cell battery that shipped with our unit lasted for just 2 hours, 24 minutes.
Navigating documents and files was reasonably painless. I even liked the single bar at the bottom of the mousepad, which serves as both the left and right mouse click--a far better solution than what HP's 2133 and Acer's Aspire One came up with for their mouse button layouts. However, the Acer Aspire One came through with a slightly bigger (and slightly better) keyboard.
There are some solid reasons to consider MSI's Wind. It's small and fairly light (about 2.6 pounds), and it's sturdy enough to take a beating. But other solidly-built mini-notebooks are just around the corner, including Lenovo's S10 and probably an entry from Dell this fall. My advice? If you can, wait.