Immediately after ASUS launched the Eee PC into an unsuspecting notebook market over a year ago, the short term answer from competitors was, well, nothing, save perhaps for the XO-1 from the OLPC organization. At the time, there was still speculation about whether or not anyone would even be interested in a low power, low cost, ultraportable notebook. Certainly no one who has seen netbook sales figures is asking that question anymore but at the time few companies were eager to jump onto a new and unproven bandwagon.
Netbook-mania and the first retail-available responses to the Eee didn't appear until nearly 6 months later, but when it did, it arrived in the form of the MSI Wind, followed closely by the Acer Aspire One. The Eee PC has gone through multiple design iterations since then, but both the MSI Wind and the Aspire One have stayed relatively the same. While Acer's strategy with the Aspire One was to trawl the bottom of the netbook market, in terms of cost, and they've managed to stay there, thus ensuring the product's continued relevancy, MSI's Wind is decidedly a mid-range netbook product. Since the Wind's initial release seven months ago, the middle of the netbook market, roughly defined here as the $350-$500 range, has become very crowded. It seems like everyone and their subsidiary is getting into the netbook game and there are now dozens of models and submodels vying for your money, with even more product launches right around the corner. In this suddenly crowded niche market, is the MSI Wind still a good choice, or has it fallen behind the competition?
Don't get us wrong. We're not saying that MSI has been standing still this whole time. On the contrary, the folks at MSI have been cooking up a number of new netbook products, as we'll certainly see at CES in the coming weeks. MSI has also released a cheaper 8.9" version of the Wind, the U90, which is currently available in parts of Europe, Australia and Canada. However, at least for the time being, the original MSI Wind, now dubbed the Wind U100, is still the only MSI netbook officially sold in the US. Today we're going to pit it head-to-head with a couple of its younger competitors to see if can keep up with the mass of new competition.
When the MSI Wind was initially released in the US, it was quite attractive. It offered the Atom platform with a 10 inch screen for $400 when the competition, namely the Eee PC, was still working on 9 inches at a price of around $500. Although ASUS was quick to put out a 10" competitor, it initially retailed for quite a bit more than the Wind and for a while at least, the Wind looked like quite a bargain.
While the Wind hasn't changed much, it has aged quite well. The 1.6GHz Atom N270 processor is still a staple of the netbook market and the 945GSE platform with GMA 950 graphics is found in just about every netbook, new and old. The Wind has also seen several price drops, additional storage and a new 6-cell battery option. The original configuration available at launch, a 3-cell with 80GB hard drive, now sells for around $350 while the newer 6-cell version with a 160GB drive that we have in our lab today can be found for just over $420. Overall, in terms of technical specifications, the MSI Wind still appears to be competitive. Read on to find out if the rest of the package stacks up and if the new 6-cell battery is worth the extra cost.