MSI has also bumped up the trackpad size by 20%, which is a big upgrade in our minds. In our past experiences with MSI netbooks, we always felt that the trackpad was a tad cramped. 20% isn't huge, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. Netbooks deserve notebook-sized trackpads, and any increase in size is one we support.
We were somewhat disappointed that MSI hasn't really altered the port layout over the past year. There's still just a single video output (VGA), while many other machines are moving on to DVI, DisplayPort and HDMI. There's also no sign of USB 3.0, and while we understand that it is just now gaining traction, it's understandable to think that some consumers will simply pass on any new machine coming out without USB 3.0. We estimate that most machines hitting the market by Q4 will support SuperSpeed USB, so unless you need one now, a machine with USB 3.0 is easy to pass on.
There's no mistaking that the overall build quality of the U135 isn't exactly top-notch. It's a $300 machine though, so that's perfectly acceptable. Compared to the much more expensive Lenovo ThinkPad Edge that we just reviewed, this is a step-down in quality. But that said, it's plenty sturdy for the target market. This is a bargain-priced machine, and considering that it cost just over $300, the reliance of semi-flexible plastics is understandable. The LCD hinge, however, seemed extremely sturdy, with our only complaint there being that it won't recline 100% flat.
There's still no optical drive, and there's still a rather large bezel surrounding the LCD. We do like the idea of having an option for integrated WiMAX, though it seems this approach would be more useful in the U.S. if they partnered with a major cellphone carrier (Verizon or AT&T, perhaps) and offered a subsidized version with integrated 3G WWAN.