MSI Wind U135 Netbook Review

Article Index

User Experience

Using the Wind U135 is like using any other 10" netbook, really. There isn't anything that makes it stand out in an exceptionally positive or negative light, though we do prefer the chiclet style keyboard that's here. The keyboard is obviously smaller than full-size, but typing on it was much easier than some of the cramped keyboards that we have used in the past. Overall, it's a great typing experience when you consider the size limitations and the $315 price tag.

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The trackpad is a mixed bag. On one hand, we're glad that it's 20% larger (which sounds more significant than it really is, but you have to realize just how small it was to begin with on last year's models). On the other, we're disappointed that no multi-touch capabilities are included. You can't scroll with two fingertips, and you can't even scroll by using a single fingertip down the right edge of the pad as you can on nearly every other trackpad made today. It's definitely a spartan trackpad, but we did like the texture and felt that it responded very well (without overreacting, as many pads do) to our gestures. The single silver mouse click button recognizes which side you're pressing (for right or left clicks), and while it's certainly not our favorite approach, it got the job done.

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The glossy display is sharp and crisp when looking directly on, and the viewing angles are also impressive. Of course, we would prefer a matte panel since those are easier to actually see when you venture outdoors (which is highly likely if you're buying a netbook), but alas, few netbooks are offered with a matte panel. The only one we know of is OCZ's Neutrino. We should take this opportunity to mention that the U135 is trying out a slightly new paint job for the Wind range. There's a bit of sparkle and style to the charcoal paint scheme, and while subtle, we thought it was a nice touch. We still think that having the outer shell as glossy, the palm rest glossy and the display bezel glossy is kind of overkill (your fingerprints will be everywhere in no time), but it's something we have come to accept and understand as "par for the course."

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As we mentioned earlier, Windows 7 Starter should be plenty for most. It's a far nicer experience than using Windows XP. We didn't enjoy having to uninstall the Norton Suite, which we consider bloatware, but otherwise the OS experience was fantastic. There's no 3 app at a time limit, and the machine had no issue having 7 applications open at once (though loading them took some time given the relatively low performing innards). Truthfully, loading up applications didn't feel incredibly quicker than the Windows XP netbooks that we tested last year with Atom N270 and N280 CPUs within. The clock speed of the Atom N450 (which is used in this netbook) is just 1.66GHz, and while the front side bus increased from 533MHz to 667MHz, there's just not enough of a leap in technology for you to notice a more speedy system.

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That said, applications did open up fast enough when you consider that you're on a $315 netbook, and multitasking was handled with poise if you gave the machine enough time to digest the app switching. The Pine Trail platform may not help much in the overall speed department, but it certainly helps in the multimedia department. With many Atom N270/N280 systems, we were unable to easily play back 720p and 1080p content. It either wouldn't play back smoothly, or it would tax the system so heavily than even a widget notification in the background would grind everything to a halt. The GMA 3150 GPU isn't as good as a discrete GPU, but it's plenty powerful to chew through the 720p movie trailers that we threw at it. YouTube HD and Hulu viewers should also take comfort in knowing that this system is perfectly capable of handling your needs in terms of smooth SD video playback, but we did have trouble getting some 1080p material to play without lag.

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At well under 3 pounds, the Wind 135 is also easy to lug around, and while it's over an inch thick, it's still no burden to slip it in your bookbag. We're eagerly awaiting the day where netbooks can slim down to Adamo XPS-level thinness, but we get the impression that it won't be happening for quite awhile unless we're willing to pay hundreds more for our netbooks.

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