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Hands-on with an Apple Mac netbook

We stick Mac OS X on an MSI Wind

Netbooks are the current hot trend. However, Apple hasn't yet produced one. The web maybe awash with rumours of the possibility of a Mac netbook, but we can't wait to see if one appears. Instead we created on our own, in a bid to imagine what an Apple netbook might feel like.

MacBook Mini from Earth-U100

Netbooks are cheap for a reason. The specs of my MSI Wind U100 are the very definition of 'inferior' - a single-core 1.6GHz Intel Atom processor, 1GB of RAM, a 120GB hard drive, a limited-capacity battery, a tiny 10in screen, a shrunken keyboard, and no optical drive. In Mac terms, its closest cousin might be a 2005-vintage iBook G4.

On pure physical terms, however, the MSI Wind has that classic Apple iBook styling - it looks like a shrunken-down version of Apple's MacBook, right down to the shiny white plastic finish. It's got a built-in video camera and microphone above the display, a clamshell case that opens and closes without a latch, even a familiar-looking trackpad.

And the Wind has a lot of things going for it. In a few key areas, the Wind even outstrips the functionality of Apple's laptops, especially the MacBook Air.

Let's start with the size. The 10in display (1024x600 pixels) is cramped, although I didn't feel as miserable using it as I thought I would. (It's only slightly smaller than the 1024x768 resolution on the old 12in PowerBook G4, and I dearly loved that laptop, but toward the end of its life it was clear that Apple was designing all of its software for larger, wider screens.)

While I was using the Wind, I felt obligated to set the Dock to hide, collapse as many toolbars as possible, and hide Safari's Status Bar and Bookmarks Bar just to eke out a bit more vertical height. Some dialog boxes were too tall to fit on the screen, and iMovie wouldn't run at all.

The Wind weighs 1.18Kg, making it 23 percent lighter than the Air. It's quite a bit thicker than the Air, of course, but I found carrying around the tiny Wind to be a joy. Some of that has to do with the lighter weight, but some of it has to do with the shape of the thing. The Wind, being thicker but smaller, carries like a hardcover book. In contrast, carrying the MacBook Air - wide but thin -feels more like you're toting a portfolio.

Apple MacBook Air review

Most impressively, it's equipped with three USB ports to the Air's one. It's also got video out (it's only VGA, but at least it's such a commonly used port that adaptors aren't necessary), a 10/100 Ethernet jack and a built-in SD card slot.

Laptop buying advice

NEXT PAGE: You get what you pay for

  1. We convert an MSI Wind to get an idea
  2. MacBook Mini from Earth-U100
  3. You get what you pay for
  4. Why we can't live without Apple's trackpad
  5. So what if it were made by Apple?
  6. Why Apple won't do it


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