The 10in MSI Wind U135 heralds the company's first mainstream netbook offering based on Intel's new Pine Trail Atom chips, which are supposed to be more power-efficient than the older Atom processors.
The MSI Wind U135 is available in two colours: glossy blue and silver. Our review sample had a glossy silver screen lid which didn't attract a glaring amount of fingerprints.
Prop open the screen lid to reveal the MSI Wind U135's two-toned silver-on-black colour scheme, and it looks quite good. Like the Wind U120, the Wind U135 appears to be wedge-shaped, owing to its six-cell battery bulge - this actually aids typing on the netbook while it's perched on a flat surface. Build quality was largely acceptable, but we felt the Wind U135 was slightly top-heavy. It weighs a decent 1.3kg with the included six-cell battery.
Its 10.1in LED-backlit glossy screen supports a 1024x600 pixel resolution - lesser compared to larger screen-sized netbooks from Asus, Acer, or Benq. Despite being smaller, we had no complaints from its quality: the screen is evenly lit and offers good horizontal viewing angles. Whether it's reading text or watching movies, the MSI Wind U135's screen didn't disappoint. However, its onboard speakers weren't up to mark - part of the reason was its placement under the front edge. But plug in a pair of headphones, and the audio is nice and easy on the ears.
The keyboard sports isolated, chiclet-styled keys, and the key spacing is wider on the MSI Wind U135's keyboard compared to the Wind U120 and the Wind12 U210. Alphanumeric keys are okay, but Control, Alt, Shift keys are tiny; typing is fine once you get used to the tiny form factor, but we recommend test driving the keyboard before buying. The touchpad has a hint of texture and a breeze to work with, but the single-strip mouse button is a bit of a pain.
The most notable (and hotly anticipated!) hardware debut on the MSI Wind U135 is undoubtedly the new Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz processor. Unlike the older Atom N270 and N280 chips, the newer single core N450 packs in the processor, graphics chip, and memory controller on a single die - thereby reducing its power footprint. Paired with the processor is just 1GB of DDR2 RAM (disappointing) and a 250GB hard drive.
Onboard graphics is handled by Intel GMA 3150, which is slightly better than the older Intel GMA 500. The MSI Wind U135 comes with three USB ports, multicard reader, VGA-out, and twin audio jacks. It doesn't come with Gigabit Ethernet, but supports Draft-N Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 connectivity. This is also the first netbook we've encountered which bundles in Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system. There's a 1.3Mp webcam and microphone recessed on the Wind U135's top screen bezel, and they come in handy for voice chats.
So how does the new Intel Atom processor fare in terms of performance? In terms of raw, number-crunching tasks, the newer processor is marginally better than Intel Atom Z520-enabled netbooks we've seen from Asus, Acer and Benq. But performance is nearly the same compared to Atom N270 and N280 processors, as is evident from our initial benchmarks (We're still putting it through WorldBench 6 at the time of writing this). Disappointingly, the MSI Wind U135 can't handle smooth, stutter-free 720p High-def media playback. However, we had no trouble browsing the web, listening to music, and working on Office productivity suite - all at the same time.
But there is definitely an improvement in terms of battery life, as promised by Intel. The MSI Wind U135 etched 4 hours 15 minutes in our synthetic battery test, at full screen brightness and high-performance preset - significantly better than the Wind U120's 2 hours 50 minutes. Easily expect close to 7 hours of browsing the Web on a power-efficient battery preset. Don't forget, all benchmarks on the Wind U135 were done on Windows 7, unlike previous netbooks which had the less resource-hungry Windows XP to contend with.
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