MSI Releases Wind U135 Netbook

MSI-Wind-U135-2Micro-Star International (MSI) is known among enthusiasts for its graphics card designs and motherboards.  However, the Taiwan-based OEM makes a variety of other products including servers and barebones PCs.  Among its most successful entries outside the component market has been the MSI Wind, a netbook.

Now MSI has refreshed its popular design, releasing a new version, the MSI Wind U135.  The specs on the netbook are pretty standard — Windows 7, 1 GB of DDR2 RAM, a 160 GB or 250 GB HD, a choice of several colors (Silver, Charcoal, Ruby and Sapphire).  The netbook’s new ECO engine features five modes — Gaming, Movie, Presentation, Document and Turbo Battery — which help conserve power.

What is important about the new design is that it sports a brand new type of Intel Atom processor, which Intel codenamed Pine Trail and announced on December 21.  The new processor, the Intel Atom N450 drops power consumption from 11.8 W to 7 W for the entire kit (including integrated graphics).

A shortcoming of the platform is that unlike NVIDIA’s Ion and Tegra products, it does not have HD graphics built in.  Integrated graphics on the platform are driven by the Intel GMA 3150, a 45 nm die-shrink of Intel’s ubiquitous GMA 3100 chip.

Moving on to the netbook’s peripherals, look, and feel, the new netbook features a 1.3M webcam, D-Sub port, 3 USB 2.0 ports, a mic jack, a headphones jack, and 4×1 card reader.  The keys on the keyboard have been expanded 20 percent, making it easier to type for those not naturally endowed with tiny fingers.  The notebook measures 12.22″x8.87″x3.35″, weighs 2.4 lb for the 3 cell battery variant and 2.6 lb for the 6 cell variant.

Its battery life in six cell form comes in at an estimated 7.5 hours, putting it perhaps behind behind the Eee PC, which claims 14 hr. on a 6 cell battery.  Real world testing, though, shows that the Eee PC’s (1005 edition) actual battery life is closer to 8 hours, so the pair may be closer than the claimed battery performance indicates, though the Eee PC is expected to lead, at least slightly.

wind-u135The MSRP is $309.99 for the 3 cell variant and $329.99 for the 6 cell variant with 160 GB and 250 GB hard drives, respectively.  This makes it cheaper than most of the Eee PCs currently offered, though one Pine Trail Eee PC (the white 1001P) is retailing for $299 on (it has a 160 GB HD).

The netbook features is currently available on Newegg.  It’s going to face tough competition as HP (HP Mini), Toshiba (NB305), Acer (Aspire One), ASUSTek (Eee PC), Samsung N150, and Gateway (LT series) have all released N450 designs.

Ultimately, the MSI Wind U135’s strengths and shortcomings are signs of things to come for the netbook industry.  With the power draw of the processor (CPU, IGPU) reduced dramatically, the display is quickly becoming the limiting obstacle in terms of power and battery life.  Physics and chemistry dictate that it hard for displays to get much more efficient while maintaining brightness, without switching to pricey new technologies like OLED.  In the meantime, pressure is on battery makers to achieve higher battery densities.