Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

Summary: Fellow podcast cohost Kevin Tofel has been enticing me with all of his writings on the MSI Wind so I reached out to the good folks at Dynamism to see about checking one out for a couple weeks. They sent along a black MSI Wind with 80GB hard drive, 6 cell battery, Bluetooth and WiFi, and 1GB RAM that they have available for US$599. After using it for just over a week and taking it on a business trip with me, I ordered my own with 160GB hard drive along with another 1GB RAM stick to upgrade my own Wind. Check out some photos and a walk around the device in my image gallery.

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Fellow podcast cohost Kevin Tofel has been enticing me with all of his writings on the MSI Wind so I reached out to the good folks at Dynamism to see about checking one out for a couple weeks. They sent along a black MSI Wind with 80GB hard drive, 6 cell battery, Bluetooth and WiFi, and 1GB RAM that they have available for US$599. After using it for just over a week and taking it on a business trip with me, I ordered my own with 160GB hard drive along with another 1GB RAM stick to upgrade my own Wind. Check out some photos and a walk around the device in my image gallery.


 Image Gallery:A walk around the hardware of the MSI Wind can be seen in my image gallery. Image Gallery: Open MSI Wind Image Gallery: MSI Wind feature sticker 

First impressions: After opening up the box, I was at first impressed by the compact size and attractive look of the device. I took it out of the box and popped on the 6 cell battery to begin using the device. I was pleased to see that the display rotated back like my MacBook Pro behind the keyboard so it wasn't too tall with a large space between the keyboard and display. I liked the non-glossy display and the rubber pieces along the top to keep the display from impacting the keyboard. I also liked the large amount of travel in the keyboard when I pressed on the keys and the layout seemed to be just about perfect for typing on the go.

After turning it on, my first impression was that the display was very bright and the text was crisp and clear. I couldn't wait to try it out some more so I plugged in the A/C adapter and charged it up for further testing.

Specifications: The MSI Wind comes in a few different configurations and the one that I was sent to check out had the following specifications:

  • Windows XP Home
  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 80GB 2.5" SATA hard drive
  • 10 inch 1024x600 resolution display
  • 6 cell 5200 mAh battery
  • Integrated 802.11 b/g radio
  • Integrated Bluetooth radior
  • Integrated 1.3 megapixel webcam
  • 4-in-1 Secure Digital/MMC/MS/MSPro card slot
  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA out and ethernet ports
  • Dimensions:

    • Weight: 2 lbs 14 ounces

    • Length: 10.24 inches

    • Depth: 7.08 inches

    • Thickness: 1.24 inches

Walk around the hardware: The MSI Wind has one USB, headphone port, microphone port, ethernet port, VGA out connector, and 4-in-1 card slot along the right side. On the left side you will find two more USB ports, ventilation openings for air flow, A/C adapter port, and computer lock opening. There is nothing along the back since the keyboard rotates back over this area and there is also nothing along the front.

Looking at the bottom you can see some ventilation openings and the 9 screws needed to open up the device for RAM and drive upgrades. The 6 cell battery has two latches on the bottom to lock it into place and can easily be removed for replacement on the go. There are also sturdy rubber feet along the high points to hold the netbook in place on a table.

The top is where all of the action takes place and here you will find an almost full sized keyboard. After starting it up, I was able to work on reviews and write blog posts with ease. I was expecting to have to compromise with such a small device, but I found I really did not have too and was able to type quickly and accurately. After experiencing this ease of typing, it was almost a no-brainer to upgrade from my U810 that is quite difficult to type on.

I also found the touchpad to be quite functional. It is a bit small, but I did not find this to be an issue for navigating around the display. I liked the single right and left mouse key bar on the bottom where you just press the right or left to activate the functions. If you touch the upper right you scroll up and if you touch the lower right you scroll down the page. This is much easier than pressing the page up and down buttons on the keyboard, but there are directional arrows located on the far lower right to also make this an easy alternative.

Indicator lights are found on the lower right side of the top and these show you the status of 8 different aspects, including Bluetooth connection, WiFi connection, battery charging, hard drive action, and more.

The display is 1024x600 and the brightness is easily controlled with the keyboard. I found it to be quite bright and clear. I actually would like to see a bit higher resolution because the 10 inch display could easily handle it and provide you with more information on the page. You don't have to scroll right and left on web pages, but you do have to scroll down to see much of the content.

Usage and experiences: While using the device on my lap on the couch, I noticed that it has a tendency to tip backwards when the display is opened up past 90 degrees (looks to go back about 140 degrees). It seems to have a bit of a balance issue, but I do think the 6 cell battery helps when it is on a table with the slight angle forward that it creates.

I was able to type on it without even thinking I was compromising my speed and my only wish here was that the keys were backlit like my MacBook Pro, but with the standard spacing I found I was still accurate when my fingers were placed in the proper orientation.

I was worried that the processor would slow things down so I tried Amazon Unbox and Netflix streaming that play perfectly on my U810 and found both to work just fine on the MSI Wind. It may even be better when I upgrade to 2GB of RAM on my personal device I ordered. I didn't try pushing it with video editing, but that is not my intent for the device and shouldn't be for those who are purchasing a low cost netbook. These are really designed as mobile companion PCs, but more and more of us are using them as primary PCs and they actually seem to be working quite well in that regards for most all functions.

I took the MSI Wind with me as my PC to give my presentation for the paper I published at our annual professional society meeting, which in hindsight was quite a leap of faith. I used the Wind to edit my PowerPoint presentation and then brought it with me to the venue without the A/C adapter because it was only a half hour presentation. After pulling it out, I was immediately approached by several people asking about my compact laptop. I showed them a few of its features and think I sold a couple for MSI with my demonstration. I then plugged in the projector and my slides appeared perfectly on the screen with no changes to the resolution or anything else required. I easily stepped through the slide with the arrow buttons and everything went very well.

I also used the MSI Wind with the HAVA Platinum HD (check our my review) to watch The Office later that evening after the dinner and reception. I actually ended up buying my own HAVA after finding out it worked very well for watching my DVR content on the road since I have a few trips coming up in October and November.

Pricing and availability: You can pick up the MSI Wind like the one that was configured the same as my test unit for US$599 directly from Dynamism in both black and white colors. Actually, I see that the units from Dynamism now have the 160GB hard drive for this price. Many available models do not include Bluetooth or the 6 cell battery so the ones that Dynamism has are the top of the line.

Overall thoughts and conclusions: There are many choices in the still growing netbook category today, but I was very pleased with the MSI Wind as far as functionality and quality. I have only seen other device though and haven't tried them out so I am not suggesting that the MSI Wind is the best choice on the market. I was actually able to get mine for just US$404 using the Windows Live Search Cashback program (we'll see if I ever actually do see the cash) and buying it on eBay. It is safer to buy from a dependable retailer like Dynamism and if you don't want to take risks with your money then they are recommended.

In addition to the great display and functional keyboard, another reason I purchased this device over all of the other netbooks found on the market is that I can install Mac OS X on it and with the new wireless card found in the device even WiFi works without any replacement. I will be upgrading my RAM to 2GB, this may void your warranty, and setting my Wind up as a dual boot (Windows XP and Mac OS X) device that should become my new mobile computer.

Topics: Mobility, Browser, Hardware, Processors

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19 comments
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  • 6-cell battery

    A better buy for a couple more dollars. It's $479 on newegg and the better battery makes the users happier and will last for 4hours or more.

    These are better choices where most netbooks have tiny keyboards making it hard to have a higher WPM.

    The Wind is now at the top of my list for for my next Laptop.
    Maarek
  • RE: Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

    Please explain how you can run Mac OS X on this netbook? Have you done this yet?
    alf50
  • "Impact" is not a verb!

    "I liked the non-glossy display and the rubber pieces along the top to keep the display from impacting the keyboard."

    You mean you liked the way the rubber pieces kept the display from (pick one)...

    striking
    touching
    banging into
    hitting
    bumping
    etc, etc, etc

    the keyboard.

    English has dozens of words that are more vivid, more descriptive, more precise than "impact" -- which isn't a verb!

    Stop using trendy jargon, and start using your vocabulary.
    GrizzledGeezer
    • Well, impact is a verb

      Check your dictionary.
      ignar
    • "Impact" *IS* a verb!

      Check your dictionary. It means "to strike with great force". The silly, trendy attempt to use it as a synonym for "affect", as in "The new org chart impacted my team." is what has turned the word into a tired cliche.
      joel.neely@...
    • Not a verb - AMEN,

      It would really be nice if more people would stop using words improperly. While the author's intent was understandable here, this creative application of words can and in many cases does completely change the meaning of the sentence.
      Update victim
    • You Mean, "and start utilizing your vocabulary"

      Plus ?a change, plus c'est la m?me chose!<br>
      Yes, it drives me crazy also:<br>
      Utilize rather than use,
      Disrespect rather than insult,
      Often when it's pronounced as "off'-ten" rather than "off'-en" as it should be.<br>And those really irritating people always quoting French aphorisms. <br><br>
      <a href="http://www.westernnewsco.com">Western News Co (Chicago)</a><br>
      Seamus O'Brog
  • RE: Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

    The keyboard of Wind surprised me. Pretty good and easy to type. I think it's a bit better than 1000h's. My only complaint is the location of Fn and Ctrl keys, but they can be swapped using a 3rd party program.
    ignar
  • RE: Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

    Yes please tell us how you go about installing MAC OS X on this unit, that would make it very useful for me as I need both operating systems.
    Cheers
    gpreston@...
    • Try this...

      Go to Digg, search "MSI Wind"
      Mac Hosehead
    • MAC OS X on the MSI Wind

      This is the main reason I'm ordering one....

      http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/09/how_to_os_x_on_the_msi_wi.html

      http://eeepc.net/fake-mac-netbook/

      http://www.modaco.com/content/asus-eee-pc-http-www-eeeasy-com/270099/pauls-complete-guide-to-installing-osx-leopard-on-your-msi-wind-advent-4211/

      http://wind-osx86.wikispaces.com/

      http://wiki.osx86project.org/wiki/index.php/Installation_Guides

      And there are a TON of YouTube vids....
      EdNetman
      • How about Linux? From a USB stick, maybe? OOps, Ouch!, Oh, I see.

        Anybody know if you can install Linux on the MSI Wind Netbook?<br><br>Oh, a little google and I see that The MSI must have come preloaded with Linux and it was kind of a dud!!<br>
        <a href="http://www.westernnewsco.com">Western News Co (Chicago)</a><br>

        Seamus O'Brog
        • Try the Ubuntu NetBook Remix...

          You can download an image that will run from USD with no install needed. It's sort of like a live CD Image, except you can save to the USB and make changes. I have been using it for a while and it works great!

          ~Ed
          EdNetman
  • What about an optical drive

    I do not need a DVD or CD drive built in but I sure hope they include an external DVD writer.

    The photo showed CDs in the box but the whole review did not even mention anything along these lines
    okennejc
    • RE: What about an optical drive

      Nope, no drive included. I have seen a bundle at Wal-Mart.com for the Aspire One, a DVD burner, a wireless mouse, and something else. Maybe you can find a similar deal for the Wind. Otherwise, save the files from the CD to a flash drive!
      EdNetman
  • RE: Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

    Why, O WHY did MSI have to put Fn key to the left of the Ctrl key?! Total deal breaker. I was all set to buy one of these. too.
    LiveTimeNetworks
  • RE: Review: MSI Wind netbook doesn't compromise on the keyboard

    I've had my MSI Wind for little over two weeks. The left
    control key keeps popping off. I am an Unix/Emacs user so
    it's important I need the left control key working. I
    contacted tech support, but the only way they cover
    warranty work is to send the unit back. I was not about to
    send it back for an issue which I can resolve myself if I had
    the replacement part. In addition, I already have personal
    data on the Wind and I am reluctant on sending it back. I
    was given their sales office number in Los Angeles. Will
    call first thing next week to see if they can help.

    After having used the Wind for a couple weeks now, I find
    it awkward to use the lower right corner of the keyboard.
    The keys in the lower right corner are 3/4 the size and
    have been squeezed to fit. I find myself mistyping a lot
    when I press the comma, period and slash keys. In
    addition, I find myself mistyping when I go back to a
    normal sized keyboard. Most annoying. The right shift key
    moved slightly to the left to make room for the arrow keys.
    So, I end up pressing the right shift key when I type '/' and
    vice versa.

    The touchpad is rather small, but is usable. However, the
    button is too thin and close to the edge. It is easily missed.
    I find using an external mouse makes it a better user
    experience. It would be better if they made the left and
    right buttons on each side of the trackpad as seen on
    other netbooks.

    Out of all the Netbooks, I think HP has the best keyboard
    layout. The keys are almost the same size as the full
    keyboard. The trackpad is just right. I give HP a good score
    on user interface factors, but a lower mark for using the
    Via C7 processor. I am interested in the new HP mini 1000.
    I just wished they offered higher 1280x768 resolution like
    they did with the mini 2133.

    Overall, I am happy with the Wind although I hope MSI
    considers addressing some of the issues I mentioned. I'm
    sure I'm not alone.
    code4fun
  • HP 2133 keyboard is still the best

    I was also surprised to see that it runs Vista Basic decently. The Via processor still is a problem, maybe when they come out with an Intel Atom model it will be worth a second look.
    marks055@...
  • Close but no cookie

    It needs to have a fast SSD hard drive of at least 64 gig and 1280x800 to be worth $599.
    Narg