MSI – MSI Wind U100 Plus review

refresh for an old favourite
Photo of MSI – MSI Wind U100 Plus

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the past year, or on a expedition up the far reaches of the Amazon (well, that one may not count as even some villages on the banks of the mighty river have WiFi), you must have heard of the U100 Wind netbook from MSI: not only the company’s first, but also the first netbook to spawn a 10-inch screen and probably the most rebadged netbook in existence.

So what, you may be thinking, is so special about the latest Plus version of the Wind (also known as the U100-210UK-BK160D)? Well, it’s basically a refresh of the original model with an updated processor, support for 802.11b/g/n WiFi, a 160GB hard disk and a couple of new colour options.

The new processor is the N280 version of Intel’s Atom processor which is clocked slightly faster (1.66GHz) than the N270 found in the vast majority of netbooks, the latter clocked at 1.60GHz. The most significant thing about the new CPU is that has an FSB speed of 667MHz rather than its sibling’s 533MHz, but even so the performance difference between the two is pretty marginal.

However, the faster bus speed does come in handy if the processor is matched with the new GN40 chipset which supports hardware-based 720p HD video decoding yet without any increase in power consumption: very useful in a netbook. Unfortunately the Plus doesn’t use the new chipset, relying instead on that old trusted netbook favourite, the i945GMS chipset, with all its limitations.

Apart from the processor change, the only other thing that the Plus offers over its original U100 sibling are two new colours replacing two of the original range of finish options; Rose Champagne and Metallic Blue replacing Romantic Pink and Wind For Love. Yes, the mind boggles at some of the names companies give colours these days: they’re getting worse than the car industry.

The keyboard is still the same as before, in other words one of the best netbook keyboards around, with good sized keys having just the right amount of travel and response to make typing accurate even when trying to type quickly. Unfortunately it still retains the annoying positioning of the Fn key to the outside of the Ctrl key, but you’ll learn to live with it.

As with all Winds, the 10.1-inch screen is very good with its 1,024 by 600 pixel resolution, good viewing angles and an anti-glare coating. It reproduces colours well and with sharp, easy to read text. The integrated 1.3-megapixel webcam still resides in the top of the screen bezel and as well as the 160GB Western Digital hard disk, which is the mechanical type and not an SSD, you also get a 4-in-1 flash card reader.

According to MSI’s press release for the Plus it’s capable of 7 hours battery life from the ‘standard’ battery package, but we reckon that’s only if the standard package is the 6-cell battery (which came with our review sample) and not the 3-cell option.

When tested using a heavy workload we managed to get just over four hours’ life but this is without any power saving features turned on yet with the WiFi turned off, so it’s almost a worst case scenario. We then tested it with a light load, again with the WiFi turned off, and the screen at half brightness and managed to achieve a respectable six hours of life.

Company: MSI

Contact: 0871 288 5605

If you already own a Wind then there's not much point upgrading to the new one as it doesn't offer much more than the original, especially as it uses the older Intel chipset. But if you are still toying with the idea of getting a netbook, then MSI's Wind Plus should be high on your list of possibles.