Taiwan's MSI (Micro-Star International) announced its competitor for the new low-cost laptop market, the MSI Wind, early this month at Computex, and we got a chance to try it out at MSI's offices in Taipei last week.
There has been some skepticism about low-cost laptop PCs, or mini-notebooks, because they seem to either be cheap at a low price or are priced so high one might question why someone wouldn't just by a regular notebook PC.
Some product reviewers compare these devices to normal laptops and that's fair when the price of the mini-notebook is similar, but overall the low-cost versions aren't designed to compete with normal notebook PCs. These are small laptops aimed at people who want a small, light device that makes them easy to carry around and surf the internet for hours and hours.
So, battery-life, performance, screen size and the size of the keypad were our biggest concerns, and MSI's Wind wins high marks in each of those categories.
The company plans to sell them for £329 on the UK, Europe, US and elsewhere starting from mid-July.
The first version of the MSI Wind will come in a variety of colours with Microsoft Windows XP, a 1.6GHz Intel Atom microprocessor, 1GB of DRAM and an 80GB hard disk drive (HDD). It's built to connect wirelessly to the internet via Wi-Fi 802.11b/g.
The £329 version of the MSI Wind also carries a 6-cell battery, good for 5 to 6 hours of use, and a 10-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen, which is bigger than some rivals that use only 7-inch or 8.9-inch screens.
You can cut corners to make the MSI Wind cheaper, for example by choosing a smaller, 3-cell battery, using a Linux OS, which won't be available at the launch, and a smaller HDD. The one component we wouldn't scrimp on is the battery, unless money is really tight.
We liked the 6-cell battery for a few reasons. First, knowing you have at least 5 hours of battery power means you don't really have to take a power cable with you or search for a seat by a wall socket. But one unexpected benefit of the larger battery is that it tilts the laptop up in a way that makes typing more comfortable.
MSI tried to make the MSI Wind's keypad bigger than other mini-notebooks and put on a touchpad. If you've used the Asus Eee PC with its tiny keypad and kept hitting the wrong keys, or two keys at once, you'll enjoy the MSI Wind.
By comparison the MSI Wind is a nicer experience, albeit still not like a normal laptop PC. Some of Asus's more recent versions of the Eee PC, such as the 1000, have larger keypads.
The MSI Wind, as is, performed fairly well when we used it. We weren't able to run a thorough test, just play with it for a while and see how it worked.
But if you want a small device that weighs about 1Kg and is able to connect to the internet and multitask with simple software, the MSI Wind is pretty nifty.
NEXT PAGE: the MSI Wind in action > >