MSI Wind U100 Review + Tips

In Typical on 2009-01-01 by petervk

So a while back I bought a new laptop, specifically a MSI Wind U100.

I bought an “Empire Black” model with the Bi-lingual keyboard (the english only keyboard isn’t available in Canada), a 120 gb hard drive, windows XP, the 6 cell battery, and bluetooth. It has the 1.6 ghz hyperthreading Intel Atom processor, 2 gb ddr2 ram (came with 1, but I added another gig), a 10″ 1024×600 screen.

My review:
It’s a really slick looking machine. The glossy black lid looks amazing but has a tendency to become scratched.

The keyboard is actually pretty good. It has a weird layout (but which laptop doesn’t) but the keys have a good feel to them and it isn’t too cramped, even for my hands. At first the layout really bugged me but I’m pretty much used to it now, and my only outstanding issue with the keyboard is having to hold down the function key to make use of the Home and End keys (which I normally like to use a lot.) Oh, and the function key is where the ctrl key is on most keyboards, so that is sometimes annoying.

The screen is really brilliant and awesome. LED backlit so it is at full brightness instantly and it can get really bright. In the evening I often have to crank it down because of the contrast between the screen and the room. The only problem with it is it’s rather short vertical resolution. A lot of applications aren’t designed to be used on less then 768 vertical pixels so sometimes that is an issue.

The processor is a complete non issue for me. I was worried as it is rather anemic compared to almost everything else out there (aside from the VIA cpu the HP netbook was originally shipping with) but with windows XP and that extra gig of ram it runs quite well. 90% of the time I’m just using it for surfing the web so really how fast of a processor do you need? It does start to chug with the few games I’ve tried, but I knew that this wasn’t going to be a gaming machine. HD video on Youtube or Vimeo doesn’t really work. It can show it ok, but the fan is going full out and it’s not giving you the full 24 fps, more like 10 fps. But, I don’t watch a lot of online HD, so as I said initially, non issue for me. The processor is plenty fast enough.

Windows XP is nice. I really haven’t had to use Vista yet so I can’t really compare to that, but it’s nice to use something familiar and so incredibly popular. As you may know I’m quite a Linux buff and actually had it running on every computer I owned until this one. I really need to try the latest Ubuntu on it just so I’m less of a hypocrite but for now Windows XP is fast, stable, and everything just works.

The speakers and the touchpad suck. I’ve never heard such tinny crappy speakers before in a laptop and the touchpad has no way to scroll webpages. Headphones or any other speakers are needed if you want to listen to music or basically use the speakers for anything. The touchpad missing the scrolling functionality is because MSI wanted to save a couple dollars per laptop and started to ship them with sentelic touchpads. As Synaptic has the side scroll patented, and sentelic hasn’t licensed that from them it would be illegal for anyone to implement that functionality. External mouse is the way to go.

I added a gig of ram. I didn’t notice a huge difference as I had only had the laptop for a week or two, but ddr2 ram is dirt cheap and it had a empty slot so I felt I had too. It is maxed out now, which is a bit of a negative. I don’t know why MSI/Intel couldn’t have made a system that supported more then 2 gb of ram. What with it being so cheap and all…

Bluetooth mouse:
Rocketfish Bluetooth Wireless Laser Mouse – RF-ABTMSE
It was called a mac mouse initially, but it’s just a bluetooth mouse so it works with anything. It was on sale for $30 and it actually is a really nice mouse. The bluetooth is awesome. No dongle, and it sync’s up within seconds of turning on the mouse. Battery life is great too. The two AAA’s it came with lasted almost three months and I rarely turned it off. It is quite sensitive though.

Tiny Menu Firefox Extension: adds a new “menu” button to the Firefox buttons that contains the entire regular menu, with some rearranging it allows you to compress the entire Firefox interface into one bar across the top saving you 10-20 pixels of vertical screen real estate.

Alt Drag Utility This little program is needed on such a short screen. I’ve had it a couple times where some window has popped up and it extends off the bottom of the screen. With this tiny program running in the background you can just hold down the alt key to drag the window around. Works great, tiny memory requirements, allows you to use programs you normally couldn’t because of the tiny screen size.

Bluetooth Replace Toshiba Stack with Microsoft Stack The Toshiba bluetooth stack that come with the laptop isn’t ideal. It runs 3-4 processes in the background consuming several mb of memory and I ran into problems reconnecting when resuming from hibernation. One solution is to remove the Toshiba stack and replace it with Microsoft’s one implementation. It’s better integrated into the OS and works better. The only downside to the Microsoft stack is it doesn’t support the Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) feature, so if you are going to use bluetooth for networking (like pairing to your phone for internet) you better stick to the Toshiba stack.

ISO Mounter – Daemon Tools Lite As this little laptop doesn’t have a optical media drive of any kind, and sometimes you still need to make use of a CD or DVD, this application is awesome. It allows you to mount a ISO file as if it were an actual CD or DVD. I have a few ISO files on the hard drive, and all I have to do is double click them to simulate putting the disc in the drive. Works great.

So, that’s about it. Epic post. I really like my MSI Wind and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a small laptop (aka a netbook)


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