Battle of the breeze: MSI Wind versus MacBook Air

We've been eating the crazy-pills again. Today, we woke up and decided we'd do another mental comparison -- the MSI Wind versus the MacBook Air

Remember back in the day when we went nuts and compared a Samsung Q1 Ultra to an Apple Newton? We've been eating the crazy pills again. Today, we woke up and decided we'd do another mental comparison -- the MSI Wind versus the similarly gusty MacBook Air.

Okay, so one costs £1,300 and the other costs £320, but to hell with it. They're both laptops, they're both ultraportable, they both have keyboards and screens, and they're both so gorgeous they cause random strangers to accost you in the street, demanding to know where you got them from. And you can make fart gags about their names -- that's all the reason we need.

So which is best? The great silver hope from Apple, or the dirt-cheap Eee rip-off? Over the next few pages, we'll take a look at their design, usability, specification, and any special powers that'll help us decide which one blows the most.

Yes, we already know it's not fair, but whatcha gonna do? Click through, that's what. -Rory Reid

Design
If the MacBook Air was a celebrity, it'd be Amy Winehouse: flamboyant and skinny, and a magnet for the lenses of papparazzi near and far. It's heavier than the Wind, but the 1.3kg chassis is so eye-meltingly gorgeous you won't care. Who'd have thought aluminium and the ability to fit inside a manila envelope would be the hottest look in 2008? Steve Jobs did , and he struck gold with the Air.

The Wind is pretty, too, but more in a laptop-next-door kind of way. If it were a celebrity, it would be Lindsay Lohan's little sister -- rooting around in Lindsay's wardrobe for an outfit to steal. Its curved edge and pearly-white finish pay obvious homage to the MacBook, and though it doesn't fit the size-zero mould, it's lighter (just 1kg) and more portable than the Air.

Verdict
The Air, by a mile. Sure, the Wind is pretty, but if you really want to look cool in front of your friends, you're going to need the Apple. End of story.

Usability
If there's one thing that impressed us with the Air, it's its keyboard. It's one of the best we've ever used, on any laptop ever -- ever. Then there's the gesture-sensitive multi-touch mouse -- all you have to do is stroke it and it'll do your bidding. Why can't everything be so simple? And we can't forget the 13.3-inch screen -- it's an absolute joy to look at.

The Wind is smaller, so it was always doomed to be less usable. It's not as RSI-inducingly bad as most laptops of its size, though. It's easy to touch-type on its keyboard, and although the mouse trackpad is stupidly small and lacks multi-touch, it's not too bad.

Verdict
It's got to be the Air, again. The Wind doesn't lose by much, but the Apple machine is the easiest to use on a day-to-day basis. 


Specification
The entry-level Air is fitted with a 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo CPU and 2GB of RAM, so you'd think it would win this one hands down. But hang about -- in order to make it super-flat, Apple has had to remove literally everything that makes a decent laptop. There's only one USB port, no Ethernet port, no removable battery, a lame 80GB hard drive, and mono speakers. Mono. That's an awful lot of nothing for £1,300.

The Wind gets a 1.6GHz CPU, too, but it uses the new Intel Atom N270. It's not as quick as the Core 2 Duo in the Air, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two devices in basic day-to-day use -- even with just 1GB of RAM. Plus, you get the luxury of three USB ports, an Ethernet port, a battery you can replace without visiting a 'genius', and stereo speakers. That's not bad for £320.

Verdict
We think the Wind takes this round. Yeah, the Air has more RAM and a faster CPU, but the the performance delta isn't so great that we can ignore how rubbish it is in other areas.

Special powers
The Air has several key tricks up its sleeve. As if its uncanny ability to fit inside a manila envelope wasn't enough, it also has high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi (300Mbps, kids), and that funky Remote Disc feature that lets it hijack the optical drive of the nearest machine. It'll make you look great to the opposite sex, too. As long as you don't mind them being the skinny sort.

The Wind's most special ability is its stupidly low price -- it can do pretty much everything the Air can for about £1,000 less. It would have breezed this round had MSI kept its promise to include an overclocking function, but the instant underclocking feature is okay -- at least it'll help preserve battery life.

Verdict
The Wind has to win(d) this round, simply because it's so damn cheap. Would you drive a Ferrari around all day, every day, when a Honda Civic can get the job done for a fraction of the price? Yeah, we'd pick the Ferrari too, but given the price of petrol these days we'd be broke within a week.

Verdict
All things considered, it's a draw. The Air is faster, nicer to look at, easier to use, and is ideal for passing around via internal office mail -- but the Wind has its advantages too. It's super-affordable, can keep up with the Air in most performance terms, and is the more flexible machine.

If money is no object, get an Air. If you're broke, buy a Wind. Unless, y'know, the Newton rocks your boat.

 

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