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MSI Wind U135 review: MSI Wind U135

MSI's latest netbook impresses us with a quality keyboard.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read

Design

The box for the MSI Wind U135 promises "One Million Dazzling Stars", not that it contains superheated balls of gas. They'd burn the cardboard box quite badly. The 1 million reference is due to this being a "celebration" edition of the Wind hardware, having sold a million of them. The same box promises "exquisite patterns and glossy finish for premium look and feel", and looking at the images above you might see the point.

8.1

MSI Wind U135

The Good

Excellent keyboard. Acceptable battery life. Some designs are quite striking.

The Bad

One button touch-pad. Black version looks pretty ordinary. Some system instability issues.

The Bottom Line

MSI's latest netbook impresses us with a quality keyboard.

Imagine our surprise then when we opened up the Wind U135 and nestled inside was a Wind notebook that didn't look significantly different from the outside from any previous Wind models. It was black, and it was plastic in tone in that particularly netbook-style way. It appears that some models of the Wind U135 are delicate flowers, and others are ugly ducklings. It would certainly pay to check inside the box before buying one, depending on where your preferences lay.

Opening up our review sample did reveal one significant change from previous Wind models, however. The Wind U135 features a full chiclet-style keyboard that extends out to a millimetre from each side. This gives each key good spacing, which should lead to fewer keying errors. As with any netbook, there's still only so much space to give to each key, but it's a marked step up from earlier Wind models.

Features

The core specifications of the Wind U135 are, like many netbooks, not that extraordinary, but then MSI's not selling the U135 at any kind of inflated price. For your AU$599 you get a "Pine Trail" Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz processor, 1GB of RAM and integrated Intel GMA3150 graphics. Wireless networking supports 802.11b/g/n and the Ethernet port is gigabit capable, which is a nice point of difference. The Wind U135's 10-inch display screen has the usual 1024x600-pixel count, hidden behind a somewhat glossy screen. The default battery that ships with the Wind U135 is a six-cell model. While this is somewhat bulky on the base, six-cell batteries typically give very good power under the generally low draw of netbook processors.

On the software side, the Wind U135 runs Windows 7 Starter Edition, Microsoft's foray into the cheapest possible (for OEMs) version of Windows 7. MSI also bundles in Windows Live and Works software for basic netbook office needs.

Performance

On the hardware side, we were pleased with the Wind U135's expansive and responsive keyboard. It's slightly let down by the touchpad buttons. They're essentially one button with a central rocker. As a result, they're not quite as responsive as we'd like. Likewise, we were only mildly irked once or twice by the glossy screen. For many users that's a preference matter anyway, although the portable nature of netbooks means you're arguably more likely to encounter glare.

It may have just been our testing environment or just the review unit we were presented with, but we hit some solid stability issues with Windows 7 Starter edition running on the Wind U135. As with other optical-drive-free netbooks, there's no way to reload the operating system from optical media, but MSI provides a recovery partition on-board the Wind U135. We got rather more familiar with this option than we really would have liked during our tests.

As with most netbooks, the internals of the Wind U135 resisted PCMark05 and 3DMark06, but anecdotal testing tied in with what we know of the N450 from other platforms suggests that this is a netbook like any other. You won't be running full-frame Crysis on it any time soon, but why would you want to?

We ran the Wind U135 through our standard battery test, playing back video content at full screen brightness with all power-saving measures disabled. Three hours and 40 minutes later the Wind U135's battery was fully depleted. We've certainly seen worse in the netbook space and no three-cell battery we've tested has even gotten that far, but that's still an average battery life.

The keyboard on the Wind U135 is the best thing about this particular netbook. It's not quite up to the quality heights of some of HP's best netbook keyboards, but it's a big step forward for the Wind line. Other than that, this is a highly average netbook, but it's priced accordingly.