MSI Wind U100 Hands On
This is my favorite part of any review. Hands on use always tells more about a notebook or netbook than any benchmark could. The MSI Wind U100 is a small machine, but is sized exactly like the ASUS Eee 1002HA that I reviewed previously.
With all netbooks using the same basic gear inside, the place that separates the good form the bad is typically the keyboard. They MSI Wind U100 has a fantastic keyboard, with the usual netbook caveats. Sure, the keys are small, they are spaced close together and typing takes getting used to, but that is the sacrifice you make for a netbook's portability. The U100 has a great keyboard with all of the keys exactly where you expect them to be, which is to say the right shift key is in the proper location beneath the enter key rather than to the right of the up arrow like the ASUS 1002HA.
The U100 keyboard is sized well for a netbook and offers good tactile feel and typing feedback. The smaller layout of the keyboard takes some getting used to for sure, but you don't have to re-train yourself for a new layout as you do with other netbooks.
Under the keyboard is the track pad, which is large enough for comfortable use and places the mouse buttons under the track pad where they are expected to be. The U100 lacks the slick multi-touch track pad the 1002HA from ASUS offers, but it performs well enough for those who aren't accustomed to a multi-touch pad.
The only gripe I have about the MSI Wind U100 track pad is that the small size of the netbook puts the track pad so close to the keyboard that I often found myself hitting the track pad with the heel of my hand. This would cause the text I was typing to end up in a place other than where I wanted it. If your typing style is different from mine, you may not have that problem. The fix for me was to turn the track pad off when I was typing long documents.
The 10-inch LCD on the MSI Wind U100 is LED backlit to optimize battery life and offers plenty of brightness for use even in brightly lit rooms and outdoors. The matte finish on the screen is most welcome and much preferred by myself and many other users. The screen can cast a bit of glare, but it is much less likely to do so than a glossy screen.
Image quality on the little screen is very good and I spent lots of time watching Hulu on the netbook. Colors are sharp, realistic and skin tones were very good. Overall, the screen of the MSI Wind U100 is great for a netbook.
Watching Hulu shows unveiled one of the MSI Wind U100 real issues -- the onboard speakers. The speakers lack enough volume to listen to them without resorting to headphones. You have to be in a quiet room and still strain to hear some words in quieter movie scenes. The speakers could offer twice as much volume before I would consider them adequate.
Almost as important as the keyboard on a netbook is the battery life. The U100 I tested had the 6-cell battery and with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on and with the screen at max brightness, I was able to get about 4 hours and 15 minutes out of the battery while working and watching Hulu shows. That is a far cry from some of the ASUS models that double that number, but overall I was satisfied with the battery life of the U100.
While at CES 2009 earlier this year I worked exclusively from the MSI Wind U100. I found that the machine was more than capable of doing anything that I would have done on my normal notebook. Admittedly, some things I wanted it to do took longer. I was able to do basic photo editing with Adobe Photoshop Elements, type all the Word documents I wanted and surf the net to my heart's content. In answer to the question I posed at the start of this review, yes a netbook will do everything I want a notebook to do and it will probably do all you want it to as well.