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MSI Wind U115 Hybrid netbook tested

Index



Battery and Consumption

It turns out that MSI’s claims on excellent battery life were mostly true, and we were turned into believers ourselves. In normal work, with wireless, HDD and 50% brightness, the battery will last between 5 and 7 hours. If your turn eco-mode on, which as you know turns off your HDD, the battery can last over 11 hours. We put the battery through its paces by turning on the HDD, setting the brightness to 100% and starting a couple of pretty long documentaries on Google’s video service, and the battery depleted in 4,5 hours. Charging time was exactly 100 minutes.

The 160GB HDD will be ideal for storage, but bear in mind that you can’t turn the ECO mode on while you’re using the HDD. The 8GB SSD can also supply a couple of free GB for work, and it will help the battery run longer than 5-6 hours.

If you’re living in the US, then you’re lucky as you can purchase this same model with a 9-cell battery and 2MP camera.


Performance

Testing a netbook is not much fun, as these devices are all very similar and they all lack performance. They do what they’re designed to do – surfing, watching movies and office work, so forget about gaming or any more demanding work. Still, if you’re buying a 10-inch netbook, it’s surely not for gaming but rather to have a portable device you can store information in, make a presentation, etc.

The Wind U115 comes with SSD and HDD drives, where the first runs faster, consumes less, is much more shock-resistant and runs cooler, so it’s an ideal choice for the OS.

Booting to Windows XP Home edition takes about 40 seconds, and if you’re working on the battery it might be wise to turn the HDD off. By plugging your netbook into the power outlet, the HDD automatically turns on. We’ve done a couple of tests with the HD Tune application and noticed that our SSD isn’t quite the crème of the crop. Namely, the 52.4MB/s read times are relatively low for SSDs and the HDD managed to outperform it in maximum read times as it scored 61.5MB/s. We got the same result in write tests, meaning the HDD again emerged a winner. In all fairness, the SSD is still twice as fast as on most Linux netbooks solely equipped with SSDs, and it's much faster than the SSD used on Lenovo's hybrid storage S10e.

Nevertheless, we’d still say that the SSD on the U115 is a good choice as it runs cooler and consumes less, since battery life is one of the flagship features on these devices. You won’t notice the device heating up even after long hours, so you can easily hold it in your lap the entire time. Maximum CPU usage resulted in maximum CPU temperatures of 58 degrees Celsius.

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As we expected, 3DMark06 reports pretty lame results. MSI’s Wind U115 got only 87 points and the processor got  41.

Reproducing any standard definition media file is not a problem, but HD content is another story. This isn’t that bad though, as YouTube and divx files will run with no trouble, and after all this is the most frequent content found on netbooks.  

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Compared to the Z520 and N270, Sandra shows a slight advantage for the Z530 used in MSI's Wind U115 netbook.



Conclusion

MSI Wind U115 Hybrid is a netbook that you’ll instantly like, most of all for its battery life lasting anywhere from 5 to 11 hours, depending on the workload. MSI Wind U115 seems perfect for work on long journeys or a day on the beach. Despite its small form factor that might discourage anyone from typing, U115’s keyboard is large enough to provide comfortable work even after a few hours of typing.

The hybrid combination of SSD and HDD storage devices has its pros, most evident in long battery life, but such a thing always reflects on the price. Unfortunately, SSD pricing is still pretty high, so the U115 comes with only an 8GB SSD. This is enough for XP Home Edition OS and a couple of apps you can’t live without, whereas the rest can be stored on the HDD. The hybrid combination allows for turning off your HDD anytime you don’t need it, lengthening the batter life for up to a couple of hours.

Atom Z530 at 1.6GHz and integrated Intel’s graphics are not strong enough to handle more demanding operations such as video editing or gaming, but they’re good enough for the Wind U115. Surfing the internet, word processing and watching YouTube videos are an easy task for Intel’s Menlow platform. The screen resolution is 1024x600 with nice contrast and brightness, it’s matte and offers a wide viewing angle. Processor usage often hit maximum while we were using this device, but the device never failed us.

Of course, not everything on this device is gold and we found a couple of cons - the switched positions of CTRL and FN keys, small cursor keys, weak microphone and speakers, touchpad with no scrolling and multi-touch, and the fact that the device can easily be tipped over if your screen is open. Unfortunately, for a €500+ netbook, Wind U115 shouldn’t suffer from “common netbook ailments.”

Of course, in times like these the price might prove to be the key factor to making a decision on buying such a device. MSI’s Wind U115 Hybrid is not quite the champ in this department as its pricing is anywhere from €504 to €600 on EU markets, which is twice as much as entry level netbooks. What's worse, you can even get a 13-inch CULV-based thin and light notebook for €500-€600.

Depending on the manner of use, the U115 can offer incredible battery life, but if a few hours is enough for you, then it might be wiser to check out MSI’s other, cheaper models.

 

 


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Last modified on 16 July 2009
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