And a better chipset
Last modified on Thursday, 04 December 2008 03:20
MSI is planning to launch two revamped versions of its Wind netbook in January.
The new units, rumored to be designated U110 and U115, will feature an Atom Z530 and the power efficient Poulsbo US15W chipset, originally developed for MIDs. The CPU itself is no big news, it does draw a bit less power, but the difference (0.5W) is almost negligible. However, the US15W chipset consumes just 4.3W, which truly puts the 11.4W 945GC used on current Wind models to shame. Dell's Inspiron Mini 12 also uses the US15W chipset, but MSI's Wind is a lot smaller, while the Mini 12 can barely qualifiy as a netbook, due to its 12-inch screen.
Apart from the new CPU/chipset combo, MSI is planning to use a hybrid storage approach on the U110. The OS and most applications would be installed on a fast and energy efficient SSD, while an HDD would be used for storage. The user will be able to disable the HDD and use only the SSD, thus improving battery life. Coupled with a 6-cell battery, the SSD and power efficient chipset should significantly improve endurance over current Wind models.
We're not sure about the capacities of either drive just yet, but it's hard to imagine MSI going for an HDD under 160GB, which is currently used in most Wind SKUs. Various sources indicate the U110 will ship with a 250GB drive, while the SSD equipped U115 should feature hard drives of up to 160GB. As for the SSD, it's possible several options will be offered, mainly due to high prices of SSD drives. Again, there's no way to be certain at press time, but there have been reports of SSDs ranging from 8 to 32GB in capacity. The new models should also feature 2GB of memory on certain SKUs and draft n wireless.
Now for some bad news. The new chipset wasn't really meant to be used in netbooks, so it has some rather unpleasant limitations. First of all, it's only got PATA, which could impair HDD/SSD performance. The other thing is that you can forget about using an external hi-res monitor, thanks to GMA 500 graphics. True, not many people will use a netbook in the capacity of a desktop, but some still might miss this option. Furthermore, the GMA 500 has no Linux driver, so if you like penguins, you'll have to stick to N270/945 Winds.
This isn't an Intel IGP, it's a PowerVR SGX core and it was developed to power MIDs, so high output resolution and Linux weren't a top priority. It does have some nice features, such as H.264 decoding, and some other neat video related stuff and in some respects it's more advanced than the GMA 950. Basically, if you can live without Linux and an external screen, it's better than the GMA 950.
The new machines should be available around CeBit time. We still don't have the exact pricing, but MSI has always managed to stay on the affordable side, although the SSD version will probably end up being the most expensive Wind to date.