MSI's Wind U135 is a middle-of-the-road notebook encompassing the latest technology from Intel in a stylish design. The problem is that the U135 is usurped by its little sibling, the U130. If you want a fancy exterior the U135 is great but, given the lack of technical differences between the two, we'd recommend saving the £50 and going for the U130.
Good design and build quality.
The U130 offers better value for money; poor video playback performance.
Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz CPU, 1GB DDR2 RAM, 250GB SATA HDD, 10in 1,024x600 LED backlit glossy screen, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, SD slot, six-cell battery, 1.3kg, Windows 7 Starter Edition
Tablet PCs garnered the majority of headlines in 2010, and Micro Star International (MSI) decided to start the year by launching the U130, U135 and U160, its first models based on Intel's Pine Trail platform.
However, the end of the decade saw people fall out of love with the netbook form factor that had revitalised sales for a number of OEMs and brought others into the public consciousness.
Netbooks were introduced to serve a simple purpose, but were being edged towards machines that could do it all, both in terms of physical characteristics and price. MSI seems to have gone back to basics with the Wind U135, using a redesigned chassis to accommodate the new silicon from Intel.
The Pine Trail platform was Intel's Centrino-like solution for netbooks, moving the memory controller and graphics into the processor package. One of the well-documented problems with the Diamondville platform was the use of the power-hungry 945GC/GSE chipset. The lower power consumption could have been used in two ways: clocking the processor higher or for better battery life. Thankfully, Intel chose the latter and it shows.
MSI chose this year's CES to unveil its first major update to the hugely popular Wind netbook series with the U130, U135 and "high-end" U160. The new chassis not only brought the Pine Trail platform, but added other key features like 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, a quality webcam and a new Chiclet-style keyboard.
Effort has been taken to make the U135 a little less bargain basement with an exterior available in dark colours and even a pinstripe. The attention to detail is quite admirable, with stylish, not garish, touches found when the device is opened up.
The trackpad has a sandblasted look, the single mouse button isn't from Apple's reject bin - it actually has two buttons underneath - and there's even a fancy asterisk light on the power button should you forget that your Wind is running.
Overall, the build quality is good and, while it's undoubtedly plastic, it feels a whole lot tighter than a Macbook, which is not bad for a machine which costs almost 75 per cent less.
These Wind models are based on the Atom N450 processor running at 1.66GHz with HyperThreading enabled. The chip can support 64-bit but, as MSI decided to include Windows 7 Starter Edition, you're left with 32-bit. This is coupled to 1GB of DDR2 memory and a 250GB WD Blue Sata disk which showed an average 57MB/s read rate in tests.
The specification is very similar to Asus' Eee PC 1005PE except for the higher quality webcam. Intel's N450 does have DirectX 9 support, but drawing the frames by hand would provide a better gaming experience. The 10in 1,024x600 screen first championed by MSI is now pretty much standard across the board, but this particular unit is more acceptable than most.
Brightness and contrast in the U135 are above average for netbook screens, thanks to the LED backlighting. There's also good connectivity with three USB 2 sockets, Ethernet, headphone and microphone jacks, and VGA output. Removable storage comes in the form of an SD Card slot.