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MSI Wind - Windows XP Edition - MSI Wind
Were the review to end here it would probably end something like this: "the MSI Wind is without doubt the best Netbook we've seen so far". It would go on to say that it deals with many of the problems found in all the versions of the Eee PC, particularly the keyboard, and offers a compelling alternative idea of what the Netbook ought to be. Unfortunately, this isn't the end of the review, there are at least five paragraphs to go, and they detail a couple of fundamental problems with the Wind.
Battery life - until the Eee PC 901 it was the single area where all Netbooks failed. But Asus moved the rhetorical goalposts when it decided to ship the 901 with a higher capacity six-cell 6600mAh battery, boosting battery life to around four and a half to five hours depending on usage. It was a move clearly intended to steal the thunder of potentially more versatile and complete competitors such as the Wind: the ploy has worked rather well.
As the 2200mAh, three-cell battery the Wind ships with suggests, it achieves approximately a third of the longevity of the Eee PC 901. Using the Wind with wireless enabled, screen brightness at 50 per cent and with the CPU clocked down, it managed a mediocre two and a quarter hours and is put into stark relief by the four and three quarter hour stint put in by the 901 at 100 per cent brightness and with wireless enabled.
MSI, however, can't blame anyone else for the other "fundamental problem", because it's a problem of its own making. On face value the £329 SRP of this Wind configuration is perfectly reasonable, even if online pre-order pricing varies wildly. But, as we reported yesterday, PC World is listing a re-branded version of the Wind as the Advent 4211 and is selling it just £279 inc. VAT, £50 less than MSI's suggested £329 price point for the Wind. It has a different, presumably cheaper, silver and black finish and we're willing to bet you won't get the smart carry case that you get with the Wind, but "fifty quid is fifty quid" and in this most price sensitive of markets it makes a huge difference.
There's a lot to like about the MSI Wind. It's a great design and benefits from an excellent keyboard and screen, but it's let down by battery life that cannot compete with the Eee PC 901 and undercut by a re-branded version, making you think twice. It's still a good machine and if you're happy to trade battery life for a better keyboard, or purchase a separate battery, it's still worth serious consideration, but it just misses out on a wholehearted recommendation.
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