For connectivity the Wind lacks little that other alternatives offer. MSI has managed to find space for three USB ports, with two on the left edge and one on the right. There’s also the obligatory 1.3-megapixel Webcam and a Kensington lock point – useful perhaps for schools that want to use these machines without them magically disappearing into bags!
On the right there’s also a 4-in-1 memory card reader that supports SD, MMC, MemoryStick and MemoryStick Pro card formats. Unfortunately, there’s no support for the higher capacity SDHC cards and this might prove a negative for the photographers out there, especially since the larger hard drive would make the Wind perfect for backing up photos on the move.
Following the card reader are microphone and headphone jacks, a D-SUB port for connecting an external monitor and a 10/100 Fast Ethernet port. For wireless networking you get 802.11 b/g WiFi – no Wireless-N unfortunately – and MSI has also thrown in a Bluetooth 2.0 module. All in all, your not left wanting for much even if the Eee does beat the Wind in a couple of respects, namely SDHC card support and Wireless-N WiFi.
One area where the Wind definitely trails, however, is in audio. On XP versions the Eee benefits from Dolby Sound Room, adding support for the excellent Dolby Headphone virtual surround technology. This adds an extra level of immersion when watching videos using headphones. More importantly, though, the speakers on the Wind are considerably less impressive than those found on the 901. They’re tinny and weak, more or less exactly what you’d normally expect from a machine of this size.
Happily the screen is pretty good. It’s bright, slightly brighter than the Eee PC 901’s own LED backlit screen, and has reasonably decent viewing angles. Colour production is nothing special and it struggles to produce dark shades, but even small text is very sharp and well defined. If one were being very picky it would be nice to see a higher resolution for this larger size, but given no one has done this in the 10.1in form factor yet, it would be churlish to single out MSI in this regard.
Build quality is largely good. It has a rigid and well protected screen and though, as noted earlier, there is some flex in the keyboard, it doesn’t haven’t a negative effect on typing. Unfortunately the undercarriage of the Wind doesn’t feel quite as sturdy as the rest of the machine. It has plastic that looks and feels thin and any pressure reveals a significant level of flex. This may not bode well in a heavy fall and we doubt the mechanical hard drive would either. As ever there are trade-offs in all things.
Happily, noise levels are still blissfully low. It’s not quite as quiet as the 901, the fan runs more often and you can hear the hard drive spin up from time to time, but it’s nothing to get in a flap about. Moreover, when unplugged, the Wind will clock down to around 800MHz, reducing heat and power and consequently aiding quiet operation – though the Wind no longer “overclocks” as early samples did.