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MSI Wind U135: First Impressions and Test Results

Hot on the heels of the Asus Eee PC 1005PE-P, MSI has announced its Pine Trail-based netbook, the Wind U135. The two designs are actually remarkably similar, but the U135 is more of a value play at $329, while the Asus costs $379. What do you get for $50 less? About half as much battery life.

This system features a 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, a 250GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, 1GB of RAM, and Windows 7 Starter. Read on for our hands-on impressions of the U135 and to see how it did on our tests.

When we first opened the lid of the U135, we thought we received a second 1005PE-P by mistake, and with good reason: The two keyboards are almost identical, and both have a single mouse bar as opposed to discrete buttons. We wonder if the two companies shop at the same supplier. Neverthless, the U135 was just as comfortable to type on as the 1005PE.

The U135's battery sticks out the bottom of the system; while not as egregious as the Wind U110, it is more noticeable than other netbooks with 6-cell batteries, and made the U135 feel a bit bulkier than other netbooks, even though it weighs 2.8 pounds. Once inside our messenger bag, it disappeared like every other system of its size and weight.

While our U135 came in a dark blue, consumers will also be able to get the system in silver, red, or black. A way line pattern on the lid is also repeated on the touchpad, which adds a nice graphical element to the design.

In our performance tests, the U135 and the Eee PC 1005PE ran neck and neck. In PCMark05, the U135 scored 1418 to the 1005PE's 1,410. Both scores are south of the netbook average (1498). In 3DMark06, the U135 scored 154, the same as the Asus netbook, and a shade below the average of 160.

The U135 was a bit more lethargic in our file transfer test, copying a 4.97GB folder of multimedia in 5 minutes and 6 seconds, a rate of 16.6 MBps, which is nearly 10 MBps slower than the 1005PE, but a hair above the netbook average.

The one area where the U135 disappointed us was in battery life. In our preliminary test (Web surfing via Wi-Fi), the U135's 6-cell battery  saw just 5 hours and 35 minutes, which is about 40 minutes less than the 6-cell netbook average, an hour less than MSI's claim, and 5 hours less than the 1005PE. We'll be running the test again to confirm.

In sum, the Wind U135 looks and performs well for a netbook, keeping pace with its bretheren. However, battery life takes a step back, especially considering that the Atom N450 is supposed to offer 20 percent greater endurance than the previous generation of Atom chips. We'd certainly cough up the extra $50 for the Asus Eee PC 1005PE, and get those extra 5 hours of work and play time.