Review: Excellent battery life at a price
MSI has drawn a lot of attention and media hype with its Wind U100 netbook, and users have been pretty satisfied with it as well. This tiny netbook has since become a number one in its class thanks to its great specs, design and an affordable price. MSI recently started shipping an improved version based on the Menlow platform, dubbed MSI Wind U115 Hybrid. The word 'Hybrid' stands hybrid storage, combination of SSD and HDD drives where the SSD handles the OS and applications, while the HDD is supposed to be used for storage. In extreme scenarios where battery life is of the key importance, you can always turn off the HDD and save some battery life.
Due to its small dimensions and long-lasting battery, the Wind U115 Hybrid netbook is aimed at users who need a device to access the internet, check e-mail, do word processing and basically perform any not-too-demanding operation. The U115 has all the needed ins and outs, and the 10-inch screen is large enough to fully display web pages while surfing.
MSI Wind U115 Hybrid is one of the first netbooks on the market to feature hybrid storage, meaning SSD and HDD. Both storage options of course have their pros and cons, so this combination is probably the best choice for now. SSD is great for quick access to data, allowing better performance, it’s inaudible, consumes less energy and is far more durable than any HDD, whereas HDD devices still have one ace up their sleeve – a vastly superior price to capacity ratio. You can see that for yourself, and you will if you order the Wind U115 with a higher capacity SSD. The test model we’ve received comes with 8GB SSD and 160GB HDD and is priced over €500. As you can see, the HDD packs enough storage space, whereas the SSD’s 8GB should be enough to install the OS and some basic applications you might end up needing.
Design-wise, the Wind U115 Hybrid is very similar to the Wind U100. It looks relatively thin and stylish, and just like the lid, the rest of the case is slightly curved and rounded towards the edges, creating an illusion of an even thinner device. However, as it costs about €200 more than a U100, it should have more distinguishing features, and it should look better than its cheap sibling.
The lid is prone to gatherimg smear marks, but they won’t be easy to spot due to the texture of the material. The silver plastic around the trackpad looks nice and solid, and it won’t show smears thanks to the matte finish.
You’ll notice that the keyboard is quite roomy and not even the thickest fingers will miss the right key. Just like the rest of MSI’s laptops , the U115 has a non-standard placement of the Fn key, which is located on the bottom corner where the CTRL usually resides. This is quite awkward especially in your first few days with this device, but you’ll get used to it after a while. We’d seriously like to see MSI listen to its customers as we believe that most users are unhappy with this layout.
The arrow keys are pretty small despite the fact that there was enough room to use larger ones. Typing on this keyboard is not a problem and there's not a lot of flex (unless we’re talking about the area around the F keys, which won’t be a problem anyway). One of the most important keys you’ll end up using on the U115 is F10, as it’s used to turn the HDD on and off.
Our Wind U115’s SSD came with preinstalled XP, system programs and apps, whereas the HDD as we already mentioned is used for other data such as documents, movies, music, etc. Being able to turn the HDD off when not needed is a great advantage, and will instantly show on your average battery life. This is the so called ECO mode, but bear in mind that the disk should be idle if you want to turn it off.
Apart from the Hybrid Storage technology, MSI’s Wind U115 comes with a couple of other novelties. The basis of this entire concept is Intel’s Menlow platform with an Atom processor and a new chipset, which greatly reduced total consumption. The new generation of Atom Menlow processors features the Z510 (1.1GHz), Z520 (1.33GHz) and the Z530 (1.6GHz), and our today’s test model comes with the Z530 running at 1.6GHz.
Specs say that a Menlow based netbook consumes two times (about 4W) less than Diamondville based one (about 8W), which is a direct result of the new chipset – Poulsbo SCH (System Controller Hub) US15W with support for 200MHz graphics core and Windows Vista. Although Menlow supports Vista, the U115 comes with XP, and the reason is obvious – XP simply runs faster.
MSI U115 Hybrid netbook specs:
- Windows XP Home SP3
- Intel Atom Z530 (1.6GHz)
- 10” 1024 x 600 LED backlit display (matte)
- 1GB RAM (upgradable to 2GB)
- 8GB SSD (1.8” ZIF, faster SLC type) + 160GB HDD (2.5” SATA, 5400rpm)
- Intel SCH US15W chipset + GMA500 graphics (Poulsbo)
- HD Audio, stereo speakers, noise canceling microphone
- 1.3MP Webcam
- Multi-card reader
- 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 10/100 MB/s LAN
- VGA out, 3x USB 2.0, Microphone and headphone jacks, RJ45 LAN ports
- 6-Cell Lithium-Ion Battery (5200mAh)
- 260 x 180 x 19-40 mm Dimensions
- 1.32kg Weight (with 6-Cell battery)
- 2 Year Warranty