A Second Wind
By Aloysius Low and Andy Sim
The popularity of MSI's Wind NB U100 doesn't seem to be flagging anytime soon, mostly thanks to its decent battery life, form factor, price, modding capabilities and the very un-official OSX installation that's been making its rounds on the internet.
Fast forward to today, where MSI will soon launch the second Wind model, the Wind U120H. So what's packing in that wonderfully sleek chassis of yore?
With slim being in, you would expect the U120H to have gotten a diet and lost some inches around the waist. Sadly this isn't really true as the U120H ends up slightly thicker than the U100. It does look slimmer though, with flatter and sharper looking edges that help craft an illusion of thinness.
Same Ol' Platform
Internally, it's exactly the same as its ancestor, the U100 and shares the same Intel Atom platform and chipset. But that's not all that the U120H has to offer as unlike its predecessor, the U120H comes loaded with a built-in 3.5G HSDPA modem for maximum connectivity on the go. Located behind the battery pack, the slot can be a little hard to find at first, but we're guessing that MSI is working on the assumption that the SIM card won't be getting swapped around sufficiently to matter for most folks.
The Wind's keyboard provides a tactile experience with keys that are soft, nicely laid out and generally typist-friendly. Do note that the right Shift key is located further inwards to make space for the arrow keys, which is actually similar to the older model. The trackpad too, has been improved somewhat with two separate buttons compared to the single button of the U100.
Bench Me Baby, One More Time
Scoring a cool 1492 marks in our PCMark05 test, the performance of this Wind is pretty similar to what you will find on current Intel Atom based netbooks. There's really no difference with the hardware, which obviously means that there are only minor variations between the scores.
Therefore, battery performance has turned into the key indicator for netbooks and our results showed that the 6-cell U120H lasted for 192 minutes on our video looping test. That's more than three hours of use which should be generous enough for most, but it's still not breaking the vaunted four/five hour mark. This is because, the U120H uses a weaker 11.1V, 4400mAH battery compared to the 11.1V, 5200mAH of the older U100 model.
The Wind NB U120H is a decent enough model with the usual limitations of its genre and gives consumers yet more netbook options. The addition of an internal 3.5G HSDPA modem does appeal to the modern road warrior and provides an on-the-go surfing experience that enhances the attractiveness of the netbook.
Retailing at just S$999, the Wind NB U120H seems reasonably priced for what it can do, and is about S$100 cheaper compared to a very similar 3.5G netbook from LG, though this could also be due to the weaker battery used in the U120H. Even so, it's still a great product with plenty of potential for tweaks and mods, if you're into that sort of thing.
The MSI NB U120H will be available in January 2009.