I have had a new MSI Wind ultra mobile laptop in the house for 24 hours now. This laptop has a 10” screen, 80 GB hard drive, Atom processor running at 1.6GHz, and is pre-loaded with Windows XP. All this comes with a footprint of only 10.2” x 7.1” and tips the scales at only 2.3 lbs. [full specs are available from the MSI site]
In the interest of full disclosure, I am such a laptop aficionado that in my two decades plus of computing, I have never owned a desktop. Back in the day, I toted around a Toshiba T1000 for two years on an airplane before I saw anyone else attempting to carry on another laptop; since then I have gone through literally dozens of laptops, including a 3.4 lb. Fujitsu LifeBook P7010 when those 10.6” screen models were first released several years ago.
So…when I saw the MSI Wind coming, I jumped.
My experience so far has been mixed. MSI has managed to stretch the keyboard out so that it takes up the entire 10.2” width of the machine (see photo). This is still almost two inches smaller than a standard laptop keyboard space, but the results are workable, given a little time to adapt. As is usually the case with non-standard keyboards, the problem is not so much getting used to a new configuration as it is alternating between that configuration and another keyboard.
So far the screen is the biggest limitation I have had to contend with. The 1024 x 600 resolution is certainly acceptable, but the issue for me is that there is not much in the way of real estate beyond what is required for email. It is possible to use a browser, but that experience is a little too much like walking around the house with a pair of binoculars strapped to your eyes. I can manage quite nicely with a 14” inch screen and find that a screen in the 13” range is workable, but at 12” and below I feel as if I have a mobile communications device rather than a laptop. Ultimately it all comes back to form factor.
So I am left to wonder if the proliferation of Asus Eee-inspired mini-laptops will find their niche. In all fairness, my wife loves the machine, but she uses it mostly for email and light browsing. You can always hook it up to a big LCD display, but then the other compromises seem more annoying: the undersized keyboard; the middling processor; etc.
I may have to wait for a foldable display and keyboard…