January 27, 2009

Triple Boot Netbook Status Update: My MSI Wind has arrived!

It's here! I got my MSI Wind netbook. Here's a quick run down of the specs, (more indepth specs at the end of this post):

  • 1.6GHz CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 160GB HD
  • WiFi N
  • 6-Cell Battery
  • Webcam, BlueTooth, VGA, USB, SD Card reader
  • Windows XP
As I noted before, I picked this netbook because it's completely compatible with Mac OS X, and I plan on doing a triple-boot with Windows, Mac, and Linux. What's really cool about this, is it comes pre-partitioned!

The 160GB hard drive has two partitions out-of-the-box. A 40GB partition where Windows XP lives, and the rest on another, empty, drive. (Technically, you know how those hard drive makers are, it's a 145GB HD with 39GB for XP, and 106GB for the other drive, with 1GB on the second drive missing even though its blank.) So I have 105 GB for Mac OS X and/or Linux, even without repartitioning.

I ended up getting mine from zipzoomfly.com for $349.99 - and that's shipped ground for free. But I was impatient and spent another $28.91 for overnight shipping. So for $378.90 total, I got this kick-butt computer overnighted to me. Considering this exact same model sells for as much as $459 or higher on other sites, I think I found a great deal. It wasn't used, refurbished, open box, demo unit, or anything. It was just a great deal. There was one slight issue, but I'll talk about that in a minute.

A note about buying an MSI Wind. Much like the Eee PC, there are a TON of different models out there. It's really insane. First, there are what I call the big number differences. There are 5 lines for MSI Wind netbooks, the U90, U100, U110, U115, and the U120. To my knowledge, only 3 of those lines have actually shipped, at least to North America - those being the U90, U100, and U120. Here are the differences:
  • U90 - 8.9" Screen, lower specs. I don't think this model is being made any more.
  • U100 - what most people think of for the MSI Wind, most popular model (actually group of models, I'll explain in a minute) - 10" Screen, 1.6Ghz CPU
  • U110 - (just demoed from what I can tell) - Touchscreen, everything else just like the U100
  • U115 - (another not-yet shipped model) "hyrid storage" part Solid State Drive / part Hard Drive
  • U120 - (pre-orders and possibly shipping now) Exactly like the U100, except there's a 3G card (or card slot) - it's two-toned, and it cost at least $100 more and/or it is missing features (no BlueTooth, no WiFi N, 3-Cell battery instead of a 6-Cell, etc.)
I got a U100. I don't do the data-plan thing on my cell phone, and I don't want to spend more for a less powerful computer. (Which is why I think the MacBook Air is a horrible computer.) If the touchscreen model was available, I might have ordered that, since I plan on adding a touch screen anyway, but it isn't out yet, so here I am.

Now, within the U100 galaxy of products, there is a wide range of model numbers and features. But it basically comes down to 4 things.
  • 120GB HDD vs. 160GB HDD
  • WiFi G vs. WiFi N
  • 3-Cell Battery vs. 6-Cell Battery
  • 0.3MP Webcam vs. 1.3MP Webcam
Obviously, the later of the options is better in my list. And, in my searching, it was usually all from the first list, or all from the second list. The uber-good deal I got was from the all second list option. So I am happy.

There are other options, mostly what color you want (white, black, pink, or other), what kind of keyboard you want, (US, international, other), etc. The only real complaint I have about the model I chose was that I didn't realize at the time that it was an international (French and English) keyboard. So watch out for that. I'm not sure, but I believe it the model number ends in US, you are looking at an all-English US keyboard, if it ends in CA (like mine did - CA for Canada, I'm guessing) then you really need to make sure if it is English only or French-Canadian like mine.

That said, it's really not *that* different from any other keyboard I've ever used. It just has 2 or 3 extra keys which make touch-typing a little iffy for shifts and returns, and there are tons of extra letter on the keys themselves that are like for alt-typing. That doesn't bother me at all, since they are in a different place than the standard letters, and I rarely look at what is printed on the key anyway.

Of course, this being a netbook and not a notebook, there is no optical drive. So installing any operating system or store-bought software is difficult, unless you buy an external DVD drive. These are not expensive. If you don't need a burner (which, with 3 USB ports and a card reader, I don't know why you would, unless you don't have any other computers), you can easily find a DVD/CD-ROM external for under $50.

I haven't decided if I'm going to go the easy route or try any number of tricks to install operating systems via USB drive or SD card. I'm leaning (heavily) toward just buying the DVD drive, since I'm sure I'll use it again later.

Just a side note, for anyone wondering what happened to my Asus Eee PC 701 4GB Surf - I traded it for an iPod Touch 8GB First Generation, with a $15 iTunes Card, a Griffin iTrip FM broadcaster / car charger, and $50 cash. I might blog about my iPod later. But I will say the step up from the granddaddy of all netbooks - the Eee PC 701 - to the powerful MSI Wind U100 is a huge one.

I went from:
  • 4GB to 160GB
  • 900Mhz (overclocked) to 1.6Ghz
  • WiFi B to WiFi N
  • No webcam to 1.3MP webcam
  • No BlueTooth to Bluetooth 2.0 + EDR
  • Having to hack Windows onto to having it pre-installed
  • A tiny, cramped 7" keyboard to a nice sized 10" one
  • From having to keep my 8GB SD card in the slot at all times for needed applications to being able to use the card slot like a card slot is supposed to be used - for swapping data from one device to another.
I'm not saying the Asus was a bad computer, or unusable, or anything like that. It served me well. It's just the MSI Wind will serve me better. The Asus Eee PC 701 (with a webcam) was available at my local Best Buy for only $199. That, to me, is a very reasonable price for an ultra-portable laptop. And, at that price, I would recommend it if you don't have a notebook yet.

Here are the promised detailed specs on my particular MSI Wind netbook model:
  • MSI (MicroStar International) Wind (or Windbook) Netbook Model: U100-422CA
  • 1.6Ghz Intel Atom Processor N270
  • 533MHz FSB / 512MB Cache
  • Intel 945GSE+ICH7-M Chipset
  • 160GB 2.5" 5400RPM Serial ATA HDD
  • 1GB PC2-5300 (DDR2-667) RAM - (Supports up to 2GB)
  • 10" 1024 x 600 WSVGA LED Backlit Display
  • Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950 (GMA950)
  • 802.11b/g/n WiFi
  • BlueTooth 2.0 + EDR
  • 1.3MP Webcam
  • Built-in mic
  • 4-in-1 Card Reader - SD, MultiMedia Card, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro
  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • Fast Ethernet Lan 10/100
  • VGA out (15-pin, D-Sub)
  • Microphone in (Line in)
  • Headphone port
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • "Genuine" Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition - Service Pack 3
  • International keyboard
  • 6-Cell Battery (5.5 hour battery life)
  • Closed dimensions - 10.23" (width) x 7.08" (length) x 0.748"~1.24" (thickness)
  • 2.6 lbs (with the battery)

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PT-12599 said...

I am very much interested in undertaking the same project. I look forward to your updates with this!

BTW, thanks for going into the different Wind models... I was starting to get a little confused.

Anonymous said...

Have you installed OSX yet? Did it work as expected? Im interested to hear if it works as you predicted. I see on their site now that the audio doesn't work out of the box. or at least that's what the site says when comparing the models.