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Meet the new breed of netbooks

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MSI’s Wind U135
Price: Rs 20,999

If you haven’t heard of MSI, let me tell you it is the closest rival Asus’ Eee PC or HP’s Mini-series can have. has launched two new netbooks, U130 and U135, which come pre-loaded with the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system.

With a footprint of 10.2x7x1.5 inches, the MSI U135 takes up about as much desk space as other netbooks of its ilk. Both MSI Wind U135 and U130 are among the first netbooks to ship with Intel’s Pine Trail platform (which means that it finally ditches the ageing in favour of the newer Atom N450), which makes the bold promise of increasing battery life by 15 per cent.

To its credit, the Pine Trail platform entices the U135 to go all day without charging, but if you decide to stream YouTube videos at full screen, the U135 will consume all of the device’s power in a couple of hours. The best part about the new single-core N450 on the new netbooks is that it packs in the processor, graphics chip and memory controller on a single die — thereby reducing its power footprint. The only disappointment is 1GB of DDR2 and a 250GB hard drive.

A 10.1-inch display is what U135 comes with, but MSI has increased the size of its trackpad by about 20 per cent, which isn’t huge but is certainly a step in the right direction. Netbooks deserve notebook-sized trackpads. The U135 also offers a total of three USB ports, an SD card-reader, microphone and headphone sockets, as well as the LAN and VGA ports — all comparable to what a standard netbook delivers. MSI also packs in a 1.3- megapixel webcam.

The MSI device incorporates two tiny squeakers (read speakers) on the base unit, but the end result is anything but audible. The trebles are much too dominant even at a reduced volume. The audio output over the headphone turns out to be a lot better. Still, for multi-tasking, the U135 is a good machine. We had no trouble browsing the web, listening to music and working on an Office productivity suite, all at the same time.

Overall, MSI’s Wind U135 is a middle-of-the-road notebook, encompassing the latest technology from Intel for just Rs 20,999.

Pros

 

  • Easy-to-use keyboard, trackpad 
     
  • LED-lit display renders clear images

    Cons

  • Feeble audio output 
     
  • Shorter battery life when playing multimedia

    HP’s Mini 210
    Price: Rs 16,000

    Netbooks with Intel’s Pine Trail platform have entered the HP stable too. HP’s Mini 210 features an Intel Atom N450 Pineview processor, 250GB of storage, 1GB system memory, 10.1-inch display and a Windows 7 Starter edition — identical to MSI’s U135.

    The 210 features a smooth, matte shell, which is tough, scratch-resistant and attractive over the shiny exteriors that are susceptible to finger prints and scratches. HP has jigged its touchpad and, in the Mini 210, it integrates the left and right mouse controls into the bottom of the touchpad itself, instead of putting them below or to the left and right sides (a standard on notebooks). This might require some reorientation, as integrated buttons (Apple does them right in its Macbooks) can be a hit or miss with users. The new touchpad also supports such multi-touch gestures as pinching to zoom in and two-finger scrolling. HP’s netbook also comes with a palm rejection feature that shuts off the touchpad temporarily, while you’re typing.

    The six-cell battery pack powers the Mini 210 for up to seven hours, which is great for a netbook meant for portable users. You also get an “instant-on” desktop environment, if you feel like getting online and checking your email or surfing the web in 10 seconds instead of waiting the 45 seconds or so that Windows takes to boot.

    It is also loaded with multimedia software like Pandora Internet Radio, hardware, like an integrated 5-in-1 card reader that can support digital photo transfers, webcam, etc. New owners also get a free two-month access to Symantec Norton Internet Security 2010. Also bundled is access to HP’s CloudDrive, an online storage and backup solution, which allows instant access to multimedia files without wasting valuable hard drive space. If you factor in Mini 210’s looks, a price that starts at Rs16,000 and the battery life, it clearly becomes ideal for anyone who is looking for computing on the go.

    Pros

  • Good battery performance 
     
  • Attractive exteriors and keyboard

    Cons

  • Touchpad controls need some user reorientation 
     
  • Multi-tasking slows down the netbook and causes some heating
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