MSI Wind U135 hands-on impressions

You didn't expect it to rain Pine Trail netbooks without MSI dropping a new Wind, did you? Come January the $330 10-inch Wind U135 will replace the older Diamondville U100 with its new 1.66GHz Atom N450 CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, Windows 7 Starter and a six-cell battery. But the U135 gets updated with more than just new netbook specs -- the Taiwanese netbook pioneer has slightly tweaked the chassis with a new keyboard, touchpad and lid design. Read on for our thoughts. %Gallery-80718%

We've got to admit the 3.1 pound U135 looks strikingly similar to its rival Pineview-powered ASUS Eee PC 1005PE, though its navy blue lid (also available in silver) has a diagonal pinstripe pattern that seems to hide fingerprints quite well. Like previous generations, the plastic build feels solid -- well, as solid as plastic can feel -- and its six-cell battery only protrudes slightly from the bottom of the netbook.

MSI nixed the flush keyboard and replaced it with a chiclet one (was there some sort of industrywide vote on moving to this style keyboard?), and we found the matte keys to feel a bit sturdier than those on the 1005PE. The trackpad, which has that same striped pattern at the, has been expanded. Also, it looks as if MSI is using the same silver single mouse bar as ASUS, though it's at least quieter. The 1024x600 resolution 10-inch display is unsurprisingly glossy, but the quality is pretty standard.

As for performance, we're seeing the same sort of experience as with the 1005PE: Overall it seems snappy for a netbook, but not much faster than N270 or N280 machines. The 5200mAH six-cell battery is a bit smaller than the 1005PE's so you might not get that 10 hours of juice, but we'd still expect it to get more than seven hours.

With the loads of refreshed Pine Trail netbooks hitting during the first few days of the new year you'll have your pick, but at $330 -- $50 less than the 1005PE -- the Wind U135 looks like it will be one of the most affordable. Though if you can wait just a little longer we've heard MSI will be releasing the Wind U160 at CES, which will have similar specs but an entirely different design.