updated 11:40 am EDT, Thu April 2, 2009
MSI X-Slim Hands-On
Electronista had the opportunity to try MSI's new X-Slim and Wind U123 notebooks at a press event last evening and came away impressed. The X340 is the centerpiece, as it's one of the first to use Intel's new CULV processors; that lets it run Vista Home Premium reasonably quickly without having to balloon the form factor. The system is disconcertingly thin: at about 0.7 inches deep and 2.8 pounds heavy, it's visibly almost as thin as a Dell Adamo and certainly feels much lighter. It should also cost half as much at about $1,000 while running about as quickly.
There are sacrifices made to get there: the X340 (and X320) chassis at least feels like it's dominated by plastic, and the keys are the typical tray design rather than a 'chiclet' design like many notebooks are using. We'd also note that the X320 may be slower than some people would like. It has the same 13.4-inch display and Windows Vista OS as its faster cousin but is using a significantly slower processor and graphics chipset that will bog it down. Consider paying the premium for the faster X340, especially since the X320 is already $700.
Additionally, users who aren't perfectly content with the current display size to wait if they can. A company spokesman told Electronista that 11.6-, 14- and 15.6-inch versions are coming, which would line up with Acer's four sizes rumored coming soon.
The Wind U123 is less revolutionary on the outside; it's not unlike the U120 and other models, with the addition of the extra colors (particularly red) being the highlight. As is common with 10-inch netbooks, the keyboard is edge-to-edge and fairly comfortable, though again it's a traditional style and not a chiclet design. Performance improvements are equally difficult to gauge. The core change is a 1.66GHz Atom N280 with a faster system bus, but there's not much to notice without stress testing. It does, however, run faster than the X320 thanks to the smaller screen (which taxes the integrated graphics less) and the use of Windows XP Home.
And while it's not possible to test this at a press event, the battery life should also be up to the Wind's typically long levels; MSI estimates about 5.5 hours for the stock 6-cell pack, and a very long 8.5 hours for the bulkier 9-cell. ASUS' Eee PC 1000HE gets 9.5 hours, but it's also potentially heavier.
MSI officially has both the X-Slim and Wind updates showing in May, though a representative said they may show up as early as this month. Options for 3G and TV tuning should also surface for the U123 near the launch.