In the first few weeks of using the device I was annoyed with an occasional screen flicker but it turned out that a quick and easy BIOS upgrade was needed. I doubt you’ll find this problem in new models as the BIOS fix was issued within days of people reporting the problem. Apart from that I find the screen fantastic. Bright and easy to read. 10.2" and 1024×600 is an extremely comfortable size to work with over extended periods. The backlight can be adjust easily from the function key shortcuts. The screen is held closed by a magnetic catch.
In the past when we’ve tested UMPCs with ‘Ghz class’ processors we’ve always had to highlight important limitations. Intel’s Atom at 1.6Ghz has limitations too but they sit just above the requirements of the average consumer. Web browsing is fast. You can use Skype video perfectly. Itunes and Google earth don’t leave you waiting, most videos up to 720p play smoothly and if you have a little patience you can even edit video on the device. I’ve even done live video broadcasts with it and have built up a confidence that it’s not going to choke with my regular activities. Don’t expect super gaming performance or the ability to run 10’s of applications at a time but do expect to be doing normal duties without having to worry. Note that the version I have here is running XP. While Vista is said to work (and even Mac OS hacks) XP is the best tool for everyday tasks.
Again, battery life seems to be just enough. You’ll be carrying the power brick around with you as with a normal laptop (I carry an external power pack rather than a power brick) and you’ll be seeing 2-2.5hrs surfing time. If that’s not enough, there’s a double capacity battery available for around 100 Euros which sits snugly in place of the three-cell pack and doesn’t look ugly or bulky.
You get 80GB of fast hard drive on most versions (some come with a huge 160GB) which is more than enough for most people, 1GB of RAM which again, is enough for most working scenarios, a good keyboard, nice mouse pad (note, some versions differ. I have the Synaptics version here which is said to be better than other versions) a good webcam, bright, comfortable screen and a stylish package. What more could you want?
Its a short list, but here’s some of the things you might want to think about.
- Bluetooth. This Akoya Mini doesn’t have Bluetooth. There are versions with Bluetooth
- 3G. I’m not aware of any versions that come with 3G built-in so you’ll have to invest in a USB stick.
- 802.11n. This version comes with draft-n support for faster Wifi with compatible equipment. Other versions don’t.
- Upgradeability. The MSI pretty much a sealed unit. Its possible to take it apart but if that’s what you need to be able to do, look at the ASUS Eee models and the Dell Mini which have access ports for disk, PCI-Express Mini and hard drive.
- Smaller power brick. The power brick is standard sized but could be a lot smaller.
- ExpressCard/34 slot. If you need this capability, this one isn’t for you.
- More CPU, more graphics power. Yes, there are situations where you would need more power but in that case, you’ll have to look at the much bigger Core 2-based laptops.
- Audio quality. The built in speakers are the only low-point on the device. Good enough for an email notification but that’s about it. Headphones required!