MSI Wind Review Part 2: Running Windows Vista

by Kevin O'Brien Reads (45,851)

by Kevin O’Brien

Almost every mini notebook manufacturer is shunning Windows Vista, and manufacturers are turning towards Windows XP or Linux. Some say it is because the operating system is less bloated and more power efficient, while others say it is just cheaper to buy. Since I have had the mentality that Vista only needs a few mild tweaks before it feels like an enhanced XP, I decided to pull the trigger and load Vista onto our MSI Wind.


Specifications

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor
  • 10" WSVGA (1024 x 600) LCD
  • Windows Vista Home Basic
  • Intel GMA 950 Integrated Graphics
  • 1GB 667MHz DDR2 Memory
  • 80GB 2.5" SATA Hard Drive
  • Wireless: 802.11b/g and Bluetooth 2.0
  • 3-Cell 11.1v 2200mAh Battery
  • Size: WxDxH 10.2" x 7" x 1.3"
  • Weight: 2lbs 8.6oz


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Getting Started

MSI doesn’t officially support Windows Vista on the Wind, and has no drivers specifically labeled for use in Vista. When I first loaded Vista onto our Wind, I was a bit concerned since the wireless LAN and wired LAN were not working from the start. Without a network connection you are really out of luck, so this was a make or break situation. I turned to the MSI driver site and decided to give the XP drivers a shot, and turns out they work without any problem. Same goes for the wired LAN and then card reader drivers which are eventually pulled in via Windows Update once I had an internet connection.

The next step was getting the Intel GMA 950 working, which was as simple as pulling a driver pack from the Intel site. Audio drivers worked from the start, so now the computer was good to go. Another Vista perk was the incessant "wireless connection" status windows which would not stop popping up in XP never once came up while running Vista. Either the drivers worked better, or Vista just suppresses those messages. I was very happy to not have to deal with closing those annoying pop-up messages anymore.

Speed and Performance

After going about my usual routine of disabling User Access Control, Scheduled Defrag, Windows Update, and System Restore the Wind was as fast, if not faster, than when running XP. The interface just felt smoother, applications like 3DMark06 which crashed in Windows XP now worked perfectly in Windows Vista, and the integrated graphics now had access to 250MB of shared memory instead of just 50MB inside XP. All of the games I tested inside of XP were running just as well, some having higher peak frame rates. Half-Life 1 which used to peak around 60-64 frames per second (FPS) now peaked above 70FPS.

wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance): 

Notebook/OS wPrime score
MSI Wind (Windows Vista) 117.501 seconds
MSI Wind (Windows XP) 124.656 seconds


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3DMark06 Graphics Performance Benchmark (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook/OS
3DMark Score
MSI Wind (Windows Vista) 112 3DMarks
MSI Wind (Windows XP) Not Available

 


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3DMark03 Graphics Performance Benchmark (higher scores indicate better performance):

Notebook/OS
3DMark Score
MSI Wind (Windows Vista) 663 3DMarks
MSI Wind (Windows XP) 589 3DMarks

 


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Windows Experience Index Scores:


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Battery Life

I expected battery life to be same, if not a bit lower than XP. Vista has more things always working in the background, the system uses more of its RAM, and Vista is bloated right? Much to my surprise, battery life turned out to be quite improved under Vista: almost 20% better than Windows XP under the same conditions. Using the "balanced" power profile with brightness at mid level and wireless active the battery life hovered around 2 hours and 45 minutes before leveling off around 2 hours and 30 minutes before it conked out. Compared to the system running XP where it got 2 hours and 6 minutes, this is quite a jump.

System Device Control

Another aspect of Vista is some items just "work" without any additional software needed. All of the small bits of hardware inside the MSI Wind worked out of the box. This included all of the Function keys listed below:

  • Touchpad Disable/Enable
  • Brightness Up/Down
  • Webcam Disable/Enable
  • Volume Up/Down
  • Volume Mute
  • Wireless Device Control (Wifi On, BlueTooth On, Wifi/BT On, All Off)
  • Sleep

Now you didn’t exactly get the pretty onscreen controls courtesy of MSI, but all of the access keys worked without any delay, which was noticeable in XP.

 

Conclusion

While Windows Vista gets a lot of bad press these days, it isn’t always the worst operating system choice for notebooks. In our quick testing of Windows Vista on the MSI Wind, not only did it give us a nice bump in performance, but we also gained battery life. For a compact subnotebook you really can’t ask for more, especially on the battery life front. For now I think Vista is here to stay on our MSI Wind (well before we have to send it back).




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