(Wind)ows 7: Microsoft’s new OS on the MSI U100

Lee Mathews is a computer repair worker in Manitoba, Canada. He’s a regular contributor to Download Squad, and the proud owner of an MSI Wind U100 netbook.

When I wrapped my last post – Vista on the Wind – I figured it wouldn’t be long before I said “So long, and thanks for all the fish,” and looked for a new experimental OS. I was right.

Here we are, a month later, and my Wind is now running the much-talked about pre-beta of Windows 7 Ultimate. Most people probably wouldn’t peg the Wind and its 1.6GHz Intel Atom CPU as a likely testbed for the latest Microsoft OS. Then again, no one was really rushing to try Vista Home Premium on one either – but I did it anyway.

Pre-beta DVD in hand I hooked up my trusty external DVD, began the install, and waited anxiously for it to complete. The install process took almost exactly the same amount of time, and I was a little disappointed to have the same missing drivers (wireless, LAN, display) but the original MSI XP drivers worked just fine.

Bear in mind this is Windows 7 Ultimate Edition I’ve installed. I’ve crammed more OS into my U100 than MSI probably ever dreamed – and it’s running great.

No, I’m not delusional. Microsoft is clearly working very hard to make 7 good enough that we’ll all forget about Vista’s failure to live up to the hype.

Improvements to the window manager and Aero theme provide stunning visuals even on an underpowered machine – a noticeable improvement over Vista’s sometimes sluggish effects. I was amazed at how smoothly win+tab cycled through a dozen applications including Windows Media Player 12 playing back a 700mb DivX video.

Visual task tips have been improved as well, with thumbnails updating in real time (or at least so near it that you’ll never notice the difference). Even WMP 12’s video thumbnails play smoothly, without so much as a hint of stutter.

Strangely, my Experience Index was lower by .4, dropping to 2.3 because of then Intel 945 chipset’s poor graphics performance. Regardless, the window manager remained responsive during all my normal use – only suffering when I purposely bombarded the Atom with far too many tasks at once.

One of the big reasons I bothered trying the Vista switch last time was its improved power management. I expected the same performance with Windows 7: I got it, and a little more. Battery life was nearly identical with Bluetooth enabled in 7 as it was in Vista with the feature disabled.

The Wind resumes from sleep in a flash, and the wireless is already good to go as soon as my display reappears (if not sooner). Awesome. If there’s one thing I hate about XP on the U100 (and XP in general), it’s the amount of time it takes to re-establish a wireless connection after it wakes.

Establishing and managing connections has been simplified. A single click will pop up a list of available access points, and you can simply right-click and entry to connect to it. That’s a welcome change from Vista’s cumbersome method.

Application performance with 7 is as good as or better than Vista. Firefox with multiple tabs and my usual collection of extensions consumes just under 100mb of memory with GMail, Reader, WordPress, and three other tabs open. On Vista the same scenario was typically in the 120-130mb range.

I can’t offer a direct comparison with Photoshop performance this time, as I’ve switched to the Gimp 2.6.1. It runs beautifully on the Atom and is much less resource-hungry. I find the Gimp interface better suited to the Wind’s 1024×600 screen.

For a pre-beta release, there’s plenty to get excited about. It looks as though work has been focused where it matters most: performance and ease-of-use. After seeing 7 in action, I’m not convinced there’s a need for the rumored netbook build. Really, if Ultimate runs this well a basic or premium version should be a perfect fit – especially when you consider how far netbooks will have evolved by the time Windows 7 is ready for release.

All in all, Windows 7 is even more enjoyable than Vista was, and it’s not going to be disappearing from my Wind any time soon.

  • http://blog.laptopmag.com Joanna

    Totally agreed. I had the same experience on the Eee PC 1000H. I could get used to Windows 7; I am seriously sick of XP!

    I am waiting on a battery test result on Windows 7 on the Eee PC, maybe we will get some extra run time too!

  • Jack

    Does the Wind run smoother on Windows 7 or Windows XP?

    Also, is there anything that extra in Windows 7 besides the 'ooh-pretty' factor?

  • Lee

    Absolutely smoother with 7. I'm running Ultimate with everything enabled, a totally stock install. I had a TinyXP variant installed before, and while it performed well, wireless and battery life were terrible.

    The DWM is incredibly responsive. Battery life is better. Wireless is great. I'm only a few days in, so maybe I'll have to do a follow up once I've had more time to kick the tires.

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    This is still pre-beta software. Either they are going to make it ever better, or they are going to add all the crap in later and make it as slow as Vista. Only time will tell.

  • A

    I was just about to buy one of the new HPs with XP. Now I want to wait and see if they'll come out with a Windows 7 version. Seems worth waiting, since I have an Asus 701 to tide me over.

  • http://liliputing.com Brad Linder

    Depends how long you want to wait. Windows 7 won't be available to the
    general public until mid-2009 or possibly 2010.

  • dd

    where can one get a cop of this pre-beta “7”?

  • Nam

    Hey Lee, since DWM is activated in your wind. Try this. You can now enable the SUPER BAR that was showed in build 6933 thanks to RAFAEL.

    Here's his discovery.
    http://www.withinwindows.com/

    The bar looks awesome and works extremely well on mine DV4. Give it a shot.

  • Prad

    “The Wind resumes from sleep in a flash, and the wireless is already good to go as soon as my display reappears (if not sooner).”

    I don't want this to be another Mac Fanboy post, but we have been enjoying this (and much more) on a mac for years!!! Windows users get this in 2010?!?! Talk about leading the industry eh…

  • Prad

    Joanna – On an unrelated note, Are you gonna try installing OS X on the Samsung NC10? I wonder if all the drivers would work OOTB?

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  • Nicklas

    Although OSX uses a fairly big amount of battery power to keep the computer in that state. If Windows 7 can do that without eating battery like crazy (considering it's a sleeping state) it would rock.

  • Nicklas

    Although OSX uses a fairly big amount of battery power to keep the computer in that state. If Windows 7 can do that without eating battery like crazy (considering it's a sleeping state) it would rock.

  • Prad

    “The Wind resumes from sleep in a flash, and the wireless is already good to go as soon as my display reappears (if not sooner).”

    I don't want this to be another Mac Fanboy post, but we have been enjoying this (and much more) on a mac for years!!! Windows users get this in 2010?!?! Talk about leading the industry eh…

  • Prad

    Joanna – On an unrelated note, Are you gonna try installing OS X on the Samsung NC10? I wonder if all the drivers would work OOTB?

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  • Nicklas

    Although OSX uses a fairly big amount of battery power to keep the computer in that state. If Windows 7 can do that without eating battery like crazy (considering it's a sleeping state) it would rock.

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  • http://iphone.blogvasion.com George

    Thank you for this article. I just got a Win 7 CD and was thinking to install it on my MSI Wind (can't install it on corporate notebook). Your article finally helped me make the decision. Thanks again!

  • http://iphone.blogvasion.com George

    Thank you for this article. I just got a Win 7 CD and was thinking to install it on my MSI Wind (can't install it on corporate notebook). Your article finally helped me make the decision. Thanks again!

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  • trentono

    Just installed Win7 on my Wind a moment ago, and apart from having to use a wired ethernet connection to download updated wifi drivers, all seems good so far.

    And yes, 7 is many steps up from XP…Vista rocks compared to XP, IMO.

    Plus, nice to see another tech geek in Manitoba!

  • adam

    whered you download the updated wifi drivers to make it work? I'm having the same issue.

  • trentono

    I just connected with the ethernet cable & ran Windows Update, which pulled down the right drivers for me.

  • Maxim

    Windows 7 killed my hdd on MSI Wind U100 ^(

  • heaven

    How about going and fuck yourself, you and your shitty OS, that OS that kills the freedom of using what software you want to use? MacOS is a close world, as close as Jobs's brain is. So, silence.

  • benlevi

    Hi,
    I also installed Windows 7 premium on Wind MSI U100 and it works fine, even better then XP. The only problem is, that it will not enter the power save mode. It will dim the screen and then it comes back again. It will not enter the sleep mode unless I close the lid. Any suggestions how to solve?
    Thank you
    Ben Levo

  • BlackVirus

    I have a question.What version is for Msi WIND U100: X86 or x64?

  • dannywk

    Have you heard of their new promotion for this unit? It's pretty cool actually. MSI is giving away 6 of these units for a holiday thing. i'm not going to attempt to explain the contest but i know its free to sign up and it's easy to do. the thing is you have to sign on to their website everyday to collect points by clicking on stockings. i know, sounds weird. but once you see the page, you'll know what I'm talking about. I wonder how easy it is for people to cheat on their contest. oh yeah, and the 6 free units are pink :)

  • Bubble

    Ben,

    Update your BIOS. I had exactly the same problem until I installed BIOS 1.0G on my U100 – though apparently it was fixed in the 1.09 BIOS. Go get it from the MSI web site.

    WARNING: Follow the instructions TO THE LETTER. Or you can end up with a disabled keyboard (which happened to me, and was great “fun” to work around), or worse.

    Regards,
    Mel

  • Bubble

    Ben,

    Update your BIOS. I had exactly the same problem until I installed BIOS 1.0G on my U100 – though apparently it was fixed in the 1.09 BIOS. Go get it from the MSI web site.

    WARNING: Follow the instructions TO THE LETTER. Or you can end up with a disabled keyboard (which happened to me, and was great “fun” to work around), or worse.

    Regards,
    Mel