After giving my MSI Wind a good workout with Windows XP for a month, I started to get listless. It was running beautifully, but I just couldn’t help wondering how it would handle a fancy, new OS like Vista.
Now, I’m no dope. Step one in my process was swapping out my original 80GB drive for a 160GB that I’d salvaged from a dead Dell XPS system. I mostly didn’t want the hassle of doing a full-blown factory reinstall on my Wind just because I later got bored with Vista and wanted XP back. I’d already cracked the cover once to max out the memory, so I figured I was now ready for the update.
I opted for Vista Home Premium – Ultimate seemed a bit over the top, and Basic, well, it just isn’t as pretty. A format and bit of waiting, and I was ready to test things out.
One annoyance to note: neither the wireless or wired lan worked without loading drivers. The XP network drivers included on the Wind’s factory CD work just fine, though, so it’s only a minor inconvenience. Vista didn’t recognize the i945 graphics right away either, so I opted to download the latest Vista video drivers from Intel’s site, and I was ready to rock. If you’d rather, just load the LAN driver and fire up Windows Update – it’ll locate all the missing drivers by itself.
Overall, the system runs very well. Vista’s system assessment rates it a 2.7, with 3d performance (2.7) and CPU (3.0) being the low marks. Everything else rated quite nicely, including the suprising 5.2 scored by my scavenged hard drive.
In normal use, the Wind performs quite well in Vista. With half a dozen tabs open in Firefox, Notepad++ running, and Dropbox, Faststone Capture, and Clamwin running in the system tray, I barely noticed any difference from my Intel Core 2 laptop. Performance is markedly better with Aero’s Glass effect turned off, though the Wind handles it fairly well considering its underpowered graphics.
Things changed a bit once I threw Photoshop CS2 the mix. Doing simple edits with only a single tab open in Firefox it performs reasonably well. Anything more is a bit rough on the Atom – which was also the case with Windows XP. I didn’t notice any major difference in application performance after upgrading to Vista. If you’re going to do any mildly technical photo work on your ultraportable, look into a similar app with a lighter footprint like Gimphoto/Gimpad or Artweaver.
The real reason I wanted to attempt the switch was to see just how much life Vista could squeeze out of my 6-cell battery. Under normal use I’m able to get about 5 hours with my screen at 70% brightness. Cranking it down all the way let me squeak out another 15 to 20 minutes, and the screen is still extremely readable.
That means a total increase of about 30 minutes over XP, and one of my main motives for buying an ultraportable (specifically one with a 6-cell) was the kick-ass battery life. Running Vista, the Wind also resumes from standby and hibernate a little more quickly, which is a nice bonus.
All in all, I’m excited about the way the Wind is handling Vista and I don’t think I’ll be switching back any time soon. Well, maybe I will – but only because I’m always itching to try out something else. Now where’s that Wubi download…