MSI Wind U123, X-Slim X320, and X340 Netbooks Announced

This better not be some wacky April fool's joke: MSI Computer's Wind netbooks are about to receive a couple of interesting new features. Namely 3G/WiMAX support and even a TV tuner. That is just some of the news to slip out of this week's CTIA show (the International Association for Wireless Telecommunications convention), currently under way in Las Vegas.

I'm expecting to lay hands on the MSI Wind U123 and X-Slim X320 and X340 within the next few months. In the meantime, let's go over what each means for your mobility and whether it's even worth going beyond the press release. (Advance conclusion: It kind of is worth it. Kinda.)

First, the Wind U123. No price has been mentioned as yet for this newest, cool breeze, but the big deal here is what I already mentioned--support for 3G/WiMAX and a TV tuner input. Otherwise, you'll see what one expects in the current crop of netbooks: an Intel Atom processor (the 1.66GHz N280), Windows XP, 1GB of RAM, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 10.2-inch screen, and a crummy integrated GPU. With the standard 6-cell battery, it weighs just under 3 pounds.

Slightly larger options are the X320 (starting at $700) and the X340 (starting at $1000). The first machine rocks an Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz CPU while riding that fine line between netbook and notebook. In this case, you start with a low-end chipset and GPU, up to 2GB of RAM, and a 250GB hard drive.You want the 3G/WiMAX option? It's here, as well as 802.11n Wi-Fi support and Bluetooth.

The higher-powered (that's all relative) X340 packs Intel's 1.3GHz Core 2 Solo CULV SU3500 CPU. It differs from the X320 by offering more RAM (up to 4GB) and a larger hard disk (320GB). Otherwise, both share the same specs. Both promise to run Vista Home Premium on the 13.4-inch screen (1366 by 768 native resolution), and both weigh about 2.8 pounds with a 4-cell battery.

I'm interested in kicking the tires on these portables if only because the 16:9 aspect-ratio screens promise a whole lot of flexibility. You see, some of our PC WorldBench 6 tests often crash on netbooks. They stumble because some of our test programs require a minimum of a 1024-by-768-pixel resolution just to run. With the higher resolution on these new netbooks, we should be able to run more more of our test suite on these tiny machines. And, come May, when MSI promises to deliver review units my way, I'm looking forward to putting these laptops to the test.

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