MSI Wind

So I’ve been running Windows 7 RTM on an office PC for over a month now (as a Microsoft Partner we were able to start testing the “Release to Manufacturing” version early), and just last week decided to try out Windows 7 Professional on my MSI Wind Netbook.  I had heard other people say that Windows 7 outperformed Vista (no surprise) and even XP (really?) on netbooks with the Intel Atom processor.  I started by cloning the hard drive just in case my experience didn’t match what others were telling me to expect, but after just a few hours I was hooked.  It is indeed faster than it was with XP Home.  I’m not sure how Microsoft accomplished this, but I don’t care, it’s fantastic.  It even supports Windows Aero desktop graphics (the see-through effects, etc.), which required a fairly high horsepower graphics card in Vista.  Note that I do have 2GB of RAM in my Wind, I’m sure that helps tremendously compared to the standard 1GB.

No Direct Upgrade from XP

There has been some confusion about this, so to clear the record, there is no direct upgrade path from XP to Windows 7.  However, Microsoft includes a tool called “Windows Easy Transfer” that, unlike Microsoft’s previous attempts, actually lives up to its name.  It was easy, and it did transfer everything I wanted it to.  Because you can perform a clean install, this is better than an upgrade.  I was able to download the tool on the Wind while it was still running XP and save my data to an external hard drive.  Next, I booted to the Windows 7 Install DVD and performed a completely clean install of Windows 7, deleting both existing partitions and replacing them with one big partition.  (I left the MSI hidden restore partition, I don’t think it would have let me delete that even if I had wanted to.)  Upon boot it had all drivers but one, and as soon as it connected to Windows Update, it downloaded that immediately.  Then I located the Easy Transfer file on the external hard drive, double-clicked it, and my files and settings began restoring.  About 10 minutes later, I was up and running.  The entire process took less than 30 minutes.  On a netbook.  Wow.  I highly recommend if you are upgrading from XP or Vista that you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor tool.  Microsoft even has a step-by-step tutorial for how to upgrade from XP to Windows 7.  Click here for that tutorial.

More Surprises

Windows 7 Professional comes with Windows Media Center now.  In XP it was a special version (Windows XP Media Center Edition), and in Vista it was only included in Home Premium and Ultimate.  I really didn’t think this little netbook would have the horsepower to really handle Media Center, but to my surprise it works like a charm.  Certainly, it’s not nearly as fast as on my desktop PC, but the picture and sound quality are fine (not choppy at all).  You have to wait a bit longer when you choose something, but once it starts playing it’s fine.  I’ve even had it in a window while doing other things (even with multiple monitors enabled) and it still did a reasonable job.  I pointed it to my Recorded TV on my actual Media Centers on my home network, and can play any shows I have recorded even through a WiFi connection.

Performance Score MSI Wind Performance Score in Windows 7

Speaking of Media Center, on Tuesday of this week they released the Netflix application (at least that’s when I noticed it on the desktop PC) and yesterday Microsoft expanded the Internet TV selection in Media Center.  (Just in time for the Windows 7 Launch!  Coincidence?)  The Netflix app is very slick, allowing control of Netflix streaming movies from the Media Center remote control.

I also downloaded several of the new Windows Live tools, including Windows Live Messenger, Windows Live Movie Maker, and Windows Live Writer.  I’m currently using Windows Live Writer to compose this blog entry, and am very impressed.  Once I’m done, one click and it will publish to the web.

All of my business critical applications worked just fine, which is a good thing since the Wind does not support the “XP Mode” due to the Atom processor not having “Hardware-Assisted Virtualization” built in.

Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool

The only negative I found is in monitor resolution settings.  I’m not sure if this is a Windows 7 issue or a problem with the Intel graphics driver.  I have installed the most recent version of the driver, and even still cannot always get the resolution I want.  The Wind has a 1024×600 screen, and in XP you could set it to 1024×768 and it would vertically scroll with your mouse movements, which was handy for some applications (including remote desktop sessions) that were hard to see at 1024×600.  In Windows 7 I did not get that option (even if I told it not to hide resolutions the monitor didn’t support), and finally had to dig into the registry to find a setting that would allow me to choose 1024×768.  Now it just “squishes” it to fit on the Wind’s monitor.  This is less than ideal, but it at least allows the more “standard” 1024×768 resolution.  I have also had Windows 7 do odd things when connected to an older projector.  With XP on the Wind, cloning the display on the Wind’s monitor and projector allowed several resolutions, with Windows 7 I was limited to 800×600 and 1024×600, the latter wasn’t even really supported by the projector.

Pros

  • Faster
  • Appears to be even more stable than XP on the Wind
  • Slick interface
  • Media Center works amazingly well
  • Easy to configure networking

Cons

  • Virtual PC “XP Mode” not available
  • Resolution issues to built-in screen and older projector

Conclusion

If you have a netbook, especially if it’s an MSI Wind, I can highly recommend Windows 7.  It doesn’t just run, it runs better.

–Kelly