MSI Wind No Faster With SSD - LAPTOP Magazine: The Pulse of Mobile Technology

MSI Wind No Faster With SSD

If you’ve been following our MSI Wind coverage, you know that we like the system. We like it so much that we gave it a LAPTOP Editor’s Choice award. Some of the feedback we’ve gotten from readers is that they’re excited about the Wind, but many want an SSD instead of the Wind’s 2.5″ 5,200 rpm hard drive. SSDs are an exciting technology. In theory, they offer faster boot times, better shock protection, and lower power consumption. In today’s world, SSDs also cost a lot more, offer lower capacities, and wear out more quickly than traditional hard drives. When we interviewed MSI’s Andy Tung, he told us that MSI had eschewed the SSD because the company wants to give users higher storage capacities (currently 80GB, but eventually up to 320GB) and because “in a lot of the testing, solid state drives don’t always outperform regular hard drives.” So we wondered: how would the MSI Wind perform if it had an SSD installed, like the ASUS Eee PC 900 series. We opened the Wind up and installed a 32GB SanDisk SATA 5000 drive in the 2.5″ slot and used the machine in this condition for several days. Replacing the hard drive was easy (see our tutorial), but voids the machine’s warranty so don’t try this at home if you want a warranty. After we installed the SanDisk SSD, we installed Windows XP and loaded on all the requisite Wind drivers. Everything went smoothly and the system functioned just as before. And that’s exactly what was disappointing. The boot time remained steady at 32-34 seconds and the time to open applications like Internet Explorer was no shorter. While we were unable to run our standard Mobile Mark battery test, we noticed no battery-life differences in anecdotal use. Perhaps the problem is that we were not using the world’s fastest SSD. The SanDisk SATA 5000 has unimpressive transfer rates and is not considered a high-performance drive like the Samsung SATA II series. On the other side of the equation, the Wind’s preinstalled hard drive is highly-capable 5,400 rpm Western Digital Scorpio. Nevertheless, you have to wonder: how much of a performance benefit does SSD really provide on mini-notebooks? We recently tested the new Eee PC 901 with XP and, despite its 20GB SSD, it takes 40 seconds to boot as compared to the 32-34 we get from the Wind. Boot time is not the only measure of performance, but it’s one of the most desirable benefits of a blazing fast drive. I think most users turn PCB green with envy when they see a video like this YouTube shot of a computer with a high-end Mtron brand SSD booting into Windows XP in 19 seconds. Most mini-notebook users want to hit a power button and be surfing the Web in short order, not tapping their fingers and watching the hard drive light flash. Fortunately, it looks like MSI did not lose anything by going with a standard hard drive over an SSD. More MSI Wind Coverage:

Complete MSI Wind Guide

Tags: MSI Wind, test, MSI
AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. Jitin Sameer Says:

    The net is filled up with interesting articles and comparisons between HDDs and SSDs. However no matter how many articles I read, I feel that some core points are always missed from this SSD HDD war. These points may not be of primary concern, but they are very important for some users. I want to highlight these overlooked facts. it would be really nice if some expert reviewers can come forward to do, all what they do, so that we may get a clearer picture of this HDD vs SSD war.

    Please check this post for details
    http://hddblues.blogspot.com/

    Thanks and regards
    Jitin Sameer

  2. Brandon Says:

    Nice info. I’m sure this won’t settle all arguments about solid state vs spinning hard drives, but its good to get a decent comparison of the two, given all other components are the same. Now if they can just go ahead and release the MSI Wind I can try it out myself instead of having to read all these reviews about it! I digress…

    B

  3. admin Says:

    Jitin,

    I think your point (on your site) about parallel data access is an interesting one. We had to send our Wind unit back, but I think it would be interesting for us to devise some kind of standard test for all systems to measure parallel access performance in a real-world setting. If you have any ideas, we’ love to hear them.

  4. KJ Says:

    Avram,

    Good artcile. I am very interested in the WIND. An inexpensive SSD (Super Talent MX 15GB $199) and the $399 WIND gives you Sub $600 netbook with 15GB SSD. Comparing the Super Talent with the Scan DISK, the read performance (of the Super Talent) is greater than 1.5X (100M vs. 60M) and the wirte performance is marginally less (40Mb SuperTalent compared to 50MB ScanDisk). I think more WIND benchmarks are needed. I agree with Jitin, parallel data access in netbooks is expected and needs to be undserstood and benchmarked. Good work. Now, when can I get a wind, I got a 15GB SSD waiting to be installed!

  5. admin Says:

    KJ,

    I think there’s no doubt that a high-performance SSD would be better than a standard HDD, but the real question is “which SSD and how much would it cost?” I have no doubt that if MSI included a Samsung SATA II SSD (a $600 drive all by itself), the system would boot faster and there would be a noticeable difference.

    That said, when we first posted the Wind specs, many users said they wished MSI had an SSD like the Eee PC does. The Eee PC’s SSD chips are not bad, but it’s clear that, at least when it comes to booting and opening apps, they aren’t better (and may even be worse) than a decent 5,400 rpm hard drive.

    My undertanding is that the Super Talent drives do not have good transfer speeds at all. If one could get something with Samsung-like performance (100MB/s or higher read speeds) for $199, then this would be a worthwhile upgrade. Personally, I’d even take the capacity trade-off, b/c I don’t think people need 80GB on a mini-notebook.

  6. KoKo Says:

    For some reason, the writer doesn’t look at anything other than boot time. Does the computer feel faster in regular use because of faster swap file access?

    Also, you might expect SSD’s to allow better battery life. Does it?

  7. KJ Says:

    OK.

    I agree that a a high performance SSD would be better. I was just thinking that a fast read and normal write performance would be perfect for boot time, web surfing, media comsumption, and other netbook type activities.

    I also agree that the EEE PC’s SSD is ok. According to what I’ve researched on the WEB (see links below), the primary 4GB partition performance is OK. According to the Super Talent benchmarks though, the worst read speed I have seen is 70MB/s. Can you clarifiy your understanding.

    I mentioned the Super Talent MX series because price/performance is reasonable for SSD. Also, if you add memory to the WIND and Windows XP you get basically a netbook with fast SSD for less than $700.

    EEE PC 701 BenchMarks
    http://forum.eeeuser.com/viewtopic.php?id=29543

    Supet Talent SSD Benchmarks
    http://www.legitreviews.com/article/715/1/
    http://www.hardforum.com/showthread.php?t=1306575

  8. admin Says:

    KoKo,

    As I said, the system did not feel any faster at all for doing the things I would normally do on it — surfing the Web, checking e-mail, etc. We had to send the system back and it was hard to find a good real-life benchmark. I think if I had had more time, I’d try installing some heavy apps like Photoshop or Premiere and using apptimer to test open times, but then again I don’t know how many target Wind users would attempt photo or video editing on the system.

  9. admin Says:

    KJ,

    I think I’ll have to take a closer look at the Super Talent MX. I recall reading some negative reviews of earlier Super Talent models, and clearly the write speeds are poor, but when you’re surfing the Web and using apps in the Cloud, write speeds are almost meaningless, though writing to the paging file might be part of the equation.

    Actually, I’ll see if we can get one in to test on a regular laptop. For $190, this might really be something!

  10. Ctitanic Says:

    Well, to use a Sandisk SSD is not a good example. Sandisks are not the faster one in the market, they are the cheaper and long time ago the worse. But anyway… from my own tests a good SSD will perform around the same than a 7200 RPM Hitachi 2,5 HDD. In that article they are comparing Sandisk to a 5400 RPM HDD, so considering that Sandisk is not the faster then you have a logical explanation for this test.

    I have to say also that almost all the UMPC and Tablet PC in the market use the 4200 RPM HDD that are super slow. The SSD are at this moment pointing mostly to this portable market that still using those 4200 RPM HDD.

  11. KJ Says:

    OK.

    I’ll be looking. Previous reviews of SSD’s on latops or mobile PC’s have been sparatic (i.e. performance not consistent). Hopefully, MSI and intel have improved the chipset when using SSD performance. Hopefully, there are others like me who are curious. Do you have other atom mobo’s in house. If/when you benchmark, please try two different chipsets (i.e. intel/nvidia). Thanks!

    Good work!

  12. Mike Cane Says:

    Hmmm … a LAPTOP Mag blog scandal in the making here?

    1) Why didn’t Joanna Stern do this?

    2) Why haven’t we read of Joanna Stern replacing her current notebook with the Wind?

    This Avram guy seems sketchy to me.

    Joanna, watch your back!

  13. Sebastian Says:

    Great article. I was wondering if the trade off to a SSD disk will be a good choice. I don’t really care about the capacity on this things since I bought a Wd Passport of 320GB and I have plenty of space there.

    I think that a faster SSD disk will OBVIOUSLY be better for the system, but at what cost? You are missing the point of the Mini-Notebooks. They are supposed to be cheap, portable and do the things most people do. Does the Wind do that? Yes. How much will it cost if it comes with an expensive SSD disk? Around 600-700, and then you are probable going to buy a full-sized notebook for that price.

    I think MSI was smart on doing this. SSD are still a bit expensive if you want the same performance of a traditional spinning drive.

    Any intermediate user will swap the memory and disk after a while. But I just don’t see the point right now.

    I am just glad I have the chance to replace it later if I have to.

    One thing I would like to see if a review of the MSI Wind running Vista, since I’ve heard XP is gone.

    Regards

  14. Martin Says:

    One thing everyone seems to be forgetting; power consumption! An SSD surely must improve the Winds battery life compared to using an old-style HDD?

  15. microwiz Says:

    The other thing everyone seems to be forgetting is durability – an SSD has no moving parts. I was always hesitant to drop (or even gently set) my conventional laptops into a backpack, special pocket or no, but I feel much better about doing so with an SSD-equipped machine. (Now if only my EEE 701′s keyboard weren’t so small… maybe time for an upgrade!)

  16. ALi Reid Says:

    admin: I’m a web designer, and I am definitely interested in running photoshop on this badboy! Then I can work from Starbucks and be rid of the office i spend so much to rent. bizarre but true.

  17. Ed Tittel Says:

    Nowadays, the SSD to beat is the Intel X25-M which shows itself to blazingly fast if also outrageously expensive. Funny that spending more on the drive than the rest of the computer might make sense to some, but it actually does. If and when I lay hands on one of these bad boys I’ll follow up to post some results before and after for boot time and some of the more modest benchmarks you can actually run on a netbook (I have an Asus 1000HE).
    –Ed–

  18. koitsu Says:

    With regards to your SSD experience, it sounds like you made the same mistake I did with my X25-M — and the problem/concept applies to all SSDs, not just Intel or any other brand. Apparently you have to align the filesystem (partition) properly for SSDs, otherwise your speed is more or less halved.

    I’ve blogged about this[1]. Note that Vista and Windows 7 don’t have this problem since their partitioning agent during OS install aligns partitions more intelligently. However, I really expect an SSD to be a drop-in replacement for a hard disk; the argument is that “Windows XP is practically 8 years old and was never intended for this”, and that’s a fair argument, but my point still stands. Partitioning the SSD requires a 2nd computer (or an already working one), and you have to know *exactly* what it is you’re doing. The guys over at the OCZ forum have documented how to do this[2], and the problem applies to all SSDs (not just OCZ and Intel).

    I’d recommend you try formatting + partitioning the SSD on another machine first, then re-do your benchmarks. Also, consider getting an X25-M (I recommend from Amazon, since you can return it w/out paying shipping or restocking fees), and ensure that it has firmware version 8820 on it[3] (otherwise upgrade it to 8820; see Intel’s site). Intel initially rejected the claims of the review site (see [3]), but later revoked their statement, confirming the problem, and released f/w 8820 to fix the issue.

    [1]: http://koitsu.wordpress.com/2009/06/17/my-experience-with-an-intel-x25-m-and-windows-xp/
    [2]: http://www.ocztechnologyforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=50376
    [3]: http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=669

    I hope this information helps. Cheers!

  19. Lemony Snicket Says:

    To sum up this article:

    The author uses an outdated OS with a mediocre SSD and claims that an SSD on netbooks are not worth it. YAWN.

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