It's an odd introduction because the MSI Wind U230 is a newer model with older hardware built in. The K10.5-based ultramobile processors from AMD are starting to trickle onto the market, but MSI is opting to offer the U230 using an Athlon Neo X2 L335 based off the older K8 core. Despite the venerable core that debuted with the Athlon 64 so long ago starting to show its age, it's still at least a reasonable alternative to people who don't want to suffer with Atom's "just enough" performance along with integrated graphics that get worse with each progressive generation (at least the GMA 950 could drive an HDMI port).

MSI's Wind U230 comes with specs that may seem somewhat familiar to those of you who read our review of the most recent Acer Ferrari One (a line with an unfortunate history of underpowered AMD hardware at exorbitant prices):

 

MSI Wind U230 Specifications
Processor AMD Athlon Neo X2 L335
(1.6 GHz dual core, 65nm, 2x256KB L2, 800 MHz HyperTransport, 18W TDP)
Chipset RS780M northbridge & SB750 southbridge
Memory 1x2048MB DDR2-800
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 3200 Integrated Graphics
Display 12.1" LED Glossy 16:9 WXVGA (1366x768)
Hard Drive(s) Seagate Momentus 5400.6 320GB 5400 RPM
Optical Drive N/A
Networking Realtek Gigabit Ethernet
802.11bgn WiFi
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers headphone and mic jacks)
Battery 6-cell, 11.1V, 5200mAh, 58Whr
Front Side Speakers
Left Side AC power jack
VGA
Exhaust vent
HDMI port
USB 2.0
Right Side Headphone jack
Mic jack
2x USB 2.0
SD/MMC reader
Ethernet jack
Kensington lock
Back Side Battery
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
Dimensions 11.71" x 7.49" x 0.55~1.22" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.3 lbs (with 6-cell battery)
Extras Webcam
Bluetooth
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $479 Online

MSI's U230 brings to the table the hardware we've come to expect from AMD's last generation Congo platform. AMD's original ultramobile left a lot to be desired, but a 1.6GHz dual core processor coupled with the capable ATI Radeon HD 3200 integrated graphics shores up the overwhelming majority of weaknesses in Intel's Atom platform. The K8 may be old kit, but it still features out-of-order execution and superior performance clock-for-clock against the Atom, and the Radeon HD 3200 is capable of doing very light gaming. More importantly, though, the HD 3200 brings full high definition acceleration to the table, an improvement only heightened with the release of Adobe's hardware-accelerated Flash 10.1.

The rest of the U230 is fully-featured, offering up a 320GB hard drive, wireless-n capability, Bluetooth, and Gigabit networking. MSI also makes the interesting and very consumer-friendly choice of opting to include a single 2GB DIMM for memory and leaving a memory slot free rather than installing a pair of 1GB sticks. That leaves the U230 open to upgrade later, and unlike smaller netbooks, the bottom panel of the unit also allows the user to change out the hard drive proper. And finally, because of its larger form factor, the U230 sports a bigger keyboard than netbooks have and a full 720p (768p) resolution screen instead of the scrunched down 1024x600 found on most smaller machines.

Of course, there's an exchange one must make for all this goodness. Even ignoring the price of the U230, which is competitive without being particularly hungry for success, the extra performance provided by AMD's Congo platform takes a heavy toll on heat and battery life compared to Atom-based netbooks. Atom and the accompanying GMA 3150 may not do a heck of a lot, but they can usually do that little bit for a solid eight hours on a standard 6-cell battery. Congo-based notebooks are lucky to hit half that, and they'll often run a heck of a lot warmer in the process.

Kicking the Tires of the Wind U230
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  • arthur449 - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    I must say, that keyboard layout *is* quite nice. I'd love to see that on more ultraportable laptops. Reply
  • jeremyshaw - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    I agree, however, it's called "one last hurrah" for a good reason. Even though I am not a vendor, I am speculating the low voltage Nile K10.5 CPU aren't in mass numbers, yet. We now AMD has made one massive push into this market, with over 100 new laptop designs produced, but I have yet to see their delivery numbers truely slide into view. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    What I don't get is why Dell seems to have the most compelling Nile offering on the planet, and then they go and make a UK/Europe part! You can get a nicely equipped model for £579, but that's with VAT (17.5%) and shipping, and prices in the UK tend to be higher anyway. Seems like the US price should be able to get down to ~$600, which should be pretty good for the K625 model. Reply
  • futurepastnow - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    I suspect the cheaper model with MV-40 will still handily outperform any Atom netbook. Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    That's like beating a 5-year-old in an arm wrestling match. :p

    I've used an MV-40 notebook (also from MSI, only with an HD 4330), and while faster than Atom it's still sluggish at far too many tasks. The 4330 was a waste, really.
    Reply
  • anactoraaron - Wednesday, August 04, 2010 - link

    Expecially considering you can drop $500 on an ASUS UL-50 refurb with 210M and Optimus.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N8...

    I mean, yeah, it's a refurb... but if I was spending $500 on almost outdated tech this is the route I would go...
    Reply
  • Shadowmaster625 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    This review is pointless, and it is obvious that reviews of old AMD products are placed on this site merely as filler. Why even bother? Change name to IntelTech. Reply
  • maniac5999 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Actually, I've owned a U230 for about 6 months. (bought it at the same price it is today) and while I do agree that it is a little unfair to review a product right at the end of it's product cycle, Anandtech can only review products that are sent to them. (alrhough I'm still waiting for the K10.5 Toshiba review that they promised they'd have up in a week, when they reviewed the old M600 one a month ago)

    Personally I think that the review is pretty much spot on, It's a great machine with bad battery life. I use my notebook for basic internet surfing and document creation, as well as time-killing with games. Civ IV and WoW run great on it, and it can even struggle through Starcraft 2. Something SLIGHTLY more powerful (both CPU and GPU) with double the battery life in the same case would be ideal. (to be honest, the U230 is very small for a 12" notebook, most 12" notebooks are at least 1/2" larger on every size.

    Because of this I'm really looking foward to Bobcat. Intel can't make a decent GPU to save their life (Look how old the 3200 is and how it's STILL at as good as intel's top of the line desktop IGP) and Nvidia seems to only want to make discrete graphics for netbooks in this size range. Unless Nvidia releases Ion 2 for 12" i series CULVs, AMD's still going to be the only game in town. (Disagree? point me at any other 12" laptop that'll play Starcraft 2)
    Reply
  • maniac5999 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    EDIT: No, the Alienware M11 doesn't count, it's a 14" laptop with an 11" screen. 4.5lbs is HEAVY Reply
  • JarredWalton - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    I went on vacation, the A665D has driver concerns, and I was hoping to get them sorted out while traveling. Sadly, that has not happened and the result is that the Toshiba review will be up soon but it will not be particularly positive. The Danube platform appears to have potential, but Toshiba's implementation makes some real questionable moves.

    Besides that, these "old system" reviews are not a disservice to AMD. Here we have a laptop that we generally like, and it can certainly compete. We conclude with a few pointers on what the next update needs to offer to truly impress. Manufacturers do read these sorts of articles, so hopefully we can get both a Nile update of U230 (sooner rather than later), and if the planets align properly Dell might even try selling M301z in the US.

    AMD's got a real problem with manufacturers not trying to promote their product. Nearly all the big names now have AMD-based notebooks and laptops, but so many are "hidden" without any push to educate the consumer. And many feel half-baked and shoved out without fully optimizing performance. I would think MSI could have done voltage tweaks of the CPU on their own, which would have added 30 minutes to the battery life at least. The MSI GX640 practically doubled its battery life with a BIOS update. Can the same be done with the U230? Probably not a doubling of battery life, but it can certainly be improved. So U230 + BIOS Optimizations + Nile may finally give us the AMD-based ultraportable we've been waiting for.
    Reply

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