The MSI Wind U230 isn't hideous, but it's not exactly the best looker in the world either. MSI notebooks have, at least in our experience, generally been questionable where styling is concerned. While their X-Slim lineup is typically pretty attractive, their more functional lines tend to be just that: fairly cheap looking and functional. They're not the glowing glossy eyesores that Toshiba continues to foist on an unwilling populace, but it can't be denied that many of the Taiwanese OEMs (MSI, Asus, Compal, Clevo) are short some of the style that other companies not named Toshiba can produce. Asus has only recently made waves with the G73's chassis, but everything else has always looked functional first and foremost, with styling a secondary consideration.

Take the lid, for example. MSI uses the same glossy plastic we've come to expect from modern notebooks, black with a silver MSI logo emblazoned in the center. Recently we reviewed a Samsung N210 netbook that had a similar design cue, but just by shrinking the logo and justifying it to the left makes the unit feel more distinctive.

Gallery: MSI Wind U230

When you open the machine you find the same tired hinge style that's become the de facto standard on netbooks and ultraportables, but the bezel is at least a lot thinner than you typically see on netbooks with 10.2" panels, and MSI opted to employ a black matte plastic here that's much appreciated. The understated silver MSI logo at the top left of the bezel is also a nice accent. At the top you'll find the built-in microphone and the webcam, inauspiciously placed where you've come to expect them.

Moving on to the body of the U230 is the standard glossy surface plate and matte plastic "undercarriage." The glossy plastic is at least an understated gunmetal gray color that's pleasing to the eye, and while most manufacturers just love their blue LEDs whether they make sense or not, the blue really does work in the U230's favor, contrasting beautifully with the color of the inside surface.

MSI also makes sure to use the full width of the unit's body to produce a healthy-sized keyboard, and Jarred and I went back and forth briefly in e-mail about it. Jarred was very impressed with it, especially coming off the dismal keyboard on the Acer Ferrari (seriously Acer, just stop! That keyboard style is horrendous and we don't know why you insist on using it on everything and polluting your Gateway line with it.) I actually had retail experience with this same chassis in a different configuration at a local Fry's and found the keyboard there curiously mushy, but the one on this review unit seems a lot firmer. MSI even managed to fit the navigational row typically seen on larger notebooks onto the right side of the keyboard without severely hampering usability. While it can't compete with the keyboard on Lenovo's ThinkPad x100e, the U230's keyboard is still very usable.

The touchpad planted just beneath the keyboard is also a simple, clean, easy design: it has a lightly textured matte surface that's comfortable to use, and heaven forbid, two dedicated mouse buttons that offer just the right amount of click and response. It's a nice change of pace from seeing countless machines that use rockers for the mouse buttons, or worse, the dreadful "unipad" style on HP and Dell netbooks that apes the clicking touchpad from modern Mac portables without actually being any good. Put simply, it works and works well.

When you get to the bottom of the U230 you'll find one simple access plate for swapping out (or adding) RAM, the wireless minicard, and the standard issue 2.5" hard disk. The six-cell battery tilts the unit up (as is common on notebooks this size), and that's good...because the bottom of this thing gets very hot, and that vent on the left hand side spews heat like you wouldn't believe when the fan has to kick up. It's very audible, very hot, and unfortunate given how functional the rest of the U230 is.

Introducing the MSI Wind U230 Screen Analysis
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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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