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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  • maniac5999 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Its interesting that your U230 didn't have powersaving options. Mine was probably one of the first US models to come out of the factory (purchased the week it went on sale) and it had them. Did you cycle through the power 'modes' that you can choose with the Fn + FX (I forget what number) command on the keyboard? Mine came with about 6 options. By default it would jump between 1.6ghz/0.925v and 800mhz/0.8v on everything but max performance, and even had a setting to lock it at 800mhz/0.8v.

    I wasn't quite as lucky with undervolting as you were however. I still get 0.825v at 1.6ghz but still need .775v to do 800mhz. What I realy wish I could find is a way to overclock it, but the clock generator seems to be totally locked down. I'd imagine that it could easily do 2ghz at about 0.9v, at which point it'd easily be more powerful than anything it's size, and since the battery life already stinks, making it a bit worse wouldn't be much of a big deal.
    Reply
  • frozentundra123456 - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Seems like the worst of all worlds to me. Mediocre battery life and so/so performance at a high price for the components included in the package. I would either buy a low end Intel notebook and get better performance or a true netbook or ULV platform for long battery life.
    As another poster said, I would agree that at 300.00 this might sell. At the listed price, I see no place for it.
    Note to AMD: If you have inferior technology (except for the graphics), you have to sell at a reduced price. And is there any point to 4gb of ram?? Can this processor really run enough programs at once to use that much ram?
    Reply
  • Lolimaster - Sunday, August 08, 2010 - link

    Blame MSI dude. All major players have already Athlon II / Turion II Neo and they compete on equal terms wil CULV cpus.

    The best ultraportable/netbooks right now are the AMD powered machines. From the single core V105 to the K665 1.7Ghz dual core.

    Single core
    V105 1.2Ghz 9w
    K125 1.7Ghz 12w

    Dual core
    K325 1.3Ghz 15w
    K625 1.5Ghz 15w
    K665 1.7Ghz 15w

    All of them with the HD4200. A tweaked HD3200 with updated UVD/DX10.1 and lower TDP's. Next, Fusion with even better GPU's.
    Reply
  • niva - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Has this been tested to be fully compatible with linux flavors such as Ubuntu?

    As much as I like ATI cards in windows I always cringe at their terrible performance in linux when compared to the nvidia cards.

    This is a nice little machine and a definite alternative to the intel chips.
    Reply
  • wiak - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    but the U230 is old, its from 2009
    http://www.netbookreviews.net/msi/wind-u230/
    Reply
  • swaaye - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Athlon Neo X2 arrived less than a year old, I believe. Why bother with K10 at this point as it's pretty retro too. :) Reply
  • matt b - Thursday, August 05, 2010 - link

    Apparently, the Turion flavor of Congo, the L625, has better voltage management and thus battery life. Multiple reviews have shown that the Lenovo Thinkpad x100e with the K625 dual core processor has superior battery life to the MV-40 single core. Both are Congo chips with the same GPU, as well as the L325/335 processors, yet the higher clocked L625 with more cache appears the most power efficient.
    One complaint/issue that I would raise with battery life comparisions in these tests: Two of the four tests use the GPU to a greater extent. Unsuprisingly, with a superior performing GPU, AMD suffers in those battery test. How about non-flash heavy web browsing? Most of my websites are not flash intensive, and I never watch movie on my laptop (have a 50 incher at home for that). I know some people do and I think that the movie test is a good one, though I imagine it favors a weaker GPU. I work on flights, not watch movies. I think that a test that uses word processors, and some non-flash heavy browsing is probably the most realistic for most users.
    Reply
  • Cal123 - Friday, August 06, 2010 - link

    This weeks review is a k8, what's in store for next week, pentium D review? Try to review up to date stuff, k10.5 and i series have been out for months now. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, August 06, 2010 - link

    We can really only review what they send us. This one was actually a matter of some internal debate, but we decided to go ahead anyhow. There's no real reason NOT to review the thing.

    Of course, that said we like to think we're at least a little ahead of the curve. Pentium D for is old news, next week we're going to be posting our impressions of Intel's new Core 2 Duo E6600 and how well it pairs up with the GeForce 7800 GTX.
    Reply
  • danacee - Saturday, August 07, 2010 - link

    I just picked up a K325 equipped toshiba for the $450 mark at newegg. They are hardly just trickling onto the market and I could not think of a reason anyone would look at MSI's line considering how god awful their wind series has been from the start. Reply

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