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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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  • 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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