Review: Test: Wind U160DX

Winner of the iF Product Design Award 2010

Our score: 3/5
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March 25, 2011 8:56 AM
 
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Published: March 24, 2011 11:00 PM
By Alexandre Botella / Pierre Anzil
Looking for a netbook that doesn't look like the rest? The MSI Wind U160DX may be the answer, a 10.1 inch netbook, winner of the iF Product Design Award 2010 for its slimline, compact format.

Design and build: Plastic, yes, but quality plastic!

The U160DX may be made entirely of plastic, but it is nevertheless a well-finished product. Everything is well positioned and it feels sturdy overall. The general look of the machine is nice and elegant. Note that the glossy coating does pick up finger marks easily.

U160DX_clavier

The keyboard has separated keys and takes up almost all the width of the netbook. It is moreover very similar to that used on the Asus Eee PC 10.1 inch models (1015PE, 1018P, 1015PEM and so on). Keying is supple, quiet and instinctive. Overall, the keys are a good size (14 x 13 mm) considering the space available. It's only Ctrl and Shift you'll have any problem with, as they have been cut down slightly.

The touchpad isn't multi-touch and there are no scroll bars to facilitate navigation on pages of text, the internet and so on. The 1024 x 600 pixel resolution doesn't allow you to display a full internet page and you do lose a certain amount of time dragging the cursor to the side of the screen. This can become annoying.
Nor do we like the small bumps that coat it. Although it does mark the touchpad area out, we don't like how it feels when you run the tips of your fingers over it.

Compaq Mini 311cThe webcam is poor. The contours of objects are blurred, as are movements. Only for occasional use.

The connectivity is pretty standard. On the left, you have the power supply, a VGA out, a USB port and an on/off switch for wi-fi. On the right is the ethernet socket, two USB 2.0 ports, a mic in, a headphones out and an SD card reader.

The fan is quiet, even when you put additional processing demands on the machine. The temperature levels also remain low.

U160DX temperature
Fluke ti25 distrame%281%29

The U160DX's temperature readings when you push the components hard
Readings taken using a Fluke Ti25 (Distrame) camera

U160DX_dessous
Underneath, with the panel off
 
U160DX_capot Hood
 

U160DX_gauche
 
Power supply, VGA out, USB 2.0
U160DX_droite
Card reader, mic socket, headphones out, USB 2.0 (x2) and RJ45 (ethernet)


Processor power: low performance

The Atom N455 used here was one of the most commonly used processors for netbook in 2010. We're therefore all too familiar with the low processing capacities of the U160DX. In practice, you're limited to office documents and internet browsing. Processing times are very long.

You won't be able to play HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) on this machine. You'll have to make do with DVD or DivX type compressed videos. The integrated Intel GMA 3150 chipset is limited to HD 720p videos.

Windows 7 Starter takes 50 seconds to boot and you'll need to wait another 10 to 20 seconds for the various background applications to start running (antivirus off). It turns off in twelve seconds.

Gaming: retro-gaming only

Like its processor, the U160DX's graphics chipset is also familiar. Gaming potential is almost inexistent. Only old and very undemanding titles are within reach here.

Audio: needs revisiting

Not impressed. The headphones out is neither clean nor powerful enough and the speakers neither good enough quality nor loud enough.

Battery life: good

The 6-cell battery offers decent but not spectacular battery life. In our test (video playback, wi-fi off, headphones plugged in and brightness at 100 cd/m²), this 10.1 inch gave 5h video playback. It'll last for a day of note taking in lectures, but the record is held by the MSI Wind U115. It lasts over 7 hours.

The U160DX is small and compact. Weighing around 1 Kg, you won't mind carrying it around in your rucksack. The only downside is the way the battery sticks out. If you don't like this and want a flat chassis, you'll have to go for the 3-cell battery (lower battery life).
3/5 MSI Wind U160DX DigitalVersus 2011-03-25 00:00:00

Pros

  • Decent battery life 5h video playback
  • Design and finish
  • Quiet

Cons

  • Poor webcam
  • Poor audio quality
  • Glossy poor quality screen
  • Touchpad coating needs revisiting

Conclusion

Performance levels are on a par with numerous other netbooks. In terms of battery life, you'll get better for less money in the Asus Eee PC range.

OUR SCORE 3/5
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