"...smaller than a standard magazine, it is the perfect gadget that fits in your bag whenever you are on the go.". That's part of MSI's description of their Wind U210. But despite a name that evokes lightness and airiness, this model falls into the "heavyweight" class for a netbook. Not only because of its size, with its wide 12" screen, but most of all because of its configuration, which has more muscle than most netbooks - it runs Windows Vista Premium and has 2 GB of RAM. The borderline with low-cost ultraportables has never been so fuzzy.
Handling and build: Nicely finished and comfortable
The sobriety of grey and black contrasts with showy glossy plastic. But the blend works fairly well, even if it's not that original. Despite the glossy-plastic finish around the touchpad and keyboard, fingerprints aren't a problem. That's not true of the lid, though, since it's made of gloss black "mirror effect" material. We do like MSI's choice of using matte-finished plastic around the screen, because this is an area you do touch frequently when making adjustments and opening and closing the lid.
The rest of the machine is very nicely finished and has a sturdy overall feel.
The touchpad is very standard. It's not enormous, but it is big enough. It's precise and responsive, with a fluid, fast glide. We like it.
The keyboard takes up the full width of the computer. It's very comfortable to use, with wide (17 x 17 mm), flat, responsive keys. The feel is firm, which results in a little more noise - a muffled sound coupled with a light clicking - than with keyboards with a softer touch.
The webcam is not great. It lacks fluidity and sharpness. The images it produced had weak contrast and the colours lacked intensity.
Computers that use AMD processors unfortunately don't have a reputation for being very quiet. That applies here. You hear a constant ventilation noise, even though the sound isn't unpleasant. Overall we'd have to call this a noisy machine. The ventilation speeds up during heavy processing operations.
Connectivity is complete, with VGA, HDMI and USB 2.0 connectors on the left-hand edge. On the right are the headphone jack, microphone in, an RJ45 connector, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 4-in-1 memory-card reader.
Underneath is a large removable panel for access to the hard disk and RAM.
|Charger and lid
||Headphones, microphone, 2 USB 2.0s, card reader, RJ45, antitheft
|Charger, VGA, HDMI and USB
||Touchpad and click bars
Processing power: Disappointing, in spite of high CPU power consumption
Windows 7 Index: 3.2. Detail: CPU 3.2 - RAM 4.9 - Graphics 3.2 - Game Graphics 3.2 - Main hard disk 5.7.
The AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 CPU used in this model has slightly better performance than an Intel Atom N270. Unfortunately it also uses a lot more power, with a TDP (maximum power the system is designed for) of 15 Watts, compared to only 2.5 Watts for the Atom processor. That's a big difference, but it doesn't put the AMD processor all that far ahead of the Atom on the performance level, though it does perform better with multimedia applications. Compared to our reference computer, the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 which uses an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, the MSI Wind U210 scored a CPU index of 28 and an overall index of 34.
But this is still a responsive machine, good for use with office applications and for Web browsing. Other, heavier uses are possible, like video encoding and photo work, provided you're patient.
You can play HD 1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) video, provided you use the GPU's hardware acceleration capabilities. This cuts CPU usage from 100% to 14%, with power consumption stable at approximately 26.8 Watts (14.5 Watts at idle).
3D Games: A few non-demanding games at limited graphics settings
The GPU is a Radeon Xpress X1250 from ATI. It's not top-of-the-heap performance-wise and is significantly below the graphics performance of the built-in NVIDIA GeForce 9400M chipset, but it will let you play a few games that don't make heavy demands if you lower the graphics settings a good deal. You can, for example, taste the joys of being a top-gun fighter jockey with HAWX. Games that use the Source engine, like Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, will also be playable, but in all cases you'll have to lower the graphics settings to play in native resolution.
Audio: Still not up to par
As a rule, netbooks aren't much cop for sound. The Wind U210 is no exception. The sound it delivers is dry and totally lacking in bass. But the sound from the headphones output is fairly clean.
Portability, battery life: A good score, but relatively bulky
Even with its AMD processor, which gobbles a lot more power than Intel's Atom, the MSI Wind U210 managed the feat of topping five hours of battery life (5 hours, 9 minutes, to be exact) playing continuous video (with Wi-Fi disabled, headphones plugged in, and brightness at 100 cd/m²)! So it beats the Compaq Mini 311c and the HP Pavilion dm1.
But it's still a good distance behind the champions of the moment, namely the Samsung N110 (6H04), Toshiba NB200 (6H10) and Wind U115 (from 7H to 9H52).
With its battery, the MSI Wind U210 doesn't exactly keep a low profile. At 1.4 Kg (3.1 lbs.) total, its weight is still within reason, though the best examples of the genre weigh in at just under a kilogram. But let's not forget that this is a model with a 12" display! And the power adaptor really is small and light. It would be hard to do any better nowadays.