- Good looks
- Solid build
- Comfortable keyboard
- Falls short of 15 hour battery claim
- Minimalistic touchpad drivers
The MSI Wind U160 is a step in the right direction with a larger battery than its U135 sibling, but it's priced above the competition and falls short on battery life.
The Wind U160 is the latest Intel Pine Trail based-netbook from MSI boasting an impressive 15 hours of battery life. Like its sibling, the U135, which we reviewed in February, the U160 is equipped with the Intel Atom N450 and Intel GMA 3150. With a slightly larger battery and nearly identical parts configuration, can this new model beat the U135′s battery life of six hours and 30 minutes? Read our full review to find out.
MSI Wind U160 Specifications:
- Windows 7 Starter Edition (32-bit)
- 10.1-inch diagonal WSVGA (1024 x 600)
- Intel Atom N450 Processor 1.66GHz (667MHz FSB, 512KB Cache)
- 1GB DDR2 SDRAM onboard (1 slot available)
- Intel GMA 3150 integrated graphics
- 250GB Seagate 5400.6 hard drive
- 802.11BGN Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- 4-in-1 media card slot
- Dimensions: 10.24 x 7.09 x 0.74 inches
- Weight: 2.4 pounds (not including weight of AC adapter)
- 6-cell Lithium-ion battery (65Wh)
- Retail price: $429
Build and Design
The MSI Wind U160 has a very good looking appearance with a glossy piano black finish inside and out. Compared to the U135, MSI went with a cylindrical hinge design on the U160, which allows the extended battery to blend with the shape of the back of the netbook. Gateway and Sony have also used a similar design on some of their notebooks. The common trend with these configurations is including the power button at the end of the hinge, which MSI also does.
The battery design on the U160 elevates the rear of the notebook with the rear half of the battery pack sticking out under the computer. ASUS uses a similar scheme but works the wedge shape into the design making the lift less noticeable.
Build quality is very good with strong hinges, rigid body panels, and a nearly flex-proof frame. While the screen cover seems to resist flexing under strong finger pressure, the small bit of flex is transmitted into the LCD causing some mild distortion. Besides the screen cover, the rest of the system was very well-constructed. Paint quality was above average and resisted most mild scratches from day-to-day use.
Users looking to upgrade the Wind U160 will find easy access to the system memory, which is a common on most netbooks that only include 1GB of RAM-with an access cover on the back side. The hard drive and wireless card require the entire back panel to be removed to access them. Going that extra step isn’t terribly difficult, but it may be overwhelming for someone who hasn’t previously dismantled a computer.
Screen and Speakers
The Wind U160 offers a 10-inch glossy LED-backlit display that rates below average compared to other similarly sized netbooks. On our review model, we noticed significant backlight bleed around the edges when the brightness is near the top of the scale. During the boot sequence, this is especially visible when the backgrounds are black.
Turning the backlight down to 50-70% reduced bleed, but it was still slightly visible if you were in a dark room watching a movie. Color and contrast are comparable to other competing netbooks thanks to the glossy screen surface. If there was less backlight bleed, it would be a great machine to watch movies on while traveling.
At peak brightness, the screen is easy to read in bright office conditions and outdoors if you are in an area that the sun wasn’t reflecting off the screen. Viewing angles are average with the vertical viewing range spanning 15-20 degrees forward or back before colors started to invert. Horizontal viewing angles are better, keeping colors looking true even at steep angles.
The speakers on the U160 are lap-firing, meaning that if you have the netbook on your lap, the speakers sound muffled since they can be easily blocked by your clothing. When sitting on a flat desk surface, the speakers sound very crisp with clean high notes and some midrange. Low-frequency response is nonexistent, but expected for almost all smaller netbooks and notebooks.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The MSI Wind U160′s keyboard is a nearly identical to the keyboard on the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE. They are Chiclet-style keyboards and share the same layout, key size and key shape. The only visible differences are the printed labels that appear bolded on the MSI version. Comparing both models side-by-side and the U160 feels more solid and attached to the frame, whereas the 1005PE’s keyboard bounces slightly. Tactile feedback is nearly alike, with the same key strength and noise when fully pressed.
The touchpad on the MSI Wind U160 seems rudimentary compared to most other notebooks and netbooks. Compared to the U135, MSI took a step in the right direction by including driver support. Webpage scrolling is limited to only touchpoints. I had to go into the menu to realize that you don’t scroll with a finger swiping action; instead you hold your finger in one of the finger-sensing zones to scroll. While it’s better than before, it still feels like a huge step back when compared to the latest multitouch touchpads on most notebooks and netbooks.
Ports and Features
Port selection on the MSI Wind U160 follows the industry average with three USB 2.0 ports, VGA-out, a SDHC-card reader, audio jacks, LAN and a Kensington lock slot. The Wind also features a dedicated wireless on/off switch to quickly disable the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth card without fumbling with keys or software settings.
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