- Comfortable, full-size keyboard
- Mini-PCIe slot for future expansion
- Warranty Void If Removed sticker
- Worse battery life than Intel Atom
The 12-inch MSI Wind U210 is the netbook for people who don’t want a small screen, small keyboard, or slow Intel Atom processor. Powered by the AMD NV-40 Athlon Neo processor and ATI X1270 integrated graphics, it is very similar to the HP Pavilion dv2 … just smaller and lighter. With only 4 hours of estimate battery life, is this oversized netbook worth it? Read our full review to find out.
MSI Wind U210 Specifications:
- 1.6GHz AMD Athlon Neo Processor NV-40
- 2GB 800MHz DDR2 (1 Dimm)
- Windows Vista Home Premium 32bit with SP1
- 12.1″ WXGA LED-Backlit Widescreen Display (1366×768)
- 250GB 5400RPM Toshiba SATA Hard Drive
- ATI Mobility Radeon X1270 Graphics
- 802.11a/b/g/n Wireless, 1Gb LAN
- 4-in-1 card reader
- 6-Cell Li-ion 58WH battery (51Wh reported)
- Dimensions: (W x L x H) 11.71″ x 7.49″ x 0.55-1.22″
- Weight: 3lbs 1oz (with 6-cell battery)
- Price as configured: $429
Build and Design
The MSI Wind U210 looks just like a bigger brother of the original 10″ MSI Wind. It offers a softly rounded chassis that is easy to grip, comfortable to hold, and small enough to fit into small backpack or purse. The two-tone color scheme looks great, with a glossy black exterior and sleek grey interior. The touchpad is integrated into the palmrest, sharing the same color, albeit a more textured surface. While the keyboard isn’t a matching grey, it still flows well being matte black with white letters. The only nagging complaint I can come up is the battery sticking out like a foot from the bottom of the netbook instead of fitting flush.
Build quality seems very nice, with no signs of weakness or build quality issues. The paint looked great with no signs of overspray or other defects. Right out of the box this particular netbook felt different from any other we have reviewed, solely for its super strong screen hinges. It needed a firm grasp with both hands to open the screen and once it was open showed zero signs of wiggle or sag. The body felt very sturdy with no signs of twisting when being carried. Inside the palmrest and keyboard offered good support, with very little give under strong pressure. The bottom of the netbook had some areas where the plastic was thin, but only showed minimal flex when the access panel was removed.
Users looking to upgrade the U210 will find it easy with a single panel giving you access to the hard drive, RAM, and open mini-PCIe slot. We did find one “warranty void if removed” sticker partially covering the main cover, but it was unclear as to what it was protecting. It was covering a screw to the chassis cover, and only partially overlapping the service panel. Regardless of what area it was covering, it was still sad to see this sticker as so many other companies don’t use such methods and put more faith in their customers.
Screen and Speakers
The 12.1″ screen on the MSI Wind U210 is a 16:9 panel with a resolution of 1366×768. Colors appeared to be saturated and contrast levels were above average compared to other screens we’ve seen. Atl normal viewing brightness the backlight bleed was minimal, with only a hint showing if you cranked the screen brightness up to 100%. Being a glossy display, we did notice some issues with reflections, but this problem will surface on most glossy panels without anti-reflective coatings. Vertical viewing angles were average, with colors starting to invert as soon as 15 degrees when tilted forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles were much better, staying accurate to about 60 degrees, before reflections overpowered the screen brightness. Backlight levels were above average, working well in bright office conditions, but probably not powerful enough for outdoor viewing.
The speakers sounded average compared to most netbooks, providing adequate volume for streaming music, handling VOIP calls, and watching the occasional movie. Sound quality wasn’t the best, providing tinny audio with no bass or midrange. Headphones are a must with this model for really enjoying music or movies. Another alternative is using the HDMI out, and routing the digital audio signal to a stereo that supports HDMI-audio.
Keyboard and Touchpad
People who find smaller netbook keyboards cramped will love the U210’s keyboard, as it makes full use of the spacious 12.1″ form-factor. It could be considered basically full-size, sharing the same key size as bigger notebooks. I found it very comfortable to type, with great feedback from each key and decent support. The right side of the keyboard had some minor flex centered on the “L” key, but it was only noticed under very strong pressure. Individual key action was smooth with a mild click when pressed. Each key looked flat, but had a very mild cup to the surface to help with centering your finger while typing.
The MSI Wind U210 includes a decent sized touchpad given its small palmrest, but is really limited out of the box. Just like the MSI X-Slim X340, it does not come with any driver support to enable basic features like scrolling or sensitivity adjustment. With a little trial and error, we did manage to get off-the-shelf Synaptics drivers working with full compatibility from everything from scroll zones to sensitivity adjustments. While all signs point to this being a Synaptics touchpad, or at least a very good generic copy, we can’t say it for sure without driver support from MSI. The drivers in this case turn it from a mediocre touchpad with no advanced featured to a snappy and precise fully functional touchpad. With the correct drivers in place we experienced no lag in our tests, and the sensitivity range was great. The touchpad buttons were on the stiffer end of the spectrum, but were still responsive. When pressed they were also on the loud side, giving off a very solid click.
Ports and Features
Port selection is above average for a netbook, with HDMI-out, VGA, three USB ports, LAN, and audio in/out jacks. The U210 also offered a 4-in-1 SDHC-card reader as well as a Kensington lock slot. Inside the computer was a spare mini-PCIe slot, which would probably work with a WWAN card or other accessory. These tend to be rare in most computers, as unused slots generally don’t have the connector soldered in place.