The MSI Wind 12 U230 offers the performance of an ultraportable laptop in the chassis of a netbook. But poor battery life turns a strong contender into a lame duck.
Weighing 1.3kg and equipped with a 12.1in screen, MSI's Wind12 U230 is large for a netbook. It runs on a 1.6GHz Athlon Neo X2 dual core processor, carries 2GB of RAM, has a spacious 320GB hard drive and uses Windows 7 Home Premium. It recorded 56 points in our WorldBench 6 test suite, which is much superior to the spate of scores in the mid-30s we're used to seeing netbooks earn. Still, it isn't in the same league with ultraportables in performance.
The MSI Wind 12 U230 delivers aesthetically, too. Its simple, glossy black shell gives an understated elegance - but also serves as a fingerprint magnet. The netbook has a glossy 12.1in screen with an HD-friendly resolution of 1366x768, although its display quality is a mixed bag.
Viewing angles are fine and the MSI Wind 12 U230's display is glare-free under typical fluorescent lighting, but outdoor viewing is not an option. Although colours sometimes looked muted, reproduction on the whole was good. We noticed a fair amount of motion blurring during video playback, and streaming performance was lackluster - but par for the course for a netbook.
Audio performance was middling, too, with tinny media playback. The MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook does get suitably loud, but its sound quality dips from satisfactory to jarring at higher decibels. The performance of the 1.3Mp webcam is also less than stellar. Test video footage we shot looked rather grainy.
One benefit of being at the larger end of the netbook spectrum is having room for a comfortable keyboard. The MSI Wind12 U230's keys are wide and spacious, with very little travel time on button presses, which makes for mistake-free typing. Though it lacks specific media keys, the netbook provides generic volume control and accessory toggling via Fn-key combinations.
The touchpad, however, although smooth and suitably responsive, was disappointing. Its small, stiff buttons are set flush with the chassis, and we often mashed a finger against the netbook's frame while trying to mouse about. The MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook's touchpad also lacks scrollbar functionality - and relying on a web page's scrollbar or the arrow keys for navigation can be maddening at lower resolutions.
The MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook's connectivity options are solid but unspectacular: an HDMI port, three USB ports, a four-in-one card reader, a gigabit ethernet port and a legacy VGA port. You also get Bluetooth, and 802.11b/g/n wireless.
The headphone and microphone jacks appear on the right side of the MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook, out of the way of peripherals and cables that might be dangling in the area. An integrated 3G modem is an option, and the (modemless) model we reviewed included a vestigial Fn key.
The MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook's documentation consists of the standard complement of driver and OS discs, along with a comprehensive quickstart guide. The software bundle consists primarily of webcam companion apps, whose utility will undoubtedly vary from user to user. Of interest to parents is Kido'z, a walled-garden browser that offers heavy parental controls and monitoring, plus access to kid friendly sites. Some of the more comprehensive tools are locked in a subscription package.
The MSI Wind 12 U230 netbook has a lot to like, but its battery life - 3hrs, 48 mins in our tests - is a dealbreaker. The average battery life for netbooks is about 7hrs. It's unfortunate, considering the Wind12 U230's strong general performance and portable design. But being mobile means not being tethered to a power outlet; and in the configuration we tested, the Wind12 U230 lacked staying power.