Review: MSI Wind U160 Netbook

“More power!” is at the top of everyone’s netbook wish list. And MSI delivers that with the sexy Wind U160, which pushes battery life into transatlantic territory.

The U160 is a looker. Gone is the flat, monochrome exterior of previous Winds like the U110. MSI primped the U160 with elegance through details like a superglossy chassis and a “seamless” integrated trackpad. We weren’t fans of its cramped chiclet keyboard, but given the unit’s slim profile, it’s a forgivable transgression. Otherwise, the 10-inch screen is colorful and viewable in daylight, and three USB ports and a multicard reader round out the U160’s pragmatism.

The unit doesn’t exactly push benchmarks into the stratosphere with its new Pineview 1.6-GHz Atom processor, though. In fact, the U160’s performance echoed that of the U110 we reviewed last fall. Like most netbooks, it did fine with casual web surfing and productivity tasks. Demanding tasks like heavy video (or even just casual gaming) brought it to its single-core knees, as you’d expect with an Atom-powered netbook.

This isn’t all bad though. Since the new chip consumes power conservatively, the U160 is the perfect companion for travelers. At the cost of a little screen brightness (and slightly less performance punch), we switched on ECO-mode, unplugged the power cord, and launched the 6-cell battery on a marathon computing session. It was only after roughly 11 hours of web binging that we got the requisite low power warning. This undeniably falls short of MSI’s claim of 15 hours of battery life, but it’s plenty viable for long, mobile work days or even intercontinental flights.

If you’re looking for graphics muscle and roominess, this ain’t your machine. But if the name of the game is reliable up-time and electrical-outlet independence, this is a Wind worth catching.

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