The recently launched MSI Wind U160 10-inch netbook is by far the most good looking MSI Wind netbook we've come across to date.
Like the MSI Wind U135 netbook, the MSI Wind U160 is also based on the newer Pine Trail Intel Atom N450 processor and it comes with more RAM and hard drive space compared to the Wind U135.
The MSI Wind U160 retains a characteristic design element: its battery bulge on the back of its spine. This elevates the netbook, creating a downward slope towards the palmrest. This aids better typing while the Wind U160's perched on a desk or flat surface.
MSI Wind U160: Design
Compared to older MSI Wind netbooks (MSI Wind U120, MSI Wind12 U210, etc.), the MSI Wind U160 is definitely a breath of fresh air in terms of looks and design. The Wind U160's screen lid is colored in a deep shade of coffee brown with a glossy layer on top - surprisingly, it barely attracts any fingerprints. Also, the MSI logo engraved on the screen lid lights up when you turn on the netbook - looks pretty cool. The insides (screen bezel, keyboard, palmrest) are painted in a lighter shade of metallic brown. The Wind U160's tubular central hinge and battery at the back are covered in silver.
The chassis is slim, less than an inch thick, and the netbook sports a nice clean look overall. However, the MSI Wind U160's a very good looking netbook with ordinary build quality - but nothing to spoil the party. The netbook weighs a decent 1.3kg (with a six-cell battery pack).
MSI Wind U160: Usability
The MSI Wind U160 netbook comes with a 10.1-inch glossy LED-backlit screen that supports a 1024x600 pixel resolution. The screen is adequately bright (both indoors and outdoors) and good for reading both text and video. Where the Lenovo Ideapad S10-3's (review coming soon) screen's brighter in comparison, the Wind U160 manages to do a better job in displaying warmer, vibrant colors.
Like the Wind U120, the MSI Wind U160 retains a characteristic design element: its battery bulge on the back of its spine. This actually elevates the netbook at the hinge (while placed on a flat surface), creating a downward slope towards the palmrest. We find this to aid typing better while the Wind U160's perched on a desk or flat surface. Of the netbooks reviewed recently - including Acer Aspire One 532h, HP Mini 210-1095tu, etc. - none have the Wind U160's "useful" battery bulge.
We have no complaints from the isolated, chiclet styled keyboard of the MSI Wind U160 netbook. It is in fact much better than the one we experienced on the Wind U135. The Wind U160's keyboard's keys are nicely placed and provide optimum feedback while typing. Similarly, the textured, granulated touchpad is nice and responsive - definitely better than the Wind U135's touchpad. Although we would've preferred two separate mouse buttons, we don't mind the Wind U160's single-strip mouse button. The 1.3MP webcam grooved into the top screen bezel of the netbook is good for online video chats on Skype. The microphone is placed on the right screen bezel.
Overall, in terms of usability, the MSI Wind U160's keyboard, screen, and touchpad combo is pretty good.
MSI Wind U160: Hardware Specs
The MSI Wind U160 netbook comes equipped with an Intel Atom N450 1.66-GHz processor. But it comes with 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive - only the HP Mini 210 can boast of this in our Top 5 Netbook listings. There are three USB ports, a VGA-out, Ethernet, multicard reader, and audio jacks placed along it chassis' either edges. Like all the netbooks we've compared, the Wind U160 doesn't have Gigabit Ethernet - but it comes with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. There's also a nifty little Wi-Fi on-off toggle switch placed on the Wind U160's left edge.
It comes with 32-bit Windows 7 Starter Edition operating system. Apart from the beefed up RAM and hard drive, the MSI Wind U160 has pretty much a standard netbook configuration.
MSI Wind U160: Performance
The MSI Wind U160, based on its hardware configuration, didn't surprise us with its performance. A WorldBench 6 score of 36, PC Mark 05 score of 1429, and a 3D Mark 06 score of 166 are all in line with our expectations - mainstream netbook performance. We had no trouble multitasking with up to three programs simultaneously - browsing the web, listening to music, and working on Office productivity suite - which is pretty good for the Wind U160. Reading text on the screen was fine, so was watching the occasional DVD or YouTube video. We found the MSI Wind U160 played 480p HD videos streamed off YouTube just fine, but it couldn't quite handle 720p HD playback.
Also the MSI Wind U160's onboard speakers, placed along the front edge, aren't loud enough for a small room - plug in a pair of headphones and they're just as good as any other netbook's speakers. The Wind U160's six-cell battery lasted an admirable 4 hour 31 minutes on our battery benchmark test (at high performance preset and full-screen brightness). Expect close to 8 hours of browsing the web over Wi-Fi on power safe mode on a single charge on the MSI Wind U160 - now that's mighty impressive.
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