MSI Wind U230-040 Review - MSI's Atom Smasher
MSI U230 Design
The styling of the MSI U230 is fairly conventional for a product in the netbook segment - it uses a glossy plastic body with rounded corners and edges similar to the Dell Inspiron Mini and the Acer Aspire One series of netbooks. The paint on the U230 is black with a subtle dusting of cyan coloured metallic flecks which gives it a slight shimmering quality when light is reflecting off the cover. Finger prints are easily visible on the MSI U230, so keep a cloth handy if you want this notebook to be presentable at any given moment (a cloth is not included with the U230).
The plastic appearance may or may not appeal to you and for the $470 street price some customers may have expected a bit better styling.
Opening the cover reveals a design quirk: the screen only tilts back about 10 degrees which makes it rather difficult to view standing up, or shared in a group. There's nothing preventing the screen from tilting further back (i.e. the battery and keyboard aren't in the way), hopefully this is something that would be improved in subsequent designs.
The keys are flexible and pivot slightly at the edges.
The keyboard is clicky and doesn't require much strength to depress. The keys themselves wiggle or tilt left or right depending on where pressure is placed, and if you accidentally hit between two keys, both keys end up tilting toward each other. I guess you'd call the keys flexible and I think this is what MSI means by the "EDS keyboard" (or "Ergonomic De-Stress") which features larger keys to reduce typing stress as compared to smaller keyboards. It doesn't seem to affect how a person types, but I would have liked to have firmer keys for a more confident feel.
The redundant "\" key where ALT key should be. An annoyance to power users
who use ALT to open menus.
The layout is fairly logical with the volume and brightness controls mapped to the cursor keys, and Home, PgUp, PgDn, and End in a single column. The volume and brightness controls are also mapped to the cursor keys which makes it easy and convenient to use. The only oddball key is the redundant "\" key left of the space bar which I hit numerous times touch-typing mistaking it for the Alt key. A larger space bar would have been better and I'm not sure why MSI decided to put an unconventional key at this location.
The trackpad is slightly textured and feels proper when used. The trackpad buttons are a bit stiff and require a bit more pressure to depress properly which can make dragging actions hard to do.
Enough LEDs for a Christmas tree.
Unlike other models I have reviewed or used recently, the MSI Wind U230 has quite a number of status LEDs on the front edge: Bluetooth, Wireless, Sleep, Battery, HDD, Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Scroll Lock.
All the I/O ports are laid out in a fairly logical manner, with each port spaced far enough so you don't have cables or plugs blocking each other. The rear and front do not have any connections to speak of.
Aside from the battery, the base also has a removable cover which allows you access to two RAM slots, and the SATA hard drive. There is also an open mini PCI-Express card slot for furture add-ons.
The battery protrudes from the base a little which causes the U230 to sit on an inclined angle when laid flat on a desk. On one hand this helps promote better ventilation for internal components, but at the expense of adding a little bulk to the design.