Compared to the ASUS Eee PC seashell design, this 12 inch Wind layout is of similar design with a few differences. The finish on the Wind12 is of a medium gloss which still shows fingerprints in the right lighting, but it is not nearly as bad as the high gloss finish of the Eee PCs.
The webcam on the MSI Wind U230 is a 1.3MP version which is a nice feature of the U230 given that many netbooks are only equipped with a 0.3MP webcam. Next to the webcam is the built-in microphone.
The keyboard of the U230 resembles a typical laptop keyboard as far as key spacing goes. The layout is nearly identical to that of the ASUS Eee PC 1201N which is also a 12 inch model. The one unique thing that jumped out at me is that rather than making the spacebar a little longer, they duplicated the pipe and back slash key to the left of the spacebar. This seems to be common with MSI as they did the same thing on the X-Slim X340.
The touchpad is nice and easy to use. The feel of the touchpad is that of textured metal which makes it easy to find without looking down to find it. We also noticed that this touchpad has two distinct buttons which again makes it easier to feel for the left or right button without having to look down.
Here is the front of the U230 while it is closed. We can see a glimpse of the touchpad buttons and on the far right side are a series of indicator LEDs.
On the left side of the MSI Wind12 U230 is the power adapter plug, VGA D-Sub port, an exhaust vent, HDMI port and a USB port. While the U230 never really gets too hot, left-handed people may find some warm air blowing on their hand when using an external mouse.
On the right side of the MSI U230 are the headphone and microphone jacks, an empty hole, two more USB 2.0 ports, 4-in-1 card reader, RJ45 network port and a security lock port. The 4-in-1 card reader only supports XD/SD/MMC/MS memory cards.
The back of the U230 does not contain any external interfaces, but rather just shows the battery of this MSI Wind 12; it uses the 6 cell battery to elevate the back of the U230 for a more ergonomic angle.
Here is the bottom of the MSI Wind 12 U230 which doesn’t show much yet, but you can see that the access panel requires two screws to be removed. The access panel covers a large portion of the bottom which means we should see a little more than just the hard drive and memory. The last item we wanted to be sure to point out is that MSI put a sticker just above the U230 label which provides the US support phone number. So really, no matter who has the notebook, they have the support line with the netbook at all times. Kudos to MSI for this little addition to make any necessary support readily available!
With the bottom access panel removed, we definitely see the hard drive and memory, but we also see a heat pipe cooling what seems to be the AMD Athlon Neo X2 processor and RS-780MN chipset. We also notice what appears to be an empty mini PCI slot above the hard drive. There is no mention of it in the U230 specifications.
The hard drive in the U230 is a Seagate Momentus 5400.6 320GB hard drive. We have seen this model used in a number of netbooks this year as the standard netbook hard drive size has increased from 160GB to 320GB.
The U230 has two SO-DIMM slots available, but MSI seems to have elected to only install a single 2GB memory module which is obviously only in single channel, instead of utilizing the benefits of dual channel memory by installing two 1GB SO-DIMM module. We would have liked to have seen dual channel memory being utilized out of the box instead of requiring the user to buy more memory to take advantage of this standard technology.
Here is the 6 cell battery that powers the U230 when not confined to AC power. Rated for 11.1V, 5200mAh and 58Whr, this lithium Ion battery should do fairly well.
In order to show our next observation, we first wanted to provide a shot of our ASUS Eee PC 1000HE that we keep on hand and use regularly. This picture shows the 1000HE LCD opened as far as it can. In this position, you can easily stand at a table or desk and use the 1000HE to show others standing what is on the screen for the quick demo.
Now that you have seen the 1000HE fully extended, here is the MSI Wind12 U230 fully extended. The LCD hinges are already hitting the battery casing to prevent it from extending back any further. This seems like a design flaw from our perspective as any other netbook or notebook we have used was able to extend back far enough to be usable while standing at a table. The U230 is not.
Now that we have seen the U230 in and out, let’s move on to the performance results!