We've got a feeling that netbooks are on the way out. These diminutive little laptops may soon be replaced by sultry, sleek tablets such as the iPad 2, or even hybrid Android slates with attachable keyboards such as the Asus Eee Pad Transformer.
But as long as netbooks are kicking around, we'll keep reviewing 'em, and this one's a corker -- the MSI U270, an 11.6-inch netbook that can be yours for about £360. It's pricier than many of its breed, but it packs a dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM. A 12.1-inch model is also available.
Visually, the U270 looks exactly like... a netbook. There's not a great deal of visual flair exhibited here -- a dotted pattern over the lid and wrist rest slightly jazzes up the proceedings, but this isn't the most ostentatious little machine we've ever set eyes on.
It might not be flashy on the lid-side, but the design is certainly practical on the interior -- the keyboard is sensibly spaced out, with a generous gap left between each key, to cut down on mistakes while typing. The keyboard generally is impressive, and because it feels sturdy, you'll be able to really hammer out missives at speed. Our only gripe is that the Enter key is rather small -- you might find your pinky finger missing its mark occasionally.
The trackpad is not as impressive, sadly. It's very small, as are the click buttons, which feel just a little stiff, and could tire your thumb out after a long Web-cruising session.
It's reasonably light at 1.3kg, and measures 297 by 190 by 31mm. The battery pack adds quite a lot of bulk though, so bear that in mind if you're stuffing this netbook into a slim satchel. Happily the power transformer is quite small.
Around the edges there's a decent smattering of ports -- we're especially happy to see both VGA and HDMI outputs, three USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0), Ethernet, a multi-format card reader and 3.5mm sockets for headphones and a mic. There's a webcam stuck above the display too. The U270 is running Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit, and packs a 320GB hard drive.
Glares and graces
Speaking of the display, this is a rather unusual screen. For one thing, it has an anti-glare coating, and it's also boasting a curiously high resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, which is higher than most netbooks can muster. A more standard 1,024x600-pixel resolution model is also be available for around £20 less, which we think is a definitely a false economy.
The extra resolution means photos look crisp and sharp, and websites feel pleasantly roomy. The anti-glare coating means you'll have a deal of success if you want to use the U270 outdoors, and you won't have your surfing sessions ruined by irritating reflections.