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MSI Wind U160 review: MSI Wind U160

The chunky battery MSI slaps onto the U160 does give it a big backside, but also supplies enough energy to keep it going longer than comparable netbooks.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
3 min read


MSI Wind U160

The Good

Good battery life. Attractive design. Responsive keypad.

The Bad

Same netbook innards as every other netbook. Ordinary performance. Battery bulges out the back.

The Bottom Line

The chunky battery MSI slaps onto the U160 does give it a big backside, but also supplies enough energy to keep it going longer than comparable netbooks.


MSI's finally starting to break away from the design aesthetic that it's held for far too long with its Wind netbook lines. Previous Wind models have suffered from looking identical in all but screen size, but the U160 has a different style to it that marks it out as unique, from the round Vaio-style hinges that also act as the power button to the gold finish and lightly patterned touch pad. It's a nice looking netbook in a market rife with dull plastic.

There is one fashion faux pas that the U160 commits, however. It's the U160's six-cell battery, and there's only one thing to say. Yes, U160, your bum does look big in that. The U160's battery protrudes more than any other netbook we can recall. This does allow for a small quantity of forwards tilt when typing, but also means it's much harder to slip into a small bag than competing notebook models.


The visual design of the U160 might be a bit nicer than previous Wind models, but what about the innards? The internals of most netbooks are alarmingly similar, and MSI hasn't bucked that particular trend. That's why within the U160 you'll find a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, Intel GMA 3150 graphics processor, 1GB of RAM and a 250GB hard drive. The display is a very typical 10.1-inch 1024x600-pixel affair. Three USB ports, one VGA and an SD/MMC card reader make up your port allotment. The operating system is Windows 7 Starter Edition. There's nothing revolutionary here, just the same formula most netbook makers adhere to for better or worse. In fact, it's the exact same formula MSI used for the Wind U135.

That ugly six-cell battery that the U160 ships with is claimed by MSI to deliver exceptional performance of "up to" 15 hours. "Up to" is naturally the recourse of those who love weasel words, and we were keen to see how well the U160 stood up to our rather severe battery tests.


Like many netbooks, the U160 struggled with both PCMark05 and 3DMark06, refusing to complete either benchmark despite repeated attempts to get them to run. Ultimately, the generic hardware within them makes benchmark numbers a little redundant. It's a netbook. For basic computing tasks on a small screen, it'll do OK. Try to get it to process video, run Crysis or multitask 50 complex web pages at once, and it will collapse in a screaming heap.

At a physical level the U160 is pleasant enough to use. The bumpy patina over the mouse pad reduces the amount of accidental dragging nicely, and the keyboard uses all but the last few millimetres available to it, making it reasonably well spaced out. As is typical in most netbooks, the space bar is a little on the titchy side in order to accommodate the cursor keys to the left, which might annoy some users.

All this leads up to the thrilling finale, where we reveal whether MSI's claim of 15 hours battery life is actually achievable. Our standard battery test involves disabling all battery-saving features, maximising screen brightness and running full-screen video to really punish notebook and netbook batteries. It's the exact opposite of an "up to" figure, as it gives you a sensible ground mark that you should at least hit in real-world usage.

Bearing in mind the feature-identical U135 only managed three hours and 40 minutes in the same test, we were very curious to see if the chunkier battery on the U160 could best it. To be completely honest, we were somewhat hoping the 15-hour claim was at least a little hyperbolic, as having the same video running for nearly a day might have driven us mad. The U160's battery lasted a very respectable four hours and 36 minutes in our tests.

That's not 15 hours, now is it? It's still a good score, and with prudent power management it's fair to suggest you might get through a working day with the U160, something that not too many netbooks can actually manage. We do wish that notebook vendors could tone down the hyperbole a little, though.