MSI's back with a bang in the netbook game. Its answer to rival brands offering 11.6-inch netbooks? The 12.1-inch Wind12 U210 which is one of the first netbooks to run on AMD's Athlon Neo MV-40 1.6-GHz processor and comes with dedicated ATI X1270 GPU. What does all this mean, I hear you ask? Performance levels never before seen on a mainstream netbook.
It looks like an elder sibling compared to the 10-inch MSI Wind U120. From its screen lid and bezel to its keyboard, touchpad, and rest of the chassis, the MSI Wind12 U210 is encased in white plastic all over. It doesn't look like a toned-down, "childish" laptop, but an excellent option for a low-cost business netbook. Where most other netbooks in the market come with up to a 11.6-inch screen, the Wind12 U210 offers a 12.1-inch widescreen display with 1366x768 pixel resolution. The screen is glossy in nature and good enough by netbook standards. Not only is its screen slightly larger than the rest, but it offers a slightly larger keyboard and touchpad than any other netbook we've seen. For a netbook, which is already unduly compromised with space, this is excellent news. The Wind12 U210 is very well built with the chassis showing no sign of weakness and quite slim despite its six-cell battery bulge at the hinge.
Also this is the only netbook I've come across which could play HD 720p videos without a hitch.
In terms of features, it comes with a standard 160GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. But this is the only netbook we've seen which comes with both Gigabit Ethernet and Draft-N Wi-Fi, and also includes an HDMI port. It also comes with a 3G modem built in, and a SIM card slot under its battery compartment—a feature which will be especially useful when 3G arrives early next year. Three USB ports, twin audio jacks, VGA-out, and a multicard reader are distributed well on its slim chassis.
Performance-wise it offered unprecedented scores in our slew of synthetic benchmarks. A WorldBench 6 score of 40 is a new high, so is a PC Mark 05 score of 1949. Also this is the only netbook I've come across which could play HD 720p videos without a hitch, but not quite good enough for any kind of gaming with a 3D Mark 06 score of 317 (Nvidia ION, when will you come to Indian netbooks?). From various application loading time to plain old bootups, the MSI Wind12 U210 just felt much quicker compared to some Intel Atom Z520-based netbooks I've reviewed in the recent past. Multitasking wasn't much of an issue on the Wind12 U210 either. It comes with a face detection tool for quick login called Easy Face which works pretty well.
Its onboard sound wasn't very good, but wasn't bad either—plug in headphones and you're fine. The Wind12 U210's keyboard is almost full size and extremely comfortable to type on. It has a large touchpad with separate left and right mouse buttons, and frankly one of the most responsive and finely textured netbook touchpads I've come across since the Asus Eee PC 1000HE. Both the mouse buttons offer a solid click whenever you press them. The only thing the U210 doesn't do too well on is battery life, which is low at 1 hour 55 minutes on our benchmarks at full screen brightness and high performance battery preset. Expect close to 4 hours on a single charge while browsing the Web over Wi-Fi, which is still acceptable. That is the only chink we uncovered in the Wind12 U210's otherwise impeccable armor.
Until ION-based netbooks start surfacing, the MSI Wind12 U210 is the best bet in terms of netbook performance. If you want a netbook with very good build quality, feature set, and performance, one that comes with a large keyboard and touchpad, the MSI Wind12 U210's a no brainer at Rs. 23,999.