MSI has done a good job of covering some middle ground with the U200 and, although it will struggle with gaming or intensive graphics processing tasks, it's more than good enough to handle just about everything else you can throw at it. It's slim, versatile, attractive and well-specced, and those who appreciate the extra processing power shouldn't have too much trouble justifying the price.
Attractive design; decent processor; high-resolution display; good specifications.
Keyboard takes quite a bit of getting used to; lack of shortcut keys and additional controls; gloss screen prone to dust and glare.
Intel CULV SU3500 1.4GHz processor, 2GB DDR2 memory, 12.1in (1,366 x 768) display, 320GB hard drive, 1.3-megapixel webcam, multi-card reader, 10/100/1000 LAN, 802.11 b/g/n wireless, graphics card output (15-pin, D-Sub), USB2.0 Port (x3), mic-in port/headphone output, HDMI, Windows 7 Home Premium, 297 x 190 x 24.5mm, 1.5kg
MSI has a good reputation in the netbook market, and has extended its Wind branding with the successor to the popular U100. The Wind U200 moves away from Eee-inspired netbooks owing to its relatively large screen and powerful processor, and is being described by the company as more of a mini notebook.
This seems warranted when you take a look at the specs. The U200 sports Intel's SU3500 1.4GHz processor, an upgrade on the more common Atom, and a 12.1in display capable of a healthy 1,366 x 768 resolution.
The device also offers 2GB of RAM and a 320GB hard drive, although it predictably comes with integrated graphics. The U200 is well kitted out on the multimedia front - aside from the lack of an optical drive - and offers a multi-card reader, 1.3-megapixel webcam and HDMI-out, along with twin speakers mounted under the front lip of the enclosure. It also has 10/100/1000 LAN and 802.11b/g/n wireless, optional Bluetooth and three USB2.0 ports at the sides.
The U200 is certainly a sleek and attractive looking portable, and we'd recommend the 'piano black' rather than the 'pearl white' as the more attractive of the two designs.
A full-sized ergonomic keyboard boasts a key surface area 51 per cent bigger than normal, allegedly making for a more comfortable and responsive typing experience. But, while the individual keys are fairly large, we struggled to get used to their close proximity.
The trackpad is nicely responsive, if a little small, and the lack of dedicated controls for media and other functions is partly made up for by the range of shortcuts available via the Fn key.
In terms of real-world performance, we were quite pleased by the U200's versatility. The boost in screen resolution makes it possible to work with multiple documents at once and, although the gloss display is a little susceptible to glare and reflections in direct sunlight, it's colourful and vibrant and perfectly big enough to enjoy media content on the move. The twin speakers are also well placed and offer clean sound, although they are a little quiet.
MSI claims six and a half hours of battery life with the U200, and we'd have no problems accepting that it is capable of getting close to this with light use. We ran a Battery Eater test which effectively thrashes all the main components and reports a time under maximum duress. This came out at three and a quarter hours, which is not bad for a 'mini notebook' of this size.
Pleasingly, the U200 comes preloaded with Windows 7 Home Premium, which proved to be very responsive during general use.
At 1.4kg it's a little heavier than you'd expect, but this is a price worth paying if you need a little extra power over your more standard netbook.