MSI Wind U120 reviewed: cheap netbook let down by poor battery

MSI's original Wind U100 remains one of the best-known and better-selling netbooks, not least because MSI niftily allowed other companies to use the OEM design and rebadge it for their purposes.  Nothing lasts forever, though, and the company has a new range of netbooks out for 2009, the most distinctive of which is the MSI Wind U120.  Does a new, "businesslike" monochrome casing make all the difference?  LaptopMag have had one of the first U120's on their test bench to find out.

First impressions are good, with the design improved and less toy-like and the keyboard highly usable.  Performance from the Intel Atom N270 processor is never going to be much different from the rest of the netbook crowd, but the U120 adds solid wireless performance to the mix in an attempt to stand out.  On the negative side, the trackpad and its buttons aren't particularly friendly, and most crippling the battery life is actually down on what the U100 managed: 45 minutes less, in fact.

Where MSI claw back ground is on price.  The Wind U120 starts at just $379, which is $70 less than its predecessor and significantly less than rivals.  However those rivals – particularly the Samsung NC10 and HP Mini 2140 – best it on battery life, to the tune of 2hrs.  In the end, this is a machine for those on a very tight budget; anyone with more to spend will find more capable machines elsewhere.