Summary

Our Score

6/10

Review Price free/subscription

While the hardware differs somewhat from a standard MSI Wind, the chassis doesn't and it's actually quite a significant failing. Indeed, looking at the U115 now makes one realise exactly how far netbook design has come in a year or so. Once upon a time the MSI Wind was deemed a cut above, now it's at best functional and at worst a little ugly.

This version is finished largely in silver and black, with a glossy patterned lid the only real attempt at some flair. Sat alongside an Asus Eee PC 1008HA, HP Compaq Mini 700, or even the relatively modest Samsung NC10 and N110, shows the U115 to be a somewhat unattractive and dull looking device. Likewise, though build quality is fair, the U115 feels quite cheap in comparison to any of the above, with some elements proving more pliable than we'd like.

Now all the above wouldn't be of such great concern were we looking at a bog-standard Wind, one that cost £250 to £300, but the U115 is £450! For that kind of money, extra features or not, we're looking for something a little more enticing than an anonymous silver and black slab!

It's not just aesthetically where the U115 is not quite up to scratch, the keyboard and touchpad could also do with some improvement. In fairness, the keyboard is still among the better ones in netbook-land, but its keys are a shade smaller than some and the layout has a few idiosyncrasies. These include the Fn key, which lurks outside the left-Ctrl key, as well as slightly narrower than standard comma and full-stop keys.

Like the keyboard the touchpad remains serviceable, but we've never quite understood why it's square rather rectangular - an aspect that would match the screen - while its buttons feel a little cheap. More worrying, though, is the lack of scroll support, which we can only surmise is due to economising on MSI's part. Again, such issues might have been tolerable if the U115 were priced like an ordinary netbook, but it's not.

No real complaint can be made of the U115's connectivity, though it's no different to any other netbook. This means three USB ports, a memory card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, a VGA output and an Ethernet port. Another element that hasn't seen an upgrade are the speakers, which are fairly weedy but just about sufficient for the occasional online video clip.

Verdict

MSI should be praised for the idea of a hybrid netbook and the battery life results demonstrate that this part of the U115 is a success. However, despite a decent feature set, £450 is far too much to ask for an otherwise uninspiring netbook.

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