This extralong life, however, comes at a price. First, the system's massive battery sticks out significantly from the bottom of the chassis, like some kind of awkward kickstand, and second, the Wind U160 costs $380 (although the official list price is even worse: $429), which is $80 more than largely comparable machines from other PC makers.Our MSI Wind U160 had a glossy dark brown finish that the company calls Fancy Gold. It's at least a nice break from the usual glossy or matte black finishes we see (although a black version of the Wind is also available). The interior is a lighter, almost faded gold color, and there's an MSI logo cut into the back of the lid and backlit in white.The keyboard is a standard flat island-style design, and works for most of our usual typing needs. There's a bit too much flex under the fingers around the middle, and there's a shrunken right Shift key--our biggest problem with Netbook keyboards--but we've also seem more egregious offenders. The touch pad is underwhelming, composed of tiny raised dots in the wrist rest (similar to most Asus Eee PC touch pads). We don't find that style to be particularly comfortable to use, although your mileage may vary.
One odd note, instead of the touch pad having a scroll bar section along the right side of the pad for vertical scrolling, it instead has scroll points in the top and bottom right corners of the pad. Just hold your finger on the corner and the page automatically scrolls up or down.The 10.1-inch wide-screen display has a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is standard for nonpremium Netbooks. The look and feel is beginning to seem a bit cramped, especially with more and more HD Netbooks available all the time, some for only $20 more than this system.
With three USB ports, an SD card slot, and audio in/out jacks, the connections and ports on the Wind U160 are about as typical as it gets. On the plus side, you also get Bluetooth, which is sometimes left out of entry-level Netbooks.The performance difference between Netbooks with Intel's 1.66GHz Atom N450 processors is going to minimal between brands and models. In this particular case, however, the Wind U160 came out a few seconds ahead of the pack (which includes recent Netbooks from Sony, HP, and Asus) in our Apple iTunes encoding test, and essentially tied for the top spot with the HP Mini 210 in our Jalbum photo conversion test. On the other hand, the system was slower, by an even larger margin, in our basic multitasking test.
Despite these differences, the real-world performance difference between N450 Netbooks is minimal, and you're unlikely to notice much differentiation between brands when sticking to Netbook-friendly tasks such as Web surfing, e-mail, or working with office documents.The Wind's biggest win is in battery life, where it ran for 7 hours and 18 minutes on our video playback battery drain test, using the included six-cell battery. That's close to the top of the list, bested only by the Asus 1005PE and the Dell Inspiron Mini 1012. Unfortunately, the MSI Wind achieves this through a hugely bulky battery that sticks out from the rear of the system significantly, whereas the Dell and Asus models manage to incorporate their batteries into the design of the laptop body.It might be a netbook, but the N210 isn't particularly cute. Its 265 x 189 x 35.6mm, 1.34Kg chassis is certainly small enough to draw admiring glances from passes by, but its grey lid gives it a more serious appearance than many of its rivals.
Although it's grey, the N210 isn't dull. The lid has an intricate miniature brickwork pattern (it's sexier than it sounds, honest) and is coated with a silky, translucent layer of plastic that easily helps this machine look more stylish than Samsung's first wave of netbooks. Anyone with a keen eye for design will be pleased to note that same pattern appears again just above the keyboard and again on the base of the machine.
Open the N210's lid and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Its 10-inch display has a matte coating, which means you'll be able to use the N210 it in a variety of lighting conditions -- even outdoors -- without it turning into a £280 mirror. Despite its lack of a glossy coating, the screen delivers good image fidelity -- colours are punchy, there's decent contrast and viewing angles are good for a machine at this price.
The N210's keyboard is among the best keyboards we've seen on a netbook. Its keys, despite being relatively small, are isolated, so when your fat, meandering fingers go astray, they're less likely to accidentally strike an adjacent button. Unlike some netbook keyboards, important, but less frequently used, buttons -- such as the return key, left shift, return, and the cursor buttons -- are all of a good size. This means you never have to fish around too long looking for them. The mouse selector buttons are a little too small for our liking, but given that the mouse trackpad itself offers multi-touch navigation, this is a small gripe.
Connectivity on the N210 is fairly standard for a netbook. Wireless networking is present and correct thanks to a 802.11n Wi-Fi controller and it has Bluetooth 2.1. The right side of the machine has a couple of USB ports and a D-Sub VGA video output (sadly, HDMI isn't present) while the front edge gets an SD memory card slot and the power switch. The right side houses a 100Mbps Ethernet port, mic and headphone jacks and -- more unusually -- a USB port that can be used to charge your USB gadgets whether the laptop is on, in standby mode, or switched off completely.
Battery company Boston Power thinks it can bring electric car battery manufacturing to the U.S. with some help from government stimulus funds.The Westborough, Mass.-based company on Monday is scheduled to hold a press event in nearby Auburn where it plans to build a factory to make lithium-ion batteries for laptops and electric vehicles.
Construction of the facility, which used to be a distribution center for a clothing retailer, is contingent on a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced battery and cell manufacturing grant program.
Boston Power has applied for $100 million in the program and has lined up $9 million in state loans, according to founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud.The general feeling is that the stimulus money gives the investment community the shot in the arm to dare, she said.The $2 billion advanced battery manufacturing program was established earlier this year in the stimulus act to promote development of domestic battery industry for a coming generation of electric vehicles.Competition for the battery loan money, however, is fierce with about 160 companies said to be applying for the money. The U.S. Energy Department, which was criticized by renewable energy industries for delays, has said it expects to decide on the grants in the summer.Four-year-old Boston Power already operates three factories in Asia to make batteries for Hewlett-Packard laptops. Those plants will serve as a blueprint for the Auburn facility, Lampe-Onnerud said.
It could take about three years to build the plant, which the company could start working on later this year, she said.Boston Power on Monday is expected to disclose the name of its auto battery, called Swing, which the company has been developing for several months. The company expects to make batteries for plug-in electric vehicles as well as all-electric cars.Lampe-Onnerud said Swing is already being tested with well-known auto companies. The auto pack is based on the same cells used in Boston Power's laptop batteries which means that it a single manufacturing facility can turn out both.The company decided Massachusetts would make a good location because the state offered incentives and it's close to Boston Power's research and development facility.At Monday's press conference, five Massachusetts politicians are scheduled to speak including Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environment Ian Bowles.A Massachusetts location could be beneficial to working with European auto industry partners, Lampe-Onnerud said. We have an opportunity to fulfill existing markets and be neighbors to where emerging markets are being invented, she said.
That hasn't stopped manufacturers from releasing big and thin laptops, which generally tend to be 15-inch machines with bodies under an inch thick, most of them using an Intel Core 2 Duo ultra-low-voltage (ULV) processor. The Acer Timeline and Asus UL50VTare prime examples of these types of machines, which are attractively compact and well-built but sacrifice performance for longer battery life.The Gateway EC5809u is nearly identical to an Acer Timeline, which isn't incredibly surprising: Acer and Gateway are, after all, two brands from the same company. While this laptop does have a sturdy frame and decent specs for the price, it offers nothing new to the equation and runs last-gen ULV processors that can't compare to a Core i3 or i5. It also lacks any dedicated graphics outside of the underpowered Intel integrated processor, unlike the more gaming-friendly Asus UL50VT, which costs less than $100 more.
For $649, you can get more for your money--the Gateway NV7915u being a great case in point. If a thinner frame and longer battery life matter, then look into this, but you're paying for that slightly slimmer size.The first impression this thin 15-incher gives is of being a near lookalike to the Acer Timeline series, and that's not a bad thing. While wide and flat, this notebook's most definitely thin. A denim blue brushed-metal lid (red and silver are also available) with its signature off-center chrome Gateway logo opens neatly to reveal a clean interior: matte black around the flat keyboard and large inset off-center trackpad, glossy black plastic around the inset glossy screen.The battery is well-integrated underneath, so the EC5809u rests flat and packs cleanly in a backpack with no bulge. The EC5809u manages to include an optical drive in its narrow chassis, much like the Asus UL50VT. On a slightly annoying note, though, the L-shaped AC adapter tip plugs right next to the drive door, and can block the door from opening depending on the angle that it's facing.