MSI Wind Top AE2210 £700
1st Nov 2011 | 10:39
An all-in-one PC you won't be able to keep your hands off
We have a love-hate relationship with all-in-one PCs. They should be something we love. A slick single-unit design can be as glorious as the Apple iMac 21.5-inch model, but then many seem to be vastly expensive. That high price is something pioneered by the Apple iMac 27-inch unit and certainly matched by the Sony VAIO L Series, which we again had mixed feelings about.
A low price didn't put us off the bargain Advent Discovery MT1804, so we're keen to see if the well-priced MSI Wind Top AE2210 can manage to balance a £700 price tag with good performance.
Considering its 21.5-inch size, this all-in-one computer with touchscreen capabilities can certainly fulfil the remit of being a stealth PC hidden in the corner of any room, happily doubling up as a TV, media jukebox or fully-fledged Windows 7 PC.
It comes with a mini wireless media remote, mouse and keyboard, all styled in the same shiny black plastic as the all-in-one body. Part of the styling of the MSI Wind Top AE2210 is its "invisible" clear plastic surround, which gives the display a floating look.
Wire-free is something the MSI Wind Top AE2210 almost achieves - the only lead you actually need connected is the main power supply. MSI has opted for an external power supply unit, which is something to lose and an additional thing to have to lug around. We'd argue that this could help with cooling, but the unit has an obvious cooling fan. While it mostly ticks over at a low level, it's a little disappointing that it's audible at all.
Controls on the body of the MSI Wind Top AE2210 are kept to a minimum, with power and brightness controls tucked behind the outside rim. It's the same for the optical DVD rewriter, too, with the remaining expansion ports - including an HDMI port - hidden around the back.
We think it's sensible that MSI has opted for the base Intel Sandy Bridge Core i3 2100 processor for the Wind Top AE2210. This is the second generation of Core i3 processors, and comes with the enhanced integrated HD Graphics 2000. And when we say "enhanced", we mean not utterly useless. This gives what is a relatively affordable all-in-one computer a solid dose of CPU grunt and a base level of 3D performance, although it's only DirectX 10.1 capable.
In many ways, the specification for the MSI Wind Top AE2210-031UK model that we reviewed feels far above the price tag, because it offers 1TB (1,000GB) of hard drive storage and 4GB of DDR3 memory.
As we'd hoped, Windows 7 Home Premium is the 64-bit version, so you can take full advantage of the installed 4GB of memory.
MSI hasn't skimped on the connections, providing two USB 3.0 ports on the side. So you can easily get high-speed external storage with a further four USB 2.0 ports at the back. Not available to your average user, there are two mini-PCIe slots inside. One's used for the digital TV tuners, but the other is potentially available for anyone wielding a screwdriver.
MSI has been diligent in equipping the system for entertainment. A digital TV tuner is included for TV reception, there's the integrated Media Center remote, a 1.3MP webcam with microphone and integrated speakers, which are Lucasfilm THX certified.
We also have to mention the 21.5-inch screen with an impressive 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution. As this is a smaller sized screen, this results in a high pixel density for impressive detail.
It's also a full touchscreen. If you're planning to use it as a media jukebox, this enables simple control in almost every way possible. It also seems to have an oleophobic coating that helps to keep it fingerprint free, but this tends to drag on your fingertip during use.
Connectivity on the MSI Wind Top AE2210 is also good, with the basics covered by the wireless N capabilities and wired Gigabit LAN. A side-mounted six-in-one memory card reader is provided alongside the standard DVD rewriter.
You know as soon as anyone hears that the MSI Wind Top AE2210 is a touchscreen computer, they'll have their mucky pups all over your once clear, shiny all-in-one screen. That's going to leave embarrassment if the touch functionality isn't up to much, but we're glad to say that MSI seems to have learnt from the folly of the Asus Eee Top and even the relatively useless touchscreen features of the Acer Z5763.
MSI doesn't specify the type of touch system it uses in the Wind Top AE2210. It detects activity just before you actually touch the surface, so we suspect it's an infrared bar rather than resistive or capacitive.
Generally we found it to be accurate and responsive. The supplied Wind Top software lacks design refinement, and there's no suggestion to run through the calibration process, but you're supplied with the standard Microsoft touch demos and a child-friendly touch paint package. We also happily used Media Center and other programs with just our fingertips.
The display itself does exhibit a small amount of light leakage at the top and bottom. Oddly, we felt it could have been a touch brighter, but more importantly accurate colours and good viewing angles with that high resolution help to provide an enjoyable display.
That's also backed up by the performance of the THX speakers, with genuine range from deep base through the mid range with high tones all being produced, although without much volume.
The 3D performance on the MSI Wind Top AE2210 is its most obvious weakness - don't expect to play games made in the last few years. The recent Lost Planet 2 benchmark even at a 720p resolution returned an unplayable 7fps average. The ageing 3DMark 2006 returned a score of 2654, showing it capable of playing games around the age of Half-Life 2.
We're fans of the latest Sandy Bridge Core i3 processors - for what is an entry-level processor you get a massive amount of processing power that includes Intel HyperThreading and a 3.1GHz CPU speed. This offers high speed media encoding and effortless HD playback.
A very well balanced all-in-one system, the MSI Wind Top AE2210 does a superb job of juggling good aesthetics, a sensible price point with the latest Intel technologies all wrapped up in a system that won't break the bank too heavily.
We like touching, and the MSI Wind Top AE2210 certainly enables us to do that. Accurate, precise and multi-touch functionality pushes all the right buttons. The display itself is a plus point, too. We have niggles about it, but the popping colour and that glorious 1920 x 1080 resolution won't be beaten for a good number of years at this size.
Considering the target market, we also think MSI has nailed the styling. We imagine most people won't want a PC-looking all-in-one PC, and the MSI Wind Top AE2210 certainly manages that. The wireless mini-keyboard and mouse can be easily hidden away too, leaving just the Media Center remote for enjoying TV, music and films.
It's easy to criticise in the PC world - there's always something better already out or about to come out. The main weakness within the MSI Wind Top AE2210 is the 3D graphics, but that's irrelevant for this model because if you're thinking of playing a lot of games, you shouldn't be looking at an all-in-one computer.
We're slightly more concerned by the minor light leakage at the top and bottom of the screen, which is visible in dark scenes. Another minor annoyance is the internal fan - it's very quiet but surely MSI could have managed a silent solution, especially since the PSU is external? While we appreciate the range of the THX speakers, ensuring that crisp response has reduced the total volume output.
It's also a real shame that Windows 7 can't really keep up with the touchscreen functions, since it's simply not designed as a touch interface, but that's not a weakness of the MSI Wind Top AE2210.
You can pay less than this for other machines, but you'll definitely be getting a far less capable system. To get much more, you'd have to pay almost double. Obviously gamers should look elsewhere, but for everyone else there's a lot to like about the MSI Wind Top AE2210.
The touchscreen is like a devilishly red cherry perched on a delicious cake begging you to touch it. Go on, you know you want to.