capsule review

MSI Wind Top AE1900 (01SUS) All-in-One Desktop PC

At a Glance
  • MSI Wind Top AE1900

    PCWorld Rating

Separating the AE1900 from its all-in-one PC peers are its 18.5-inch, single-touch display and its affordable $529 (as of 7/2/09) price. Its screen is larger than the 15.6-inch Asus Eee Top ET1602, which is only $30 cheaper, and it has an integrated DVD±RW drive. The AE1900's identically priced rival, the 18.4-inch Averatec All-in-One D1130 Series, also has a DVD writer but lacks a touchscreen.

All three systems feature an almost identical recipe of standard nettop specs: a variant of Intel's 1.6GHz Atom processor (the Atom 230 in the AE1900's case), 1GB of memory, integrated graphics, and a 160GB hard disk. We tested the entry-level Wind Top AE1900, but MSI also offers a more powerful version, the 05SUS, with a 1.6GHz Atom 330 dual-core processor and 2GB of DDR2-533 memory. (We tested the dual-core Atom chip in the 15.6-inch Shuttle X50 all-in-one, and its benchmark results didn't show a noticeable bump in overall speed.)

The Wind Top AE1900's general performance--it managed a mark of 39 on our WorldBench 6 test suite--is right on a par with that of its close all-in-one competitors; though the Asus and Shuttle surpassed it with a result of 41, in practical terms there's not much of tangible difference. As we expected, the AE1900's underpowered integrated Intel GMA950 graphics weren't able to complete any of our 3D gaming benchmarks, even at 1024 by 768 resolution.

The display itself is acceptable, but the native resolution of 1366 by 768 is low for a screen this size; the text wasn't as crisp as I'd like. I also perceived a bit too much red saturation in the high-definition trailers I watched.

MSI's preinstalled software half-heartedly attempts to liven up the touchscreen experience beyond what Windows XP Home can provide. The interface encourages you to poke the screen through the use of large icons for launching applications or displaying pictures. Also included are a couple of games that you control using the AE1900's integrated 1.3-megapixel Webcam. Overall, though, the experience isn't as immersive as what you'll find on the Dell Studio One 19 (a faster, pricier, 18.5-inch all-in-one with a dual-touch screen). A dual-touch screen will let you use two fingers at once for iPhone-like pinching gestures that will be supported by Windows 7.

Though MSI smashed the letters and numbers as close together as possible on the AE1900's bundled keyboard, it also squeezed in eight media and application-launching function buttons at the top. The matching mouse receives the same shrinking treatment, but it's no different in functionality than what you'd find in the bargain bin. It would be nice to see wireless options for both, even if that made the system more expensive.

The AE1900 can't be upgraded. It's a shame, given that other all-in-ones at this price will at least allow you to get in there, screwdriver in hand, to upgrade the RAM or replace the hard drive. You can always connect an external drive to one of the AE1900's four USB ports (two located on the side and two on the rear), but aside from an additional plug for gigabit ethernet connectivity, and a four-in-one media card reader, that's all you get. At least the AE1900 comes with integrated 802.11b/g/n wireless networking.

A nice, big display, a touchscreen, 802.11n wireless capabilities, available in black or white...the AE1900 seems to have the basics covered. But a lack of upgradability, along with picture quality that's average at best, pulls this system away from the top of our budget all-in-one list.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The AE1900 all-in-one desktop provides netbook-like performance, but sweetens the deal with a large touchscreen.

    Pros

    • Big touchscreen for the price
    • Matches closest rivals in performance

    Cons

    • Lower resolution makes images less crisp
    • No upgrades
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