MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D: Excellent All-in-One Hobbled by Poor Peripherals
At a Glance
MSI AE2420 3D
The MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D boasts impressive performance in an attractive shell, plus 3D technology.
The MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D wants to be your everything. This slick PC is the first big-screen all-in-one to offer 3D technology, shutter glasses included. If you don't find 3D terribly enchanting, it also has a large multitouch screen, myriad ports (including two USB 3.0 connections), and a speedy Intel Core i7 processor.
The Wind Top AE2420 3D, priced at $1800 (as of December 6, 2010), offers a lot more than just 3D technology. It's equipped with a 2.53GHz Core i7-860S processor, 4GB of RAM, 1TB of hard-drive space, and a 23.6-inch multitouch display. Featured as well are a Blu-ray disc player (along with software for playing 3D Blu-ray discs), a 1.3-megapixel Webcam (with microphone), and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium.
The AE2420's clear acrylic frame will make an attractive addition to your living room, your kitchen, or any other space where you might want a touchscreen all-in-one. The silver speakers, which sit on the face of the machine below the touchscreen, are adorned with an attractive swirl pattern. You'll find a number of touch-sensitive buttons just below the screen, too, with shortcut controls for adjusting the volume, toggling the display, starting Windows Media Center, tweaking the screen brightness, and shutting off the screen or the entire computer.
Ports-wise, the AE2420 is sure to keep most everyone happy. The left side is reserved for media, with the slot-loading Blu-ray combo drive, two USB 3.0 ports, and a multiformat card reader. The rest of the ports are on the rear, and include four USB 2.0 ports (for a total of six USB ports), VGA- and HDMI-out, the power jack, a gigabit ethernet connector, and microphone and headphone jacks. It would have been nice if the headphone and mic jacks were somewhere a bit more accessible, such as on the side; as things stand, you'll need a fairly long cord to use a wired headset comfortably. The AE2420 also has built-in 802.11b/g/n wireless connectivity.
The bundled Chiclet-style keyboard is wireless, a welcome feature in the all-in-one category. It's also rather small, however; it has no room for dedicated media buttons, and the keys can be uncomfortable for users with larger hands. The matte-black keys are stiff and a bit noisy, so using them feels and sounds as if you're punching out letters on a typewriter.
The three-button wireless optical mouse is smaller than normal but features a comfortable, contoured design. As with the keyboard, users with large hands will likely find the mouse uncomfortably small. The good news is that you'll have no issues performing the majority of mouse gestures on the touchscreen, so you might not even mind the mouse's shortcomings.
Multimedia playback--both video and games--is excellent on the AE2420. This all-in-one posted a very strong score of 118 in our WorldBench 6 tests, higher than most of its competitors but still short of Apple's Core i5 (123) and Core i7 (128) iMacs.
Thanks to its 2.8GHz Core i7 processor and discrete ATI Radeon HD5730 graphics card, the AE2420 managed 56 frames per second on our Unreal Tournament 3 benchmark (high settings, at a resolution of 1920 by 1200 pixels). By comparison, the HP TouchSmart 600 Quad managed only 39 fps at a lower resolution (1680 by 1050 pixels). Even so, the AE2420 still couldn't touch the i5 and i7 iMacs, which delivered 72 fps at the same resolution.
High-def (1080p) video playback looks fantastic on the glossy 23.6-inch LED screen, which offers rich, crisp colors and strong contrast. Audio quality is also very good: The built-in speakers benefit from THX TruStudio Pro technology, which helps them produce a deep surround sound.
Of course, what we're really interested in is the AE2420's 3D playback--which, unfortunately, doesn't work quite as seamlessly as the rest of the machine's multimedia features do.
The AE2420 comes with an accessory bundle that contains a remote control and one pair of MSI 3D Infinity shutter glasses for viewing 3D content. MSI also tosses in all of the necessary software, including Roxio CinePlayer for playing 3D Blu-ray discs and converting regular 2D content into 3D.
Almost everything works pretty well: 3D-enabled games and videos play back with just a bit of ghosting. The shutter glasses however, are less impressive. For one thing, they're heavy, clunky, and uncomfortable to wear (even for shutter glasses). On top of that, they shut off automatically when you're not within the sensor range (to conserve battery life), but the range is so limited that anyone approaching the high end of average height (I'm 5'7") will have to slouch to keep them turned on.
If you're looking for a sexy all-in-one PC, the MSI Wind Top AE2420 3D boasts impressive performance and attractive casing, all with the benefit of that newfangled 3D technology we keep hearing so much about. But MSI will need to take another look at its shutter glasses if its 3D playback is going to stand out.