We’re all familiar with what a netbooks and a nettops are: they’re low cost, lower powered CPU-based computers that are really just for surfing the web and light computing tasks. Expanding on these products are all-in-one computers, which take the same low-cost approach, without getting into the high-end offerings such as the HP TouchSmart.
The MSI Wind AE1900 has more or less the same computing power of a nettop, which is more or less a netbook without a screen or keyboard. What MSI have done is build the functionality of a nettop into a monitor and have given it a touchscreen. Asus have a similar device, the Eee Top which we looked at in November 2008, only their screen is smaller where the AE1900 has a massive 18.5-inch 16:9 display. This can all be operated without a keyboard, as the screen can function solely by touch with a virtual onscreen keyboard when needed.
All of which works very well indeed, to the point where after a few hours in use you actually forget you’re not using a keyboard anymore. The Wind AE1900 runs Windows XP, so it’s familiar to most, easy to use and even better with a touchscreen. All the applications on the system can be launched from a quick menu that boots when the computer starts-up and all with a simple press on the corresponding icon.
Its CPU is of the same ilk as those inside netbooks, so a great deal of high-powered processing tasks won't be possible and playing games can’t really be achieved due to a lack of graphics processing power, sitting on an integrated GMA950 chipset as is the case with many netbooks. Movie playback from the DVD drive came across well however and seemed ideal for the widescreen form factor. The audio was at a good enough level from the speakers to be worthy of a TV replacement.
What’s noticeable about the AE1900 is how responsive the screen is to the touch, far more than we’ve experienced on some of the leading mobile phones. The only beef we have is that the display isn’t multi touch, so can't use two fingers to manipulate images much like you can on the iPhone.
It really isn’t as important to zoom in and out of pictures and websites as it is on small screen mobile phones, but it is becoming a key part of upcoming software. Windows 7 is fully touchscreen-enabled to address new technology, as is the new software from Corel, all of which is very Minority Report if you ask us.
The screen itself has a glass-like border to the display, which really isn’t shown off in the pictures we’ve included. Its appearance comes across non-invasive and blends in well with the home as it almost looks like a large digital photo frame and could probably get away with being mistaken for one by most.
Just in case you did ever want to use a keyboard and mouse with the Wind AE1900, a wired version of both is provided along with a stylus. We can’t help thinking that a wireless keyboard and mouse would be more suitable, although we understand the higher costs involved and the range where AIO resides is all about being very affordable. Curiously enough, the stylus has no housing on the AE1900 leaving it to wander the desk aimlessly or resorting in Blu-Tacking it to the screen just to have it nearby.
As just a normal computer it saves space saving around the home as it has no base station as everything is built into the screen's rear. It’s also very quiet in operation, besides pulling under 45Watts of electricity whilst in use per hour – that’s 80% less than most PCs.
All this with a touchscreen that’s very responsive and is great to use and it’s a fairly good PC to have even as main computer for most of its uses.