MSI Wind Top AE2400 review
The MSI Wind Top AE2400 is a touchscreen, Windows 7-based, all-in-one PC, which is promoted as "the ultimate multimedia package".
The specs are quite impressive for a machine that retails at a penny less than £950. You've got Windows 7 Home Premium running via an Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400 processor (clocked at 2.7GHz) backed up by an ATI Radeon HD 5730 3D GPU with 1GB DDR3 VRAM, as well as the machine's 4GB of DDR3 RAM. There's also a 1TB HDD to store all of your media and game data.
So how does all this hardware perform? Well, for starters, the machine has a pretty swift boot up time which is handy if you're planning on using the AE2400 as a family centred PC - maybe even replacing your dining room TV setup. From the time you click the power button everything is loaded and ready to go in just over a minute and a half.
Basic tasks like word processing and surfing the web are almost instantaneous and more strenuous activity like photo editing is dealt with efficiently and without much trouble at all. HD video on the AE2400 is excellent via the 23.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 screen. It handled 30fps, 1080p, downloaded content without any stuttering using VLC and Media Player Classic.
With streaming HD content there was a tiny amount of stutter with World Cup footage on the iPlayer (and CPU usage seemed a little high at around 70-80 per cent), but an episode of Dr Who looked very sharp and played back nicely. Downloaded HD content from the iPlayer played back using Adobe Air was also stutter-free.
YouTube 1080p content was seamless and CPU usage was down to around 30 per cent indicating that YouTube is more efficient at offsetting HD video processing to the GPU -which probably says more about the BBC's encoding than the AE2400's ability to stream HD.
Blu-ray playback looked absolutely stunning (as Blu-rays should do) and the remote control was very responsive when using the built-in Blu-ray player software. The remote also worked completely with Windows Media Player and Centre, and basic commands also worked with VLC and Media Player Classic.
Sound on the AE2400 is very good, much better than a TV of similar size. It has two 5-Watt speakers backed up by a 10-Watt subwoofer and it played films and music loudly with little vibration or distortion.
We also tested the AE2400 on a couple of games from the Steam network - Iron Grip Warlord and Mass Effect 2 (both demos) - and gameplay was fluid and the graphics looked great. There was no lag and no instances of slow-down.
When it comes to connectivity with the AE2400 you've got VGA out, six USB sockets, an eSATA port, HDMI and SPDIF. It's got a 6-in-1 card reader located on the bottom left-hand side and you've also got a 1.3-megapixel webcam and built-in mic. There's also a TV tuner built-in (although we couldn't fully test this as there was no roof-top aerial at the test location - the included mini-aerial didn't pick up any signal as is often the case).
So we've covered the pros, but what of the cons? Well, firstly it isn't the best looking all-in-one that we've seen. It looks a bit plasticy and square and isn't really as aesthetically pleasing as some of its rivals - most notably the Acer Aspire Z5610, the Sony Vaio VPCL12MIE or the HP TouchSmart 600. The remote control is very ugly - it works well as described above, but it has the square look and feel of a TV from the 1990s.
The multi-touch features are also pretty poor. After using an iPhone and and iPad regularly, the screen seemed pretty sluggish and it was impossible to accurately click on a link or a small button. The included stylus improves accuracy, but who wants to use a stylus? The MSI MultiTouch Gadget software is a nice inclusion, which makes the touchscreen experience a little bit easier, but it almost feels as if you're using it just for the sake of it to get your touchscreen money's worth.
The wireless mouse and keyboard might make things a little more efficient, although the review sample we received had no mouse and no USB sensor to get these working, unfortunately, so we can't really comment on how well they performed. We did plug in and use our own wireless mouse and keyboard setup though - and found the machine to work fine with these. We can't see there being any issue with the MSI supplied mouse or keyboard.
As stated the AE2400 has a bit of a plasticy feel to it, and it looks a bit, well, cheap - but that's only really when you're up close to the machine. From a distance it looks quite shiny and sleek and it wouldn't be out of place as a replacement for the TV in a dining room for example.
Obviously noise is a factor when using any PC as a media player but the AE2400 uses a low-power TDP 65W CPU, so fan noise is kept to a minimum. The optical drive didn't make any more noise than a traditional Blu-ray player would either. Although it has to be said that the machine does make a heck of a din when you first turn it on and it boots into life - but this only lasts about a second so it's not the end of the world.
Deciding what score to give the AE2400 was difficult. If the machine didn't bother with the touchscreen features, which we found to be unresponsive, and instead was marketed as a simple sub-£1000 multimedia all-in-one PC, then it would have probably scored an eight. But, as the multi-touch features are a key part of this machine's make-up, it has to lose a mark.
It is still, however, a decent, solid, multimedia machine, even if it doesn't look quite as slick as some of its rivals. If you're looking at performance and the specs alone, then you're definitely onto a winner.