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Wednesday, 29 July 2009 13:49

MSI Wind Top AE1900 All-in-one PC reviewed

Written by Sanjin Rados

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Review [UPDATED]: An Atom-based AIO with touch-sensitive screen

 

Today’s guest is the new star in MSI’s offer – the Wind Top AE1900 WindTouch. Many of you have already seen devices such as this, or at least know what they’re all about, but in case you don’t you should know that Wind Top AE1900 is an All-In-One system, where the entire PC is a part of the 18.5 inch touch-sensitive monitor.

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The Wind Top AE1900 is obviously designed with different interiors in mind. Ice white color and see through Plexiglas edges make it look stylish and a nice fit in your workspace, living room as well as your kitchen or bedroom for instance. The 18,5 inch monitor (about 46,5cm in diagonal) is intended for 1366x768 with 16:9 format. That’s quite enough for watching a movie in your bedroom, check out internet recipes in your kitchen or just do everyday office work. The monitor’s response time is 5ms, which adheres to today’s standards.

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If you’re looking for nice performance, you should know that Wind Top AE1900 is not a powerful rig that will allow for serious gaming, but as you will see soon enough, MSI prepared a couple of cute games that aren’t MHz-hungry and can be played without using the keyboard and mouse. The simplicity and new ways of interaction with your PC are definitely a thing that AE1900 will teach its owners.

One of the non-standard ways of interaction, and at the same time one of the aces from Wind Top AE1900’s sleeve is the touch-sensitive screen. You can easily reach your destination – start a program, play a movie or a song, but to make things even easier, MSI included its launch bar software, bringing most of everyday apps to one place for easier access. You can see how the launch bar and accompanying programs look in the following few photos.

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The launch bar is automatically started after starting Windows, but if in case you don’t like it you can easily stop it and keep on working normally.

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The Work tab contains Microsoft Office apps but unfortunately they’re all trial versions and expire after 2 months. Some of the interesting apps we’ve spotted is the GanttProject for project management, Dia for UML diagrams for software engineering projects, FreeMind for better data organization, GeoGebra for young mathematicians, etc.

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AE1900 is aimed at younger and middle aged people who like to follow trends and can’t miss out on the new fashionable All-in-one. Using a touch-sensitive screen is easy to get used to but it’s best to use it in combination with the provided keyboard and mouse, as text processing and some tasks that demand more precision might require it. In case we’re talking about just a bit of text, you can do that using the virtual keyboard below.

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Despite their pretty cheap build the StarType ES300MU keyboard and StarMouse ES130 run nicely. The mouse is optical, goes into a USB port and comes with 2 buttons and a scroll wheel, whereas the keyboard is a bit smaller than standard but all the keys are there, of course. We must admit that it’s a bit too loud for our liking, but it feels nice and comes with a couple for multimedia keys that will come in handy when you need to control the volume, brightness, etc.

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MSI means business with its All-in-ones and the company currently offers two 19’’ models (AP1900 and AE1900), two 20’’ models (AE2010 and AE2000) and one large 22’ model (AE2200). The flagship features of all the models are the stylish design, touch-sensitive interface, slim design, quiet operation and the fact that they don’t take up much space.

Unfortunately we can’t say with certainty whether all the models are quiet, but our today’s test sample is. The only time you’ll hear it is when it starts, when all the fans run at maximum rpm, otherwise it’s pretty quiet and cool at the same time. The hottest spot on this device is on top, where the air outlets are. The CPU will run at 66°C in average, and the entire system will consume 50W at max.


 

The AE1900’s dimensions are 476mm x 365mm x 49mm. Unfortunately the device can’t stand upright at 90°, as it needs the support provided by the stand, so if you’re below the device’s level you’ll find it hard to watch a movie. Still, AE1900 is very portable and all you need is an outlet close by, as the AE1900 comes with a power brick. Note that there’s no battery that would allow for work without an outlet nearby.

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We’ve already talked about touch-screen interaction, and although it’s still not enough to throw your mouse and keyboard out the window, basic functions are still possible. The portability definitely adds to the appeal of this product, as we’ve been carrying it around the lab quite a bit during our testing.

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The ON/OFF key, volume +/- and brightness controls are hidden from sight and placed on the right side of the monitor, as you can see from the photo below.

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The first icon from the bottom has no key next to it, but rather the blue LED lamp which shows HDD activity. Unfortunately, due to the placement the blue light sometimes appears to be stronger than it is, and sometimes even got on our nerves.

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On the picture above you’ll notice that MSI used slim type DVD writer. Thankfully, and we say that because devices with specs such as this rarely have DVD drives, MSI decided on including it. Of course, you’re still limited to DVDs, divX files or HD quality videos 720p, and HD 1080p will introduce stutters.

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Thanks to the not-so-power-hungry Atom CPU, the system consumes about 42W, which is great especially knowing that monitor consumption is included in this figure.

The Wind Top AE1900 runs on Intel's 945GC+ICH7 chipset and 1.6GHz Atom 230. It comes with 1GB of DDR2 and 160GB HDD, as well as Intel’s integrated graphics controller the GMA950 with up to 128MB of shared memory. 

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Specs:  Wind Top AE1900 - Windows XP Home

- Intel® Atom™ 230 Processor (single core), max TDP 4W
- Intel® 945GC+ICH7
- 18.5" WSXGA 16:9 LCD Display  Touch Screen
- Intel GMA950 Share Memory up to 128MB
- 1 GB DDR2 533 (DDR2 SO-DIMM x 1 slot max.2GB ( 2048MB x 1 ))
- HD Audio, 2 internal stereo speakers 3W
- 1.3 M Webcam
- 10/100/1000 M LAN
- Wireless LAN 802.11 b/g/n (built-in card)
- Card reader 4-in-1(Support SD,MMC,MS,XD)
- Mic-in / Headphone out 1/1
- 4 x USB 2.0 
- RJ11 / RJ45 0/1 D
- HDD 160 GB SATA
- Optical Drive DVD Super-Multi
- Power AC Adapter 65W with active PFC
- Dimension 476 (W) x 365 (H) x 49mm (D)

On the rear you’ll find the DC in, another two USB 2.0 connectors, Gigabit Lan port, Mic-in and the headphone out. The SRS Premium Sound speakers are placed on the bottom whereas inside you’ll find a 802.11n wireless LAN card. 

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On the front you’ll find only the 1,3MP webcamera and integrated microphone whereas the rest of the connections are on the back of the case.

This model doesn’t come with any additional VGA, DVI or HDMI outs so you can forget about dual-display setups.

Interaction via the touch-screen is pretty efficient, at least in certain tasks such as viewing pictures in Easy Viewer (picture below). If precision is of importance you should start Touch Calibration and try to set it to your liking. Launch bar programs are a piece of cake, but you’ll soon reach for the mouse as there’s no way to perform right clicks on the screen.

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Apart from the standard function of recording video, the integrated camera can be used for face recognition during startup, detection of movement, expressions, etc. MSI included a couple of games on the AE1900 and you can play them without a keyboard and/or mouse, using only head movements. All you need to do is move your head left and right and the in-game character will mimic your movement. These games are pretty basic, but they’ll keep you entertained at least for a little while.

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Wind Top AE1900 systems are of course Atom-based, and are as such great for office work and surfing the internet. It packs enough punch to handle multimedia, with the exception of HD video. We tested this device in Sandra and compared it with the netbooks we’ve recently tested, and it reveals that they’re pretty much alike performance-wise.

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Conclusion

MSI Wind Top AE1900 is most certainly not your ordinary PC, as we’re all used to two main components – the case and the monitor. The Wind Top AE1900 however, is an All-in-one system, which holds all the needed components within and thus the name. They’re portable, take up little space compared to standard PCs, and MSI went a step further and included the touch-sensitive screen. Of course, interaction via the screen is not quite perfect, but will surely come in handy. You can easily do basic tasks such as opening apps, menus, viewing pictures, etc. Of course, using a PC without a mouse is not easy, as there are no commands which would enable performing a right click on screen, but the virtual on-screen keyboard will be more than enough for scribbles and such.

You should know that performance-wise, the AE1900 will be closer to netbooks than ordinary PCS, and understandably so, but at least the consumption will be kept real low. This system is aimed at office users and Internet surfers, but you can easily use it as a multimedia center, in case you’re content with playing a DVD, or HD quality videos 720p. The device unfortunately couldn’t handle playing 1080p video without stutters. Additionally, we must say that the integrated slim DVD writer is a nice touch.

Maximum consumption is 50W, but our testing resulted in average consumption of around 42W, and the device ran silent and cool all the while.

The Wind Top AE1900 is priced around €580, which is a small fortune to pay for any single-core Atom-based system, but compared to All-in-one pricing MSI has quite a nice offer.


UPDATE: We encoutered problems with the file we used for testing, and after some additional testing it turned out that the provided Cyberlink player can handle 720p.
 

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Last modified on Friday, 31 July 2009 12:36
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