MSI Wind Top AE2400 review

£949
Price when reviewed

The last MSI touchscreen PC we saw – the Wind Top AE2020, proved underwhelming thanks to its small stature, underpowered specification and weak software. The firm has obviously learned from its mistakes, though, and its new AE2400 makes a much better first impression.

Previous generations of Wind Top machines have relied on an awkward, twitchy carousel of icons for launching applications, but MSI’s new Wind Touch front-end is far easier to use. It’s modelled on the front ends used on the majority of large modern touchscreen systems, with large icons in the middle of the screen, with a dock above containing many more.

Unlike other machines, there’s no hint of sluggishness here; navigating MSI’s software, as well as the applications on offer in Windows 7 Home Premium, is about as fluid as anything we’ve seen, even matching the A-Listed Sony VAIO VPC-L11S1E, which costs over £400 exc VAT more than the MSI.

MSI has spent less time engineering its own applications, though. The “work” half of the dock is filled with links to Microsoft Office’s individual components alongside a host of Windows utilities, and the “play” portion of the software contains links to basic painting, note-taking and photo-management tools alongside the Windows 7 Touch Pack applications.

Nevertheless, the software offering is no worse than on systems from HP, Acer and Packard Bell, all of which prop up Microsoft’s applications with their own basic tools and low-rent games. Still ahead of the pack in this regard is Sony, which has its own range of media management tools based on the XrossMediaBar first introduced in the PlayStation 3.

The optical touchscreen used to operate all this is multitouch capable and proved responsive and accurate during our testing. When it comes to quality, it can’t scale the heights of the dual-backlit Sony, but it’s certainly the equal of the similarly-priced Acer Aspire Z5610: vibrant colours, sharp detail and a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 make movies and pictures look good as well as providing plenty of desktop real estate. It’s worth mentioning, though, that the glossy panel quickly collects fingerprints.

MSI Wind Top AE2400

The speakers are worth mentioning, too. They’re the loudest we’ve ever heard on an all-in-one PC and, at full volume, proved deafening. They’d capably fill a room with sound even at half strength. The excessive volume is backed up with good quality; the 10W subwoofer provides adequate bass, and the pair of 5W speakers sat on the front of the machine fill out the rest of the range well, even if treble is a little muddy. Still, we’d have no qualms about watching movies and TV on the MSI.

MSI has worked hard on the AE2400’s enclosure, too. While the machine doesn’t particularly stand out, especially when compared to the metallic-effect Acer, the glossy black exterior and brushed aluminium highlighting lends the machine an air of understated elegance.

Reinforcing this suave appearance is a row of touch-sensitive buttons that glow with a white light when activated before slowly fading. These turn it on and off, handle volume, and let you control the monitor’s OSD and a screen-dimming eco-friendly mode. The range of conventional ports and sockets is decent, with a pair of USB 2 ports and a card reader on the left-hand side of the machine, and more USB 2 ports alongside eSATA, S/PDIF and an HDMI input and D-SUB output.

The processor, while capable enough, doesn’t particularly stand out. Intel’s Core 2 Duo E5400 is a dual-core part that runs at 2.7GHz and, backed up by 4GB of DDR3 RAM, scored a reasonable 1.29 in our benchmarks – enough to power through most computing tasks, although it can’t compete with the 1.44 and 1.47 scored by the Acer and Sony machines.

Elsewhere there’s a Blu-ray drive and a hybrid DVB-T TV tuner – which allows you to watch analogue and record digital TV (or vice versa) – a capacious 1TB hard drive, and a DVD-writer.

The ATI Radeon HD 5730 graphics card is no match for high-end cards found in “proper” desktop PCs. Its lowly score of 17fps in our High quality Crysis benchmark means you won’t be playing modern games at native resolutions and high detail settings smoothly.

However, if you’re willing to drop the resolution down (and probably the settings) then the Wind Top becomes a surprisingly capable gaming system – it even managed 43fps in Crysis at 1,280 x 1,024 with Medium settings. It also played our range of 1080p test clips flawlessly, again underlining its potential as a media machine.

MSI’s previous machines haven’t impressed, but this new MSI marks an impressive return to form. The combination of quality screen, speakers, Blu-ray drive and TV tuner mark the AE2400 out as an affordable media machine, and the smooth software makes the latest Wind Top better than many of its mid-range rivals – and the deserved recipient of a Recommended award too.

NB: This review was corrected at 17:45 on 7/7/10.

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Basic specifications

Total hard disk capacity 1,000
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Screen size 24.0in

Processor

CPU family Intel Core 2 Duo
CPU nominal frequency 2.70GHz
CPU overclocked frequency N/A
Processor socket LGA 775

Motherboard

Motherboard MSI proprietary
Conventional PCI slots free 0
Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots free 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots free 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 0
PCI-E x4 slots free 0
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots free 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0
Wired adapter speed 1,000Mbits/sec

Memory

Memory type DDR3
Memory sockets free 0
Memory sockets total 2

Graphics card

Graphics card ATI Radeon HD 5730
Multiple SLI/CrossFire cards? no
3D performance setting Low
Graphics chipset ATI Radeon HD 5730
Graphics card RAM 512MB
DVI-I outputs 0
HDMI outputs 0
VGA (D-SUB) outputs 1
DisplayPort outputs 0
Number of graphics cards 1

Hard disk

Capacity 1.00TB
Hard disk usable capacity 931GB
Internal disk interface SATA/300
Spindle speed 7,200RPM
Cache size 16MB
Hard disk 2 make and model N/A
Hard disk 2 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 formatted capacity N/A
Hard disk 2 spindle speed N/A
Hard disk 2 cache size N/A
Hard disk 3 make and model N/A
Hard disk 3 nominal capacity N/A
Hard disk 4 make and model N/A
Hard disk 4 nominal capacity N/A

Drives

Optical disc technology DVD writer
Optical disk 2 make and model N/A
Optical disk 3 make and model N/A

Monitor

Resolution screen horizontal 1,920
Resolution screen vertical 1,080
Resolution 1920 x 1080
DVI inputs 0
HDMI inputs 1
VGA inputs 0
DisplayPort inputs 0

Additional Peripherals

Speaker type 5.1
Peripherals Media Center remote control, TV aerial

Case

Chassis MSI proprietary
Case format All-in-one
Dimensions 577 x 120 x 445mm (WDH)

Free drive bays

Free front panel 5.25in bays 0

Rear ports

USB ports (downstream) 6
eSATA ports 1
PS/2 mouse port no
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports 0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports 0
Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 3

Front ports

Front panel USB ports 2
Front panel memory card reader yes

Mouse & Keyboard

Mouse and keyboard MSI wireless keyboard and mouse

Operating system and software

OS family Windows 7
Software supplied MSI WindTouch software suite

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 80W
Peak power consumption 147W

Performance tests

Overall application benchmark score 1.29
Office application benchmark score 1.25
2D graphics application benchmark score 1.54
Encoding application benchmark score 1.20
Multitasking application benchmark score 1.17
3D performance (crysis) low settings 84fps
3D performance setting Low

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