MSI Wind Top AE1900 WT review

The allure of an all-in-one PC is one of plain, unbridled simplicity. Year upon year, desktop PCs grow in power and stature, but while it’s easy to be wowed by their sheer bravado, few people actually require the cutting-edge performance that the latest hardware can muster.

MSI’s Wind Top AE1900 comes as a breath of fresh air then, partnering a generously-proportioned screen with slim, sleek design and an equally skinny price tag.

Sit the MSI on a desk and you can immediately see the appeal. Gloss white gleams alongside silver accents, with see-through plastic bordering the screen and reaching around to the slender stand at the rear. And at just 49mm deep, it can be squeezed into spaces that just wouldn’t accommodate the average desktop PC.

The Wind Top AE1900 is one of the few PCs that can be stowed away in the corner of a cramped kitchen, or in a cluttered study, without swallowing acres of valuable space in the process.

Touch of genius?

Perhaps the most striking thing about the MSI, though, is its broad 18.5in glossy display. It’s not just large, but it’s also a resistive touchscreen, which allows you to navigate Windows with the prod of a finger.

Image quality suffers as a result, with the touchscreen layer adding a tell-tale graininess, and contrast is mediocre. But it is perfectly acceptable for browsing the internet and tapping out the odd document, and its high brightness ensures it remains legible in the most sun-drenched of rooms.

Windows XP Home is the OS of choice, and MSI has layered its own touch interface over the top. Dubbed Wind Touch, it splits tasks into four main headings: Work, Fun, Tool and Web. Large icons make it easy to select the program you want, but it soon becomes clear that precious few of the programs these lead to are actually controllable by touch.

Indeed, after launching a program, it’s disappointing to find that you’re regularly forced back to using mouse and keyboard control – it begs the question why do you need a touchscreen in the first place?

For lighter pursuits, though, and in environments where mouse control isn’t ideal – a kitchen, for instance – it is possible to get by without a mouse. Navigating websites such as BBC’s iPlayer or YouTube, proves rather successful, allowing you to substitute mouse control for the intuitive dab of a digit. Even here, however, the MSI cries out for an operating system built with touch in mind from the very beginning.

With that in mind, we’re surprised the system was not supplied with Windows Vista, as once Windows 7 is unleashed on the word on October 22 you’d get a free upgrade.

Performance

In terms of core hardware it’s a similarly unexciting proposition. The Intel Atom 230 is a low-powered, 1.6GHz processor, and with a single gigabyte of memory to work with it wasn’t surprising to see the MSI stumble to a decidedly sluggish result of 0.36 in our application-based benchmarks.

There’s no solace to be found in the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics either, which will struggle with even the most ancient of 3D games.

The rest of the specification does at least try to make amends, though, with a 160GB hard disk, integrated draft-n wireless, gigabit ethernet, a card reader and four USB ports scattered around the MSI’s shapely rear.

Conclusion

In the final reckoning, though, it’s the MSI’s price that proves its undoing: it’s simply too high. So, if you’re smitten with the idea of having a touchscreen nettop in your kitchen, then we’d save £150 and plump for the more compact charms of its rival, the 15.6in Asus Eee Top 1602 instead.

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