All-in-one desktop computers have made a strong comeback, partly for the convenience and quick setup of the single component, and partly because the requirements for computing power have increasingly been moving to virtualized systems. At least that's the intended market for such machines we've looked at from Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and ViewSonic.
But the Wind Top AE2220 from PC component maker MSI is clearly aimed more at consumers than at the buyer of corporate PCs. For starters, the machine lists for $950, which is two hundred to three hundred dollars more than a similarly equipped machine from HP. And we're pretty sure that corporate managers would frown upon workers watching TV using its optional built-in HDTV tuner and MCE remote, if they could even find a signal in their cubicle, that is. Of course, the TV option is a plus for resellers targeting retail outlets, media companies or other like-minded enterprises, but it's clearly consumers that represent the low-hanging fruit here.
Like other AiO's we've tested, the Wind Top is equipped with VGA and HDMI inputs that permit the use of its 21.6-inch native 1920 x 1080p LCD panel by a laptop, second desktop, set-top box other device with corresponding output. Another capability we would have liked to see included would have been the ability to direct the unit's NVidia ION (GeForce 9300) output to a projector or other large display. This also is optional.
On the plus side, system performance of the Wind Top AE2220 was fairly good compared with other machines with the same Intel T4500 dual core, two-thread processor. According to PrimateLabs Geekbench 2.1.11, the unit delivered a high score of 2643. The next highest score on Primate Labs results browser was that of an Toshiba Satellite C640 laptop with a score of 2566. Well suited for media, the unit comes standard with a 500GB SCSI hard drive (the optical drive also is SCSI), as well as wired and wireless Gb Ethernet ports, six USB 2.0 ports, one eSATA port, S/PDIF output, a multi-format card reader that supports XD, SD, SDHC, MMC, MS and MS Pro formats.
There's also a 1.3 megapixel Web cam with mic as well as 3.5-mm headphone and mic jacks. The built-in stereo speakers were adequate for TV or watching movies but lack sufficient bass response for music or for a rich theater experience. The included USB keyboard and mouse feel cheap and flimsy. Although the touch screen worked well in tests, the vanilla version of Windows 7 Home Premium does nothing special for touch input, and in the absence of a MSI-specific touch interface (as HP developed, for example), testers felt far more comfortable using the mouse and hardware keyboard.
As for look and feel, the Wind Top's tripod design is somewhat out of vogue these days, replaced by the sleek curved pedestal look introduced by Apple with its iMac. However, testers liked the look of the Wind Top's shiny black cabinet and bezel which is surrounded by clear plastic, and the way it reflects power status and hard drive access LEDs on the right-hand edge.
And for resellers looking for a tuner or other MSI-specific options, the Wind Top is a good choice among many in the crowded all-in-one desktop PC market, but you might consider substituting a better quality keyboard and mouse. We also were disappointed to see Norton nagware reminding us to protect the PC. We prefer to use the virus protection that nature bestowed on most people -- good old common sense.