Review MSI Wind Top AE2220 All in One Touch PC
The AE2220 is a display-pc for under 800 Euro. Behind the white 21.5-inch case lies hardware to the tune of an Nvidia Ion graphics chip combined with a Core 2 Duo T6600. They key feature here, however, is the multi-touch surface of the display. Let the kids smudge up the display with their fingerprints--the AE2220 can take it! But exactly how well does input with ones hands function? Are the performance reserves adequate for entertainment? Our second all-in-one test follows...
At the CEBIT 2010, many manufacturers were on hand to present their display-integrated PC's, all of which are able to be controlled via the multi-touch display. Prices begin at a minute 300 Euro and go all the way to 1000 Euro for the top models. Depending on price, interested parties must contend with various configurations of the weak Intel Atom processor (for example, the Asus EeeTop ET1602). That said, all-rounders with dual-core processors and dedicated graphics (Asus EeeTop ET2203T) are available for around 800 Euro. Models such as the WindTop AE2220 get right to the point with ATI 4650 graphics and an E5400 processor for 980 Euro. For those who don't need dedicated graphics and are content with lesser performance, the Packard Bell One Two M 6000 would fit the bill for around 700 Euros.
The MSI Wind-Top AE2220-T6646W7H tries to prove itself in this competitive market with a 21.5-inch display and a 2.2 GHz Core 2 Duo T6600 processor. An Nvidia Ion chipset (9400M) heads up the graphics front. The Ion GPU has made a name for itself as of late, especially in notebooks, but whether it can stand its ground in a Display-PC is another matter entirely. Also of relevance is the touchpad control: is it really as easy as using a finger? Find out in this test report.
Also see our column, Touch me, I wanna be dirty!
MSI positioned its AE2220 als a compact Display-PC for those entertainment-minded folks. MSI wasn't weary about emphasizing the coolness and conversation-factor that the touch input brings about. Optically, the 21.5-incher is easy on the eyes dressed in white, the display of which is covered by see-through Plexiglass nicely rounded off at the edges. A few status-LEDs can be found under the Plexiglass frame, providing a nice radiating ambiance. Because the LEDs are not evenly distributed, users will find primarily the right side of the case is illuminated.
The 8.8 kilogram All in One PC sits confidently on a flat surface thanks to its stable supporting leg and doesn't budge even under the duress of heavy use or fidgety children. Hanging the device on a wall is out of the question, as the rear of the display does not contain holes for a VESA mount.
The case offers a high degree of strength and stability. The white frame around the display as well as the transparent Plexiglass are also very sturdy. Under strong pressure from a finger or even a complete hand, the display did not show any signs of flex.
Fingerprints as well as dust and lint gather on the bright surface, though they are hardly visible. Despite the high praise, we found the following things to be rather distracting and not in line with the high-quality of the rest of the case: Behind the MSI-Logo under the display there is a protective foil on the inside of the case. Likely forgotten during production, it is the product of assembling the two halves of the case together. On this topic, we also found plastic shavings on the inside of the case, possibly from the holes made for the stereo loudspeakers.
As is typical for an entertainment center, the 21.5 incher has many connectivity options on the back and left sides. The right side is limited to a few menu buttons used to operate the display. The compact connectivity unit on the back of the unit offers almost everything that we expect from a multimedia notebook. Aside from 4 USB ports (additionally two on the left) users can connect an external hard drive through the fast eSATA connection. A TV or a second TFT is unable to be connected, as the only HDMI port is an HDMI-In. With this port, users can connect external video players, game consoles or HD playback devices.
What is missing here is an ExpressCard54 slot as well as a TV-Tuner, though there is an antenna connection available. The failure to include FireWire (i.LINK) does not seem to present any sort of a problem. The hardware, featuring the T6600, is too weak to process and edit video material from many professional and semi-professional camcorders.
Users cannot rely on the touch-input feature alone. As such, MSI includes a wireless mouse and keyboard. Both devices are operated over a singular USB receiver. Unfortunately, the mouse deactivates itself often and has to be manually reconnected by using the connect-button on the underside.
For typical TV-esque control of Windows Media Center, MSI includes an advanced remote control. This infrared remote control features channels (programmable to memory), volume, directional control and record. Due to the quality of the remote, users should not shy away from buying a DVB-T stick.
As described, the All-In-One WindTop PC has no integrated TV card despite possessing a remote control and antenna connections. Users should therefore invest 30-50 Euros in a USB-TV tuner: only by doing so does the WindTop fully replace the TV. With the Full-HD Bright-View display the 21.5-incher is suitable for DVDs or 1080p-films streamed from the hard drive. That there is no Blu-Ray on offer is understandable with respect to the low price.
For those looking to connect a hard drive recorder or use another PC as the picture source, the AE2220 features an HDMI-In port. The accompanying sound is output to the 3.5mm audio jack, though those looking to connect to a 7.1 stereo system will want to make use of the S/PDIF output available.
MSI includes a wireless keyboard with the machine, a StarType ES500W. The input features a full numeric keypad on the right side. The flat housing can be raised up through the use of two feet on the underside of the keyboard. Input is not particularly stable when we try to bend it with two hands.
The keys have a clear pressure-point and a large hub. The feeling while typing is spongy, especially if you are not pressing on the keys in a precise manner. The large keys with their wide spacing and the lightly recessed arrow keys we found to be suitable when writing long emails.
The Star Mouse SW130 is more of an emergency-solution than a proper mouse. Due to the white plastic it gets dirty rather quickly. The mouse clicks quietly and the one-way scrolling wheel offers a soft resistance; it interfaces with the computer through the same USB-receiver as the keyboard.
We had little trouble getting used to using our fingers as the primary input device, though optimizations within the system settings menu were not as helpful. In our case, the stock sensitivity settings and the double-click speed were not adequate and had to be adjusted a little. After adjustment, the buttons reacted very quickly and responded to light touch.
We installed and ran all benchmarks and analysis tools using the finger input. Typing text via the display was also possible. To this end, the Windows 7 display keyboard functioned effectively. Whenever we encountered a field for text input, a small keyboard icon would appear alongside the text box. Clicking upon the icon opens the display keyboard, which was easy to use with one's fingers. Naturally, keyboard commands such as Strg+C or Strg+P are also usable.
Those who ask themselves how it is possible to replace the right mouse click: your finger rests for a second on the display surface upon which a circle appears and upon taking your finger off the context menu then appears.
The display is also Multi-Touch capable, which means that two or even three fingers can be used at once. When using a web-browser or viewing a picture one is able to zoom in and out by opening and closing two fingers together, respectively. With a wiping motion we were able to move to the next picture or scroll further down the page.
The only things that we found to be problematic were the exact marking of selected text inputs. When not using the zoom feature, the selecting inputs via text is too small for imprecise fingers. To remedy this MSI includes a stylus pen made of plastic with the system.
The AE2220 is outfitted with a 21.5 inch Bright-view Multitouch TFT. The display is rendered in full-HD (1920 x 1080). The panel is a glossy-type which not only displays fingerprints that may be on the display but also distracting reflections from other light sources. That said, the user has nothing to fear from pressure points on the display. Different from other notebook displays is the plastic panel that covers the display. This panel has an electrically charged surface that enables touch-sensitive inputs. This plastic panel over the display is itself very hard and stiff which also serves to protect the display from damage.
Our test equipment measuring luminance revealed very good black values of 0.21 cd/m², which leads to an excellent contrast ratio of 852:1. Such values even supersede the recently tested Medion The Touch.
Measurements of the display brightness revealed favorable results, with an average brightness of 163 cd/m². The WindTop AE2220, however would not exactly be at home on your outdoor balcony: though well-suited for interior use, the brightness levels as measured by regular notebook benchmarks were unsuitable outdoors. Reflections were a problem which should be taken into consideration when setting up the machine; light sources from the rear and sides of the viewer render the picture hard to see. Also of consideration here would be sunlight coming in through windows, even periodically. Due to differences between other matte desktop TFTs, users here will have to think through where they place their display.
The viewing angle of the 21.5-inch display exemplifies the typically good values of desktop TFTs. Regardless if viewed from above, below, right or left, the display remains readable and the colors remain stable irrespective of the deviation from the front viewing position.Unfortunately, the brightness of the display begins to fall off at about 45 degrees. For use as a TV-replacement, the AE2220 is well-suited in our eyes. From a few meters distance and in many different positions we were able to make out a clear and bright picture.
The MSI WindTop is equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 processor. The Penryn-CPU is clocked at 2.2 GHz. The 2MB L2 cache is simply insufficient here. The TDP of 35 Watts is relatively high. At the side of the T6600 is 4GB of DDR2 RAM. Upon taking delivery of the machine, one of the two RAM sticks was not locked fully into place, leaving us to wonder where 2048MB had gone.
A Nvidia GeForce 9400 operating under the ION alias is in charge of 3D computation. Although the GPU has 256MB VRAM at its disposal, the memory is not dedicated alongside the processor, rather a part of the Nvidia chipset. The weak-performing GPU is a typical feature of HD-capable netbooks such as the Samsung N510, the Asus Eee PC 1201N or the Lenovo IdeaPad S12. For a desktop PC, the GPU is very weak. The Nvidia Ion is hardly suitable for playing games; if the Core 2 Duo processor can change this outlook remains to be seen.
The Intel Core 2 Duo T6600 (2.20 GHz) is an unspectacular processor. Our synthetic processor benchmarks define this processor as only having acceptable performance. In the multiple-CPU render test Cinebench R10 the All-in-One only managed 4,393 points. With a current CPU such as an i3-330M, 5,533 points are reachable without any problem. When executing single-core calculations the T6600 is comparable to identically-clocked processors Arrandale processors (current generation): 2,357 (330M) versus 2,355 (T6600) in Cinebench R10 (Single Render Test, 32bit).
|PCMark Vantage Result||3866 points|
The PC-Mark Vantage test deals with the pure calculating power of the processors, which gives some insight into total system performance: the combination of CPU, graphics, RAM, hard drive and chipset. 3,866 points is an acceptable but not outstanding value. The MSI system lies on the same level as the Dell Alienware M11x with an Intel SU7300 and GeForce GT 335M (13-inch). In short: with the MSI all-in-one users will work slower than those with current Core i5 and i7 laptops. The performance here is around that of 500-600 Euro Office-notebooks.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||8440 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||2360 points|
|3DMark 06 Standard Score||1317 points|
The Western Digital hard drive (type WD6400AAKS-00A7B) with a capacity of 640GB reads data from the platters at a blistering 88.5 MB per second (sequential read). This average is extremely high and lies well above the average for hard drive notebooks in our tests. The reason behind the performance: it is a 3.5 inch desktop HDD operating at 7,200 RPM.
One thing here is clear: the Nvidia Ion graphics card (GeForce 9400M) is not a GPU for gamers. A 3DMark2006 benchmark put up 1,317 points (1280 x 1024). Current entry-level gaming notebooks easily achieve a score of 6,000 in 3DMark06.
The shooter is two years old and lends itself well to being played with current hardware. The WindTop, however, does not employ any of this. At a resolution of 1024 x 768 (XGA) and with details set to high, the system was only able to push a measly 15 fps. Only by bringing the resolution way down to 640 x 480 and the details to low was fluid game play achieveable. In short: when compared to other notebooks a stronger CPU does not help the Wind Top AE2220 at all with respect to games.
|Left 4 Dead|
|1024x768||very high, 0xAA, 0xAF||14.7 fps|
The cooling system of the all-in-one PC presents itself in a positive light. At idle the 21.5-incher is no louder than 32.8 dB(A). While surfing the internet, watching a film or installing a program we remained undisturbed by noise most of the time. Computer games belong to the types of the applications that get the cooling system moving. 15 centimeters from the center of the display we measured 38.6 dB(A). This is clearly able to be heard, and in the face of weak hardware, too much.
A stresstest consisting of Furmark and Prime95 brings the cooling system to its knees: we measured 39.3 dB(A). The stress test indicates that all two processing cores as well as all shaders within the Ion-GPU are operating at 100 percent capacity.
The Western Digital hard drive doesn't stick to the credo of a whisper-quiet PC. The read and write heads click and rattle and a user would be happy when periods of intense HDD activity give way to more subdued usage. 15 centimeters from the front our test equipment measured an audible 35.7 dB(A).
32.4 / 32.5 / 32.8 dB(A)
||33.9 / dB(A)|
||38.6 / 39.3 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
Surface temperatures are rarely critical when looking at AIO PCs, however we wanted to be sure that the panel remained relatively cool under use, which is the case here. During normal operation when under no stress, the highest temperature reached on the display surface was 28.6 degrees Celsius. Under load, the temperature only increased minimally. The warmest area we measured here was just 29.1 degrees Celsius.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 29.1 °C / 84 F, compared to the average of 40.4 °C / 105 F, ranging from 21.2 to 68.8 °C for the class Gaming.
(+) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 25.9 °C / 79 F, compared to the average of 43.3 °C / 110 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 27 °C / 81 F, compared to the device average of 33.8 °C / 93 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 28.1 °C / 82.6 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(±) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 29 °C / 84.2 F (+0.9 °C / 1.6 F).
Two loudspeakers are located under the display. Their sound is well-balanced and has solid bass on offer. The sound is sufficiently loud and can easily fill a middle-sized room; at maximum volume the sound is without distortion. There are, however, no volume control buttons on the monitor: one has to use the radio button. The SRS-Sound menu offers very good options for sound optimization with which the sound can be customized to fit every individual application.
Fans of Hi-Fi sound will likely connect a surround sound system, possibly with satellites and a subwoofer. The AE2220 has a Line-Out and an S/PDIF just for the purpose.
When it comes to power usage, the 21.5-incher isn't quite efficient. With the backlight deactivated at Idle the AE2220 sips 32.8 Watts from the socket (maximum efficiency mode). Only powerful 17 and 18 inch gaming laptops use so much energy at idle. The consumption appears too high to us in the face of weak mobile components (chipsets, CPU, GPU, WLAN, Blu-Ray). The only desktop component here is the 3.5-inch HDD.
We get right to the point here when we begin to stress the machine. During a 3DMarks2006 benchmark, we measured 66.6 Watts. Those looking to save energy should not let the all-in-one PC run when not in use. In standby-mode, a 1.5 Watt consumption is however commendable. And word to the wise when powering off: the AE2220 still consumes 1.1 Watts when completely off.
|Off / Standby||1.1 / 1.5 Watt|
|Idle|| 32.8 / 48.5 / 50.3 Watt|
66.6 / 72.5 Watt|
The MSI WindTop AE2220 is a living room and Touch-PC in one: the complete (notebook) hardware lies behind a 21.5-inch multi-touch display. Controlling the device with the hand is, after optimizing the settings, excellent. We were able to complete all of the benchmarks without the use of the supplied keyboard. Bringing up programs and inputting text functioned well when using either one or multiple fingers.
The performance data of the WindTop, with a Core 2 Duo T6600 and the Nvidia Ion GPU chipset are very average. Current computer games are simply not playable with the Nvidia Ion, and overall performance is on par with a cheap office-notebook available for around 500 Euro. The only exception to this was the 3.5-inch desktop hard drive, which for notebook purposes, offered an uncharacteristically high data throughput (88 MB/s sequential read).
Those looking for a compact all-in-one machine for their basic computing needs like using Office and playing media would be right at home with the WindTop AE2220. Together with a DVB-T stick as an antenna, the 21.5 inch TV stands ready with advanced remote control options.