Review: 4 all-in-one PCs sip energy, save money

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HP Pavilion MS214

It's ironic that one of the smallest all-in-one PCs available is also a top performer. HP's Pavilion MS214 does a lot with a little, packing in a high-performance hard drive and Windows 7, but it looks bulky and is the most expensive of the group.

HP Pavilion MS214
HP Pavilion MS214

The black and silver system occupies just 18.2 by 8 in. of desk space, the smallest of the four all-in-one PCs that I looked at. On the other hand, its monitor has a wider bezel that includes speakers below the screen, making it look bulky. There's a webcam above the display.

As with the Acer Z280G and MSI AE1900, all the MS214's working parts are housed inside the monitor case. There's a curved arm that holds the display up and allows the screen to be pivoted up and down, but it's not as flexible as the D1133's stand.

The MS214's 18.5-in. screen uses the same ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics processor as the Averatec D1133 but has 256MB of video memory versus the D1133's 512MB. As a result, it displays at a native 1366-by-768 resolution, not the D1133's sharper 1680-by-945 resolution. The MS214 also lacks the touch-screen capabilities of the MSI AE1900.

Inside the MS214 is a 1.5-GHz dual-core AMD Athlon X2 processor (the same chip used by the Averatec D1133), 2GB of RAM, a DVD Super Multi drive and a 320GB high-performance hard drive, the only one of the bunch that spins at 7,200 rpm.

The system comes with a wired optical mouse and a keyboard with buttons for volume and mute. Its built-in speakers get quite loud and sound great compared with the others.

While the other all-in-ones get by with four or five USB ports, the MS214 delivers six, so you probably won't need a USB hub to connect all your gizmos and gadgets. On top of wired and wireless (802.11g Wi-Fi) networking connections, the system has a flash card reader, microphone and headphone jacks, and an SPDIF port for a set of digital speakers. The MS214 doesn't have a DVI port for a second monitor as the Averatec D1133 does.

It won't set any records, but the MS214 outperformed the others in the PassMark Performance 7.0 benchmark with a score of 366.6. It is a midrange consumer of power for this group, using 44 watts. That adds up to an electric bill of around $23 per year, about one quarter that of a traditional desktop PC.

The only all-in-one of the four to come with Windows 7, the MS214 comes with lots of software, including Microsoft Works 9 and HP's MediaSmart suite for managing all your photos, videos and digital tracks. My favorite is HP's Total Care Advisor diagnostic program that interrogates every major system and reports on the results.

All told, HP's Pavilion MS214 is balanced between power use and performance, but at $600, it costs $100 more than the others. Still, it's worth it for a PC that can get the job done while saving money and the environment at the same time.

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