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MSI Wind Top AE1900-01SUS

Despite having an innovative touch screen, enviable power use and some cool software, all packaged at an unbelievable price, the MSI Wind Top AE1900 falls short. Its performance, lack of ports and inability to go beyond the 1GB of RAM that comes with the machine all disappoint.

MSI Wind Top AE1900
MSI Wind Top AE1900

Like the Acer Veriton Z280G, the AE1900 has a monolithic design that can be tilted with a single rear leg. It's sturdy but not as easy to adjust as Averatec's D1133.

It does have a cool clear plastic frame around its white case that makes it look like it's floating. The system takes up 19 by 8 in. of desk space, putting it right in the middle of the four all-in-one systems.

What the others don't have is the AE1900's touch-screen display, which responds to the lightest finger pressure to move items around or draw things. A tap on a large icon launches major applications such as Internet Explorer, Microsoft Word and so on. The calibration isn't always exact, however, so it can take a couple of tries to do precise work like starting an application from the program list. Above the screen is a webcam.

When it comes to configuration, the AE1900 doesn't measure up to the others. Its Intel Atom 230 processor may be comparable to that of the Acer Veriton Z280G, but it's limited to 1GB of RAM -- half what the others have. Even worse, it can't be upgraded.

Although the specifications on MSI's Web site say the model has an Intel GMA950 video engine, the unit I was sent had an Intel 82945G engine with 128MB of memory. The system comes with a 160GB hard drive and a DVD Super Multi drive.

The AE1900's keyboard has a set of silver buttons across the top for apps, volume and playing movies or music, and stands in stark contrast to the basic keyboards provided with the Acer and Averatec models.

On the other hand, its assortment of ports is basic at best, with just four USB connections (two fewer than the HP MS214). There are also wired and wireless (802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi) networking, headphone and microphone jacks and a flash card reader. It lacks the DVI and SATA connections of the Averatec D1133.

At a maximum of 38 watts, the AE1900's power use is less than one quarter that of the typical desktop PC and a smidge higher than the Acer Z280G's. It has an estimated annual power bill of only $21, a couple of dollars less than the HP MS214.

But with a PassMark Performance score of 270.3, some 25% less than that of the MS214, the AE1900 outperforms only the tightfisted Z280G. More to the point, the system could not keep up with the resource-heavy Trainz game, with choppy video and incomplete background rendering. Clearly, it has been held back by its 1GB of RAM.

It uses Windows XP Home and includes MSI's Wind Touch interface, which is perfect for computer novices. It places large icons of the top apps in your face when the system starts up, which can simplify getting a job done.

At $500, the AE1900 looks like a bargain, but its second-rate performance is a compromise I'm not willing to make.

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