Those considering buying a Microsoft Surface computer may encounter a couple of obstacles: insufficient room in the lounge for a big-ass table, and a lack of a few thousand pounds to spend on it. Don't sweat it, though, because Medion -- purveyor of cut-price PCs and sat-navs -- has released an all-in-one PC that aims to emulate the functionality of the Surface. The Akoya P4011 D packs a multi-touch display, a dual-core Intel Pentium T4400 CPU, 4GB of RAM, and a 1TB hard drive -- all for a piddling £600 from Sainsbury's.
That's no TV
The Akoya doesn't look anything like a Surface. It's not shaped like a table for a start, and it doesn't require four men to lift it. It isn't exactly tiny, though. Its 21.5-inch display has been shoehorned into a chassis not much bigger than that of an LCD TV. It's also quite attractive, thanks to some purple mood lighting cast across its silver legs.
Despite looking like a television, there are a few clues as to the Akoya's real nature. The biggest are the Windows 7 sticker on the top right-hand corner and the silver Medion logo on the lower bezel, but there are more. Look at the rear, and you'll find four USB sockets, S/PDIF audio outputs, an Ethernet jack, and PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. A memory-card reader, three additional USB sockets, and mic and headphone jacks can be found on the left side.
I've got a feelin'
The most impressive trick up the Akoya's sleeve is its multi-touch capability. As with the Surface, the Akoya's screen can recognise more than one finger at once, meaning you can treat it like a giant iPad. Pinching and stretching gestures let you zoom in and out of your desktop or applications, while two-fingered swiping allows you to scroll through documents either vertically or horizontally.
Most manufacturers of touchscreen PCs will install some sort of flashy touch interface to help convince buyers they've made a worthwhile investment. Medion is no different. Its offering, the Medion Touch Center, gives you access to a memo application, CyberLink YouCam 3 webcam software, music and video players, a few casual (read: rubbish) games, and a paint app that -- sadly -- isn't multi-touch compatible.
It's all rather pointless, and you'll probably only ever use the interface, let alone the software, a couple of times before you get bored. It's far quicker and easier to navigate to the aforementioned apps via Windows, using a mouse.
A more satisfying touch experience can be had using the bundled Microsoft Touch Pack, a touch-orientated Windows 7 add-on containing games and applications designed specifically for prodding. Arguably the most impressive of these is Surface Globe, a virtual Earth that you can manipulate with your fingers, zooming in up to street level on any location covered by Bing Maps. Sadly, pretty much everything else is pants. One of the highlights, for instance, is a screensaver that lets you ripple the surface of some imaginary water.
The experience of touching and interacting with virtual objects is generally quite enjoyable. The Akoya's screen, unlike those of some touch-equipped devices, provides excellent image quality, with no blurriness or dithering.
There are some issues, however. There's noticeable lag between your touch and the system responding. This is perhaps a consequence of slow hardware. In addition, not all applications are multi-touch-aware -- switching between those that are and those that aren't can be a jarring experience, given the difference in the way they react, or don't react, to your inputs.
The biggest problem by far, however, is the fact that sitting at your desk waving one and often two arms at the screen is exhausting. We know we're stereotypically unfit geeks, but we'd rather use a mouse and keyboard than wave our arms around like bleedin' Tom Cruise in Minority Report, just to have a butcher's at Facebook.
Oh, and did we mention the fact that smearing your greasy mitts across the glossy display makes it dirty? No? Well perhaps we should have, because it does.
Medion has made the most of the Akoya's televisual appearance and fitted it with a hybrid TV tuner that lets you watch and record live telly. The DVD drive nestling in the right side of the device lets you play your favourite films, and the 1TB hard drive will also let you stash a vast wealth of digital movies, music and pictures. Whatever your choice of media, the whole shebang can be controlled via the infrared remote control, or Bluetooth mouse and keyboard -- all of which are bundled in the box.
The Akoya isn't particularly quick. It racked up a mediocre score of 4,763 in the PCMark05 benchmark test, which puts it on a par with a medium-spec laptop or a low-spec desktop. Given its price and the inclusion of a touchscreen, that's probably to be expected.
The Akoya's graphics performance is pretty average, too. It scored 2,506 in 3DMark06, which, again, puts it on a par with a fairly middle-of-the-road laptop.
The Medion Akoya P4011 D is a pretty good example of an all-in-one PC. Its screen is excellent, its multi-touch system works well and it's very affordable. Its only flaw is its mediocre performance, which limits its appeal.
Edited by Charles Kloet