X
CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

MSI Wind Top AE1900 review: MSI Wind Top AE1900

MSI's Wind Top AE1900 tries harder than most to sell the nettop concept, but still falls flat in several specific areas, especially value for money.

Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is a freelance word writing machine masquerading as a person, a disguise he's managed for over fifteen years now, including a three year stint at ZDNet/CNET Australia. He likes cats, retro gaming and terrible puns.
Alex Kidman
4 min read

Design

MSI's latest model under the Wind imprint is a touchscreen nettop with more than just a bit of a familiar look to it. Slap it next to the Asus Eee Top, or even the BenQ nScreen and you might not pick the differences, company logos notwithstanding. MSI opts for a full floating frame around the Wind Top AE1900's 18.5-inch display screen, with a 1.3-megapixel webcam propped on the top and a power indicator tab at the base. One oddity of the design that caught us off guard initially is that while the power tab has the appearance of a button, and a power symbol — so you might reasonably expect it to be a big obvious power button — it's just a status light, with the actual power button nestled on the right-hand side.

6.8

MSI Wind Top AE1900

The Good

Touch interface. Optical drive.

The Bad

Loud, noticeable fan. No keyboard. Still a low-powered computing solution.

The Bottom Line

MSI's Wind Top AE1900 tries harder than most to sell the nettop concept, but still falls flat in several specific areas, especially value for money.

While the frame and body of the Wind Top AE1900 is certainly slim and attractive, the same can't be said of its power adapter, which is bulky and ugly. The review unit that MSI supplied us with came with a mouse that was the spitting image of the one supplied with the BenQ nScreen. Or in other terms, it's entirely unremarkable. What is worth remarking on is that MSI has opted to supply the AU$1099 Wind Top AE1900 in the Australian market without a keyboard of any kind, in deference to its touchscreen ability.

Features

Aside from the touchscreen, the Wind Top AE1900 is solidly a devotee of what you could call the standard nettop recipe. One Intel Atom processor — in this case the single core Atom 230 1.6GHz model — alongside integrated Intel 945 graphics, Wi-Fi and Ethernet, although in the Wind Top AE1900's favour, 802.11n is supported, along with gigabit wired Ethernet. You only get four USB ports to play with, as well as a card reader. MSI's marketing material notes this as, and we quote, "The Most Complete I/O Ports". We're not quite seeing that, somehow.

The Wind Top AE1900 does stand out for including an optical drive, which gives it some potential as a small semi-portable entertainment device. We could certainly see this fulfilling the role of a kitchen PC to a certain degree.

MSI ships the Wind Top AE1900 with Windows XP, but attempts to justify the touchscreen interface with a large icon skin, simply named MSI Wind Touch. This gives access to common Windows applications, the Office suite, Internet Explorer and some games titles. While there's the usual run of the mill FreeCell and Minesweeper in there, MSI also pre-installs two camera-based games, helpfully labelled "Chicken Game" and "Star Game". Both use the unit's in-built webcam and your face as the steering mechanism. Chicken Game (which calls itself Chicken Shake when you launch it) tasks you with steering a chicken down a never-ending series of falling platforms and avoiding spikes, while Star Game (or Star Mission, as it calls itself once started) is a mix of Space Invaders and Asteroids, with a perpetually firing ship that you move left and right with your head.

Performance

As with most nettop devices, setting up the Wind Top AE1900 was pretty easy. We were struck by how astonishingly loud the system fan was on first boot, and whenever we stressed the system it kicked in again. It's not a deal breaker, but it does make us appreciate systems with efficient cooling — the obvious comparison being Apple's iMac line — that bit more.

Putting the Wind Top AE1900 against its nettop competition, it stacks up fairly well. It's cheaper than the Eee Top, but beats out the nScreen by benefit of having an embedded optical drive and touchscreen applications. The in-built Wind Touch large icon interface does work within a limited set of applications, although we were totally bewildered that MSI even bothered putting a work tab in the mix. Trying to write a Word document via an on-screen keyboard is a painful and frustrating experience, no matter how shiny a PC you're doing it on. We eventually gave up and plugged in a keyboard, no matter the aesthetic hit that the unit took.

The Wind Top AE1900's in-built games are, predictably enough, good for showing off what a webcam can do in very short bursts, but utterly dire to play. Within seconds you'll either be overcome with terminal boredom, a sore neck, or a desire to go and do something more entertaining, like say cleaning around the back of the toilet.

We could pretty much pick how well the Wind Top AE1900 would perform in our benchmarking tests based on the architecture alone. Atom-based systems have proven to be painful for us in 3DMark, and the Wind Top AE1900 refused to complete the benchmark in any form, but with the given chipset, you could play solitaire, and not much else. Its PCMark score of 1604 is utterly in line with every other nettop we've tested.

There's a very obvious problem with the Wind Top AE1900, and with nettops as a concept in general. Nettops are still, in our opinion, in a very difficult position when it comes to price justification. If you wanted power and didn't need the form factor, AU$1099 could buy you a very decent chunk of desktop computing power.

If you did need the slimmer form factor, you could pick up an infinitely more portable and cheaper netbook and get pretty much the same feature set, and most of the same components. That leaves the touchscreen as the best argument for picking up the Wind Top AE1900, and that's a slim argument, at least until Windows 7 picks up speed for touch-based applications.