We have never been really enamoured of all-in-one PCs. Designed for space-hungry parts of the globe, they invariably pack mobile hardware into a somewhat underwhelming chassis. This means you end up with a relatively powerful laptop without all the advantages of portability, or a desktop machine that lacks the advantage of being a desktop.
Having first encountered MSI’s AE2050 All-in-one at an AMD event we were keen to see more of it. This is a much more lightweight offering than the other products on the market, thanks to the use of an AMD Fusion APU. Like a lot of the Fusion products we have looked at to date, the AE2050 uses the E-350 model, which is the faster 18W dual core version of the processor. It has inbuilt RADEON HD 6310 GPU, which we have found is insufficient for modern 3D games but delivers a good boost in performance when it comes to other GPU accelerated applications like Internet Explorer 9 and Flash video.
It is also smaller than the 24in behemoths we have seen, with the 20in screen making for quite a neat unit. This makes it much more convenient as a secondary PC than some of the other models out there, plus it draws a lot less power than a system that uses full-blown mobile parts.
One slight disappointment is that the AE2050 persists with the annoying trend of all-in-ones coming with touchscreens. As the numerous reviews of Windows Tablets on the coming pages reinforce, Windows was never designed to be controlled through touch, and trying to seriously use the operating system that way puts one on the fast track to frustration town. The AE2050 does come bundled with software designed to take advantage of the touchscreen, but this is limited in scope and doesn’t affect the day to day use of the software. With a custom UI this sort of design could work well for kiosks or in-store displays, but for home use it is still a gimmick rather than a viable means of machine interface.
Putting touch aside, the rest of the system is solid, if lacking in bleeding edge features. Inset into the translucent plastic screen surround is a 1.3MP webcam and mic, with OSD controls as well as power and other indicator lights down the right hand side. Below the screen is a small strip of plastic that seems largely cosmetic (MSI describes it as ‘fashionable leather decoration’ yet it doesn’t resemble the hide of any animal known to science). There are a couple of USB 2 ports and a card reader hiding behind the bezel on the left hand side, which is also the location
of the DVD Supermulti drive.
The rest of the expansion options sit on the rear of the unit. The Fusion APU drives a single HDMI port for the addition of a second screen. There are also four more USB 2 ports, headphone and mic jacks as well as a sole eSATA port next to the Gigabit Ethernet.
Power of Fusion
We hit the AE2050 with our real world benchmarks, which struggle a little on low-end processors (we are in the process of implementing new tests that are better designed for the gamut of computing power that is now available across multiple form factors). It scored an overall 0.48, a touch more than what we usually see from Intel’s Atom processors. Even though the score is relatively low, the E-350 is tangibly more responsive than the Atom chips, and at no point in our testing did we find ourselves waiting for Windows, even when we had a few programs open.
Thanks to the combination of small size, clean design and decent silicon the AE2050 definitely impresses. It is still a touch-based all-in-one PC, which restricts its usefulness, but it would make a very handy secondary system for any household. If MSI can keep the price reasonable (the previous generation non-Fusion model was retailing for a touch over $1100) then the AE2050 is a very nice, if niche, piece of hardware indeed.