Review: MSI AE2050

MSI has long been one of the more innovative hardware manufacturers in town — an honorific I bestow upon them solely based on their ability to cleverly mimic Apple hardware while undercutting Apple’s pricing by about half.

With the AE2050, MSI takes aim at the only segment of the desktop market that’s showing any life — all-in-one computers — and attempts the same stunt by offering a classy-looking machine at a rock-bottom price.

MSI’s strategy to get there is by sticking a netbook CPU inside a 20-inch LCD. The mind continues to reel at this, as it’s a moonshot of an idea that leaves the AE2050 with a paltry $680 price tag — hundreds of dollars cheaper than competing models — but crawling to the benchmark finish line, gasping for air.

That netbook chip, AMD’s new E-350, designed as a competitor to the Intel Atom, would certainly be welcome in any old 10-inch laptop, or even a tablet. The AE2050 outperforms most Atom-based machines by a healthy margin, and it can even hobble along on older video games, thanks to the included Radeon HD 6310 GPU.

And if the AE2050 were a netbook, that would all be great. But it’s not. It’s a desktop which commands the majority of your desk. Something this big isn’t a toy. You expect it to actually do something.

As such, the AE2050 feels astonishingly slow. Applications are sluggish to load, and the mouse pointer often trails well behind your hand. Yes, it eventually gets the job done, whatever that might be, but rarely in my experience has simply waiting become such a frustrating part of a product review.

The good news: MSI has plenty of thoughtful features under the hood. 4GB of RAM (which is nice, since the machine is running Windows 7 at 64 bits), a full terabyte hard drive, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which can be set with upgraded power so it can actively charge an iPad), and a two-point touchscreen. The only real downside is that the bright LCD’s 1600 x 900 pixel resolution may sound high, but on a mammoth 20-inch display the icons and text are so huge it looks a bit like the Senior Edition All-in-One.

What then to make of the AE2050? It’s cheap, but no cheaper than MSI’s AE2010, which it released 18 months ago, and it’s no more powerful either. MSI’s decision to jettison a real desktop chip in favor of something inexpensive just doesn’t work, really hampering this all-in-one’s usability to the point where doing anything is a chore.

Photo courtesy of MSI

See Also:

  • MSI’s Cheap Desktop Suffers From Performance Anxiety
  • MSI Offers Cheapest All-in-one TouchScreen Desktop
  • MSI to Showcase Low-Powered All-in-One Desktop, Netbooks at CES
  • 3-D PCs Will Make a Splash at Computex
  • MSI’s All-in-One PC Is One for All
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