PC gamers are a very discerning bunch, but they’re willing to spend large sums of money to have high-end hardware that can run all of their favorite games at a high resolution and framerate. Performance is key in the gaming world.
With that in mind, we’re looking at an all-in-one gaming PC today, which is not a combination that usually goes together. Essentially, we’re seeing laptop hardware running on a larger screen. Does it stack up to a desktop gaming PCs? Is it better to get a gaming laptop? Keep reading the review to find out!
Best of all, we have an MSI G Series AG220 21.5-inch All-in-One to give away to one lucky reader! Keep reading to the bottom to find out how to win.
Introducing the MSI G Series AG220 21.5-Inch All-in-One
Today, we are taking a look at an all-in-one desktop that’s aimed at gaming. That right there is a confusing label, since PCs like this aren’t traditionally known for their high-end hardware – rather they’re meant for space saving and convenience. These are not things PC gamers traditionally are willing to trade for power and performance.
The MSI AG220 retails for around $1100 on Amazon. As far as competition goes, you won’t find any. There just aren’t all-in-ones on the market that offer a dedicated GPU for gaming. Of course, that alone is a bad sign. Why aren’t other companies making gaming PCs in this smaller all-in-one form factor? I don’t want to give the answers away just yet, so you’ll have to keep reading the review to find out if the tradeoff of using mobile hardware is worth it, if you’re better off going with a gaming laptop (like the MSI we reviewed before), or just sticking to the tried and true traditional gaming desktop.
The box for the this MSI all-in-one is positively massive, which is obviously the first thing I noticed. It’s packaged well, and it’s clear that it can handle the rigours of being shipped.
The first thing I noticed was that it included a mouse and keyboard, a fact not listed on the Amazon description. It’s a nice little bonus that I didn’t expect to find, but we’ll talk more about that later.
From there, the next thing you can’t help but see is the distinctive style of the computer itself. We’ll jump more heavily into the design in a bit, but my initial impressions were positive as far as looks go.
They say first impressions stick, and MSI definitely delivers in that regard. The PC itself looks great, the mouse and keyboard feature the same red and black color scheme as the PC itself, and there’s really nothing negative you can say it about it at first glance. Does it keep that positive feeling once you plug it in and turn it on, or does it all fall apart from there?
As far as the design of the computer itself, the MSI is beautiful. It has a vibrant 21.5 inch LCD display, and all of that is surrounded by black and red. Everything comes together into a piece of gaming hardware that will look great on any desk.
The computer is held up via a slick kickstand on the back that can be adjusted to accommodate a wide range of viewing angles. Whether you like to sit tall or low, you’ll be able to have the display angled perfectly.
Tucked under the wide kickstand are the ports. You’ll find an HDMI input, and output, as well as a VGA port. You’ll also find a headphone and microphone port for users who want to use their own speakers instead of MSI’s built-in offering. For network connectivity, an Ethernet port is included, as well as Wifi.
For peripherals, there’s a generous three USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports. Two are along the side of the computer, with the other three sitting on the back. Above the USB ports on the side, you’ll also find a 3-in-1 card reader for pulling data off those memory cards.
There’s only one small issue I have with the physical design of the computer, and that’s the glare on the highly reflective display. As long as you position the computer where a light isn’t shining directly, the screen looks beautiful, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
If you’re buying a computer with the goal of playing PC games, you want to make sure it’s packed with the specs you need to run the games you want to play.
- CPU: Intel Core i5-4200H 2.8 GHz
- GPU: NVIDIA Geforce GTX 860M 2GB GDDR5
- RAM: 12 GB (one 8GB stick and one 4GB stick)
- HDD: 1TB (7200 RPM)
- OS: Windows 8.1
As you can see, the specs on offer here are kind of right down the middle. It has a powerful mobile GPU, but it’s no comparison to high-end desktop model. The Core i5 processor is sufficient for gaming, but it’s definitely a chip that demanding physics can push to the limit. The 12GB is fine for most games, but you’ll occasionally run into some that are looking for 16GB in order to run as smoothly as possible.
For the same price, if you were to look at a traditional desktop, you’d find much higher specs. You’d be able to find a Core i7, and a comparable desktop GPU. Of course, you would need to purchase a separate monitor, which will up the cost a bit, but you’d also be looking at a more powerful (and ultimately upgradeable) device.
Included Mouse and Keyboard
MSI has thrown a mouse and keyboard in the box, which is nice, but unfortunately the keyboard is cheap junk. It seems as though MSI grabbed the cheapest hardware it could throw in, which is quite disapointing, as it would be nice to get something that at least rivals a laptop’s built-in keyboard. The buttons stuck while in use, it’s thin and just doesn’t feel good for playing games.
The mouse, on the other hand, is quite useable. It’s not going to rival a top-of-the-line MMO mouse like the Razer Naga, but it will get the job done, and as someone who personally prefers a smaller mouse, I could actually see myself using it. If you prefer a beefy mouse to wrap your giant hands around, you’ll probably hate this one.
Neither the mouse or the keyboard is anything special, but it’s nice that MSI at least included them to get you started. I would have liked to have seen something a little higher quality, but it’s better than nothing.
For playing PC games on this computer, the experience itself isn’t bad, but it’s definitely not top-of-the-line by any stretch. For example, Divinity: Original Sin won’t go past Medium settings. It’s not even that the PC gets laggy, the game just tells you that your system can’t handle it. Divinity is not the most graphically intense game, either.
I couldn’t find a game that it wouldn’t run at least on Medium settings. Sure, you’re not going to be running brand new games on Ultra settings (though you can run games like Dota 2 with the settings cranked up), but the 860M is a solid mobile GPU that can at least run anything, just not that well.
The key phrase there is “mobile processor,” because that’s what this is. You’re making a weird trade off with the form factor, because it’s not as portable as a laptop, but it features the same hardware as one. Of course, the screen is quite a bit bigger, so you do gain that, but you could also get a full desktop with an even bigger screen for about the same price. It’s tough to see what market this is aiming for.
The screen glare rears its ugly head again while playing games. You’ll have to make sure there’s no bright light source shining on the screen, or it will definitely impede your ability to see the screen well. If you’re playing a competitive game, disadvantages like this can mean the difference between winning and losing.
Gaming on the MSI AG220 isn’t a bad experience, but it’s nowhere near perfect. I have a hard time finding a justifiable reason to go with this over a laptop or desktop. It has the disadvantages of a laptop (weaker hardware), but it loses the major advantage (portability).
Of course, if you buy a machine like this, you’re going to want it to do more than just play PC games. For $1,200, you should expect this to perform as your main computing device. As far as using it for applications outside of games, you won’t find much that it can’t run. After all, games are generally one of the more demanding types of programs, and even though it struggles to run the most powerful games on ultra settings, programs like Photoshop run without issue.
For video editing, the Core i5 does a decent enough job, but again, not fantastic. A Core i7 would be able to handle the load much more easily. If you’re not a professional video editor, and you are just looking to make some YouTube videos of your gameplay, you’ll definitely find that the MSI all-in-one is up to the task.
Browsing the web and using apps work as you’d expect. It’s running Windows 8.1, which might turn away some users, but we’ve reached the point where it’s hard to find a branded computer running Windows 7. If you’re going to buy new, you’ll inevitably have to Windows 8.
As a general purpose computer it’s good. It’s small, so it won’t take up a lot of space on a desk – but as we mentioned before you could get a similarly specced laptop with the portability or a better specced desktop. That’s a flaw of the all-in-one form factor though, and not specific to this model.
In the end, it’s hard to justify buying an all-in-one for gaming. The benefits just don’t add up. Sure, it takes up less space than a desktop, but you still can’t carry it around like you can a laptop.
At the same time, it’s not as powerful as a traditional desktop, so it sits right in mediocrity. The only reason I could see someone needing this is if they don’t plan to move it around, but they only have a very small area in which to use it, and they want a bigger screen than a laptop offers. Otherwise, you’re better off going with a laptop or a desktop.
Think about your requirements and buy either a desktop or laptop instead – this is not a machine built for gaming.
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