Reviews

MSI Modern AM241 review: An efficient but imperfect All-in-One

This compact All-in-One has decent performance and good connectivity, but some important caveats

Price
£875 exc VAT
  • Solid performance
  • Nearly silent in operation
  • Good physical connectivity
  • Dismal loudspeakers
  • Inaccurate screen colour
  • No Thunderbolt or DisplayPort

A good All-in-One PC brings many benefits to the workplace. It takes up less space than a traditional desktop, it reduces unsightly cabling, it’s easier to move around - and more often than not it looks rather more stylish than a conventional black-box office desktop PC, which is an increasingly important feature in customer-facing business environments. Of course, that's not to say that All-in-Ones are perfect. They often lack the range of ports and user upgrade options to be found in standard desktops. And performance-wise, what you’ll be getting is essentially laptop hardware bolted onto a monitor. 

All the major PC makers offer All-in-Ones. Dell has an impressive line of Inspiron-branded models while HP has an equivalent if smaller range under the ProOne banner. Now we have a brace of new machines from Taiwanese OEM Micro-Star International, better known by the initials MSI, in its Modern range. 

MSI’s new AM241 All-in-One comes in two flavours: a Core i7-based machine with 16GB of RAM which will cost you £875 exc VAT and a Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM with a sticker price of £666 exc VAT. We’ve got the Core i7 version in for review and no, we don't know why MSI named it after a radioactive isotope. 

MSI Modern AM241 review: Design

Pull the AM241 out of its box and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve bought a monitor rather than a PC. At 32.5 x 54.1 x 17.5cm and weighing just shy of 4kg (4.49kg with the stand) it’s more or less the same size and weight as a 24in monitor.  Aesthetically, the AM241 is pretty anonymous - though the looks are helped by the narrow 6mm top and side bezels and the reasonably slender 23mm chin below the screen. Our review unit came in dreary business-black, but there’s also a silver model if you fancy something a bit more swish. 

The whole assembly is made of plastic but is none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly though, there’s no way to access the AM241's innards; the "factory sealed" sticker over one of the screw heads means what it says. 

Setting the AM241 up is simple enough; simply attach the stand to the base and then screw it to the VESA mount on the back of the main unit. Then you just need to insert a pair of AAA batteries into the bundled wireless mouse and keyboard, plug the 2.4GHz unifying receiver into one of the USB ports and you’re good to go. 

The height of the display can be adjusted so that the bottom edge is anywhere between a minimum of 85mm and a maximum of 220mm from the surface it’s standing on. While adjusting the display height is simplicity itself, our review unit sat slightly crooked, the left side being 10mm lower than the right. Since there’s no way to adjust the left-right angle, however, we just had to live with it. At any height, the screen can be tilted between five degrees forward and 15 degrees back.

The bundled wireless keyboard and mouse are unsurprisingly rather budget affairs but nevertheless perfectly functional. The chiclet keyboard is solid and has a positive key action with about 1.5mm of travel. The cursor buttons and numeric keypad will be a boon to many office workers, too. The mouse, meanwhile, feels comfortable in the hand and has two side buttons, programmed by default for forward and back actions. The keyboard we received had the US rather than UK layout but MSI says that retail packages for the UK will correct this. We'd still suggest investing in something like Logitech’s MK295 keyboard and mouse combination package, though. For £30, it will improve your user experience immensely.

On the rear right-hand side of the unit is a hatch that conceals a 2.5in SATA3 drive bay, which is useful for adding cheap, bulk storage capacity. Below this sits a miniature joystick to navigate around the monitor's on-screen control panel. This is a rather overcomplicated way to manage what are essentially the volume, input and brightness controls, though. 

MSI Modern AM241 review: Display

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The 23.8in IPS display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080, a 99dpi pixel density and a 60Hz refresh rate. We had no arguments with the basic performance: A maximum brightness of 348cd/m2 is more than adequate for a machine that won’t be used outdoors and the 772:1 contrast ratio is reasonable too. 

On the other hand, while the sRGB gamut coverage measurement of 94% and volume of 98.8% were strong, the Delta E indicator of colour representation and accuracy was rather poor. The best figure we got was 2.33 after fiddling about with the unnecessarily large number of colour profiles that are accessible via two distinct menus. That result isn’t shockingly bad - the average user is unlikely to notice inaccuracies if the test result score is less than 3 - but it means this is a machine which can't be called on to reproduce photographic images faithfully in a professional setting.

MSI’s promotional material also talks about the display’s anti-flicker technology and that it emits less blue light in order to reduce eye damage. Laudable features, to be sure, but you may struggle to notice the difference between it and the vast majority of PC monitors on the market today, most of which boast similar features.

MSI Modern AM241 review: Hardware and performance

Powering the AM241 is an eleventh generation Intel Core-i7 1165G7 Tiger Lake processor; a quad-core component with a base clock speed of 2.8GHz and a turbo-boost frequency of 4.7GHz. It’s a processor designed primarily for mobile use in laptops and ultrabooks and depends on an integrated Iris Xe GPU for graphics duty. Notwithstanding its mobile heritage, the 1165G7 is a processor which, when combined with 16GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM and an NVMe PCIe SSD, makes the AM241 a quick performer. 

Tested with the IT Pro in-house 4K media benchmarks, it scored 146 points while the GeekBench 5 test returned a single-core score of 1,498 and a multi-core score of 4,874. To put that into context, Apple’s M1-powered iMac scored 217 in the 4k test while the modular Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra, running on an 8th Gen Core i7 processor scored 115. That means the AM241 should be able to perform the majority of productivity tasks with alacrity and it’s certainly faster than any 11th Gen. Core-i7 laptop we’ve reviewed. The best 4k benchmark result generated by an 1165G7 laptop - the Razer Book 13 - has been 124 while the majority struggle to even break the 120-point barrier.

The 512GB Western Digital SSD produced average sequential read and write speeds of 2,238MB/sec and 1,721MB/sec respectively in our tests, which is fine for a drive with a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface, and should translate to sufficiently speedy performance.

Thanks to the 1165G7’s low TDP of 45W - low for a desktop processor that is - the AM241 goes about its business almost silently. Even when the fans are running at full speed, you can barely hear them. One thing to note about the Core i7-1165G7 however is that, unlike the 1185G7, it isn't compatible with Intel's vPro or Trusted Execution Technology standards, which some IT departments may not be all that impressed with.

MSI Modern AM241 review: Ports and features

The AM241 certainly doesn’t lack connectivity. On the back of the unit, there are two USB 2.0 ports along with an HDMI-in and a  HDMI 2.0 output - the former so you can use the unit as a dumb monitor,  bypassing the operating system completely - and an RJ45 1Gb LAN connector. 

On the left is a 3.5mm audio in/out jack along with two Type-A and two Type-C ports - all are 3.2 Gen 2 but the latter do not support DisplayPort or Thunderbolt video output. This limits video output to just the HDMI port which may be restrictive in some circumstances and seems like a waste of potential port capacity when the Intel chipset can support four displays.

There’s a final Type-A USB 2.0 port on the back just above where the stand is connected to the main unit. This last port is reflected so truthfully on the glossy plastic of the unit that we actually tried to plug something into it.  Wireless communications are handled by an Intel AX201 card which supports Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

Built into the bottom of the unit are a pair of 3W loudspeakers, but don't get your hopes up: they're dismal affairs. There's little volume and nothing in the way of bass. The speakers in the £350 HP x360 Chromebook we have lying about the office put them to shame. There’s no built-in webcam, but MSI does make up for this by bundling an unbranded 1080p USB camera with a privacy shutter that you can hook over the top of the screen. The image quality is impressive but the performance of the dual microphones is less so; they only picked up what we said when we shouted so loudly the other person could probably have heard us with their naked ear.

MSI Modern AM241 review: Verdict

MSI’s Modern AM241 is a thoroughly competent (if rather unexceptional) All-in-One Windows PC and the Core i5 model looks like solid value for money. We doubt it gives much away to the Core i7 version in terms of productivity performance. The problem is that at £875, the Core i7 version is getting perilously close to the entry-level iMac which, for £1040 exc VAT, has a much better display and sound system. 

Dell’s Inspiron 24 5000 All-in-One, meanwhile, is £175 cheaper and boasts a very similar basic specification. The wonky stand was more than likely a one-off issue with our review unit but the limited video output options, the low-rent speakers and the rather poor display colour accuracy are harder to forgive - not to mention the poor microphone performance of the bundled webcam, which almost renders it useless. 

For many business users, the up-to-date processor, near-silent operation, 2.5in HDD expansion bay and plethora of connectivity options will be the deciding factors, and if MSI brought the price of the i7 version closer to that of the i5, we’d recommend it without hesitation. As it stands, however, the AM241 isn’t as compelling a purchase as it could be. 

MSI Modern AM241 specifications

Processor

Quad-core Intel Core-i7 1165G7

RAM

16GB DDR4 (2 x 8GB SODIMM sockets)

Graphics adapter

Intel Iris Xe Integrated graphics

Storage

512GB SSD

Storage expansion

2.5in SATA 3 HDD

Graphics outputs

HDMI 2.1

Other ports

USB Type-A 2.0 x 3, USB Type-A 3.2 Gen 2 x 2, USB Type-C x 2, RJ45, HDMI-in

Wireless

Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1

Dimensions

32.5 x 54.1 x 17.5cm

Weight (inc. stand)

4.49Kg

Operating System

Windows 10 Home

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