There's been a resurgence of late in all-in-one PCs hovering around the AU$1000 price point. Whether you're a fan of the iMac concept, prefer the minimalism of a nettop or simply want something that'll look OK in your living room, most manufacturers have stepped up with interesting designs.
The HP Pavilion MS214a isn't one of them. That is, it isn't one of the interesting designs; it's still an all-in-one PC. It's just that it's a rather plain looking all-in-one PC that could easily be mistaken for an 18.5-inch TV if the mouse and keyboard were absent. It's not an unpleasant design, and it doesn't look overbearingly cheap. It's just that it's rather unremarkable.
The same thing can be said about the bundled keyboard and mouse, both of which are corded. They do work quite well, but they're very plain pieces of kit. Almost any keyboard or mouse would be an upgrade both aesthetically and functionally, but it's perfectly feasible to get by on what you're given if the budget is tight.
Behind the Pavilion MS214a's 18.5-inch display screen sits an AMD Athlon X2 6850e 1.8GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, a 7200rpm 500GB hard drive and a 512MB Nvidia GeForce G210 graphics chip. It's not the most powerful solution we've seen in an all-in-one, but for basic office-style tasks it should suffice.
On the software side, HP stacks a lot of its own applications on top of 32-bit Windows 7 Home Premium Edition. MediaSmart DVD, CyberLink DVD Suite 6, HP Games, HP MediaSmart Software Suite, Microsoft Works 9, HP MediaSmart Webcam, Norton Internet Security 2009 (60-day trial), Norton Online Backup (30-day trial), HP Advisor, HP Hardware Diagnostic Tools, HP Support Assistant and HP Recovery Manager are all pre-installed.
HP's pitch for the Pavilion MS214a is that it's an easy-to-use PC, and with that in mind the normal Windows 7 set-up screens are replaced with much flashier HP ones. They still do much the same tasks, but if you like being guided around by ghostly, Super Smash Bros-esque gloved hands while you set up your PC, you'll be very happy indeed. The supplied mouse and keyboard as noted do work, but they're merely functional rather than being exceptional.
As we expected, the Pavilion MS214a didn't set the world on fire in benchmark score terms. With a PCMark05 score of 3869 and a 3DMark06 score of 3246 this is a solid and capable enough performer, but again not an exemplary one.
All-in-one units are pitched at a very specific market. You're not likely to get the latest and greatest within an all-in-one form factor, and the Pavilion MS214a isn't priced anywhere near where you'd expect it to be. There's an obvious comparison point to Apple's iMac line, and while we'd definitely say that the iMac is the looker of the pair, the Pavilion MS214a's slightly cheaper asking price does come into play. If you're after a cheaper all-in-one and don't want the sluggish performance we've seen out of all nettops to date, then the Pavilion MS214a is a good choice.