The Acer Aspire Revo is one of the smallest desktop computers on the market, available in all sorts of configurations to suite the pocket. Unless you've seen one of these devices, it's hard to imagine how small they are, and how much Acer have managed to cram into such aa small space. The price is also very reasonable, coming in at around £199 for the basic model.
First of, this is a nettop, and as such doesn't come equiped with a built in CD/DVD rom. This is easily rectified using an external USB drive or alternatively you can transfer programs via a USB data pen. If Acer had included an inbuilt drive, I'm sure this device would have doubled in size so it's a price worth paying.
The device is based on the Intel Atom Dual Core 330 1.6 GHz processor, and can be configured with 1-4GB of SDRAM and 160-500GB hard drives. You also have a choice of Linux, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems. The version I will be reviewing has 4GB or memory, a 500GB hard drive and Windows 7 64bit Home Premium installed.
Included in the package is a wireless keyboard and mouse (complete with batteries), a stand and a VESA mount so that you can fasten the device to the back of an LCD TV. Personally I don't like this option, as you have to reach behind the TV to turn the Acer on and off, but its great if your sole purpose is to use the PC as a media center.
The PC itself has 6 USB ports, which is more than enough to satisfy most people without having to resort to a USB hub. Video connections come in the form of a standard VGA socket and a HDMI port, great for those 1080p hi-def movies. On the front panel you have headphone and mic sockets, an S/PDIF socket, external eSATA connection, and a card reader (SD, XD and Sony Memory Card). It comes with integrated GbE LAN port plus wireless B/G (but no draft N).
Whilst unpacking the device I couldn't find the USB dongle for the wireless keyboard and mouse, which turned out to be hidden inside the battery compartment of the mouse! Yes it's that small...
On powering up the device for the first time I was surprised at how quiet it was, with no obvious fan noise. The fan does kick in if the device is being pushed to its limits and although audible its certainly not what I would call noisy.
Connected to my Sony 40" TV the video quality through HDMI looked great at 1080p, and was fairly responsive, even with 'Aero' enabled. Although you can select other resolutions, the ones recommended without distortion were 1920x1080, 1600x900, 1280x720, 1088x612 and 800x600. Some rather odd resolutions there, but I'm not sure if that had anything to do with my TV.
So how does the Revo 3610 perform?
This device uses a Nvidia ION chipset which is based on the Geforce 9300 GPU, which allows this device to deliver great multimedia performance, especially with HD video. I had no problems playing back 720p and 1080p footage. Streaming video also plays perfectly thanks to the new Adobe Flash 10.1 beta which has hardware support for the ION chipset.
Unfortunately this isn't going to win any awards for speed when it comes to gaming, but then I didn't expect it to fair well in this department. You will get away with light gaming, but don't expect to run the likes of Unreal Tournament or any other highly DirectX dependant games.
I purchased this device to specifically run my own music player software (Glimmer), which is also highly relient on video performance. Whilst it struggled to run a constant 40fps at 1080p, it ran fine at lower resolutions, and since I planned on using an external 7" monitor running at only 800x480, speed was not an issue. So if you plan on running desktop software at 1080p, make sure the software is optimized to use hardware acceleration or you may struggle.
Since I was using the Revo as a music player, audio quality was also very important. The Revo has an S/PDIF output with high def audio, and whilst the output was good with no noticable noise levels I didn't think it was a match for the Creative X-Fi card in my desktop PC. Don't get me wrong, it's better than most inbuilt sound cards, and perfectly adequate for most people, it just doesn't have the dynamic range I have come to expect. The solution for me was to buy an external USB X-Fi GO sound card. Even though it doesn't have an S/PDIF output, it does sound much better to my ears than the onboard sound of the Revo.
If you spend most of your time surfing the net, checking emails or hanging out on social networking sites then you can't go wrong with this PC, and it isn't going to burn a hole in your pocket. The Revo makes using desktop applications such as Microsoft Office seem quite a pleasurable experience. There is something satisfying about that amount of power coming out of such a small box. If you are looking for a second computer which doesn't occupy much space, or a media player to stream online content then the Revo will do nicely.
All in all, I believe this to be the best portable nettop PC currently on the market.