Acer Aspire Z5610: Cost-Cutting 23-inch All-in-One Has Good Performance
At a Glance
Acer Aspire Z5610 All-in-One PC
Despite a small hard disk and no Blu-ray drive, the 23-inch Z5610 still offers good bang for your buck.
Acer's Aspire Z5610 is kind of like a budget version of the Gateway One ZX6810-01. Both have 23-inch, 1080p-capable multitouch displays and top-notch general performance, but the $900 Acer (price as of December 8, 2009) lacks the $1400 Gateway's gaming grunt--as well as extras like a TV tuner and a media center remote control. Still, the Z5610 offers a lot for its cost.
Besides its big high-def screen, the goodies include a 2.6GHz Intel dual-core processor that delivered an impressive score of 101 in our WorldBench 6 benchmark suite. This score compares extremely well with those of the $2000 Sony Vaio L117FX/B (a 24-inch multitouch) and the aforementioned Gateway One ZX6810-01, which both earned 105 in WorldBench 6. Those results were beaten only by the new Core i7- and Core i5-based 27-inch Apple iMacs, the category-leading speedsters. Tested using 64-bit Windows 7 and Boot Camp, the $2200 Apple iMac (27-inch / Core i7) scored 128 to the $2000 iMac (27-inch / Core i5)'s result of 123. Blazing.
The Z5610 was trumped by all those PCs in our gaming tests, but its 512MB ATI Radeon HD 4570 graphics chip does deliver playable frame rates that go neck-and-neck with HP's $1460 TouchSmart 600xt. The Acer managed 40 fps in Unreal Tournament 3 (1024 by-768 resolution, high quality), though that halved to 24 fps at 1680 by 1050 (same settings).
So here's one way Acer kept the Z5160's price so low: While other big screen all-in-one PCs (over 20 inches) boast anywhere from 600GB to 1TB of storage, the Z5160 goes only as high as 320GB of storage. It's a fair amount, if not average for most systems below the Z5160's price. Still, a jump up to 500GB would seem fitting. On the upside, 802.11n Wi-Fi and gigabit LAN connectivity ensures that you'll always have access to the fastest performance available no matter what your personal networking preference is.
The system's 23-inch touchscreen panel is well-utilized by the preinstalled plethora of Acer software, including a backup manager, a social networking application, a media hub, and a giant portal for launching (and dragging around) all sorts of individual applications. This bundle easily rivals HP's bevy of awesome applications for a touch-sensitive device. As for the screen's picture quality, the display is as bright as it is crisp. It delivers excellent saturation that really makes movies and graphics pop with life, and the powerful contrasts--hampered slightly by the strong glare of the system's glossy panel--do an equally excellent job displaying both the blacks and whites of a scene. The system's included speakers are of the usual all-in-one desktop quality: not great, but not worse than an average laptop's.
An average load-out of six USB ports, split across the system's side and rear, is sweetened by the unique inclusion of a single eSATA port. Although a nod to a more conventional (and widely used) display connector would have been a better choice, one can't really fault the Z5160 in its attempt to appeal to users of high-performance external storage devices. A single multiformat card reader sits on the system's side, as does a DVD writer. No Blu-ray love at this price.
The gray keyboard and mouse included with the Z5610 are each as ugly as the other. The former comes with additional function keys for launching applications and controlling media playback, but a giant volume wheel built into the keyboard's upper-right corner looks downright weird. The system's boxy mouse is a generic two-button model with wireless capabilities--that means it should still get a signal when you toss it in the trash in favor of a device that's a bit friendlier on the eyes and fingers. These are truly hideous devices to look at.
With no mention in the manual of any way to replace or upgrade the components, you should assume that you're stuck with what you're getting. That's a shame, considering that its versions of the most easily replaceable parts in a conventional PC are the only real drawbacks to the Z5610's stellar performance and quality. Up the storage a little bit, swap out the optical drive for a Blu-ray device, and you'd have an unstoppable machine on your hands.
As it stands, the Z5160 delivers a killer combination of reasonable price, powerful performance, and beautiful graphics. The preceding suggestions would only be the icing on the cake of a fantastic all-in-one desktop.