Acer AspireRevo R3610: Mini Media PC Has Windows 7, Ion Graphics, and HDMI
By Nate Ralph
At a Glance
Ion graphics/accelerated Flash 10.1 video
No optical drive
2GB extra RAM is your only upgrade possibility
Acer’s media-centric nettop offers Ion graphics, HDMI output, and high-speed networking.
Take a low-power, silent desktop, and stuff it with netbook components. In the case of the $330 (as of February 1, 2010) Acer AspireRevo R3610, make sure to bless it with HDMI output and 1080p video playback, too. What do you get? A nettop. These Lilliputian systems provide a fraction of a traditional desktop’s power at a fraction of the size and cost. While they’re generally serviceable for basic browsing and e-mail tasks, the R3610’s nVidia Ion graphics also give it media-center potential–as does its compact 7.1-by-7.1-by-1.2-inch size.
We’ve sung the praises of nVidia’s Ion platform before, and the GPU-maker’s integrated graphics product turns the AspireRevo into a real contender. Gaming still isn’t an option–the system produced just 12 frames per second in our Unreal Tournament 3 tests (at 1024 by 768, and highest settings). But when it comes to HD video output, Ion trumps typical integrated graphics from Intel right now. The AspireRevo sports VGA and HDMI ports, and streams music, photos, and 1080p video with aplomb. Compare that with the similarly equipped Sony VAIO P netbook, which struggles to handle even 320-by-240-resolution video on its Intel GMA 550 graphics processor.
Streaming HD Web video from sites such as Hulu or Vimeo was shaky on the AspireRevo until we installed the new Flash Player 10.1 Beta, which beefs up Flash playback by enlisting the help of the Ion graphics chip. The AspireRevo’s support for 7.1 surround sound (via S/PDIF coaxial output), 802.11n Wi-Fi, and gigabit ethernet round out its home-theater PC capabilities. The system’s Windows 7 Home Premium OS includes Media Center, but you’ll need to get your own USB TV tuner or capture stick for DVR-like functionality.
For everyday tasks, though, Windows 7 actually runs well on the R3610’s 1.6GHz Atom 330 dual-core processor, 2GB of DDR2-800 memory (upgradable to 4GB), and 5400-rpm hard disk. We saw a noticeable performance hit with common tasks, like multitasking or thumbing through half a dozen browser windows at 1900 by 1200 on a 32-inch HDTV, but you’ll get better mileage if you turn off some of Windows 7’s visual pizzazz, like the Aero visual effects.
The AspireRevo lacks an optical drive (Blu-ray, DVD, or otherwise), but its six USB ports, multiformat card reader, and high-speed networking mean you’ll have no problems streaming or copying over digital movie/music files. And if external hard drives are your thing, you’ll be pleased to know that it also has a high-speed eSATA connection.
The included wireless keyboard and mouse are nice enough for casual use. Powered by AAA batteries, they connect to the system by way of a minuscule nub of a USB dongle. The range is great; they’re perfect for couch surfing, and they never broke connectivity while we roamed about our test apartment.
You won’t find much in the way of extras. The included “Acer Games” console falls firmly into the realm of shovelware, offering demos of yesterday’s tired Flash games. The “manual” is two pages long, and tells you how to plug your HDMI cable into your TV. Of note is the dinky pair of USB speakers: The sound is okay (better than the tinny whine that dribbles out of most laptops), but yes, you will replace them. And HDMI users will just use their TV speakers, anyway.
The Acer AspireRevo R3610 has a lot to like, particularly if media serving is a niche you need filled. Plop it down beside or behind your TV and patch it into your home network, and you’ll have a fairly nice streaming box for just $330. You could instead get a newly updated Mac Mini for a few hundred dollars more, but if you want streaming media in a petite package (with a price to match), put the AspireRevo on your short list.
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