Acer's Aspire 3683WXMi is the company's budget entry into the Vista space. At the time of writing, it's fair to argue that most people shifting to Vista will do so as a result of buying new hardware, and in the case of the 3683WXMi, it makes a certain amount of financial sense. At just over $1000 (and Acer, at the time of writing, was offering a cashback to bring it below the crucial thousand dollar psychological mark), with Windows Vista Basic -- which retails in a full-box version for $385 -- the Acer Aspire 3683WXMi might seem like exceptionally good value. Note, however, that the copy of Vista Basic that comes with the Acer Aspire 3683WXMi is an OEM version; they're unlikely to sell you the system barebones for six hundred notes.
Speaking of barebones, the Acer Aspire 3683WXMi is a barebones system in a visual sense; if we wanted to describe the notebook quickly, we'd say it looks like an Acer. Exactly like many other Acer laptops in fact, which means you're getting a solid design that's not the snazziest on the block, but equally doesn't look like it fell out of 1992.
There's always a price to pay for being at the price-cutting edge, and in the case of the Acer Aspire 3683WXMi, it's in the internal componentry. The processor in the 3683WXMi is a meagre Celeron M 430 1.73GHz, backed up with a measly 512MB of RAM and a 60GB hard drive. Graphics are supplied via the Intel Media Accelerator 950, which will gobble up to 224MB of your memory if you give it a chance. That fits the bill well enough for a Home Basic system -- and to be honest, we'd be a bit frightened to see whether it could handle some of the heavier tasks available to users of Home Premium or Ultimate Vista.
One feature that's becoming more prevalent in notebooks as a whole -- but still not terribly common in lower-end machines -- pops up unexpectedly on the 3683WXMi in the form of a integrated webcam, or as Acer puts it, the OrbiCam. We're still not convinced that OrbiCam doesn't sound like something that you'd stick on the Terminator, but it's a pleasant enough inclusion nonetheless.
At the time of writing, very few benchmarks operate in a satisfactory fashion on the Vista platform, but in the case of the 3683WXMi we noticed something significant without running a single benchmark -- the 3683WXMi struggles with Vista.
Specifically, we saw a lot of spinning wheels and twiddled our thumbs a lot of the time while waiting for the 3683WXMi to process requests. We did manage to get PCMark 05 to run -- it gave us a score of 1555 PCMarks, which is in line with our expectations given the low end nature of the components in the 3683WXMi.
One factor we can bring up are Vista's own inbuilt Windows Experience Index. Predictably, given the components, the 3683WXMi scored in an average fashion at best across most sectors:
|Primary Hard Disk||4.3|
The Aspire 3683WXMi houses a 6-cell Lithium Ion battery. Given that the processor in the 3683WXMi isn't a low-voltage part, this isn't a long-haul travelling system - but that's par for the course at this particular price point.
Ultimately, the 3683WXMi is a low-spec system at a low-spec price. We weren't particularly thrilled with its overall performance -- and it's a sterling argument that systems of this specification may in fact run better under Windows XP than Vista -- but if you're after an entry level machine and you're strapped for cash it's certainly worthy of basic consideration.