Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 review: Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022

With no dedicated graphics card, the Aspire AM3970 will provide only a basic gaming experience. You can add a 3D card to its spare 16x PCI Express slot, but the 300-watt power supply and an absence of Molex power connectors will limit you to lower midrange graphics-card options. Two free 1x PCI Express slots round out the card expansion options, and you also get room to add an extra hard drive, as well as one additional stick of memory.

We were disappointed by the $499 Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P, since its slim tower case is living-room friendly, but Acer opted to leave off an HDMI jack. We can't say we're excited to see both VGA and HDMI outputs on the midtower Aspire AM3970, but we'd rather have them than not. Your data connections are limited to USB 2.0 jacks, but you at least get plenty of them, with 10 scattered around the case. Audio output is more restricted, since Acer provides only headphone and microphone jacks on the front of the case and a set of 5.1 analog inputs on the rear. The 7.1 jacks, much less digital audio output, have become increasingly rare in this price range, so we don't find the Acer's audio limitations a surprise, and we expect the extant ports will be adequate for most potential buyers.

Juice box
Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.55
Sleep (10 percent) 1.41
Idle (25 percent) 25.05
Load (5 percent) 56.77
Raw kWh 104.94
Energy Star-compliant Yes
Annual power consumption cost $11.91

Annual power consumption cost
Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 (Core i3 2100, Summer 2011)
$11.91 
Lenovo H320 (Core i5 650, Spring 2011)
$19.55 

While the Aspire AM3970 doesn't lead on performance or features for the dollar, its power efficiency may provide some very small comfort. You'll pay less than a dollar a month to operate this PC, which is less than any Windows system in its price range we've reviewed this year.

Acer's standard warranty grants you a year of parts-and-labor coverage. You can also find driver downloads and a variety of other support resources if you're willing to suffer through Acer's circuitous Web site. Going by the Web site alone, you'd have no idea that standard phone support was available with this PC. The number, 800-816-2237, is listed in small type in the included manual, or you can register the system online with the serial number, which you'll find along the bottom edge of the right panel.

Conclusion
The Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 is a reasonably attractive desktop with a fair price tag given its budget-priced components. Only the fluctuating prices in the retail market keep this system from earning a higher recommendation. If the pricing swings in this system's favor, bargain shoppers won't regret picking it up.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:
Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3,1GHz Intel Core i3 2100; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 2000 embedded graphics; 1TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive

Gateway DX4850-45
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 230; 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB Intel HD 2000 embedded graphics; 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive

HP Pavilion p6720f
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.9GHz AMD Phenom II X4 810T; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.

Lenovo H320
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 6GB 1,066MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022

Part Number: PT.SG5P2.004 Released: Jun. 1, 2011

MSRP: $549.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Jun. 1, 2011
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics Dynamic Video Memory Technology 5.0
  • Color black
  • OS Provided Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit Edition
  • CPU Intel Core i3 (2nd Gen) 2100 / 3.1 GHz
  • Monitor Type None.
About The Author

Rich Brown is an executive editor for CNET Reviews. He has worked as a technology journalist since 1994.