Calling Windows 8 a "tough sell" is a bit of an understatement. Microsoft's re-imagining of the classic desktop as a touch-centric affair threw many of us for a loop, especially those of us accustomed to PCs with large monitors, managed via a keyboard and mouse. And that's where all-in-one desktops like the 23-inch Acer Aspire AU5-620-UB10 step in.
Unlike a laptop, the Aspire's 23-inch display gives you enough space to experience Windows 8's touch interface without needing a keyboard and mouse. And since portability isn't a concern you get a DVD burner, and more USB ports than you'd find on a laptop.
This Acer all-in-one ticks all of the right boxes, straddling that perilous line between price and performance. While not quite as exciting as 27-inch, Blu-ray-playing behemoths, you'll find a PC that will tackle work and a fair share of play without a bit of fuss. Better still, at $999 the Aspire AU5-620-UB10 is affordable.
|Acer Aspire AU5-620-UB10||Dell Inspiron 23||Apple iMac (21-inch, 2014)|
|Price as reviewed||$999||$1,399||$1,099|
|Display size/resolution||23-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||23-inch, 1,920x1,080 touch screen||21.5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 screen|
|PC CPU||2.5GHz Intel Core i5-4200M||2.4GHz Intel Corei7-4700MQ||1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U|
|PC memory||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||12GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM||8GB 1,600MHZ DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 4600||2GB AMD 8690A Graphics||1,792MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000|
|Storage||1TB, 5,400rpm HDD||1TB, 5,400rpm HDD||500GB, 5,400rpm HDD|
|Networking||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11b/g/n wireless, Bluetooth 4.0||802.11a/c wireless, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8 (64-bit)||Windows 8 (64-bit)||OSX 10.9.3 Mavericks|
Design and display
The 23-inch Aspire AU5 isn't quitebut with a light push it can slide back onto its stand until it's just about flat.
That's not necessarily a great angle for reading or watching videos, but if you're feeling artistically inclined, it makes for a comfortable doodling surface. I suspect it'll be better for things like board games, though the ability to go completely flat would've been great. That's a route many other all-in-ones have taken -- consider the Dell Inspiron 23, for example.
That range of motion wouldn't be all that great with a shoddy display, but Acer fortunately didn't cut corners on the screen. This IPS panel's 1,920-by-1,080 pixel resolution pales in comparison to many modern displays, but it suits the 23-inch frame just fine. Colors are bright and vibrant, but more importantly, they look consistent, without shifting no matter where I sit, or how far I tilt the screen. Text is similarly crisp and clean, which makes reading articles on the Web a pleasant experience. I did have a bit of trouble with reflections when the all-in-one sat on the sunnier edge of my desk, but it was never overly problematic, and the display is easy to see in a brightly lit office environment.
A glossy finish lends the machine's edge-to-edge glass display a really sleek look, but the whole thing is a magnet for fingerprints -- you'll want to keep a microfiber cloth handy, so it's a good thing Acer packs one with the PC. The screen sits atop the stereo speakers, housed behind a grille that runs along the bottom of the machine. These speakers aren't earth-shatteringly loud, and music can be a bit distorted when things are really cranked up, but it's a pleasant-sounding machine overall.
Features and apps
The apps bundled onto the machine are decidedly less impressive. To start, Acer really wants you to sign up for an Acer ID: you'll need one to access a collection of Acer-branded apps whose purpose is to mimic existing cloud services in a cumbersome manner. AbPhoto, AbFiles, and AbMedia are managers for photos, files, music, and media, respectively, with support for syncing between PCs, iOS, and Android devices that have installed Acer's Portal app. As Acer cloud is a sort of personal data center -- your files never leave your personal devices to sit on a foreign server somewhere -- it does have some semblance of privacy, but that utility comes at the cost of a universally clunky UI and far less utility than something like Dropbox or Google Drive.
The rest of the PC is plagued by standard bloatware, including that WildTangent Games portal that I swear is creeping up on every new PC purchase. You're also stuck with McAfee Internet Security, whose near constant barrage of notifications is so blisteringly annoying I'm generally tempted to take my chances with the malware.
Still, there's nothing that takes up an especially large chunk of the Aspire AU5-620's 1TB hard drive, and the apps are generally bundled under the "Acer Apps" group on the Windows 8 start screen, so you can easily find and ignore or uninstall them at your leisure. I realize some folks might find some of these bundled apps useful, which is fine. I just prefer to install things I might be interested in myself.
It isn't all onerous, though. Acer has included Nuance's Dragon Assistant, which gives the machine some Siri or Google Now-like abilities. You can use Dragon Assistant to open apps, update social networks like Facebook and Twitter, dictate emails, and even control media playback in apps like Spotify and Hulu Plus -- two apps that are also pre-installed.
The Aspire AU5-620 comes bundled with a wireless keyboard and mouse. I'm usually one to dismiss bundled peripherals, as they are, almost as a rule, not very good. The gear Acer has provided doesn't veer too far from the norm, but it's serviceable. The glossy mouse is small and simple -- just two buttons and scroll wheel in an ambidextrous shell. The full-size keyboard offers a number pad and chiclet keys that are wide enough to type on comfortably, but it's thin and thus rather shallow, so my fingers keep slamming up against the keyboard's frame. Both peripherals are wireless, care of a tiny wireless transceiver nub that'll reside in one of the USB ports. I do wish more all-in-one manufacturers would follow Apple's lead and go with a Bluetooth solution -- these USB ports are precious.