Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A review: Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A

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The Good Strong multitasking performance thanks to triple-core processor; better features than more expensive slim tower competition.

The Bad Weak single-application performance; cheesy desktop icon clutter.

The Bottom Line As much as Acer's Aspire X3200 surpasses other pricier PCs with its wide array of useful inputs and outputs, you'll have a hard time choosing between it and its otherwise identical dual-core Acer linemate of the same price. If you're a multitasker on a budget, you'll likely prefer this model's triple-core CPU.

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7.0 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Support 7

Editors' note: This price on this system is currently $579, or $120 more than what Acer had originally told us. At that price, our opinion of this PC's overall value is less enthusiastic. Even at that price, however, its triple-core CPU remains unique.

Acer's $459 Aspire X3200 is essentially the triple-core version of the dual-core X1200 slim tower PC we reviewed a few months ago. Aside from the CPU, every component from the hard drive to the memory to the operating system is the same. And while three cores sounds better than two on paper, you actually have to make certain performance trade-offs to get that additional processing core. If you're a multitasker or you know that programs you use often will put a third core to work, the Aspire X3200 makes sense. Otherwise, the X1200 provides better straight-ahead performance and the same features for no extra cost.

Having already given the X1200 the full review treatment, we'll save time here and cover just the basics of the X300. For comparison, we'll also stack it up against the Dell Inspiron 530s, its primary in-store competition at Best Buy, where both systems are currently on sale.

This pared-down, slim tower PC is designed to fit anywhere in your home, and the HDMI video port on the back makes it a viable candidate as a living room PC, more so than the VGA-only Dell Inspiron 530s. The Aspire X3200 comes in at 10.5 inches high, 3.8 inches wide, and 14.8 inches deep; 3 inches shorter and more than an inch shallower than the Dell. As a result the Acer gives you much less upgrade room, with no free hard-drive bays, and only one free half-height graphics card slot (a modem sits in the 1x PCI Express slot).

  Acer Aspire X3200 Dell Inspiron 530s
Price $459 $499
CPU 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8450 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2100
Memory 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 320GB 7,200 rpm 320GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive dual-layer DVD burner dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet 10/100 Ethernet
Video outputs VGA, HDMI VGA
Operating system Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit) Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)

And as much as the Aspire X3200 and the X1200 are almost identical, we can say the same about the Dell and these two models. All three offer 320GB hard drives, 4GB of 800MHz RAM, and 64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium. Where the Dell falls flat for us in its lack of compelling extras. The Aspire X3200 has an HDMI graphics port, and it also holds an eSATA port and a media card reader over the Dell's head. Those three features on the Acer system give you more flexibility in the number of other devices you can use with it. The eSATA port in particular is valuable if you want to expand the storage, considering the lack of a second hard-drive bay.

That versatility, and the lower price, give both of these Acer systems the edge over the Dell. Collectively, the Aspire systems also have better performance than that of the Inspiron. Neither is faster all-around, but combined with their features advantage, the Acer's scattered performance wins cement their overall superiority.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire X3200

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire X3200

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire X3200

(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Acer Aspire X3200
Gateway GT5692
HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f
Dell Inspiron 530s
Acer Aspire X1200

The Aspire X3200 in particular has a noticeable advantage on our multitasking and Cinebench multi CPU tests. Both of those benchmarks are designed to tax multicore CPUs in particular. Because its AMD Phenom X3 8450 has three cores, it's able to complete each test faster than the dual-core Dell or Aspire X1200 systems. You'll notice that it lags behind those models on our Photoshop and iTunes tests. Those programs are more sensitive to memory and CPU clock speed. Because dual-core CPUs tend to have higher clock speeds than triple-core chips of the same price, it makes sense that the Aspire X1200 and the Dell trade wins on those tests.

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