X

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

Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A

img-1204
Rich Brown
img-1204

Rich Brown

Executive Editor / Reviews - Home and Wellness

Rich moved his family from Brooklyn to Louisville, Kentucky, in 2013 to start CNET's Appliances and Smart Home review team, which includes the CNET Smart Home, the CNET Smart Apartment, and the Appliances Review lab. Before moving to Louisville, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D-printed guns to Z-Wave smart locks.

See full bio
5 min read

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

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.

7.0

Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A

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.

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).

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.

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire X3200
201 

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire X3200
816 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering multiple CPUs  
Rendering single CPU  
Acer Aspire X3200
5,034 
1,862 
Gateway GT5692
4,934 
1,772 
Dell Inspiron 530s
4,451 
2,360 
Acer Aspire X1200
4,296 
2,220 

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.

None of these budget systems will impress you that dramatically with their performance, which is why we credit Acer so much for the features on these two systems. Still, each has its specialty. If you value performance strongly in a budget PC, you'll want to consider our tests and judge based on what you need in a PC. Of the three, the Aspire X3200 is the best multitasker of the bunch, and also offers an extra kick in apps that will use its third core.

There's not that much else to say about the Aspire X3200. You can get away with some lightweight 3D gaming on it, and you can even upgrade to a half-height 3D card, but it's far from a gaming PC. If your living room PC ambitions are strong enough, you could even buy an aftermarket Blu-ray drive and expect acceptable 1080p video output, thanks to the onboard GeForce 8200 graphics chip.

If we have one complaint about this system, we'd point to the icon clutter on the Windows desktop when you first turn it on. A variety of trialware icons dot the screen, although they're, of course, deleted easily enough. Perhaps a larger annoyance is the Acer Empowering Technology drop-down menu on the top edge. It helps you burn a restore CD, which is useful, but it also adds to the onscreen visual pollution. We've certainly seen worse onboard help applications, but memory-hogging floating menus, especially on a budget PC, are rarely a good idea

Otherwise, Acer provides a standard degree of service and support. The X3200 includes one year of parts-and-labor warranty coverage, as well as toll-free phone support from Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, and on the weekends from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The warranty also includes depot repair drop-off or mail-in service. Acer also provides the usual array of FAQ and support services on its Web site.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire X1200
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 4850e; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.

Dell Inspiron 530s
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel Pentium E2200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 3200GB 7,200 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Acer Aspire X3200
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8400; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm Western Digital hard drive.

Gateway GT5692
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.1GHz AMD Phenom X3 8450; 4GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) ATI Radeon HD 3200 graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive.

HP Pavilion Slimline s3500f
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 2.8GHz AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400; 2GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.

7.0

Acer Aspire AX3200-U3600A

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7Support 7