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Acer Aspire L310-ED630M (Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86GHz review: Acer Aspire L310-ED630M (Core 2 Duo E6300 1.86GHz

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MSRP: $679.00

The Good Sleek, compact design that can lie flat or stand upright; built-in Wi-Fi; one of the least expensive PCs of its kind.

The Bad Tightly packed interior doesn't lend itself to upgrades.

The Bottom Line The Aspire L310 works as a trim, affordable computer that will also serve light home-theater-PC duties. It doesn't offer as much room for improvement as its competition, but as long as you don't have plans for upgrading or running Windows Vista full bore, this system will serve you well.

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

Acer Aspire L310

Based purely on specs and pricing alone, the Acer Aspire L310 looks like it should knock the CNET Editor's Choice-winning HP Pavilion Slimline s7600e from its small-form-factor throne. At $850, the Aspire L310 is $125 less than the HP system we reviewed, and Acer's system even came in a little faster on our benchmark tests. But when you look under the Acer's hood, you'll find it lacks one of the Slimline's major advantages, upgradeability. Despite the Aspire L310's current promise, that limitation hurts its long-term outlook.

If you have no intention of upgrading to Windows Vista and simply want a small computer for playing standard-definition video and maybe even serving up some music across a network, the Aspire L310 is a compelling deal. Its Core 2 Duo E6300 processor is fast enough to ensure smooth performance, but also affordable enough to keep the L310's price down. That processor would also be fine for Vista, but where you'll likely hit a bottleneck, at least if you intend on running Vista Home Premium, is with the Aspire L310's memory and its graphics chip. It only comes with 1GB of 533MHz DDR2 memory. That's fine today, but pair that with an integrated Intel GMA 3000 graphics chip and you can pretty much forget about running Windows Vista with the Aero effects enabled.

Acer does give you an option for improving the Aspire L310's future, but you'll have to work for it and spend a little more. Its potential is not as robust as the HP Slimline's. If you're willing to ditch the two 512MB memory sticks the Aspire L310 comes with, you can upgrade to two 1GB sticks, which should give you a better Vista experience. It uses laptop memory, so the upgrade will be more expensive than traditional desktop memory sticks, and you'll have to be comfortable taking the unit apart yourself. And if DIY upgrading isn't intimidating enough for some people, the Aspire L310's memory slots are hidden under a hard-to-remove drive cage.

We won't fault the Aspire L310 for its efficient interior design, it helps keep the footprint small, and indeed, at 10 inches wide, 2.25 inches thick, and 7.75 inches deep, it takes up much less volume than the Slimline (9.7x4.4x13.1 inches, respectively). That makes the Aspire L310 closer to WinBook's Jiv Mini, Shuttle's XPC X100, and Apple's Mac Mini Core Duo, all systems we reviewed earlier this year. Although the HP is larger than all of those, it's still relatively small, and its extra size gives it a crucial advantage in that it has room for a PCI expansion card. That means you can stick a low-end, discrete PCI graphics card in the Slimline, which will help you with Vista, video, and even some light 3D gaming. The Aspire L310 and those other superslim boxes don't have a spare expansion slot, so their video performance suffers dramatically. Acer's system wouldn't even post a playable frame rate on our least demanding Quake 4 test.

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If its outlook for the future isn't that promising, as a relatively affordable PC for light-duty digital media or general computing tasks, the Aspire L310 is actually a very strong system. Its application and multimedia performance are right where we'd expect them to be for a system with its specs. We also like its overall feature set, which includes a dual-layer DVD burner, a four-in-one media card reader, and 802.11 b/g wireless networking. Its 160GB hard drive could be larger (the Slimline comes with a 250GB model), but if you're not dealing with massive video files, you should be okay.

One feature it does have over the HP Slimline is its DVI output, which makes it easier to connect the Aspire L310 to a modern television. The Slimline only has an analog out that needs an adapter to connect to a digital display. The Aspire doesn't have a TV tuner like the WinBook Jiv Mini and the Shuttle XPC X100, but with integrated graphics and the poor state of PC-based TV tuners in general, you might be better off without one.

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