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Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H review: Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H

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Editors' note: This review is part of our 2009 Retail Laptop and Desktop Holiday Roundup, which covers specific fixed configurations of popular systems found in retail stores.

OVR
6.2

Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H

The Good

Most affordable desktop on the market; HDMI and eSATA ports; low-risk starter PC or light-duty email/browsing station; consumes very little power.

The Bad

An Xbox 360 offers the same digital media capability, plus the option to play games, for the same price.

The Bottom Line

Acer's Aspire Revo 1600 might be the first Nettop we don't actively dislike. We'd rather have an Xbox 360 in the living room, but the Aspire Revo 1600 would be suitable as a PC for young kids or as a low-profile cloud kiosk. Thanks to its $199 price tag, you won't feel too much remorse if it breaks or you outgrow it.

Typically our challenges with the emergent Nettop category have been that real budget PCs cost just a little bit more and provide a dramatic performance uptick, and similarly priced Netbooks offer equivalent performance with the added benefit of portability. The Aspire Revo 1600's price tag alone answers those issues. As a traditional computer, the Aspire Revo 1600 is worth considering for use as a cloud-computing terminal or a PC for the kids to bang around on. Acer and Nvidia also want you to think of this system as a living-room PC, but that's a harder sell. A $199 Xbox 360 can perform the same digital-media tasks, yet also offers an optical drive and powerful gaming capability this Acer system can't hope to match.

Due to its low price, the Aspire Revo 1600 is easier to describe by the features it lacks. With no wireless networking adapter, you have to add one via a USB 2.0 port, or hard wire the system to your home network. The Revo also has no optical drive. The roadblock to disc-based software installation probably isn't the worst decision Acer could have made. Full-sized applications like games and digital-media-editing programs would quickly overwhelm the Revo's 160GB hard drive and its 1.6GHz Intel Atom N230 CPU. Acer also offers a 320GB model with higher specs for $329.

The lack of wireless networking also ruins the illusion that this compact desktop will somehow improve the aesthetics of your home because of its size. You still need to connect at least a wireless networking adapter, and the bundled wired mouse and keyboard add further tethered clutter. Acer has made the Revo 1600 VESA-mount compatible, which means that you can mount in on the back of any VESA-compatible LCD, effectively hiding the system out of sight. We suspect few of you will go to that trouble, but the option may have some appeal for those looking to maximize desk space.

  Acer Aspire Revo 1600 eMachines ET1810-03
Price $199 $369
CPU 1.6GHz Intel Atom 230 2.2GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E2210
Memory 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (shared) Nvidia Ion LE integrated graphics chip 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 7050 integrated graphics chip
Hard drives 160GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive 320GB, 7,200 rpm
Optical drive NA dual-layer DVD burner
Networking Gigabit Ethernet 10/100 Ethernet; 56k modem
Operating system Windows XP Home SP3 Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit)

As the most affordable desktop we've ever reviewed, the Aspire Revo 1600 has no ideal comparison among other systems in our catalog. We've opted for the next-least-expensive PC we've covered, the eMachines ET1810-03 midtower, but we could just as easily have chosen Nettop all-in-ones from Asus, Averatec, or eMachines. Unlike the Revo 1600, the eMachines ET1810-03 lets you remove its side panel to make upgrades, and its full-fledged dual-core Pentium chip and larger hard drive give it a bit more flexibility out of the box. You'd be right to point out that the single-core, Intel Atom 230-based Aspire Revo 1600 and its small 160GB hard drive are liabilities next to the eMachines hardware, price differences not withstanding. But given that the Revo 1600 runs Windows XP Home, its 1GB of RAM isn't a major liability. As you'll see below, the eMachines system and its 3GB of RAM might have been smarter to forgo Vista for XP instead.

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Revo 1600
724 

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Revo 1600
780 

Multimedia multitasking (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Revo 1600
3,900 

Cinebench
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Rendering Single CPU  
Acer Aspire Revo 1600
846 

All of the PCs in this comparison are slow compared with the larger world of available computers. Of these five relatively slow PCs, though, the Aspire Revo 1600 is actually not the worst performer. We'd award that honor to the eMachines EZ1601-01, a $450 all-in-one Nettop. We'll also point out that the Vista-based eMachines ET1810-03, which does relatively well on most of our tests, falls totally flat on our multitasking test, likely due to insufficient RAM.

Even if it's not the slowest performer, the Aspire Revo 1600 will still make you suffer through long application load times, slow-to-load Web pages, and barely capable multitasking. Consider, for example, that it will take you roughly 13 minutes to convert an album's worth of MP3 files. We've seen $450 PCs that will do the same task in 2.5 minutes. The Aspire Revo 1600 will get you online and it will let you perform most basic tasks with reasonable efficacy. Anything involving even mildly taxing processing or multitasking will bring it to a halt quickly.

Along with the Asus Eee Top ET2002, the Asus Revo 1600 also uses Nvidia's Ion graphics chip for video processing duties. That chip gives the Revo 1600 a bit more video capability than it might have otherwise. We successfully connected the Revo to a 1080p HDTV via the HDMI output and after resizing Windows XP's desktop via Nvidia's driver software were able to call up a properly scaled image at 1,920 x 1,080. YouTube and Netflix video streamed with no trouble and reasonable image quality. Our Hulu test was less successful, as it came through choppy and barely watchable. We also had bad luck with the browser-based online shooter game Battlefield: Heroes. We dialed the resolution in that forgiving title all the way up to 1,920 x 1,080 and at lower image quality the game ran fine, but at higher image-quality settings performance dropped off.

All of that video capability sounds impressive for a $199 desktop, but as a living-room entertainment system, a budget gaming PC, or anything in between, the Aspire Revo 1600 is lacking next to a $199 Xbox 360 Arcade, or even a $250 standard Xbox 360 for those of you who demand a hard drive. The Xbox 360 cannot only stream video from all of the services mentioned above, but also, Facebook and Twitter access are coming shortly, and, oh yeah, the Xbox 360 also supports a library of hundreds of games, ranging from multimillion dollar AAA titles to bargain-priced casual titles via the Xbox Live Arcade. It can also play all of those games at high resolution and with smooth frame rates.

The Aspire Revo 1600 simply can't compete with the breadth of entertainment value offered by the Xbox 360. We can see value in bringing a small PC into the living room, but between the Aspire Revo 1600's limited performance, its small hard drive, and its lack of an optical drive, we strongly encourage you to look elsewhere for such a system.

The Aspire Revo 1600 offers as much connectivity as we expect in a small, $199 PC. The front panel features an SD Card slot, an eSATA port, and headphone and microphone jacks. You get a single USB 2.0 port on the top, and an additional four USB inputs on the backside. VGA, HDMI, and Ethernet ports round out the back panel. All of those inputs give the Aspire Revo 1600 a variety of options for connecting monitors, external storage, and other peripherals, and we can't help but note that this tiny $199 system and its HDMI and eSATA ports makes current slim tower PCs from HP and Dell that lack them seem embarrassingly ancient.

Juice box
Acer Aspire Revo 1600  
Off (watts) 1.46
Sleep (watts) 2.57
Idle (watts) 16.61
Load (watts) 21.49
Raw (annual kWh) 68.49882
EnergyStar compliant Yes
Annual operating cost (@$0.1135/kWh) $7.77

Annual power consumption cost
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Acer Aspire Revo 1600
$7.77 

We'd be surprised if the Aspire Revo 1600 didn't post one of the best power efficiency scores we've ever seen. We suppose that might be one knock against the Xbox 360 in the living room. By virtue of its low power hardware, the Acer system has none of the Xbox's hallmark noise and heat issues. If you value power savings over general capability, perhaps the Revo 1600 is the better choice for you. We suspect most media enthusiasts have different priorities.

You have to navigate a bit of an online maze to get to Acer's service and support, but once you're there you'll find a variety of robust online services to help you maintain your system. We particularly liked the driver download section, which updates the file download selection for each system as you cycle through various operating systems. A one-year, parts-and-labor warranty comes standard with the Aspire Revo 1600, and Acer offers toll-free phone support from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT weekdays and from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. PT on weekends.

Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations:

Acer Aspire Revo 1600
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 160GB 5,400 rpm Western Digital hard drive

Asus Eee Top ET2002
Windows 7 Home Premium; 1.6GHz Intel Atom 330; 2GB 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics chip; 320GB 5,400rpm Seagate hard drive

Averatec D1133 All-In-One
Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (32-bit); 1.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 3250e; 2GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 512MB ATI Radeon HD 3200; 250GB 5,400rpm Samsung hard drive

eMachines ET1810-03
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.2GHz Intel Pentium Core 2 Duo E2210; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Nvidia nForce 620i integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive

eMachines EZ1601-01
Windows XP Home Edition SP3; 1.6GHz Intel Atom N270; 1GB 533MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics chip; 160GB 5,400 rpm Western Digital hard drive

OVR
6.2

Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 7Performance 6Support 6