The Acer Aspire X1700-U3700A is the third system in Best Buy's recent lineup of budget PCs. We gave the other two releases (Dell Inspiron I530S-119B and eMachines ET1161-07) average marks for a lack of features and poor performance scores (respectively), but the $480 Acer succeeds where the others fail, by offering a budget-minded shoppers a slim-tower computer with solid components and a collection of handy media ports. It doesn't leave much room for internal upgrades, but the configuration is already versatile right out of the box. We recommend this Acer X1700-U3700A to anyone looking for a computer that can serve as an everyday workhorse or a basic home theater PC.
The X1700 is similar to the Acer Aspire AX3200 and the Acer Aspire X1200. The X1700 keeps the same style of its previous incarnations; it's a space-saving design that makes it easy to place anywhere in your home, measuring 10.7 inches tall by 4.2 inches wide by 15 inches deep. The glossy black front panel hides a dual layer DVD burner and below that, you'll find a fully stocked media card reader, a FireWire 400 port, five USB 2.0 ports, two standard audio jacks for headphones, and a microphone.
The rear of the system is equally comprehensive and we continue to be impressed by the amount of ports Acer stuffs into this little design. The back supplies more USB ports and an eSATA port for plugging in additional external storage. You can connect the X1700 via VGA, DVI, or through the built-in HDMI port for watching high definition movies or streaming video online, but don't expect the video card to power your graphics-intensive PC games. Unlike the X1200, this updated model also provides S/PDIF digital audio output for full 5.1 channel surround sound using a single cord, or you can use standard PC speakers with the analog 5.1 jacks.
|Acer Aspire X1700-U3700A||Dell Inspiron I530S-119B|
|CPU||2.4GHz Intel Pentium Dual CPU E2220||2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200|
|Memory||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM||4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM|
|Graphics||128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce G100 integrated graphics chip||128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard Drives||640GB, 7,200rpm||500GB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical Drive||dual-layer DVD burner||dual-layer DVD burner|
|Networking||10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN||10/100Mbps Ethernet LAN|
|Operating System||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)||Windows Vista Home Premium SP1 (64-bit)|
The most noticeable difference between the two systems is its size. The Acer is 4 inches shorter and 2 inches shallower than the Dell, but it trades heft for expandability. Both computers share a similar video chip integrated with the motherboard and run the 64-bit version of Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium. The Acer X1700 comes with a larger 640GB hard drive, but the Dell gives you an internal bay for an additional drive, while the Acer only has room for one drive. Finally, neither system has built-in Wi-Fi, which is fine for the price range, but our hunch is that it won't be too long before Wi-Fi becomes the networking standard in low-end systems such as these.
In terms of expansion, Dell's larger case makes it easier to install new RAM, plug in two additional SATA drives, or even add another hard drive. It also has a PCI Express card slot available for a low-profile aftermarket video card. Meanwhile, the Acer is limited by its smaller size: there's only one hard-drive bay and a single 1X PCI Express slot (already occupied by a modem). In addition, you have to remove an awkward cage for the optical drive to get to the DIMM slots, and both slots are already filled anyway. Aside from difficulty upgrading the internal parts, the variety of external ports on the Acer actually gives you more flexibility in how you can set it up. The HDMI graphics and digital audio, front loading media reader, outboard eSATA port, and the larger hard drive all give you option to set it up as a home theater PC in addition to an office workhorse.
|Apple iTunes encoding test|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs||Rendering Single CPU|
Both the Acer Aspire X1700 and the Dell Inspiron I530s have dual-core CPUs, but you'll notice that the Dell retains an unwavering advantage over Acer, especially in the multitasking and Cinebench tests. Dell's advantage is its Intel chips' higher clock speed. The Photoshop and iTunes benchmarks don't show too much of a difference because those programs rely more on the amount of system memory, and the Dell and Acer both have 4GB of DDR2 SDRAM preinstalled.
The Acer X1700 also gives you the added benefit of using it in your living room as a lightweight home theater PC. It can't be considered a full fledged home theater PC without wireless networking, a Blu-ray player, or a digital TV tuner, but that's not to say it can't handle light video duty. For example, you can easily plug it into your HDTV via the HDMI ports to watch streaming video content on your big screen. You can also set it up to locally store your recorded HD video content, and although you'll fill up the 640GB internal drive pretty quickly, the additional USB and eSATA plugs on the back allow for additional storage.
Finally, Acer gives you a decent amount of service and support by covering parts and labor in a one year warranty. They also offer toll free phone support during the work week from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. PT and on weekends from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Acer Web site also provides a comprehensive set of technical FAQs as well as troubleshooting tips and other support services.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Acer Aspire X1700-U3700A
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.4GHz Intel Pentium Dual CPU E2220; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce G100 integrated graphics chip; 6400GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Acer Aspire X1200-U1520A
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz AMD Athlon X2 4850e Dual Core; 4GB DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB 256MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce 8200 integrated graphics chip; 320GB 7,200rpm hard drive.
Compaq Presario SR5610f
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz AMD Athlon 64, X2 Dual Core 4800; 3GB 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.
Dell Inspiron I530S-119B
64-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.5GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU E5200; 4GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA 3100 integrated graphics chip; 500GB 7,200rpm hard drive
32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium; 2.1GHz AMD Athlon Dual Core Processor 4050e; 3GB 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) NVIDIA GeForce 6150SE integrated graphics chip; 320GB, 7,200rpm hard drive.