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A utilitarian budget desktop, the $549 Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 is unremarkable, but essentially delivers what we expect from a desktop in this price range. Competition from a recently marked-down system from Acer's Gateway subsidiary induces some doubt about this Acer's value, but if that deal doesn't last, this Acer is worth a look if you need a bare-bones desktop workhorse.
The Aspire AM3970-U5022 comes with a new case design with more personality than previous mainstream Acer desktops. The gently concave face of the system has a rounded edge on top, with the media card slot thrust forward slightly. Minimal gray plastic accents interrupt the black plastic, and while it's not fundamentally different from most other Windows desktops, the design is clean and has a certain friendliness to it.
|Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022||Gateway DX4850-45|
|CPU||3.1GHz Intel Core i3 2100||2.8GHz Intel Core i5 2300|
|Memory||6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||64MB Intel HD Graphics 2000 embedded graphics||64MB Intel HD Graphics 2000 integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||1TB 5,400rpm||1TB 5,400rpm|
|Optical drive||DVD burner||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo|
|Networking||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n||Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
$549 is a fair price for the fixed-configuration Aspire AM3970, and similar systems from Dell and HP come in about $50 higher. That would speak well for the Acer's value if it weren't for the impressive Gateway DX4850-45u that we reviewed back in March. That system cost $749 at the time of its original review, and now you can find it for $599 from Newegg, a steal given its Core i5 CPU and its Blu-ray drive. If the Gateway wasn't available for such a low price, this Acer would be a leader in its price range. It's more like a second-place finisher now in value terms, and it makes sense only for those extremely sensitive to price.
|Rendering multiple CPUs||Rendering single CPU|
The Acer trails the Gateway in most of our tests, the exception being our iTunes audio file conversion test where they're statistically tied. As the second-generation Core i3 CPU in the Acer is only a dual-core chip with two additional processing threads via Intel's Hyper-Threading technology, it's also not as fast in terms of pure multithreaded performance as the HP and Gateway systems, which have true quad-core CPUs. As long as your expectations for this system take its budget price tag into account, you shouldn't be disappointed in its performance; just understand that for $50 more the Gateway is at times noticeably faster.
With no dedicated graphics card, the Aspire AM3970 will provide only a basic gaming experience. You can add a 3D card to its spare 16x PCI Express slot, but the 300-watt power supply and an absence of Molex power connectors will limit you to lower midrange graphics-card options. Two free 1x PCI Express slots round out the card expansion options, and you also get room to add an extra hard drive, as well as one additional stick of memory.
We were disappointed by the $499
|Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022||Average watts per hour|
|Off (60 percent)||0.55|
|Sleep (10 percent)||1.41|
|Idle (25 percent)||25.05|
|Load (5 percent)||56.77|
|Annual power consumption cost||$11.91|
While the Aspire AM3970 doesn't lead on performance or features for the dollar, its power efficiency may provide some very small comfort. You'll pay less than a dollar a month to operate this PC, which is less than any Windows system in its price range we've reviewed this year.
Acer's standard warranty grants you a year of parts-and-labor coverage. You can also find driver downloads and a variety of other support resources if you're willing to suffer through Acer's circuitous Web site. Going by the Web site alone, you'd have no idea that standard phone support was available with this PC. The number, 800-816-2237, is listed in small type in the included manual, or you can register the system online with the serial number, which you'll find along the bottom edge of the right panel.
The Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022 is a reasonably attractive desktop with a fair price tag given its budget-priced components. Only the fluctuating prices in the retail market keep this system from earning a higher recommendation. If the pricing swings in this system's favor, bargain shoppers won't regret picking it up.
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Acer Aspire AM3970-U5022
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3,1GHz Intel Core i3 2100; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 2000 embedded graphics; 1TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.8GHz Intel Core i5 230; 6GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB Intel HD 2000 embedded graphics; 1TB, 5,400rpm hard drive
"="" rel="follow">HP Pavilion p6720f
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.9GHz AMD Phenom II X4 810T; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 256MB (shared) Radeon HD 4200 integrated graphics chip; 1TB 7,200rpm Seagate hard drive.
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i5 650; 6GB 1,066MHZ DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce 310; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive