Small desktop PCs are enjoying something of a renaissance, thanks to systems such asand . Along with the standard bearer of the category, , these computers appeal to both aesthetic minimalists looking for a computer chassis that can hide in plain sight, as well as movie and music fans who want a system that can connect to a bigscreen TV, but do more than a basic streaming media box.
And it's those streaming media boxes that have kept media center PCs on the defensive for the past several years. For under $100, aor Amazon Fire TV can bring Netflix, Hulu and other cloud-based media-playing apps to any den or living room. To stand out, a media center PC has to do more, especially for the $300 to $600 most of these systems cost.
The Acer Revo One wants to be both a media streamer and a full-function desktop. It's housed in a small white plastic box with gently rounded corners and a glossy finish, and isn't as easy to hide as an Intel Compute Stick or Mac Mini. Instead it's designed to be aesthetically pleasing enough that you won't mind its small footprint next to a TV set or desktop monitor.
The Revo One starts at $249 and runs up to the $579 model reviewed here (£239 to £599 in the UK and AU$419 to AU$1,099 in Australia, each with slightly different local configurations). The entry level models use Intel Celeron processors and small 80GB solid state hard drives, while the more expensive models trade up to Intel Core i3 and i5 processors and a big 1TB hard drive. The faster processors are important if you're planning on watching a lot of 4K video or doing anything more intense than basic websurfing or video streaming.
The price puts this system right in the same ballpark as Apple's Mac Mini and the HP Pavilion Mini. The entry level Mac Mini costs $500 (£399, AU$619) and includes a similar Core i5 CPU and a 500GB hard drive, while the HP Mini comes in a $449 configuration (£349 in the UK) with an Intel Core i3 CPU and a 1TB hard drive. The Revo model reviewed here combines the higher-end specs of both, with a Core i5 CPU and 1TB hard drive, plus a wireless keyboard and mouse.
If you're going all the way down to the bottom of the price range, Intel's $150 Atom-powered Compute Stick is a very interesting product, essentially a mini netbook-style computer built into a stick-like chassis. But it's also very limited in its connectivity, with only a single USB port, and has a mere 32GB of onboard storage. It'll stream Netflix or play YouTube videos just fine, but anything beyond that is pushing your luck.
Meanwhile, the Revo worked fine for not just video streaming, but local 4K video file playback, Web surfing and basic productivity, and other mainstream tasks short of game-playing. (For gaming, try the, a quirky small gaming desktop in the same price range.)
It may have more processing power than a living room PC actually needs, but it never hurts to have enough to double as a home office PC or dorm room media hub. If you can forgive the plastic-feeling keyboard and mouse combo it comes bundled with, and the higher-than-average amount of shovelware preloaded onto the hard drive, the Revo is a great-looking, flexible small form factor desktop that you won't need to hide behind a houseplant.
Acer Revo One
|Price as reviewed||$579, £599, AU$1,099|
|PC CPU||2.2GHz Intel Core i5 5200U|
|PC Memory||8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz|
|Graphics||Intel HD Graphics 5500|
|Storage||1TB SSHD 5,400rpm|
|Networking||802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 (64-bit)|
Design and features
While both the Mac Mini and HP Mini are squat, puck-like systems that are designed to have a very low profile but a wider desktop footprint, the Revo is a tall rectangle with gently rounded edges and a glossy translucent white finish. Even though it's bigger than the two Minis, it's still shorter than an iPhone 6 Plus, standing 6.1 inches tall, and about 4.2 inches square.
The front face is featureless, aside from an Acer logo, and almost all the connectivity happens on the rear panel, including a tiny, hard to reach power button. White status lights are on the top surface, as is an SD card slot.
Bundled with the Revo are a basic white keyboard and mouse, both connected to the same USB receiver. The mouse is cheap-feeling plastic, but at least has a curved ergonomic design, although there are no extra buttons or media features. The keyboard is small, good for living room lap use, and has deep keys that are clacky, but easy to hit.
My main complaint about the keyboard is that its media control features, such as the volume control, are mapped to the function key row in such a way that you need to hold down the Fn key in order to use them. That makes on the fly media playback control a two-handed job. Many media-friendly laptops and desktops have reversed this, making the volume and media transport controls the primary function of the Function key row.