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There's a lot to like about Acer's updated home theater Nettop, the Revo 100. At $499, this system has an ultraslim design and a unique touch-pad device, all wrapped around a low-power dual-core AMD chip, a Blu-ray player, and a large 750GB hard drive. The result is an attractive, living-room-ready system with a strong design focus on delivering PC-based entertainment to your HDTV. Not everyone will see the value of such a system, and we found that the touch pad is not responsive as we'd like. But for those who still believe in the concept of a home theater PC, the Acer Aspire Revo 100 will provide a fairly well-conceived reward for keeping the faith.
It's ironic that the Revo 100 looks so much like the Slim version of Sony's PlayStation 2 game console considering the Acer system is effectively in competition with the newer PlayStation 3. Like the PS2, the Revo 100 can stand on end, or you can detach the removable stand and lay it down flat. The irony comes in the Revo 100's value proposition. This $499 PC features a Blu-ray drive and wireless networking, and can receive and transmit streamed content from and to other devices on a home network, in part thanks to Acer's Clear.fi media-streaming software. A $299 PlayStation 3 offers almost the same functionality. You can only stream content to the PS3, it won't transmit across a network. It also doesn't support the full breadth of content services and formats available to a Windows system. For those features and others, Acer is hoping you'll pay an additional extra $200 over the cost of a PS3.
The Revo 100 and its Nvidia Ion chipset do not mirror the PS3's ability to run games well. What you do get is a unique touch-pad input device that makes a respectable attempt to conquer the input dilemma that has forever plagued living-room PCs.
The touch pad measures roughly 0.25 inch thick, 4.5 inches wide, and 6.25 inches long, and is housed in the body of the Revo 100 itself. A slider button on the side of the Revo pops the touch pad out of its housing, and we found the wireless signal strong enough to detect the touch pad from as far as 40 feet away from the system. The pad functions in two modes, working as a touch pad that supports Windows 7's multitouch gestures, and becoming a full QWERTY keyboard when you press a small button on the edge of the device. A dial built into the side of the pad works as a remote volume control.
The touch pad works surprisingly well in its keyboard mode thanks to the size of the keys and satisfying tactile feedback. Acer uses a standard key layout, but because of the size constraints of the device, it uses arrow keys for menu control, and a set of dedicated media control keys sit above the number keys. We expect you'll find it sufficient for the short spurts of typing involved in searching for content or entering payment information from your couch.
We're less impressed by the touch pad as a cursor control. It maps your finger movement to the onscreen arrow well enough, but tapping to select often requires pressing down twice, or four times to double-click. You hold your finger on the pad to simulate a right click. Overall, using the touch pad for scrolling is manageable, and compared with the bundled alternative for most HTPCs--a mouse on your lap--the touch pad seems to be a more elegant solution. In short bursts it is one, but its unresponsiveness quickly becomes irritating with prolonged use, particularly if you're trying to navigate between menus or execute other multistep processes.
|Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002||Gateway SX2851-41|
|CPU||1.3GHz AMD Athlon II Neo K325||3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550|
|Memory||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM||4GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM|
|Graphics||512MB Nvidia Ion||64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500HD integrated graphics chip|
|Hard drives||750GB 5,400rpm||1TB, 7,200rpm|
|Optical drive||Blu-ray/DVD burner combo||Dual-layer DVD-burner|
|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)|
The Gateway SX2851-41 is not really a direct competitor to the Revo given that the Gateway is a full slim-tower system, but it gives you a fair idea of where the Revo falls in terms of its overall value. You sacrifice a full-fledged desktop CPU for a Blu-ray drive, the Revo's previously mentioned superslim design, and the touch pad. This price is one of the lowest we've seen for a desktop that includes a Blu-ray drive. A 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive might have driven away any doubts about the Revo's value, but 750GB is certainly a reasonable amount of storage space for all but the most aggressive media hoarders.
The Revo's low-power, low-clock-speed Athlon II Neo chip guarantees that it won't match the performance of more-traditional desktops. Our charts show that the difference in performance is rather dramatic, which is no surprise, and highlights the fact that this PC is entirely unsuitable for any sort of productivity. It can perform basic tasks fast enough, but you'll notice a lack of peppiness when opening programs, particularly the included media player software. More importantly, we had no problems playing passive content, including the "Boondock Saints" Blu-ray, which has one of the highest bit rates around. You should not use this system for playing games other than Web-based or other lightweight games, however.
Acer did not design the Revo 100 for upgrading. While you can get inside the case by removing three hex screws from the back edge, we expect that only the most serious upgraders will venture inside. On the outside, you get a smart assortment of connectivity options, a welcome advantage over the laughably sparse Acer Aspire X1920 slim tower. On the Revo 100 you get three USB 2.0 jacks, an HDMI port, an Ethernet input, two analog audio jacks, an SD Card reader, and an optical S/PDIF digital audio output. If the design and features of this system weren't enough to demonstrate that this is meant for the living room, the fact that it has only an HDMI output for video should make that obvious.
|Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002|
|Raw (annual kWh)||79.61088|
|Annual power consumption cost (@$0.1135/kWh)||$9.04|
The Acer's low power consumption is no surprise given its slow performance. You'll pay less than a dollar a month to operate this PC. That's impressive, but still not as low as the record $4.15 a year you'll pay to run the spring 2010 version of the Mac Mini.
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 (located on the bottom edge of the system).
Windows-based home theater hubs still have appeal since they give you perhaps the broadest access to different content sources and formats. You can certainly spring for a higher-end model that will let you play games as well as serve up media to your TV and across your home network. If you're willing the forgo the PC-based gaming aspect, the Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002 offers an attractive, capable alternative complete with a reasonably innovative input device for a competitive price.
Find out more about how we test desktop systems.
Acer Aspire X1920-UR20P
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E6700; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics; 1TB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive
Acer Revo 100 RL100-U1002
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 1.3Hz AMD Athlon II Neo K325 Dual Core; 4GB 1,066MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB (shared) Nvidia GeForce GT9400 (Ion); 750GB 5,400rpm Western Digital hard drive
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550; 4GB 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics; 1TB, 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion Slimline S5-1060 (Core i5 2310, Summer 2011)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 3.2GHz Intel Core i3 550; 4GB 800MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 HD integrated graphics chip; 640GB, 7,200rpm hard drive
HP Pavilion P7-1070T
Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i3-2100; 8GB 1,066MHz DDR2 SDRAM; 64MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 2000 integrated graphics; 1TB 7,200rpm Hitachi hard drive