Acer Aspire Revo R3600 review

Is Nvidia’s Ion chipset enough to give this netbook real desktop appeal? We examine the first one to come to market.

Price
£217

Netbooks have been an unquestionable phenomenon of the past year and the internal technology has been based on Intel or Via components. However, Nvidia is also trying to muscle in, using the graphical prowess of its Ion' chipset as a selling point.

The Acer's Aspire Revo R3600 is not a netbook though it's a nettop essentially a desktop system based on netbook technology offering low cost and low power. Acer's machine is the first Ion based nettop to reach the market, so it's up to it to prove that nettop PCs can be useful for more than just web browsing - previous Atom-based models, with their integrated graphics from Intel, have lacked the grunt to play back high definition video smoothly, but our glimpses of pre-production Ion samples earlier this year gave us hope that nettops could find a niche as low-cost media devices.

The good news is that Acer's implementation is just as successful. It pairs a 1.6GHz Atom 230 with Nvidia's GeForce 9400M graphics, resulting in a far more capable core specification than the Asus Eee Box. We ran a selection of 1080p videos and found that the graphics chip was more than capable of bearing the brunt of smooth decoding - provided you know how to enable GPU acceleration in your chosen software. It did drop a few frames here and there in crowded action scenes, but we only noticed when analysing footage statistically - to casual viewing our clips remained smooth.

We carried out our tests on a 22in TFT, but there's no reason why you can't connect this box an HD TV in the living room or office reception area, as the Revo comes complete with an HDMI output to go with the usual VGA port. And this media strength goes some way to justifying the choice of Vista Home Premium over the more popular XP Home or XP Pro.

It does, however, have a bearing on performance elsewhere. In our 2D benchmarks the Revo's Atom processor and 2GB of RAM scored lower than similar systems equipped with XP, and lower even than most current netbooks. An overall score of 0.29 rules out any tasks that require heavy multitasking.

The 217 exc VAT Vista version comes with a 160GB hard disk, an 802.11bg wireless module, Gigabit Ethernet and a 4-in-1 card reader on the front. There's also an eSATA port for cutting-edge external storage, as well as six USB ports scattered variously around the rear, top and front of the main body.

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