It is difficult not to be impressed by the Acer Aspire Revo Nettop, a diminutive yet powerful computer that could potentially have the same impact on computing as the first Asus EEE PC.
The R3610 that we are reviewing today is the successor to the R3600 and incorporates some rather significant upgrades which we will explore later.
The review unit is much lighter than the Viewsonic VOT-550 that we reviewed a few weeks ago. The chassis is very different and feels more plasticky.
As for most Acer products, there are loads of stickers and logos printed everywhere on the Revo which we'd rather not have.
Like Marmite, you will either love or hate the device's form factor, think of it as a hexagon with two opposite sides pinched, that's roughly how the R3610 looks like and the fact that the big power button is located on one edge make you wonder what were the Acer designers thinking of when they came up with the Aspire Revo.
Anyhow, if like me, you prefer to have rectangular or square chassis, you will be slightly disappointed even if the stand provided is quite sturdy; the solution might be to hide the Revo R3610 behind your 50-inch television with the bundled VESA mount kit (or on your office computer).
These details aside, the Revo R3610 is pure bliss. It comes with a dual Core Intel Atom 330, running at 1.6Ghz with 1MB L2 Cache and is the old version rather than the new Pineview one.
There's 4GB (yes 4GB) DDR2 memory on our model with a 500GB hard disk drive and powered by Windows 7 64-bit Home Premium edition. No Windows 7 Starter here, fortunately!
What makes it shine though is the Nvidia ION chipset which is based on the Geforce 9300 GPU and provides the Revo with more oomph than any other chipset solutions from Intel (Pineview included).
The Revo R3610 plays online HD videos flawlessly thanks to the new Adobe Flash 10.1 beta which supports the ION. (ed : we suggest to all those who have recently purchase nettops to download and install that update for better online video experience).
1080p video playback is just as smooth and even casual gamers will find that the computer provides with enough firepower to tackle older games at low resolutions.
Bear in mind though that the Revo is not a gamer's computer; check Acer's Predator range instead. As for the system's connectivity, it is absolutely stunning, besting some entry level desktops we've seen.
It comes with HDMI, VGA, Optical I/O, an eSATA port, six USB ports, a card reader, the usual sound connectors, a GbE LAN port plus Wirelesss B/G (no Draft-N) from Atheros's AR5BXB63.
The other accessories included in the package include a white wireless Chicklet keyboard and a mouse that comes with its own tiny Wireless USB transmitter stuck in the battery compartment.
You should also receive a pair of assorted white speakers, which we didn't. Windows 7 Performance on the R3610 was adequate although if you plan to do some heavy browsing (more than a few tabs opened), performance might take a hit.
We strongly advise that you turn off Windows Aero to improve performance and uninstall bloatware that comes by default with the R3610.
There's no Bluray player unlike the VOT-550 and there's no onboard TV Tuner although you will easily get external peripherals to fill both gaps albeit at a price.
Upgrading the computer is a real threat with easy access to the hard disk drive, the memory modules and the wireless card; handy if you want to upgrade any of them
Oh and it is surprising to find out what you the little box consumes even less power than some dedicated NAS of similar capacity. It sucks in 21w on average, rising to 26w under load which is not bad at all.
Now for the price. The version reviewed cost only £265.40 including free delivery and a free copy of Bullguard Internet Security suite.
Believe it or not, this is actually the top of the range versions and cheaper models are available for as little as £179.79 from Saveonlaptops with a single core Atom, Vista Home Premium, half the memory and a 160GB hard disk drive.
In comparison, the Asus B206, which costs the same, comes with a slightly more powerful processor but only Windows XP and half the memory.
The Revo R3610 is a near perfect HTPC device; cheap, efficient, relatively powerful and full of features and nice touches. However, there are a number of things that Acer can work on including
(a) Wireless-N on top of 802.11b/g that is already present on the R3600 and R3610.
(b) A better keyboard/mouse; Acer, listen to us, bundle something like the Keysonic ACK-540RF but in white to match the Revo's colour scheme.
(c) Bluetooth; there's no BT connectivity on the Revo range and could be something worth including.
(d) More USB ports; the six already included in the design not enough after you connect the wireless keyboard/mouse dongle, a flash drive, an external drive, a USB TV Tuner, Bluetooth Dongle and a few more gadgets. We'd suggest at least 10 USB ports overall.
(e) A more traditional design : The hexagon shaped chassis will not be a hit with everyone and some of us will yearn for a more traditional form factor. Indeed, we'd like to see a Blu-ray player like device with or without a player. One that you can show rather than hide.
(f) MicroSD reader : A contentious one. How about a microSD reader on top of the SD card reader?
(g) Offer a 100 percent silent option with a smaller SSD (even a 20GB model) and a fanless CPU. Many of us will be using the computer as a polyvalent streamer/lightweight computer.
(h) Design a more elegant power connection, one that includes the transformer and the plug and is less prone to snapping. Apple's Magsafe connector is an engineering feat but it is already protected by a US patent.
(i) A significantly more upmarket, neater box design. Apple (again) has set the standards high when it comes to the packaging of the design. As always, first impressions do count and while the Revo's box was a notch higher than what we saw from others, it is still way behind qualitywise compared to the ones that housed the Macbook Air or the Mac Mini for example.
(j) Finally, dare we suggest that Acer launches an all-in-one keyboard solution similar to Asus' EEE Keyboard PC with Wireless HDMI. Asus's proposal is superb, but still lacks some major features like a proper touchpad and a more ergonomic format. In other words, take the screen of a laptop and add wireless HDMI to it.
(k) Remove all bloatware and just put . Dell was the first to come up with a no-bloatware range (the Vostro) and we suggest that Acer follows the same path.