Acer has taken nVidia's new Ion platform to create the Aspire Revo, a small cheap computer that can actually play high-definition video. Question is, how well?
Intel has missed the boat when it comes to graphics processing technology. The chip giant does make integrated processors for graphics, but they are cheap, cheerful and simple affairs, too underpowered for many modern applications.
Which explains why nVidia has stepped up to the plate to give the ambling Intel Atom a little more pizzazz. The Aspire Revo R3600 from Acer is one of a select breed of new Ion nettops that combine the Atom processor with a usable nVidia 3D graphics processor.
While an Atom has just about enough power to allow simple web browsing and word processing, much of today's multimedia computing relies on a modicum or more of graphics manipulation. Take Windows Vista, for example, which needs a capable graphics processing unit (GPU) just to render its Aero window translucency.
Then there's the subject of video playback on a PC, which requires either a fast CPU (which the Intel Atom is patently not); or instead to pass the decoding job on to the GPU.
It wa at the beginning of this year that nVidia showed off its Ion platform, which essentially unites the Intel Atom processor designed for netbooks, with the nVidia GeForce 9400M, an integrated graphics processor for mobile applications. The 9400M was first seen in Apple's new MacBook notebook line-up last autumn, proving itself to be a low-power draw unit capable of playing some 3D games.
Acer has taken on nVidia's Ion idea, and built a compact nettop based around a nattily lop-sided parallelogram. It can either lie flat or sit upright on the desk. There's a wide scattering of sockets and ports around its ligtweight plastic shell. We have DC power in, HDMI digital and VGA analogue graphics ports, four USB and gigabit ethernet, all on the back.
Then there's an eSATA port, card reader, with audio-in and -out jacks on the front, and - assuming you have the unit set upright - the top edge has a perforated vent for the cooling fan, plus another USB port.
More idiosyncratic is the Acer Aspire Revo R3600's top-front corner. Pointing rakishly forward, it's home to the unit's awkward-to-press on/off power switch and an inexplicably rubber-stoppered USB port.
Inside, the Acer Aspire Revo R3600 takes a 160GB notebook hard drive and 2GB of DDR2 RAM. Wireless connectivity is also possible, thanks to an Atheros 802.11 card that can work on b, g and draft-n networks.
Our sample came with Windows Vista Home Premium, and while it was more usable than on any nettbook that's ever been misbenightedly sold with Microsoft's sloth OS, we still found the overall experience just a bit too slow for comfortable use.
Another version of the Acer Aspire Revo R3600 is advertised with Linux instead of Windows, differing in its use of 8GB SSD instead of hard disk, half as much RAM, and a price of just £169.
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