Please, sir, I’d like some more
Acer split the difference between HP and Sony and Lenovo, tapping Intel’s Core i5 for the Aspire AZ5700-U2112. That design decision helped the Aspire Z5700 win three of the four benchmark competitions. On the downside, however, the Acer was the only PC in this field to rely on a graphics core integrated with the CPU (always a minus for 3D gaming), and was the only machine to be equipped with a DVD burner instead of Blu-ray combo drive.
Acer’s design has a modern art aesthetic, with an aluminum-look plastic enclosure, mouse, and keyboard. There’s a slot-feed DVD player, a memory card reader, and mic and headphone jacks on the right-hand side of the display, and two USB 2.0 ports on the left side. The back of the machine harbors four additional USB ports—one of which you’ll want to use for the wireless mouse and keyboard dongle—along with an HDMI out and an eSATA port (unique features in this field).
The A5700 does not offer Bluetooth connectivity, but it does include an integrated 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter (and an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC).
Acer downsized its Windows Media Center remote control, sacrificing the most important button—Live TV—in the process.
As does HP, Acer includes audio and video inputs and an IR blaster, so you can control a cable or satellite set-top box and record TV programs on the computer’s hard drive. You can also use the computer’s built-in TV tuner for this, but you won’t be able to access any encrypted channels.
You can push the keyboard underneath the unit, between its chromed front legs, which have embedded LEDs at the bottom. Exactly what Acer is trying to illuminate with these is a mystery, but you can shut them off. The keyboard has a very handy volume control wheel in the top right-hand corner. The keys themselves aren’t exactly mushy, but they have an unpleasantly long travel.
Acer uses Intel’s H57 Express chipset on a proprietary motherboard with four DDR3 memory slots, two of which are populated by 2GB sticks of DDR 1,333 memory running in dual-channel mode. Remember that some of this memory is shared with the integrated graphics core. Mass storage is provided by a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green drive.
Aside from the absence of a Blu-ray drive and a discrete GPU, the AZ5700-U2112 comes closest to matching HP’s formula. The company has developed a touch-optimized user interface—dubbed TouchPortal—that sits on top of the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium. Acer also bundles a number of touch-optimized apps, including a Web browser, a music player, a photo editor, and a couple of games.
Acer’s decision to use integrated graphics and not include a Blu-ray drive helps keep the price in check, but we’d gladly pay a little more to get a lot more.