When it comes to desktops, you’ve got a choice from manufacturers: buy a tower and monitor, where you can pack your power away in the separate box or combine the components in an all-in-one, sacrificing some power for compactness. Usually all-in-ones that are fast enough to be desirable and have a standard screen are priced at more than $1,000.
Acer brings a 23” model for $999. And it has a touch screen.
AESTHETICS: The black-and-silver monochrome look is popular these days. The Aspire is nice to look at, but it won’t blow your socks off with funky form. The silver speaker bar at the bottom is a nice touch, though. Along the sides, you’ll find most features nicely tucked away. On the left, one can find a USB 3.0 input, along with an SD card reader, HDMI port and a headphone jack. On the right, there is a CD tray. The power plug is also on the right, but it gets in the way of the Aspire’s stand ... meaning you can’t lay the computer flat while it’s powered. You’ll see why that’s worth mentioning in a minute.
Around the back, there’s another USB 3 input and a pair of USB 2 inputs, along with another HDMI, Bluetooth receiver and ethernet plug. But you won’t see any of that stuff from the front, leaving the Aspire a very clean design overall.
PERFORMANCE: Weirdly, the Aspire is a 23-inch touch screen, which, uh, kind of works? I guess the idea is for it to feel like a giant tablet with the live tiles, switching to the desktop app when you want to use the computer like a traditional desktop.
The touch sensitivity and tracking are both impressive given how large the screen is, and there are a few novel ways to take advantage of the giant display ... the Aspire has a built-in hinge that folds flat, so we laid it on a cabinet and played some air hockey. As I mentioned before, the power plug does get in the way, so the Aspire only folds mostly flat. Anyway, once the novelty wears off, you realize that you’ll never use the touch screen for much, and it feels wholly unnecessary.
But at least the display underneath is pretty, and the 60 hertz refresh rate, 1080p resolution and a color palette mixed with popping highlighter colors and bountiful dark shades leave me with no complaints. The display is great for daily duty.
Now, for the legs of the machine. The Aspire U5-620 came packaged with a one terabyte hard drive, an Intel i5 processor clocked at 2.5 gigahertz and an Intel HD graphics card. Adequate for daily tasks and a little bit of gaming, assuming you keep to things like League of Legends. During testing, the Aspire held a steady 30 frames per second, with some momentary dips to 24 frames when the action got super hectic. Clearly, this isn’t built to be a high-performance gaming machine, but it gets the simple stuff done. I doubt you’ll ever really want for more firepower here, as long as you understand what you’re buying.
The Aspire does have a surprisingly pleasing speaker setup though; the volume, clarity, and treble are all impressive from an all-in-one computer. Even bass is quite good, considering there’s no dedicated subwoofer. It won’t blow up a nightclub, but it’ll be fine for an impromptu Friday night party in an apartment.
INTERFACE: Acer loaded the new Aspire with Windows 8, just as you’d expect these days. While I love the user interface on tablets and phones, it’s still pretty disorienting on full-size computer screen. If there was an option for it from the factory, I’d skip the touch screen and have Windows 7 as my operating system, but Windows 8 is here to stay. Everything still forms from the live tile Start menu. It’s kind of where you live, as far as Microsoft is concerned, but as a desktop, you’ll use the Aspire U more in the old-school desktop mode, so there goes that plan. Once you get used to working around it, it’s not a big issue, but I’d still rather have Windows 7 here.
The unit comes packaged with Acer-badged mouse and keyboard, both Bluetooth of course. Neither is much to write home about, and the keyboard trades solidity for portability. (It's little small for my gorilla hands, but the general population should be just fine.)
VALUE: The Aspire U5-620 is priced at $999. Considering the entire package, I’d say that’s a damn good value. But if Acer killed the touch screen feature and sold it for $850, they’d really be going places.