By October 25, 2009

Acer Aspire Revo Review

As Matt said in his unboxing, the Acer Aspire Revo is an ultra small form factor PC. It’s a combination of the Intel N230 CPU and the NVidia 9400M GPU, offering high video performance in this small package.


You can see Matt’s unboxing here.

So let’s see what happen when we put this little box through it’s paces.

What’s in the box

The box that we received was an engineering sample so it’s not actually what is in the final product, but what we are told is in the box is…

Aspire Revo PC
Power cable

No confirmation on cables yet, but I suspect a VGA cable would be included.

Acer Aspire Revo Specification:

  • Acer Aspire Revo Ultra Small Form Factor PC
  • Processor : Intel® AtomT 230 processor 1.66gHz
  • Hard Drive : 160GB Serial ATA ( Serial ATA-300 ) or 8GB SSD
  • Operating System : Linux or Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Chipset : NVIDIA® IONT chipset
  • Graphics : nVidia GeForce 9400 up to 896MB
  • System Memory : 1GB or 2GB / 4GB (Max)
  • 6 USB 2.0 ports
  • Four-in-one card reader
  • High definition headphone and microphone jacks
  • DC-in jack
  • Ethernet port
  • D-Sub VGA port
  • HDMI port
  • eSATA port
  • Network adapter – Ethernet, Fast Ethernet; Gigabit Ethernet
  • Wireless LAN 802.11 b/g/Draft-N
  • Dimensions (WxDxH) 18.0 x 3.0 x 18.0 cm


I’m not sure that there is strictly a ‘front’ on the Revo, so I’ll just go around the sides starting with what I think of as the front.


Connections left to right – eSATA, Mic, Stereo out, Memory card reader. On the ‘right’ corner you can see the power button and a USB socket below it.


and on the next side around there is another USB socket and some ventilation holes.


Around the ‘back’ is where most of the connections are.

Left to right -  4 USB sockets, RJ45 network, HDMI, VGA, Power and finally the Kensington lock.

There’s nothing much to see on the bottom – just the slot for the base.


Once you get your hands on it, the first thing that you notice about the Acer Aspire Revo is the fact that it’s not square – it’s tilted slightly. If you use the included stand then the case leans forwards, which is an odd choice as it makes the connections on the front slightly less comfortable to access. It’s not a huge lean, but it’s enough that you notice it – especially if you are wanting to frequently use the sockets on the front.

Another orientation, and one of the more common images that you’ll see on the web when you search for Acer Aspire Revo, is where the Revo is mounted on the back of a monitor. I’ve not actually seen the mounting kit, but it certainly offers an interesting location for the PC – depending how you then use the PC.

If you are going to be using it with a separate wireless keyboard and mouse and never need access to the connections or power button then mounting on the back of the monitor would be fine. If you actually want to use the enclosed wired keyboard and mouse, want regular use to the USB sockets or to attach an external drive, and want to be able to use the power button then it’s less desirable to mount on the back where you’d be forever ‘groping’ around the back of the screen. So I guess it depends on your planned use.

The last orientation is to place the Acer Aspire Revo flat on the surface – but then the labels next to the sockets are all upside down.

This suggests that the labels have been designed with the attachment to the back of a screen as the primary usage of the Revo.

Though this arrangement would seem to make the power less easily accessible.

So all in all I’m not entirely sure which way the box is designed to be used, nothing seems quite right for everything.

Anyway, after the inital look around the case I hooked the unit up to an HDTV using a standard HDMI cable.

The system we had to test had 2GB memory and the 160GB SATA drive and 32-bit Windows Vista Home Premium. Of this 2GB of memory it appears that 256MB is shared to the graphics card as the OS only shows 1.75GB of memory installed.

Booting the system from cold you are booted by a loud whirring, which I can only guess to be a fan – this stops after a couple of seconds, and whilst I never had it actually turn on whilst using the system, it does occur every start up for a few seconds.

So, first boot takes you into the Windows Vista setup screens where you enter your country, time and user information etc. All straight forward stuff, then it asked me if I wanted McAfee Internet Security. Happy to be offered the choice I said No – but it later turned out that it had installed it anyway :S

Then Windows went into a performance check, which took quite a while – the first warning sign of things to come. Then the system rebooted and despite detecting the HDTV as being 1920×1080 it set the desktop to 1024×768 – frustrating and odd, but no big thing to change later.

On getting to the desktop the system then did some additional installs of Acer applications, then does a clean up of the installation tools. All this takes about half an hour. Then the system reboots itself again.

So from out of the box to actually being able to use the PC is about an hour all told. Not exactly out of the box usable.

After all this I could finally change the screen resolution to the correct one and start to look at the system.

The 160GB hard drive is split into two 80GB partitions for reason, the first now has 36.3GB free after the OS and all the other applications, the second is completely blank.

A cold boot took 1 minute 40 seconds – twice as long as my old laptop running XP. Part of the reason for this boot time is the OS, but part of it is the hard drive as I would come to discover.

A quick look around the installed apps shows the same apps as I’ve seen previously on Acer machines including a backup tool that wants to take a DVD backup of your boot system – though I’m not sure exactly how you do that when the system has no optical drive.

Like so many PC’s these days, the Microsoft Office 60 Day Trial is installed – but because I’d not yet plugged the network cable in or setup the wireless network, I discovered something I’d not realised before. You actually need an internet connection to activate the demo. I’m not sure how many people don’t have internet connections these days, but it does seem odd that trial software would require it.

A quick run of the Windows Experience Index tool returned a score of 3.0, placing it right in the middle of the ratings system. Usually 4.0 is what is recommended for HD playback, but this is where graphics chipset in this little package comes into it’s own.

The NVidia 9400M is a very capable ‘mobile’ chipset – and it’s main selling point in the Revo it’s ability to push fullscreen 1080p video, and juding by on all the video I chucked at it that’s no overstatement. Fullscreen playback of full HD video ran without problem – definitely not something all these ‘low power consumption’ PC’s can claim.

What puzzles me with this push towards promoting the Revo as being 1080p capable is that no effort appears to have been made to make the sound output capabilities as tempting for videophiles. If you want to run HD video then surely you are going to be looking for 5.1 or optical output.

This leads me to suspect that the system is mainly aimed at people wanting to watch web video, not home theatre setups.

After having a wander around the system I decided to do the ‘right thing’ and get all the Windows Updates that the system required – getting the advised ones only this weighed in at 100MB, not huge if you have a decent internet connection so I started that running.

And here is where I found the thing that was going to turn me off this system.

Downloading the 100MB took less than 10 minutes – waiting for the system to install them took another hour. This lead me to look into what might be causing the slow performance and the obvious candidate was the hard drive (Hitachi HTS543216L9A).

A quick search on Google finds that the drive is a 5400rpm laptop drive with a quoted seek time of 12ms – though some test sites claim it’s more like 19ms.

Whichever the seek time number you choose from above, for a home PC I’m used to running with drive that are 7200rpm and around 8ms seek time, and the difference certainly explains the sluggishness that I mentioned above.

So whilst the GPU is very capable of throwing lots of video at the screen, the harddrive is less capable of moving data around.

The harddrive really is the achilles heel of the system as it stands – and running Vista is certainly not helping things either. It would certainly be interested in seeing if the system is any better running Windows 7.

Unfortunately I couldn’t test the keyboard and mouse that are in the final box product as they weren’t in our engineering sample.


  • 1080p video playback
  • small form factor
  • low power consumption


  • poor hard drive speed
  • design quirks could be very annoying in daily use


I have to say that when Matt asked me to review this I was intrigued to see what the ‘new’ wave of Intel processors combined with the new graphics chip would be capable of.

The graphics chip did indeed deliver on it’s promise of 1080p performance, but elsewhere things aren’t quite so impressive. Out of the box you are looking at 2 hours of setup time to get the system full installed and patched up with the latest Windows updates, and getting on for 2 minutes of boot time each time you start the PC up.

The Acer Aspire Revo is a curious thing then. It’s the lower power chipsets, drives etc designed originally for laptop usage repurposed into a small factor desktop PC – then to boost it’s video performance over the first wave of such PC’s it’s had the NVidia 9400M GPU inserted, but no efforts to improve the sound output to match this video performance.

Connector labels oriented for what seems like the least likely usage of the PC, a fussy power button (possibly because our test unit was an engineering sample, but still), the strange forward lean in vertical orientation.

So whilst its video performance is better than the previous generation of low power desktops, everything else feels the same, if not a slight step back in some regards.

As a general desktop PC for doing lots of regular work on then the Acer Aspire Revo is possibly the wrong choice – if you just want to mount it on the back of a spare monitor for browsing the web then it’s probably fine, though definitely not the cheapest way to do this.

Review by: Iain

Posted in: Reviews

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