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Acer Aspire Revo R3600 - nVidia ION Nettop - Acer Aspire Revo R3600
Along with video decoding, nVidia has also been keen to promote the gaming credentials of ION. However, here we feel it has overplayed its hand somewhat. Fine, it's better than Intel's integrated graphics offering, but an asthmatic ant could produce better performance, so it's hardly saying much. Moreover, while it can run some games at playable frame rates, you have to turn the settings and resolution right down, so the quality of experience is hardly worth the bother.
Perhaps of greater potential are CUDA accelerated applications, something that's particularly enticing due to the low-power processor's limited capabilities. To demonstrate this benefit all Revo's come with trial versions of two CUDA applications, Baddaboom and vReveal.
Baddaboom is particularly useful since it's perfect for re-encoding videos for your portable media player, something you'd likely want to do on a nettop such as this. vReveal, meanwhile, cleans up poor quality video. This is a cool idea, but of the two Baddaboom seems like the most useful and it's also cheaper, costing only -21 compared to 39 for vReveal.
It must be stressed, though, that CUDA is a fairly niche benefit right now and while Vista's Aero Glass effects are smooth thanks to the superior graphics, it can't do anything to help with general performance. And, when you match an Atom processor with Vista, it's predictably sluggish. Not quite unbearable though, with recent updates Vista is more efficient than it once was, but it's not an ideal combination. Unfortunately, unless you opt to install Windows 7 RC1, it's also unavoidable, since DirectX 10 is required to run all the GPU accelerated goodness of ION.
Indeed, it's only this that leads us to hesitate about the Revo, since in every other respect it's a real winner. It's a very nicely designed device, even if the plastic stand seems something of an afterthought, while the VESA mounting is a very neat trick. It's also extremely affordable, especially for a PC capable of such flawless HD video playback. This in particular makes it a no brainer as a media PC, but for regular usage the choice of Vista is troubling. This might not be Acer's fault, but a problem it remains.
nVidia's ION platform delivers handsomely and Acer has responded in kind with the Revo. It ticks all the right boxes where nettops are concerned, while ION gives it a definitive edge over competing offerings. Only the use of Vista really holds it back, but if you're after a cheap and effective media PC for your living room, you shouldn't let this hold you back.
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