A surprising entry into the all-in-one category.
Screen and Interface
Obviously the focus of the Aspire 5600U is its 23” HD screen, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. At 1,920×1,080 there’s enough screen real estate to get most of your work done, and web pages become easier to scan through and view. Watching video is also a great experience, with colors appearing bright and vivid, but discoloring slightly if viewed from a sideways angle. One advantage this system does have is that it includes an HDMI In port, so you can connect a gaming console and use the 5600U as a regular screen.
Being an all-in-one system, the Aspire 5600U is fully touch capable, and Acer has a bevy of software and apps available to make use of this. Surprisingly enough, there’s a lot of Microsoft Surface apps here, such as Surface Globe which lets you zoom around a satellite rendering of Earth with surprising accuracy. Rotating the globe, zooming in and out quickly and panning around are executed flawlessly, making the 5600U one of the more responsive AIOs I’ve tried out. Scrolling and flipping through documents and web pages was extremely easy, though I highly recommend that if you’re going to be using the touch controls extensively that you keep the unit at an incline for comfort reasons.
In addition to the touch software installed there’s also a host of other software bundled, such as Skype, a Photo and Media organizer, Acer games, McAfee, and desktop links to Netflix and eBay. Most of this clutter can be cleared out within minutes, so it’s really worth keeping some of the Acer software and chucking everything else.
As I did with the Lenovo A720, I installed Windows 8 Release Preview on the Aspire 5600U, as the unit has been so far only shown with Windows 8 at trade shows. Running Windows 8 on the system really changed things around, and I found myself tapping and using the touch controls a lot more than when I was just using Windows 7. The Metro interface looks great on the large display, and swiping through apps was effortless. There were a few hiccups with some of the hardware drivers causing occasional hiccups with the touchscreen, but I’ll write this down to the build of Windows 8 I was running.
Keyboard, Mouse, and Audio
The Acer Aspire 5600U bundles with its own wireless keyboard and mouse, which tie up with the system’s overall look and feel. Both sport transparent and black plastic, and connect to the 5600U with a single dongle that tucks in to a dedicated USB port at the back. The keyboard is quite responsive and save for the shrunken arrow keys, is quite comfortable to type on. The bundled mouse, while classy, was a bit too plastic for my liking, but I’m guessing the average consumer won’t mind too much.
Audio on the Aspire 5600U was a disappointing experience. The speakers are located at the top of the system next to the air vents, and if you’ve got the system set up at an angle, the speakers then direct sound away from you instead of towards you. With the system’s audio set to maximum, there was a fair amount of echo for vocal-intensive songs, though with songs with a lot of bass the system tended to sound a bit better. I understand that Acer wanted to have the ‘floating’ appearance with the transparent base, but it would have made a lot more sense if the speakers were facing the user instead of at the top. The system dos include Dolby software for tweaking your audio experience, but you’ll need to spend a decent amount of time tweaking the various settings if you want pitch-perfect audio.
Heat and Noise Levels
During regular tasks the system maintained an average temperature of about 53C, but this clocked up to about 71C during some of my benchmarks, with the fans kicking into slightly higher gear to a slightly audible hum. As a stress test, I fired up Diablo III again at max settings and left the game running without playing it. After about ten minutes, the system fans kicked into higher gear, causing an audible whirring noise with plenty of warm air coming out of the top. Certain areas around the back of the system also started to become warm, so I guess that anything too taxing on this system will cause it to heat up fairly quickly if not operated in a cool and well ventilated place.
So is the Acer Aspire 5600U a definitive desktop replacement? Well for one thing, it’s certainly more attractive than having a hulking tower PC hidden under your desk. It’s also got some decent specifications and will run most applications and games at a decent resolution. The touch interface is also quite good, although typing with the Windows 7 on-screen keyboard can be a bit of a chore. Things do however take a spin for the positive with Windows 8, so you’ve got a good OS upgrade option to consider once Windows 8 goes retail. The Acer Aspire 5600U is a sleek and fiery little number that despite a few minor kinks is still a solid all-in-one system.