Acer Revo: The Hardware
The Revo is a lot larger than the Nvidia Ion reference system, but it's still amazingly small in comparison to other desktop systems. Nvidia and Acer proudly claim that the rhombic casing of the Revo is just 1L in volume, measuring 30mm x 180mm x 180mm (W x D x H). It’s certainly going to be easy to find a spot for it wherever you fancy placing it, be it beside your HDTV, on the desktop or tucked away beneath a desk.
Its strange shape belies a pretty clever layout though, and the Revo offers the same sort of connectivity you’d expect from any desktop PC. The rear I/O features both VGA and HDMI ports (with DVI conspicuous by its absence) a Gigabit Ethernet port and four USB 2.0 ports, with everything well laid out to make installation easy.
There's a further two USB 2.0 ports, one on the Revo’s top and the other behind a rubber cover on the front top corner, as well as headphone, microphone, an eSATA port as well as an SD card reader all built into the Revo’s “front plate.” It’s a fantastic array of ports for such a small device, and the additional internal Draft-N Wi-Fi is the cherry on top of this delicious connectivity sundae.
Click to enlarge - There's plenty of connectivity on offer
Inside, our retail Revo was identical to the model that Rich cracked open in April
, with the Nvidia Ion motherboard, featuring the GeForce 9400 chipset/GPU and 1.6GHz Intel Atom 230 CPU joined by two 1GB DDR2 800MHz SO-DIMMs and a 160GB Hitachi 5400rpm 2.5in hard disk drive. Both are interchangeable, although you’ll need to completely remove the entire motherboard to access the hard disk drive mountings which are found on the underside. All the internal fittings used standard Phillips head screws, so there’s no hassle with Torx screws when removing the core hardware. The downside is that opening up the unit does void the hardware warranty.
The configuration we’re looking at today - the R3600 - represents the top end of the Revo line, but there’s also a version available for a full £100 less, the R3600L, which sports an 8GB SSD and just 1GB of DDR2 instead. This model also lacks the Windows Vista 32-bit install that ships with the more expensive versions of the Revo, although whether that’s a positive or a negative is certainly debatable considering Vista's large hardware footprint and reputation for slurping up available resources.
Click to enlarge - Internally the hardware is all sensibly laid out, with the memory easy to remove
We were disappointed to find that Acer chose not to include a Vesa monitor mount in the retail box, opting instead for an unconvincing plastic base which allows the Revo to be freestanding. This is a missed opportunity - the Revo's small foot print means it could have hung tidily out of the way behind a monitor, so the absence of the Vesa mount is a real shame.
Also included in the basic bundle are a white mouse and keyboard that while pleasingly chunky aren’t what we would call stylish.
As the Revo packs such low power core hardware the cooling setup inside is expectedly minimalist, with a dual plate heatsink covering both the 9400 chip and the Atom CPU. Mounted above this is a low-RPM paddle fan that blows air out of the case through a ventilated section in the Revo’s roof, with a similar perforated section in the base acting as an air intake. In general use the Revo is beautifully quiet and you can barely tell that it’s switched on.
Even when we heavily taxed the CPU and GPU the fan never rose to become clearly audible over the background hum of the labs, and these excellent acoustic characteristics could make it an excellent choice for a thin client or media PC. While the core hardware has been well laid out and thought through, how does the Revo manage where it really counts – the user experience?