We’re reaching the end of the road for current Intel processors. The company’s new line of product has shipped to manufacturers, which means computers using the new chips, codenamed “Haswell,” will be out this summer. This is the last hurrah for the current 3000 series.
Still, consumers don’t stop buying just because better processors might be around the corner, and, for that reason, manufacturers don’t sit still either. Acer is a perfect example of this. The company’s new mainstream desktop, the Aspire T3-600-UR11, is built for consumers on a tight budget.
Our review unit arrived with an Intel Core i5-3330 quad-core processor, 6GB of RAM, and an Nvidia Geforce GT 630 graphics card. This represents a basic configuration that sells at an MSRP of $600. That seems like a reasonable price, but is there any reason to buy Acer’s latest desktop when new processors are about to launch?
The Aspire T3-600 isn’t just a new hardware configuration; it’s a new design. At first glance, the enclosure appears standard: small, boxy, and black. Plug it in, however, and the computer glows softly around the front port panel and behind the only Acer logo. This detail could have come across as cheesy or distracting, but the light is elegantly diffused and acts as a sort of runway beacon for the front-facing ports, making USB devices easy to connect in a dark room.
There’s a good selection of ports up front as well: four USB (two 2.0, two 3.0), headphone, microphone, and card reader. All of these are centrally located and uncovered for quick access. We do think the power button is a bit too easy to bump while inserting a drive, but the button is lit, so mishaps are unlikely. The eject buttons of the optical drives can be found along the center of the front panel, so they can also be easily accessed no matter the position of the desktop.
Soft, grippy rubber runs along the top of the enclosure. Acer previously placed smartphone trays on the top of desktops, but an engineer apparently thought to wonder why the trays were small and only at the front of the PC. Why not make the entire surface a storage area? That’s exactly what Acer has done, and it’s a brilliant touch.
Lots of USB
Around back, the T3-600 offers a fair selection of connectivity for those who use all USB all the time. There are four USB 2.0 ports and two USB 3.0 ports, putting the total number of USB ports at ten.
Otherwise, there are the usual suspects: DVI, HDMI, Ethernet, and red/green/blue audio jacks. The only notable extra is a pair of PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard. These legacy connections are rare on modern PCs.
Simple on the inside
Opening the Acer is a cinch. Just remove two screws and then pull backwards on the side panel – job well done! Once inside, you’ll find a spacious layout that is neat, tidy, and minimally confusing. All components are accessible and can be removed or replaced using a small Phillips screwdriver. Servicing the hard drive requires removal of the front panel, but there’s no need to worry since it’s only attached by plastic clips.
Future upgrades should be easy to install because of the system’s open layout. Still, there are only two empty drive bays, and the motherboard’s only PCI Express 16x slot (occupied by the GT 630 graphics card) bumps up against the Wi-Fi adapter. These problems get in the way of certain upgrades.
With that said, competitors sold at a similar price fair no better, and most are tighter or more confusing to work on. The T3-600’s simple, spacious layout is a cut above most.
Inexpensive computer, cheap peripherals
Acer ships the T3-600 with the company’s standard peripheral bundle. The keyboard is soft and vague, and the flimsy mouse has just two buttons. Buyers should plan on replacing both with an inexpensive Logitech or Microsoft keyboard and mouse set. It’ll be $40 well spent.
A well-rounded performer
The Core i5-3330 quad is among the least powerful entries in Intel’s quad-core desktop line. Even so, it proved respectable in our tests, reaching a SiSoft Sandra Processor Arithmetic score of 63.57 and a 7-Zip score of 12,363. These numbers are competitive with systems that sell for the same price.
No matter what we tried, the fans never registered on our decibel meter.
Gaming performance proved a disappointment despite the Nvidia graphics card. 3DMark turned in a Cloud Gate score of 5,409 and a Fire Strike score of 716. These numbers are low for discrete graphics; even the Razer Edge, a gaming tablet, scored better in the Fire Strike test. Demanding modern games will struggle to run well even at low detail. Older titles like World of Warcraft and Dawn of War 2 should be playable at medium to high detail (depending on your monitor’s resolution).
Quiet and efficient
The system’s mundane hardware proved beneficial in our sound tests. No matter what we tried, the fans never registered on our decibel meter. That is not to say they’re silent – they can be heard – but their soft purr will be lost in the ambient noise of most households.
Power testing also produced excellent results. The system uses only 29 watts of power at idle. Loading the processor with 7-Zip increased that figure to 60 watts while the Furmark graphics test spiked consumption at 74 watts. These numbers make the T3-600 our new record holder among desktop tower PCs.
A little bloated
Acer ships this desktop with an armada of icons on the desktop and Start screen. Some are simply shortcuts to partners, like Netflix and eBay, rather than pre-installed programs. But the Acer Apps section of the Start screen does include apps like Evernote, Cut The Rope, and the 7Digital media store. Some are useful, some aren’t, and all are capable of being removed without much trouble.
The real annoyance is McAfee Internet Security, which, as always, pops up at inconvenient times to intimidate users with all the terrible things that might happen without a McAfee subscription. We hoped Microsoft’s decision to bundle Windows 8 with a basic antivirus would dissuade such annoying adverts, but alas, they continue.
The Aspire T3-600 is in the most competitive segment of the desktop market. There are literally thousands of other computers that can be purchased at the same price from every major manufacturer and some boutiques as well. With so much choice available, details can make or break a system – and that’s where this Acer excels.
Every component and port seems designed with a purposeful, conscious respect for utility. The top of the system doubles as a storage tray, the ports and buttons are accessible, upgrades are easy to install, the fans are quiet, and performance is well rounded. We have no complaints about the tower itself. Peripherals and bloatware are the only disappointments.
Should you buy this desktop when new processors are right around the corner? We think so, as the new processors will probably command a slight premium. But, if you’d rather wait, feel free to do so since Acer will no doubt continue using this excellent design for desktops built on the new Intel processors.
- Attractive, functional enclosure
- Lots of USB, including four USB 3.0
- Some upgradability
- Well-rounded performance
- Quiet and efficient
- Good value
- Terrible bundled peripherals
- Too much bloatware