Acer Aspire M3800 media centre PC
This Acer media centre PC is quick, good-looking and well featured
- Quad-core CPU, 10 USB ports, 4GB RAM
- USB ports located on top of PC (rather than at the front), corded peripherals, remote control receiver is not built in
The Aspire M3800 is a media centre PC that looks good and has plenty of features and CPU power. It's not perfect — it could still use more integrated features — but it's worth considering if you're after a PC that can be used for conventional work as well as for watching and recording digital TV.
Best Deals (Selling at 3 stores)
- Aspire ATC-115-UR13 Desktop (Black) 986.99
- Aspire V Nitro NX.MYHAA.003; VN7-791G-78ZM 17.3... 4141.99
Acer's Aspire M3800 is a media centre PC with good looks and fast performance. It's suitable for anyone who wants more than just a basic PC. With it, not only can you run your favourite office applications, you can also run Windows Media Centre to watch and record digital TV, as well as access all your videos, photos and music files.
We haven't really seen media centre PCs evolve much since Windows Media Centre was launched (only a few vendors, such as Claritas, ever designed proper media centre PCs). The Acer Aspire M3800 is no exception: it's stuck with a traditional PC design that's more suited to an office or bedroom than a living room. It's a tower PC with a micro-ATX form factor and although it has all the features you would need of a media centre, it's not a refined PC.
There are memory card slots on the front of the PC that support every major card format on the market, and there are USB ports on the top of the PC. As such, you don't know wether you should place the PC on the floor, which would make it hard to access the memory slots, or up high, which would make it hard to access the USB slots. Since the power button also resides near the top of the case, we'd go for a floor-standing position. Another consideration is the remote control's dongle. This isn't built in to the case and has to sit somewhere outside it if you want to use the supplied remote control to launch Windows Media Centre. With plenty of space available behind the front panel, it would have been nice if Acer had placed this dongle inside the case.
On the inside, the Acer Aspire M3800 media centre PC features an Intel Core 2 Quad Q8300 CPU, which is a quad-core CPU that runs at 2.5GHz. It gives the M3800 the ability to multitask freely and this is also aided by the 4GB of DDR3 memory that's installed. In WorldBench 6, it scored 110, which means it will capably handle almost any task you throw at it. You will be able to transcode media files relatively quickly, and even use it for 3D rendering. This was highlighted in the Blender 3D rendering test, which used all of the CPUs four cores to complete a 3D rendering workload in just 38sec.
Another area in which the Aspire M3800 shined was in the hard drive test. It recorded an average transfer rate of 39.6 megabytes per second, which is a speedy result for a typical desktop PC. The hard drive in the Aspire M3800 is a 7200rpm, 1TB Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 (HDT72010SLA360) that's been partitioned to give you a 458GB system drive and a 458GB data drive. The large capacity of the drive will come in handy when using the Aspire M3800 to record TV shows.
The Acer Aspire M3800 ships with a hybrid TV tuner, which gives it the ability to tune in to digital and analog TV stations. We would have preferred a dual digital TV tuner, though, which would have allowed up to two programs to be recorded simultaneously. While free-to-air TV has usually had slim pickings, One HD and Go! now provide more viewing options, so being able to record two programs at once is a feature that many of us are starting to crave.
You can watch TV either on a monitor attached to the PC or on a big-screen TV using the HDMI port. The PC's graphics card is an ATI Radeon HD 4650, which supplies adequate 3D performance for mid-range gaming (it scored 5486 in 3DMark06), but most importantly it can carry audio over its HDMI port, so you can just run one cable from your PC to your receiver or TV.
You might have to play around with the audio settings in Windows Vista if you are not getting sound from the HDMI port straight away (you'll have to select the Realtek HDMI Output-ATI HDMI Audio in the Volume Mixer).
The Aspire M3800, despite its tower design, looks good enough to be placed in a living room; it's black and has glossy panels. The power and hard drive LEDs are not overly noticeable as they don't reside directly on the front panel. Most importantly, the M3800 doesn't make a lot of noise when it runs.
Most ready-made PCs are generally boring on the inside, and the M3800 is definitely up high in the drab stakes. The only interesting aspect of its innards is the huge CPU fan shroud, which directs cool air from outside the case (via the vent holes in the side panel) directly onto the CPU heat sink. The fan on the CPU heat sink runs relatively slowly and is barely audible. The other two fans in the system — the power supply and graphics card fans — are equally quiet. You'll probably hear the hard drive accessing data more than you will the whir of the fans.
Because it uses a micro-ATX motherboard and case, there isn't a lot of room for upgrades as your needs change. There is space for one more hard drive, as well as another optical drive, and the motherboard has two free PCI slots and two free memory slots. We wish it had two PCI Express slots free instead; unless you already have some PCI cards that you want to install, chances are these slots will never be used. There are two occupied PCI Express slots in this system, taken up by the graphics and TV tuner cards.
Nevertheless, this isn't a major issue and most upgrades these days are done via USB 2.0 ports, of which this PC has 10. It also has FireWire, Gigabit Ethernet, optical audio output, DVI, D-Dub and PS/2 ports, as well as S-Video input and RCA audio input ports. You get a remote control as well as a corded keyboard and mouse. The keyboard has a great big volume control and media buttons on it, but considering the nature of this PC, and the likelihood it will be connected to a TV at some point, a wireless keyboard and mouse combination would have been better.
Follow PC World Australia on Twitter: @PCWorldAu
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Sony Xperia Z5 Premium review: Is the world ready for a 4K phone?
- 2 Mazda MX-5 (2016) review: Absolute driving purity
- 3 Sony 75-inch UHD TV (X9400C) review: Sony and Android are a winning duo
- 4 LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
- 5 Panasonic Viera UHD TV review: good hardware, fragmented software
Best Deals on Good Gear Guide
Latest News Articles
- Samsung's UHD Monitor covers 99.5 per cent of Adobe colour spectrum
- HP settles cases with inkjet cartridge vendors
- Study predicts PS3 will win the console war
- Samsung wave makes a splash at Mobile World Congress
- Sony finally back in the black (but not thanks to PlayStation)
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- FTProgram ManagerNSW
- CCSenior Business AnalystQLD
- FTBusiness Analyst AGILENSW
- CCIT Solution DesignerNSW
- CCIT Service Deliver & Improvement ManagerACT
- CCICT Infrastructure Specialist - (Network Engineer)ACT
- CCDigital ProducerNSW
- CCEnterprise Architect - Network & InfrastructureNSW
- CCSharePoint AdministratorACT
- CCProject Scheduler / Project Manager - IT InfrastructureNSW
- CCMid to Senior Level User Experience SpecialistsNSW
- FTProject Manager | Defence projects | NV1/NV2 cleared | Canberra basedACT
- CCTechnical Integration Specialist - MicrosoftACT
- CCBusiness Analyst - CanberraNSW
- FTInsight / Customer - Data ScientistNSW
- CCSolution Architect - .NET TechnologiesNSW
- CCSenior Business Analyst - Life InsuranceVIC
- CCIT Service Desk (32 hour week)WA
- CCContracts ManagerNSW
- CCOpen_5pm 5th February_Program ArchitectACT
- FTSenior Systems/SAN EngineerNSW
- CCWintel Support EngineerNSW
- FTProject ManagerVIC
- FTSenior .NET DeveloperVIC
- FTSystems Administrator/Engineer | Projects & BAU | Coastal Newcastle NSWWA