Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Acer's Aspire REVO

First Impressions

After spending the last year or more hooking and unhooking my laptop to the TV to watch movies and stream TV shows, I decided to get a computer dedicated to that particular function. My only criteria was that it had to be at least as powerful as my laptop, used a small footprint and came with an attractive price tag (under $400.00). I spent a few weeks looking around at a few boxes until I stumbled upon the Acer Aprire REVO. It seemed to fit all the criteria. As far as footprint goes, it's about the same size as my Bell 2-wire modem.

Before buying, I did a little bit of research on the product. The predominant feature of the unit was the NVIDIA Ion processor. I have to admit that I don't keep up with the latest hardware available. A NVIDIA Ion processor sounds good. The NVIDIA website describes the processor as:

"Next-generation NVIDIA® ION™ graphics¹ energize your PC with over 10 times the performance of integrated graphics. Go beyond simple Internet browsing with a media-savvy ION GPU. Experience full 1080p video on sites like YouTube HD or from Blu-Ray discs. Play the most popular PC games like World of Warcraft or accelerate popular video and photo apps, boosting performance of editing and converting videos, face tagging photos, and much more. Only ION delivers the Windows 7 Home Premium experience including the rich 3D user interface. NVIDIA ION packs a premium graphics punch at a fraction of the size."

Reviews I have read seem to suggest the processor does well with video after a little tweaking, but not so good with heavy gaming. Not to worry. I'm not into gaming.Though earlier reviews indicated that the REVO would not display using a HDMI cable out-of-the-box, I decided to give it a try. No problem. Worked perfectly. Only suggestion, read the instructions on setting up the wireless keyboard and mouse. The receiver for them is not built into the REVO. You have to install a USB receiver hidden inside the mouse. Else, if you are like me, you will sit there wondering why the keyboard and mouse aren't working. That fixed, I started the install.

Installation of the software on first run takes about a hour or more. Not too bad. There are lots of third party products loaded into the machine. Most notably is Microsoft Office 2007 trial. I already have a full version on my laptop. This will come off when I start tweaking the system. As well as Microsoft Works and a few other applications. All I want is a bare-bones installation of the OS and any applications required to view videos / TV.

First thing to do upon completion of the install is size the display to your TV. Just follow the instructions. It's easy enough. You can tweak the settings latter.

Playing the sample video included with the REVO on my Toshiba TV was horrible. Default settings for video resulted in the video being too red, too bright and too contrasty. Playback also seemed a bit sluggish. After spending a couple of hours installing a beta version of Flash 10.1 and tweaking all the display settings, I managed to get the picture to a pretty good place.

Movies look reasonably well now. But I had expected streamed TV shows too look better. Living in Canada, I can't get Hulu without using a VPN, which for testing the streaming video part would be a factor against it. I tested the streaming video on some of the Canadian online networks like CBC and Global. From all the hype I read, I had expected the video to be a lot better. It played OK but wasn't any better than my laptop connected to the same TV using a S-video cable.

Bottom line: expect to spend a few hours tweaking to get the quality  you want. Don't expect too much out of the system. If you don't already have a way to stream video to your TV, then you will be happy with the results. Haven't tested it with games, so can't comment there. Makes my life a little easier, the footprint is small, it didn't cost me too much and it's always connected. No more lugging the laptop up and down and messing with cables each time I want to catch up on missed TV shows.

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