The Aspire M5630 looks swish thanks to its matte black case with glossy detailing. This also matches the glossy black-bezelled LCD which make it a smart-looking system. Usefully, two USB ports are mounted at the top on the front (along with two audio jacks) and the optical drives hide behind flaps. There’s also a pull down panel which gives access to an all-format card reader with mini-FireWire port.
But its main party piece is the optical drive. Not only does it write to all DVD formats, but it also reads both Blu-ray and HD DVD discs. Playing our test movies on both formats was a pleasure on the 22in LCD. Even though the 1680 x 1050 resolution can’t quite handle the 1080p-based movies at native resolution there’s still a noticeable step up in quality over DVD. Beyond this the LCD offers a crisp desktop with reasonable colour reproduction.
But it’s tricky to work out who this PC is aimed at. HD movies really need 50in+ TVs to be fully appreciated. Investing in a 22in-monitor based PC for your high-def entertainment seems wrong. It’s a spec we’d expect on a media centre PC, not a desk-based one.
Even though the Q6600 quad-core processor provides plenty of grunt (scoring 1.31 in our benchmarks) hardened multimedia fans may feel restricted by the 500GB hard disk and wonder why 2GB of slower (667MHz) RAM is preferred over (bus-speed matching) 800MHz RAM. It all stays quiet when decoding HD films though.
A Radeon HD 2400 Pro graphics card is included but it isn’t great for gaming. In our our lowest-settings tests it averaged 17fps in Call of Duty 2. In Call of Juarez it averaged only 9fps and in Crysis, at 1024 x 768 with Medium details, only 6fps. You’ll only be able to play old games with it.
There’s limited scope for upgrading too. Inside there’s only room for an extra PCI and a PCI-E 1x card. An extra PCI slot is taken up with an ancient 56Kb/s modem. Both RAM slots are full but you can add an extra optical drive, external 3.5in drive and three extra hard disks. Connectivity at the back includes Gigabit Ethernet, four USB port, FireWire, six audio jacks, serial and parallel connectors. The wireless keyboard and mouse are adequate but feel a bit cheap. The USB-powered tinny stereo speakers are a pointless complement to HD video.
It’s generally a good PC but feels rather one dimensional. There’s a lot of power, but not enough for power-hungry users. The HD features are nice to have, but wasted on the bundled monitor and speakers. But it’s quiet and if you want an uncomplicated, nice-looking PC (with a reasonable one-year onsite warranty) that won’t get old quickly, it’s a good buy.
This Review appeared in the February 2008 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine