Ultra small form factor PCs have been around for a while, but they’ve often been built by niche manufacturers, who have relied on either expensive cooling systems or under-powered notebook processors. Thanks to Intel’s Core 2 Duo chips, power is available without the heat and Acer is making use of it.
The result is a range of stylish, ultra small form factor PCs, for the home and office, for people who just want a computer without losing chunks of living space to bulk and noise. The Aspire L320 has been sat on our Labs’ workbench for a while now waiting for its monitor to turn up. The PC is just 25cm high and 6cm wide. It’s very stylish with its silver chassis, and swishy front panel: half of which folds down to reveal two USB ports, mini FireWire, two audio jacks and an SD/MMC/MS/xD media card reader. There’s also a slot-loading DVD writer which supports DVD-RAM and dual-layer burning. In short, everything the common-or-garden PC user needs easy access to.
Despite the notebook-sized optical drive, other components are full desktop versions. Everything is powered by a 1.8GHz Core 2 Duo E4300, 1GB of RAM and a 320GB hard disk. These combined to generate a score of 0.73 in our benchmarks – hardly awe inspiring, but more than enough to keep most tasks skipping along handsomely. There’s enough grunt for occasional hardcore encoding too. The new Intel GMA 3000 graphics help with 3D-based applications (like Vista’s Aero window switching), but you won’t be playing any games with it.
You won’t be able to upgrade the innards which are fully bespoke and make use of every part of the case. There’s not even room for a power supply; it’s an external brick. This has the added benefit of reducing heat and cooling requirements – the L320 is very quiet indeed. Expansion can only be made at the back via FireWire and four USB ports but note that three of the latter are taken up by keyboard, mouse and speakers. Six audio jacks and Gigabit Ethernet are also present.
The stereo speakers are modest – they get loud enough for most PC tasks but lack bass and punch. The LCD is a 1440 x 900 resolution 19in widescreen. It provides a crisp and well-lit desktop while colours and response time are good enough to make watching movies fun. A Media Center remote is included and it’s Viiv compatible too. However, we missed having a TV tuner. The keyboard and mouse are adequate Acer offerings and we had few complaints.
The warranty is only 1yr RTB but at $1500 it still amounts to a good-value system that most non-demanding computer users will warm too. It may lack the 3D performance of Pacstar’s Elite6300 but the size, design and styling make it a winner and it joins the A-List.