Cheap as chips PC
In times gone by, people would generally have between zero and one PC’s in the home, but as devices become less expensive and more capable it’s perfectly feasible to have a machine in every room.
That’s one such scenario that Acer envisage as a use for the Revo RL80 Nettop, which can be bought for less than £120 (including cashback from Acer, available at time of writing).
Out of the box
This diminutive unit is clearly designed to sit proudly next to a big screen TV, either laying flat or mounted on the provided stand. The case features a high gloss and matt black design, with copper coloured detailing that makes the Revo look like an expensive piece of kit, at least at first glance. It’s worth noting, also that the supplied stand can also be used to mount the Revo to the back of a TV using the VESA mounting points.
This is an excellent feature for anyone that doesn’t want a PC on show in their living room, no matter how sleek it looks. In practice though, you’ll still be able to see the Revo poking out from behind a smaller TV, say anything less than 24″.
In terms of connectivity, the RL80 comes with built in WiFi and Bluetooth, as well as the following ports:
- 2 x front facing USB 3 ports
- Front facing mic and headphone ports
- Front facing multi-card reader
- 4 x rear facing USB 2 ports
- Optical audio out
- Gigabit Ethernet
That’s a lot of connectivity for such a small device, and when you consider that one of the front facing USB ports can also be used as an “always on” charging port, it becomes even more interesting.
The Revo RL80 is a budget machine, and the specs reflect that, but it’s still a darn sight more powerful than the Intel Atom based nettops of a couple of years ago.
At the heart of the RL80 is an Intel Celeron 1.5GHz processor, paired with an Intel HD graphics chipset.
You also get 2GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB 2.5″ hard disk built in,
Acer also make a point that the RL80 has two mini-PCIe slots inside, although I suspect that these are occupied with the WiFi and Bluetooth cards, so I wouldn’t plan on using them.
- Intel Celeron 1007 processor 1.5GHz
- 2MB Cache
- Intel HM70 Express Chipset
- 2GB DDR3 1333MHz SDRAM
- 500GB SATA
- Operating System: Free DOS
- Intel HD Graphics
- Optimized Dolby® Home Theater® v45 audio enhancement, featuring Dolby® Digital Live, Dolby® Pro Logic® IIx, Dolby® Headphone, Dolby® Natural Bass, Dolby® Sound Space Expander, Dolby® Audio Optimization, Dolby® High Frequency Enhancer technologies6
- High-definition audio support
- Keyboard and Mouse not included
- LAN: Gigabit Ethernet, Wake-on-LAN ready
- WLAN: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi CERTIFIED
- Width 209.89 mm
- Depth 209.89 mm
- Height 35.35 mm
- Two USB 3.0 ports (one supporting fast charge / power-off USB charging),
- Multi-in-1 card reader,
- Two HD audio jacks
- HDMI port,
- DVI port,
- Four USB 2.0 ports,
- DC-in jack,
- Ethernet (RJ-45) port,
- S/PDIF port,
- Two PCI Express Mini Card slots
- Card reader: Multi-in-1 card reader, supporting: MultiMediaCard (MMC), Secure Digital (SD) Card, xD-Picture Card™, Memory Stick
- 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty
Living with it
One of the reasons the RL80 is so cheap is that it doesn’t ship with any version of Windows installed, instead it ships with FreeDOS installed on the hard disk. For whatever reason, Acer hasn’t bothered installing any sort of free Linux OS on the Revo, which is a real shame given that Ubuntu works very well with hardware. Pretty much everything works out-of-the-box, and it chugs along pretty happily for web browsing, media playback and light office work.
If you want to shell out on a Windows license then Acer provide drivers for 32bit and 64bit versions of Windows 8 (backwards compatible with Windows 7). While using a 64 bit version of Windows 7 I found the RL80 to be pretty responsive with light use, and the integrated Intel graphics proved surprisingly capable, able to handle full HD video and even some light gaming. Of course, for £120 it’s not going to be a particularly useful gaming machine, but it does function very well as a media playback device.
Unfortunately, actually getting an operating system can prove to be a bit of a trial. I had a lot of trouble getting a bootable USB drive to work with the Revo, and after checking a few support forums I’m not the only one. In the end I had to shell out for a USB DVD drive in order to get Windows installed, but if you happen to have one lying around its no major inconvenience.
Most people who are interested in this sort of machine usually have a pretty specific requirement for it. In truth, The Revo RL80 is not powerful enough to be your main PC. But for consuming media, be it photo, audio, video or written, it’s a pretty useful tool. Stick XBMC or Plex on to one of these bad boys and you get a machine capable of playing 1080p video (with 5.1 audio) with a fast and fluid user interface.
Personally, I plan on having one of these sat on my TV stand for media playback, in place of the media suite built in to the Smart TV itself. That being said, it might also be useful if you want to browse the web from the sofa, or take part in some retro gaming action. One thing that’s certain is that this is a unit well suited to the living room, even when it’s stressed it barely makes any sound, and the size and look of it mean that it shouldn’t be too hard to fit it amongst your existing home theatre hardware.
To be honest, at £120 it’s hard to think of a reason to NOT buy one of these bad boys. Especially if you have an older flat screen that doesn’t have any sort of “Smart” interactive services built in. Adding one of these units will certainly increase your TV’s usefulness.
But, if your considering buying one of these for business purposes, think again. Yeah, it’s fast enough for general use, but if you start to stress it with multiple applications at once you’re definitely going to notice it slowing down. Plus, you’ve got next to no upgrade path, other than swapping out the memory or hard disk.