Review: Acer Revo One (RL85)

Plug the Acer Revo One into a monitor or TV, the wall, and bring that included keyboard and mouse to the table with the wireless USB dongle, and then get to switching it on, finding a Windows 8 screen ready to work with you.

On the downside, there’s no touchscreen bundled in here, and it’s unlikely you’re going to have a touch-enabled TV, so you better go through the Windows 8 mouse gestures because you’re going to need them. Fortunately, Microsoft will take care of that for you upon start-up, and once you’re good to go, you can load videos on the machine and turn the Revo One into your media friendly machine.

The keyboard and mouse aren’t solid efforts, though, and while they’re free, we’d rather buy something else to use with this machine than spend another moment wasting our time on this mediocre accessories.

First there’s the keyboard, which is small, simple, and highly portable. It’s also overly springy, uncomfortable to type on, and generally feels like it’s going to fall apart as you use it, almost as if it were built by a toy company.

Acer’s mouse isn’t much better, with very little pick-up by its ho-hum ten buck optical mouse, though at least both of these are wireless, so that’s something.

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Ultimately, we’re critical of the accessories because they don’t feel like they complete the package tremendously well, almost as if they were thrown in just because Acer needed a mouse and needed a keyboard before the Revo was boxed up and sent out.

And that’s not cool for one reason: Acer’s Revo feels like it was designed to be a proper modern home theatre PC solution, with a small capsule-like computer that could sit next to your TV and provide to you Windows on a silver platter, and access to your content on a drive, or two, or three.

Leave it on and sharable, and the rest of your home could get in on the fun, with a compact laptop-drive based network drive.

It’s a great idea, and with the right software, would make sense to homes not currently relying on a video game console or streaming solution to access their TV shows and movies, especially since services like Netflix and Foxtel Go, as well as catch-up TV from the local stations, will run on websites.

In fairness to Acer, it does feel like the company at least tried to atone for this poor measure of an input peripheral with the inclusion of an app for your phone or tablet that will turn that smart device into a touchscreen mouse for the computer.

It’s a nice touch, it is, but it’s merely a touch, and even the mediocre optical mouse bundled into the pack works better than relying on your phone’s screen to move the mouse cursor, which just ends up feeling clumsy.

Acer could have tried harder. and probably should have.

The keyboard and mouse could have been designed to work alongside this design, and could have really screamed “total package” rather than “bonus keyboard and mouse”. They could have been a decent portable keyboard with multimedia functionality, and a touchpad mouse thrown in for good measure, just like the Logitech K830.

But it isn’t. Rather, Acer’s keyboard is cheap and nasty, loses characters, and doesn’t feel like the product the Revo computer strives to be.

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The specs don’t help the Acer Revo get to that dream, either, because while the Core i5 sits in the newly released “Broadwell” range of fifth-generation Intel processors, there’s not a lot to the machine, and it’s built like an Ultrabook from a spec point of view, with 8GB RAM, no discrete graphics card, and just enough grunt to get into writing, web surfing, and playing back of videos and other multimedia content.

You’d hope a home theatre styled computer might just provide enough horsepower to get a little gaming done, but even running with a recent Intel chip and 8GB RAM, you’ll find it’s just a little too low end to do much more than a basic game like Fruit Ninja.

And that brings us to the price, and with the machine ringing up at the register for $1099 with our review model, we’re not sure this is value for money.

On the one hand, you have a machine that is small and upgradeable, but on the other, the performance just isn’t there for much more beyond watching movies, and there are better ways to go about watching flicks on your home network than purchasing a mediocre machine just for that.

Upgrading the storage should be relatively easy with the Revo One.
Upgrading the storage should be relatively easy with the Revo One.

Conclusion

You have to admire the slight gamble that the Revo is, with Acer trying to show that it can still innovate in the desktop space with a machine that sort of takes that older style of machine and makes it relevant for the home theatre, too.

And there are aspects we really like, and really admire, such as the internal design, with an approach reminiscent of the Mac Pro, albeit on a much smaller and less expensive scale. Seriously, we could see this used in homes as a media server, and coupled with software like Plex or XBMC, or even something from CyberLink emulating the old media centre software, it could be a great asset, allowing homes and families to control their own media viewing in the home.

But the specs aren’t there for this to be a total media experience, not unless you’re looking solely for a computer simply to play back movies and surf the web from, and there are much better ways to go about doing this. You could use an Apple laptop, iPad, or iPhone and pair it with Apple TV for less than $100, or rely on practically any device and use a sub-$50 Google Chromecast.

You could even find plug in a hard drive to your home router, or go further and grab network-attached storage, using a smart device like a modern TV or computer to run the media files from that drive to your home theatre.

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And that’s the problem: there are so many ways to deliver what the Revo does well, and not enough reasons to opt for the Revo over something else, especially when the comparison is likely going to be something made by Dell or Alienware and offers more grunt for roughly the same cost.

We applaud Acer for making the effort, we do, but next time, in the second version of this one, it might just want to push the specs a little more, because right now, the bang for your buck is lagging just a little, or enough that we’re willing to look past the top design and go with something that out performs it.

Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
Very, very small for a desktop, and can even take on the tiny Brix and NUC computers; Upgradeable hard drives; Includes an SD card slot in an easy to find place (up top); Fairly quiet; Allows smartphones to be used as a mouse;
Specs need work; Feels cheap; Included mouse isn’t the best, so replace it pronto; A little on the expensive side for what amounts to an Ultrabook in a plastic case made for the desktop;
3.4