If Windows 8 deserves credit for anything positive, it's that the operating system spurred an era of touchscreen desktops. With that comes the challenge of producing a touchscreen system with a strong spec sheet and features that remains relatively affordable. Acer enthusiastically takes up this task with the Aspire Z3-605-UR22, an all-in-one PC that sports a large touchscreen and an impressive set of features.
The Aspire Z3's minimalistic design downplays its front-facing hardware, which includes an adjustable webcam, a sound bar-style speaker, headphone jack, USB 3.0 port and SD card reader. Located discreetly on the right side is a DVD drive. On the back are additional audio jacks for an external microphone and speakers. You'll also find an Ethernet jack, three more USB ports (one being 3.0), and a handy HDMI-in port.
Underneath the hood are built-in 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and a 1TB, 7200 rpm hard drive. Sadly, that's about where the impressive specs end. Powering this system is a 1.9GHz, dual-core Intel Core i3-3227U processor with Intel HD Graphics 4000 for video and 4GB of RAM. This all-in-one PC is essentially a large Windows 8 tablet dressed up as a desktop system, trying desperately to keep up the act.
To be clear, this is not an actual tablet-desktop like the Dell XPS 18, but it sure wants to be, minus the convenience and portability. Acer had to trim the specs down somewhere to keep the computer affordable. Unfortunately, it chose to skimp on the heart and soul of the system to bring the price tag down to $799.99 US (about £477, AU$851).
A sensible design
Offering its own PC-centric spin on the Apple 21-inch iMac design, the Aspire Z3 shares a lot with the Lenovo IdeaCentre B540p. Both have 23-inch, 1920 x 1080 screens set in minimal black frames that prop it up, making them appear more like super large digital picture frames than desktop computers. This system practically invites you to forget about the little wireless keyboard and mouse that come packed with it. If it weren't for the somewhat schizophrenic nature of Windows 8, maybe you could.
The Z3 looks great on an office desk, where it has a relatively small, albeit wide, footprint. It would also be just as fitting in the living room or kitchen in place of a TV. There's even a convenient handle on the back for easy transport, and it has a sturdy frame. Despite all this, the machine's design doesn't fully commit to the living room entertainment PC spec.
Pictures and videos look great on the Z3's bright LED screen, and sound booms from the built-in speaker, making it ideal for streaming media and looking at photos. I plugged a Sony PS3 into the HDMI port to watch Blu-ray movies and play games, which looked fantastic. I was also pleasantly surprised to discover that I could still use the display through the HDMI after shutting down the computer. However, past this point, many of the unit's flaws started to show.