Details on Acer's new notebooks, netbook and all-in-one

Thanks to a slew of acquisitions, Acer has quickly become the world's third-largest PC company, and is now within striking distance of Dell.Yesterday Acer unveiled a new line of notebooks, netbooks and desktops that is meant not only to maintain that momentum, but also to sharpen the identities of the four brands leftover from this buying binge.

Thanks to a slew of acquisitions, Acer has quickly become the world's third-largest PC company, and is now within striking distance of Dell.

Yesterday Acer unveiled a new line of notebooks, netbooks and desktops that is meant not only to maintain that momentum, but also to sharpen the identities of the four brands leftover from this buying binge. The new brand strategy boils down to this: Acer is for the tech-savvy (read: high-end), Gateway and Packard-Bell are for those looking for a balance of features and price (read: mid-range) and eMachines is the budget brand. None of this sounds that new--anyone who has spent a little time browsing the shelves at Best Buy would probably reach a similar conclusion.

I'm more impressed by other aspects of these announcements including Acer's focus on longer battery life and energy-efficiency; the use of aluminum cases, which are more durable and look better; and broad support for high-resolution video and 3D graphics. If Acer can deliver these features while maintaining its aggressive prices, the company should continue to find success in retail.

Acer AspireRevo desktop

I'm a little perplexed by the intense coverage of the Acer AspireRevo, a small form-factor (SFF) desktop. AspireRevo is hardly the first PC to use Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics. In fact, it isn't even the first SFF desktop to use the GeForce 9400M (see Apple Mac Mini). The only difference is that Acer has paired it with a less powerful Atom processor. Nvidia refers to this combination as Ion, and the AspireRevo is the first PC to use it, though others companies have previously shown concept SFF desktops.

Even if it doesn't break a lot of new ground technologically, the AspireRevo is nevertheless an interesting SFF desktop since the platform supports a PC that is smaller and quieter, but still has the graphics capabilities of a true PC (Acer claims "10X faster graphics performance than other small desktop PCs" while Nvidia says it if "5-10 times faster than traditional PCs with integrated graphics"). What that translates to is an Atom-based nettop that can handle Windows Vista's Aero interface, and play 1080p video (it has HDMI-out) and 3D games. The AspireRevo also has a VESA mount so you can attach it to the back of a flat-panel TV.

The announcement was a little short on details, but it looks like the base configuration will include an Intel Atom N230, 2GB of memory (expandable to 4GB), Nvidia GeForce 9400M graphics, a hard disk drive (with an optional SSD upgrade), 802.11b/g (with an 802.11n option) and Windows Vista Home Premium. Acer will also offer a package with a 3D game controller. Acer hasn't announced pricing or availability, but the AspireRevo should compete with other nettops such as the Asus Eee Box Compact desktop, which starts at $350. Several sites have reported that it will be available in time for back-to-school.

Acer Timeline notebooks This is a new series of laptops all focused around maximizing battery life. Acer says the low-voltage components and an Intel Display Power Savings Technology, which reduces the brightness of the LED backlight with minimum visual impact, boost battery life by up to 40 percent. The laptops have a dedicated Acer Smart Power key for quickly enabling the power-saving settings. The Timeline series also has a more advanced power adapter that, Acer says, consumes 66 percent less power than required by Energy Star and automatically shuts itself off when the laptop battery is fully charged. This Acer micro-site has more details on the features of the Timeline series.

The series includes the 13.3-inch 3810T, 14-inch 4810T and 15.6-inch 5810T. All three use ultra low-voltage Intel Core 2 Solo SU3500 single-core or Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400 dual-core chips and Intel integrated graphics to power a 1366x768 display. With the standard 6-cell battery, they range in weight from 3.5 pounds for the 3810T to 5.3 pounds for the 5810T. All three models have an aluminum case and multi-touch touchpad. Other options will include up to 4GB of memory; hard disks from 160- to 320GB or an 80GB SSD; a SuperMulti DVD drive (except on the 3810T); loads of wireless options (WiFi, 3G, WiMax and Bluetooth); and Windows Vista Home Premium. Acer hasn't announced pricing or availability, but Engadget reported that the Timeline series will be priced from $699 to $899.

Acer Aspire One netbook and new notebooks The company announced several other Acer-branded PCs including an 11.6-inch version of its Acer Aspire One netbook; new Aspire laptops with 13.3-, 15.6- and 18.4-inch display; and an all-in-one desktop. Aside from the widescreen WXGA LED-backlit display, it looks like the Aspire One netbook will use an Atom Z series processor (Intel just announced some new ones); a standard 160GB hard drive; 802.11b/g, Bluetooth and 3G; and a multi-touch touchpad. It will be one-inch thick and weigh 2.2 pounds with a 6-cell battery good for eight hours, according to Acer. The 11.6-inch model will compete with other "big-screen" netbooks such as the Dell Inspiron Mini 12, as well as low-end 12-inch notebooks such as the HP Pavilion dv2.

The Aspire 3935 is a thin-and-light with a 13.3-inch (1366x768) frameless display; Intel Core 2 Duo processor; up to 4GB of memory; Intel integrated graphics; a choice of hard disk drives or SSDs; an optional slot-loading DVD drive; Wi-Fi, WiMAX. The 15.6-inch 5935G and 18.4-inch 8935G are geared toward entertainment. The 8935G will offer Intel mobile quad-core chips, a full HD display (1920x1080) and up to 1Tb of storage on two hard drives (the 5935G tops out at a single 500GB hard drive). All three laptops have a chiclet-style keyboard, which is becoming more popular on laptops, and a multi-touch touchpad.

The all-in-one desktop, the Aspire Z5600, is based on a 24-inch display, the "latest" Intel processors and up to 2TB of storage. Although Acer hasn't said much about pricing or availability, the press release focuses on the Z5600's use of the native touchscreen features in Windows 7, so obviously we won't see it until Microsoft releases the new operating system later this year. Finally, Acer announced several new Gateway- and eMachines-branded laptops, which I'll cover in a separate post.


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