The Aspire Z5610 is one of the few all-in-ones that’s up to the task of gaming. It’s well under a grand, so don’t expect cutting-edge 3D graphics performance, but demanding games such as Far Cry 2 will run at a respectable rate so long as you turn down the detail settings.
With its two-tone styling, the Z5610 certainly isn’t beautiful, but it’s more distinctive than conservative rivals like the HP Touchsmart IQ540 or Sony Vaio L. It's also a lot cheaper than either of those two, yet is almost their equal for performance.
Behind the multitouch screen is a speedy 2.93GHz Intel Core 2 CPU and a mid-range AMD desktop graphics processor. It's not the most powerful combination of components ever, but it's a lot more than you'll find in other sub-£1,000 all-in-ones.
It's a good job the hardware is up to the job, because multitouch control in Windows 7 is more demanding than the ads might make you believe. Apple's decision to pare its OS down to the minimum for the iPad was well thought through because low-end PCs, like Asus's T91MT, really struggle with two-finger control.
The Acer, on the other hand, handles it exceptionally well. The optical touch tracking isn't quite as sensitive as the capacitive type found in phones, but it isn't far off.
There aren't many apps for multitouch in Windows yet, mind you, and the ones that are preloaded here – with the exception of Microsoft's Surface Globe – are rubbish. Buying a lesser machine and being unable to use it play Ubi Soft's forthcoming multitouch Ruse, though, would be a tragedy.
The big screen
Just as important as the touch-sensitive interface is the sheer size and quality of the screen. It's a twisted nematic (TN) panel, but at 23in diagonal it's the biggest all-in-one you'll find for three figures too.
Again it puts the Acer into a league of its own for affordable all-in-ones, and adds to its appeal as a real PC for actually working on, rather than a second machine for the kitchen.
There are a couple of things we'd change: a Blu-ray drive would help make the most of the HD screen and an HDMI-in would make sense if you wanted to use it as a media centre. If you are contemplating that, there is a DVB-T tuner built-in.
The keyboard and mouse are hideous lumps of plastic too, which require a USB dongle to connect, rather than using built-in Bluetooth.
It's easy to accept its technical limitations and small shortcomings, though. The Aspire Z5610 is a far more serious piece of kit than the price and quirky looks suggest. And it’s one of the best multitouch machines so far.
More after the break...
Acer Aspire Z5610
A winning combination of performance and price, the Aspire Z5610 would be good without multitouch – it's great with it