Design and Features
Acer's Aspire M3200 shares its chassis design with that of the earlier reviewed M5630, with only one notable tweak — the top bay features four USB ports rather than two.
The keyboard is passable, although the keys are mushy and impede accurate speed typing. A volume dial and mute button are featured in the top right corner, media buttons to the left, and then perhaps the largest amount of application shortcut buttons we've ever seen, 11 in total. The mouse, while nothing special, is reasonably nice to use. Both use Bluetooth, and a USB dongle is supplied to facilitate this.
USB-powered speakers are also included, and for all their cheap construction they're passable for what they are, not distorting our test track (Muse's Hysteria) until volume was pushed above 75 per cent on the dial.
In terms of fit-out, things have changed dramatically — in one of the 3.5-inch drive bays is a card reader, with SD/MS/xD/MMC/CF slots, as well as a USB and mini-FireWire port. An Optiarc 20x DVD burner and Seagate 500GB drive pull storage duties, while a quad-core AMD Phenom 9500 clocked at 2.2GHz and 4GB RAM make sure things purr along nicely. Once again though, we've seen the inclusion of Windows Vista 32-bit, meaning only 3,072MB of that 4GB is actually usable by the OS, which is an unfortunate waste.
Something curious pops up in regards to the graphics aspect of the machine: while it features an unexciting, passively cooled and discrete ATI Radeon HD3450, it also has an ATI Radeon HD3200 integrated onto the motherboard — and can use both simultaneously using Hybrid Crossfire, AMD/ATI's technology allows an integrated graphics card to process a single 3D scene. If it's turned off, then the VGA and HDMI ports attached to the HD3200 become active, and you can hook a potential four monitors up to those as well as the DVI and VGA ports supplied on the HD3450. Despite this, it's still not a high-end graphics solution, and it's a little odd to see it paired with a quad-core processor and 4GB RAM — something we're not sure the target demographic will use to its full potential. We can only assume Acer was building to price, and the rock bottom prices of processors and RAM these days means everyone gets a bonus.
The internal of the PC was a mess of cables, with cable ties used sparingly and no routing done at all, as if an amateur built the system. While the CPU fan could be quieter (and the perforated case exacerbates this), volume-wise everything else was fine and the generated noise is unlikely to even warrant attention once the tower is sitting the usual distance away from the user.
The rear of the PC offers the usual smattering of ports: keyboard/mouse PS/2; four USB; FireWire; 8 channel sound; and interestingly, a modem port, proving that dial-up ain't dead yet.
On the software side Acer has bucked the trend of including Norton Internet Security and has opted for McAfee Security Center instead, while bundling the usual useless game trials package, Yahoo crapware, NTI BackupNow and MediaMaker. Also included is Acer's Empowerment technology — software that gives quick access to Acer's own applications. While we've praised the laptop version of this, on the desktop it seems out of place and annoying, the quick access applications are so pedestrian that we'd prefer to access them from the Start menu instead.
On the application front, the M3200 was always going to excel thanks to the quad-core processor, clocking in at 4,993 in PCMark05. With Crossfire running off the single HD3450 it managed 1,559 in 3DMark06, but with the extra help of the HD3200 it managed 2,665, a quite noticeable improvement. Keep in mind that Crossfire performance will alter between applications, and some games may not make use of it at all — but it's nice to have that tiny bit of extra performance there for when they do, at not much more cost.
Despite the quad-core processor and 4GB RAM, the M3200 is still a budget PC, coming in at an affordable AU$1,399. If you're on a strict budget and looking for a general purpose desktop, this might be the one for you.