Published on September 10th,2009 at 11:05 PM
By >Daimaou - G.G-B

Aspire Revo, the Ion Base Nettop, a Short Review.

Well well well… The Aspire Revo definitely isn’t new, but we finally got the chance to try it. Actually, MagicalTux our Server Master and hardcore Linux user and developer and I… so this will be a mix of MagicalTux’s impressions and mine.

Aspire Revo Specs
– CPU Atom 230 (1.6GHz)
– NVIDIA ION Chipset (GeForce 9400M)
– 4GB of DDR2 800MHz RAM
– 160GB of SATA II HDD
– USB, eSATA and HDMI Out
– Windows Vista Home Premium with SP1

Overall Impression
The Aspire Revo is a pretty nice little device, well designed and built, but we were a little upset at the beginning. Before getting the Revo in our hands thought this new Atom Ion powered nettop would look too cheap to be put in a living room. Don’t get us wrong, the Mac Mini, in our opinion, is still the best looking compact PC available, but rest assured, you won’t be forced to hide your shiny new Revo next time you have friends over.

Let’s Boot This Baby Up
Our setup was pretty simple.. We used the Revo’s wireless mouse, keyboard and USB Webcam plugged together into an ACE H243H Full HD monitor via HDMI.

Once powered up, Vista offered us a non HD resolution (1190 x 670) at 30Hz, while our LCD monitor is normally recognized as a Plug & Play device by Windows… No biggy here, this was fixed immediately via the control panel. Still we would have hoped that an Acer PC connected to an Acer LCD would have worked better.

Once up and running you’ll see an Acer Windows Vista Desktop with the usual crap, sorry, additional software, designed to improve your user experience… If only we could get, like in the past, a recovery CD or DVD with the minimal driver option restoration mode rather than having to backup Vista key and activation then reinstall everything manually on a formatted HDD.

Basic Usage
We’re not big Windows Vista fans, particularly when it’s installed on an Atom based PC whether or not it’s offered with an Nvidia Ion platform… Bottom line, don’t expect much. Yes, the ACER Revo with the Ion provides acceptable performance, but nothing breathtaking. Don’t expect instant page loading with your browser, or flawless fluidity when dragging windows around…

The Revo’s big selling point is its ION based solution. Simply put, an Atom CPU with a GeForce 9400 based PC should be fully capable of supporting Full HD Video and Blu-ray movies. This what we did… we tried watching HD movies on the Revo rather than use a Blu-ray drive. We knew, since Acer made a demo for us, the Revo was capable of handling Blu-ray movies played from a Blu-ray drive, but what about all our HD MKV files and other HD goodness?

We’re not sure if this was the specific unit we tested, but we weren’t impressed by the results. We tried several videos and codec, (WMV, MKV…) and had several frame drops on certain 720p WMV videos, while others were rendered smoothly… As for 1080p, things were even worse. We found WMV files to be pretty laggy, and H.264 based files didn’t display correctly…

Does this mean the Revo can’t handle HD Video? Well no, not really. The culprit here is the Revo’s slow HDD 5400rpm HDD, it doesn’t help the CPU thats already struggling with videos… If you want to improve things, at least with 720p video, make sure to at least get a 7200rpm HDD in your Revo.

Another annoying thing we encountered with the Revo (that’s also true with other PCs) and our Acer LCD, was its rather boring video input Plug & Play management. If you plug several PCs to the same screen, let’s say the Revo on the HDMI and another PC on the DVI-D… and switch between inputs, the Revo will no longer detect the LCD and stop emitting a video signal on the HDMI… Not a big problem per se, but if you switch the monitor back to HDMI, the Revo is fast enough to send the video signal to the monitor that will then switch to another input, thus entering in a loop mode until it finds something to display…

The only solution MagicalTux found to exit this loop was to type Win+R (Run) on the keyboard and then “shutdown –s –t 01.” This shuts down the PC for you to reboot manually.

The Revo is offered with a wireless mouse, keyboard and a USB Webcamera… Nothing bad here, both the mouse and keyboard are quite comfortable, and the USB camera is a nice little add-on for basic Skype usage.

We expected a little more from the Revo and its ION chipset. Even if it can handle Blu-ray movies with an external Blu-ray drive , an un-elegant solution, we hoped 1080p video files stored on the Revo HDD would have played smoothly.

Nevertheless, the Revo is a nice all in one living room PC that when plugged into a TV provides nice SD and acceptable 720p playback, and a cool, compact communication and surfing solution.

What About Linux?
Since I’m Linux illiterate (shame on me), I will just copy and past what MagicalTux sent me. Linux Installed: Ubuntu.

There’s no documentation or Linux installation guide made so far for the Revo, but the overall process is pretty painless either in netboot mode or via an ODD on the e-Sata port. Once installation is finished almost everything will be recognized, with the exception of the USB Webcamera and the Audio Output via HDMI., and this even if the HDMI mixer is available within Ubuntu settings… It doesn’t mean its not possible to get audio via HDMI, only that you’ll need good Linux knowledge to make it work.

By default the GeForce 9400 (ION based Desktop) also isn’t recognized and you won’t be able to enjoy Full HD resolution straight from the box. You can fix this by installing the correct drivers. Open your terminal, type “sudo nvidia-xconfig” and you’re finished! To have this work don’t forget to logout.

If, like on Vista, watching HD Video is still a pain on the Revo’s HDD, copying files on a ramdisk will let you enjoy h.264 720p video without any glitches or frame drops.

Category Pc
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  • LeeN

    The HDD shouldn’t be the culprit unless it is badly fragmented, which if it is a new system shouldn’t be. Try running Crystal Disk Mark and it will tell you the average read rates of the HDD, but really a 1080p compressed video should be around 10 or 8 mbits/s which amounts to being around 1 megabyte a second. Think about it also as, how long did it take you to copy the movie to your HDD, if it takes you longer to copy the movie/clip over then the actual length of it, I can see that causing problems.

    I’m not sure the videos you are playing, if their codecs are hardware accelerated on that system. I know I had trouble with my Asus N10j (which has an atom and the 9300m gs as well as a 5400rpm hdd), with that system a person has to do funky things to get it to hardware accelerate some codecs for HD video.

  • Daimaou

    So how do you explain the RAMDISK solution on Linux… The PC was just freshly installed too.

  • Signal

    I can bet that nvidia video acceleration is required for fluid playback on that hardware. Check the cpu utilization and if it’s high then VA is not being used.

    It would mean the CPU is the one being tasked with decoding instead of taking advantage of the 9400 decoding abilities.

    I can also guess that the blueray demo uses a player that has the nvidia VA ability enabled (most do) and why it may play better.

    As far as playing other media it will ultimately depend on the encoding, if the codec can handle VA, and the player.

    This link is dealing with Windows 7 but you get the idea:



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