Friday, April 23, 2010

Review: Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H

Recently, more and more video content has been shifting towards Internet streaming for delivery to consumers like you and I. The biggies have been Netflix, Hulu, Boxee, Youtube, and many others. I have been without a satisfactory means to consume said web video content from the comfort of my couch. A recent purchase of mine is an attempt to remedy this: the Acer Aspire Revo AR1600-U910H. I got this from a generic reseller online for $130 shipped. No a bad little score, eh? Well, that sort of remains to be seen.

Basically, I want this thing, first and foremost, to be used to playback SD and HD Flash content. This is mainly Hulu and Youtube for now. The hardware of this nettop is Intel Atom 230/Nvidia Ion-based. I upgraded the RAM from 1 to 2GB. Hardware decoding for H.264-based content. HDMI audio and video. Low power, but might do the trick with the right software. My first setup in software looks like this: Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit) running Windows Media Center as a frontend, Boxee, Hulu Desktop, XBMC, Macrotube dashboard plugins. Flash 10.1 RC2. Latest Nvidia Ion drivers. After a few days of testing, here's what I found:

1. XBMC cannot yet decode 1080p content under Windows w/ this system.
2. Media Player Classic does 1080p just fine.
3. Youtube vids up to 1080p are relatively smooth w/ 70% CPU. Some slight jerkiness.
4. Some Hulu clips play similar to #3. Some are a mess w/ 100% CPU.
5. Revision 3 shows (720p?) play fine.

Summary: So far, this little box might be a great computer for light tasks, but Flash is spotty, and 1080p H.264 movies only play w/ certain apps. At this point, I'm not setting this thing up permanently in my living room until after the offical Flash 10.1 drivers are released and I have a chance to test them. Similarly, I need to test 1080p movies w/ various media center plugins to see if a rock-solid solution exists. Stay tuned for Part 2...