Acer Aspire M5630 AT370

Acer Aspire M5630 AT370

Not unlike the rest of us, it seems that Acer has become tired of waiting for the high-definition format war to end and has released the Acer Aspire M5630 desktop PC, a quad-core machine with a combination Blu-ray/HD-DVD drive -- nullifying the need to make a choice between the two competing formats.

Movies filmed at high resolutions (up to 1920x1080) with high quality digital audio require considerably more storage space than a DVD can hold. Two different formats have sprung from this necessity, HD-DVD created by Toshiba, and Blu-ray created by a conglomerate lead by Sony. Both formats use essentially the same technology (a blue-violet laser, rather than the red laser in DVD players, with a shorter wave-length), but vary enough to make them both competitive choices as the replacement for the current DVD technology.

No doubt this situation is far from ideal for Sony and Toshiba, but it's also left us, the end-user, in a state of confusion. On one side there's Blu-ray, which offers greater storage capacities (25GB for a single-layer disc), but costs more per disc to manufacture, and is also considered to be a more fragile physical media. On the other side there's HD-DVD, which can only store 15GB per single-layer disc, but costs less to make. Then there are the studios and other organisations to consider. Each format has its own posse of backers, and we're looking at a situation where one movie release might be on Blu-ray only, while another will be on HD-DVD.

What this system offers is the ability to read high-definition media from both sides of the camp. Acer's Aspire M5630 uses a combination DVD-RW (+/-R DL)/BRD/HD-DVD-ROM drive to allow users the freedom to watch any high-definition movie from either format, without a second thought.

Acer's Acerplay software takes care of everything for you. We inserted Casino Royale on Blu-ray and Windows Vista Autoplay picked it up and had it playing in one click. The same occurred with King Kong on HD-DVD.

The M5630 puts Intel's Quad Core Q6600 2.4GHz CPU to use, a good value option with a 1066MHz front side bus and a 4MB L2 cache. There is 2GB of DDR2 RAM installed and a Radeon HD2400 Pro with 256MB of memory. There is no HDMI output on the rear port cluster, but the Radeon card can output HDMI (HDCP) audio and video via a special DVI to HDMI adapter.

This is especially useful as the Aspire M5630 does not ship with particularly powerful speakers so you'll want to output via HDMI to a large TV and sound system for the best experience.

Also included in the package are a 500GB Western Digital hard drive, a media card reader, which includes support for Smartmedia, xD, MS, MS-Pro, MMC, SD and CF cards and a wireless keyboard and mouse.

In our Benchmarks we saw fairly reasonable results. In WorldBench 6 the Acer Aspire M5630 achieved a total score of 104, a fair effort and enough for some video or audio encoding as well as the usual set of day-to-day applications. In our MP3 encoding test it took 68 seconds to encode 53 minutes worth of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files using iTunes, and 111 seconds in Cdex.

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