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Acer Aspire U5-610-UB12 review: Bold looks, blah performance

W. Bryan Hastings | April 23, 2014
Acer's latest Aspire makes a striking first impression. The 23-inch all-in-one features a spacious, continuously smooth flat surface, from the top of its glossy jet-black bezel down to its Lucite stand spanning the width of its display. Call it a boldly minimalist fashion statement. The Aspire U5-610-UB12 is a less clear choice, no pun intended, for those more interested in strong price-to-performance ratios.

Acer placed most of the Aspire U5's frequently accessed ports and slots on either side of the display, within easy reach. There are two USB 3.0 ports, an SD memory-card slot, and mic/headphone jacks on the left side of the display; and a DVD burner on the right side. You can plug in a TV set-top box or a videogame console into the Acer's HDMI port, but that — along with three USB 2.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port (802.11n Wi-Fi is also supported, but not 802.11ac), a S/PDIF digital audio port, and an HDMI output to drive a second monitor — are located on the computer's rear panel where they're very difficult to access.

Bloatware a-plenty

Bloatware is not uncommon on consumer PCs, but Acer has packed more than the typical amount of pay-for-placement junk on the Aspire U5's hard drive, including desktop and taskbar icons for Amazon, eBay, and the Acer Store. The Acer Portal box also kept popping up, exhorting me to get an Acer ID that promised access to a feature called AcerCloud. Don't mistake this for persistent cloud storage, such as you might get from DropBox or Google Drive. AcerCloud is a means of synchronizing files on desktop PCs and mobile devices such as your smartphone and tablet. Files are stored in the cloud for a maximum of 30 days if they can't be synched because a device is powered off or can't connect to the Internet.

My biggest complaints are related to Acer's threadbare documentation and exceptionally weak phone support. I've experienced similar problems for each of the half-dozen Acer and Gateway PCs I've reviewed in the past 18 months (Acer bought the latter company in 2007).

I found a large foldout setup guide while unpacking the Aspire U5, but its sparsely annotated pictograms were less-than-clear in many places and flat-out incorrect in others. Two buttons on the side panel are labeled simply as "Menu button" and "Arrow button," without explaining that those buttons are non-functional unless you plug in an external monitor.

I also found a PDF user manual on the computer's 1TB hard drive, but that turned out to be a very generic document produced some time in 2012. An Acer technical writer apparently wrote parts of that document even earlier, because it references serial ports and PS/2 ports that haven't been seen on mainstream PCs for many years. Getting nowhere with the docs, I called tech support and asked where I can find a more in-depth user manual.

The two reps I spoke with picked up the line right away and treated me courteously, but both utterly failed to help me. The first rep spent a long time looking for that manual before confessing that "he didn't know where to find it" and bumped me up to Level 2 support. That person put me on repeated two-minute holds while researching the matter. After nearly an hour, I finally asked him what he was doing, and he admitted he was Googling for this manual! Not long after that, he informed me that there is no such manual. Based on my experience here and on previous occasions, Acer's tech support can waste your time more than it can help you.


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