If you want a new PC but space is limited in your flat, an all-in-one is the thing for you. Rather than use a regular tower with a separate monitor, all the components are crammed behind the screen, leaving room under your desk for your feet and your cat.
The Acer Aspire 5600U comes with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, but at the relatively high price of £850, it'll cost you. It does, however, boast a Full HD 23-inch screen and an HDMI input to let you use it as a screen for your games console. Does it justify the price though?
Should I buy the Acer Aspire 5600U?
Unlike many desktop all-in-ones, the 5600U is attractive enough that you could happily display it in your living room. It's ideal if you want a computer the whole family can use, without feeling like you need to hide it away in a study.
It's got a Full HD resolution, letting you take advantage of high-definition video while the HDMI input allows you to hook up a games console or Blu-ray player, using it as a regular TV. If space is tight -- perhaps in a student's bedroom -- the 5600U could be a good combination of TV and computer.
Sadly though, it's running on fairly low-end specs, which gave only an average performance and can't justify the £850 price tag. If you need a powerful computer for photo editing and gaming, you'll get a better performance from cheaper desktops like the Packard Bell OneTwo M.
If you're happy knowing that a good chunk of your money has gone specifically on the design however, and you only need power for Web browsing and video playback, the 5600U is worth your consideration.
Design and build quality
The front of the 5600U is clad in a single piece of glass that stretches over the entire surface. This gives it a superior, more high-end appearance to many other all-in-ones such as Acer's own Z5771, which make use of wide, plastic bezels.
The screen sits on a sliver of clear perspex which Acer claims gives it a 'floating design'. That's wishful thinking really -- at no point will you be able to convince yourself that the screen is hanging in mid-air. Even so, it's still rather attractive. It might be perspex, but it manages to avoid looking cheap.
Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but I personally found it to be attractive enough to sit in a living room, rather than tucked away in a dim office. It's therefore a good choice to use as a family computer or even as a main display in a student bedroom. It has an HDMI input too so you can hook up your games consoles or Blu-ray players to it.
It's supported by an angled, fold-out stand, which is a continuation of the minimalist design scheme. It's sturdy and can be folded far out, letting the screen lay low against the table so you can use the touchscreen like a tablet. You're not going to be carrying it on your travels so it doesn't need to be too burly, but it still feels like it could put up with a few over-excited pokes from a toddler.
In total you'll find five USB ports (three USB 2.0, two USB 3.0), HDMI in and HDMI out, headphone and microphone jacks, S/PDIF for home theatre systems, an SD card slot and an Ethernet port.
You'll also spy a DVD drive on the side. Sadly, there's no Blu-ray, meaning you won't be able to watch your high definition videos on the Full HD screen unless you use an external player.
You also get a wireless keyboard and mouse, both of which feature the clear perspex accents from the computer itself. They're comfortable and attractive enough, but I much prefer swiping around the Windows 8 homescreen with my fingers than with a mouse.
The 23-inch screen boasts a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. It's perfectly poised to tackle any high-definition content -- another reason it's annoying that there's no Blu-ray drive on board. Still, any HD content streamed from YouTube or the like will play fine.
Icons and small text are pretty sharp, making Web browsing and working on long Word documents perfectly comfortable. It's bright and bold too. I found colours were particularly vivid and rich, which helped display the multi-coloured Windows 8 homescreen at its best, and the good contrast made HD video look great.
The touchscreen is responsive too, which helps in swiping through the touch-optimised Windows 8 interface and tapping accurately on those small links in Web pages. If you're fine tuning some settings in the regular desktop mode then you'll still find the precision of the mouse and cursor essential though.
Power and performance
Inside the 5600U is an Intel Core i3 processor clocked at 2.4GHz along with 4GB of RAM. Those are fairly low-end specs, which is a bit of a shame considering the relatively steep price tag. Thankfully though, it managed to give a pretty good performance.
Navigating around the colourful Windows 8 tiles was swift, and switching between open apps using the handy swipe bar on the left hand side was free of annoying lag. It scored 6,735 on the Geekbench test, which isn't appalling, but I've certainly seen better scores from cheaper products. Packard Bell's OneTwo M, for example, achieved over 8,000 and costs significantly less.
The essential tasks are handled adeptly though, so if you only really want a computer in your house to tackle email, social networking, Web browsing and playing some videos then it'll suit you perfectly well.
If, however, you want to use it as a professional tool to munch through high-definition photo and video editing, or if you want to dive into the latest 3D games, then you should definitely look elsewhere.
The Acer Aspire 5600U packs a bright and vivid Full HD display into a sleek and attractive body, making it a good option for family computing in the living room. It's sadly let down by only average performance that doesn't justify the relatively high price.
If it's a more powerful machine you're after, you might want to take a look at the Packard Bell OneTwo M instead, which not only offers a better performance, but is cheaper too.