The all-in-one desktop computers I've seen have hardly been at the cutting edge of tech style. Manufacturers appear to believe that large expanses of shiny black plastic are the most desirable look for your lounge. That doesn't mean these PCs, which you can watch TV on, don't have a place in your living space if a separate tower and monitor combo won't fit.
New machines are now arriving with Intel's latest Ivy Bridge processors -- rather than the older Sandy Bridge chips on offer here -- so it's likely this configuration will see a price drop. Keep your eyes on Amazon and have a good old trawl through Google to find the best price.
Design and build quality
The Z5771 comes packing a 23-inch screen, which should immediately tell you that it's not the sort of lightweight desktop computer to move around your house every time you want to watch a film in the kitchen.
It's much better suited remaining in one place, perhaps on a nice desk in the corner of the living room. The sturdy stand means it sits firmly wherever you plonk it and it can be angled back quite far so you can make sure you get the most comfortable view.
It felt well put together without much in the way of flex and creaks when I squeezed and prodded it. Of course, you're not likely to be carrying it around all day as you would a laptop. So structural integrity might not be the first factor on your list, but it's good to know that it probably won't shatter into a thousand pieces if your cat -- or hyperactive child -- knocked it over.
The Z5771 falls into the shiny black plastic category, but it does at least do it slightly better than most, with the screen encased in a silver metallic edging.
The stand has been given the same styling and is designed to look like a separate thin rectangle supporting the screen. It's an interesting look and one that divided opinion on the CNET UK team, with some loudly expressing their distaste. Others -- myself included -- were rather keen on the almost 50s-style design touch. I definitely wouldn't flinch at the thought of having it in my bedroom, although I wouldn't want to make a big show of it.
Whether you like the look or not, it's pleasing to see at least some design consideration going into it, rather than settling for the standard monolithic black slab look. The rectangle base also houses the computer's speakers so it's not just there for show.
A wireless mouse and keyboard are included in the box, both of which are very basic and don't offer much in the way of comfort or customisable buttons. They're fine for basic use every so often. But if you plan on working on your new computer a lot, you'll probably want to upgrade to a better set.
On the side of the screen you'll find a DVD drive, two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. Tucked away around the back are an extra four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet slot and HDMI in and out ports.
The 23-inch screen offers a resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels, making it capable of handling Full HD content. This raises the question of why Acer decided to slot in a standard DVD drive, rather than a Blu-ray player. So you won't be able to watch high-definition discs.
Instead, you're going to have to resort to streaming HD content or downloading the files from any of your usual (and I assume legal) sources. It's a huge shame not to see a Blu-ray drive here as it would make it instantly more appealing to the movie fans among you who want to keep the kids entertained with crisp HD videos. Without it, the full 1080p resolution seems superfluous.
It is at least pretty bright, which keeps reflections from the glossy coating to a minimum. The black levels aren't particularly deep though, which results in fairly poor contrast levels. It doesn't offer the sort of vividness that would make cinematic HD clips shine, although it'll be fine for watching TV once you've plugged in an aerial.
Like most all-in-ones, the Z5771's screen is touch-enabled so you can navigate your way through Windows 7 using your finger. It's not the most responsive of screens so you might struggle when it comes to poking at small icons, although it's fine for larger things like desktop folders. Once Windows 8 launches with its touch-optimised Metro interface, you'll probably be very glad of having a touchscreen computer at the ready.
Stuffed inside is a quad-core Intel Core i5-2400S processor clocked at 2.49GHz, backed by 4GB of RAM. Those are relatively middle-of-the-road specs -- especially as it's using the older Sandy Bridge Intel chips, rather than the more recent Ivy Bridge processors. Still, I was hoping for some decent power, given the price tag.
To start, I fired up the PCMark05 and Geekbench tests and clocked results of 8,230 and 9,884 respectively. Those aren't bad at all and are similar to what the Toshiba Qosmio DX730 managed, which I found to be particularly nippy. It costs a fair chunk of cash more than the Acer too.
The Z5771 will easily handle your office tasks so you can fire up PowerPoint, Word or any of the other super-interesting programs you like to spend your free time playing with. It will also turn its hand to some light photo editing, so long as you don't ask too much of it. Changing the contrast and colour balance on your holiday snaps should be fine but don't expect it to handle high-resolution raw files.
My review model offered only 4GB of RAM, which doesn't seem to be available to buy from Amazon. It sells a 6GB unit so you can expect a better performance when it comes to multi-tasking on that version.
There's no dedicated graphics card on board so the Z5771 isn't going to replace your Xbox 360 for games. I fired up Batman: Arkham City to see what kind of performance you could expect. The average frame rate of 13 frames per second shows that this really isn't going to tackle much in the way of gaming.
If you knock down the graphics settings and don't run the game at the full 1080p resolution, as I did, you'll have a better experience. But it's still not going to satisfy anyone who's truly into their games. The graphics power it does offer will lend a hand in playing back HD video though.
The more recent Intel Ivy Bridge chips boast much improved built-in graphics performance so I'd like to see an updated model with the new processors -- and a lower price for this version.
The Z5771 comes with Windows Media Center pre-loaded, which gives easy access to all your videos and photos and can be navigated with the supplied remote, just like your telly. Speaking of TV, it also packs a Freeview tuner so pop an aerial into the back and you can watch all the delights of Freeview.
The Acer Aspire Z5771's look won't appeal to everyone but it's got some decent power under the hood and can be picked up for a fair price.
At £540, it's at least £300 cheaper than the all-in-one machines we've reviewed from Toshiba, HP and Sony in the past year. Only the £580 Packard Bell oneTwo M comes close. It's just a shame about that missing Blu-ray player, which is a let-down in a system that sports a Full HD screen.