PROS / The PC’s two HDMI inputs let you plug in two peripherals, like a Blu-ray player and video game console, and swap between them and the computer at will.
CONS / Without a discrete graphics card, the Z3 can’t handle intensive applications, whether they’re simple games like Minecraft or programs like Adobe Photoshop.
VERDICT / The Aspire Z3 is cheap, and that can mean a lot in the right circumstance. For a small family with simple computer needs, it might be just the ticket; just don’t expect top-tier performance or an abundance of features.
Acer offers the two cheapest options in our lineup of the best all-in-one computers: the Aspire Z3, which we’re reviewing here, and the Aspire U5. Both are priced much cheaper than their closest competition, and both are rather simple and straightforward machines, but the Aspire Z3 is our pick of the two. It has a better processor, a slightly bigger screen and two HDMI inputs that can turn it into a nifty multimedia hub.
The Aspire Z3’s 1080p resolution is spread over 23.8 inches of real estate. That’s average for a system in its category, and though people who work with lots of spreadsheets or open tabs might want a little more room, you can watch HD, 1080p movies at full quality.
Being able to play HD content from other devices is a big reason to buy the Aspire. Most all-in-one computers have either no HDMI ports at all or only HDMI outputs – useful for extending your workspace onto a second screen. A few have a single HDMI input, which lets you plug in a separate device like a video game console or a Blu-ray player, turning the computer into a de facto TV. The Z3 is the only all-in-one we looked at with two HDMI inputs. For someone trying to maximize space in a home office or college dorm room, this can be a lifesaver, since you can plug in two different external devices – a cable box and a game console or a Blu-ray player and a DVR – and switch to either of them at any time. The Aspire Z3, compact by nature, becomes the hub of your multimedia life.
What the Z3 offers in connectivity, it lacks in performance. The Intel Core i5-6400T processor is decent enough, especially at this price point, coming in at a respectable PassMark score of 5,313. Anything over 5,000 guarantees stable performance doing everyday tasks like video streaming or office work, but Acer didn’t include a discrete graphics card with the Z3. This was undoubtedly a cost-cutting measure, and the result is an all-in-one desktop computer that can’t handle any games of consequence, even at low settings. Image editing or 3D modeling are likewise impeded.
We could easily see a college student or stay-at-home parent buying an Acer Aspire Z3 for a dorm room or home office. It’s a simple, straightforward computer that’s capable and cheap, even if it’s missing a couple features like a dedicated graphics card. If you’re willing to use a smaller, 23-inch monitor as a TV, its ability to double as one in a pinch makes it all the more attractive.