Acer Aspire EL

Within the confines of this machine's mini-tower case, Acer has packed components that could put many larger units to shame.

It ships with DVD-ROM and CD-RW drives as well as a vast 60GB of hard disk space, and the regular floppy drive has been superseded by an LS-240 drive. Storage should be the least of your concerns if you are considering this machine. These drives consume four of the mini-tower's five drive bays, one hard drive space being vacant for future expansion. The 5.25in drives are held in place without tools and slide from their bays easily, although the cramped confines can make cable connections very frustrating.

The Aspire utilises an Intel 845 chipset-based motherboard whose dimensions are limited to carrying only three PCI slots, occupied by the sound card, modem and FireWire ports, respectively. Yes, the machine includes FireWire which, coupled with the 64MB GeForce3 graphics adapter and the afore-mentioned storage facilities, makes the machine perfect for video editing. The current rock-bottom memory prices have allowed Acer to pack this machine with a colossal 1.5GB of SDRAM via three 512MB modules. The board has a maximum capacity of 3GB via its three DIMM slots.

Connectivity options on this Aspire are also plentiful. It comes with the usual array of serial and parallel connections, as well as a 10/100 network port on its rear, and it has a total of four USB ports - two of which accompany the headphone and microphone jacks on the front of the case. A Sony Memory Stick slot is incorporated on the front panel, too, which is a bonus for those who own a Sony digital camera or music player.

For convenience, the front panel of the case contains a drop-down lid that can house six CDs, offering convenient storage of important system resource or application discs.

For $4299, you really can't go wrong with this Windows XP-equipped system. Its behemoth specifications and its wealth of features make it the ideal solution for practically any home user scenario, and a generous software bundle as well as a one-year RTB warranty are included.

Pros: Fully featured, 1.5GB of RAM, DVD, CD-RW, FireWire
Cons: Cramped enclosure, only has a one-year warranty

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