Acer Aspire S24 review: All sizzle, no steak
Can this affordable all-in-one find a place on your desk?
The Acer Aspire S24 is a smart, slim all-in-one that looks better than the vast majority of desktops that will be found in office environments. It's cheaper than most, too, at just 666 exc VAT.
However, to produce a machine that looks this good for this price, Acer has had to cut back in other areas - and that means reduced performance.
Acer Aspire S24: Design
The Aspire S24 undoubtedly looks the part. The screen is barely 6mm thick and the 24in panel has a tiny bezel, with a band of brushed, bronzed metal at the bottom that houses the Acer logo. The stand is made with the same material, and another band of the metal sits at the front of the base.
The base is excellent. It's barely bigger than the designs found on larger monitors, but it houses all of this machine's hardware and ports. You'll find a card reader, three USB 3 connections, a USB 2 port and a USB 3.1 Type-C socket. You get two HDMI ports, but no DisplayPort. On the inside, there's dual-band 802.11ac wireless and Gigabit Ethernet.
There's not much give in the plastic used to build the base, and the screen also feels pretty sturdy. The screen can tilt forward and backwards, but that's all the adjustment you get. At this level, that's enough.
Acer's machine weighs a reasonable 3.94kg - half as much as high-end, pro-level monitors - and the screen is 540mm wide. The base stretches 200mm from front to back, and the base is only 30mm tall.
The Aspire S24 is a solid and smart bit of kit. The only way you'll get an all-in-one with better build quality, more ports or slimmer dimensions is if you shell out for an Apple iMac - and you'll only get more upgrade options and room to manoeuvre inside if you settle for a proper desktop tower that takes up far more space.
Acer Aspire S24: Display
The 24in display has a 1080p native resolution and IPS technology beneath its slim frame. That's a sensible set of specifications for mainstream work tasks, and the matte finish across the panel makes it easier to see under bright office lights.
Quality is reasonable, although the Acer never reaches the heights required for complex, precise colour work. The brightness level of 261cd/m2 is fine, for instance, but the black level of 0.41cd/m2 is too high - so darker shades won't have the level of inkiness that you'll find on the best panels.
The high black point also means a mediocre contrast ratio of 637:1. That won't make much impact during day-to-day computing, but it'll leave photos and videos looking a little flat when compared to better-quality panels.
Colour accuracy is similarly middling. The temperature of 7,000K is a tad cold, and the Delta E of 2.78 is average. The panel displayed 88.6% of the sRGB colour gamut, and its uniformity veered off-track at the top of the screen, where the backlight lost around 18% of its strength.
The Acer's screen is good enough for web browsing, office documents and basic photo-editing, and movies will look decent on the panel too. But if you do any colour-sensitive work - or just value accuracy and consistency - then you'll want a higher-quality panel.
Acer Aspire S24: Hardware & Performance
Acer has been able to squeeze all of this machine's hardware into the base for one key reason: it's essentially a laptop. The key component is the Intel Core i5-8250U, which is a mobile part from Intel's recent range of Kaby Lake Refresh processors.
Kaby Lake's update means that the mid-range Core i5 has four cores rather than the two that are usually included - and they're Hyper-Threaded, which is something older Core i5 parts didn't offer.
This time around, Intel has been cleverer with its clock speeds: the low base speed of 1.6GHz doesn't look like much, but it rises to a huge Turbo of 3.4GHz across all four cores. Impressively, Intel has added cores and fiddled with the clock speeds while maintaining the low-power part's 15W power requirement - the same as older chips. It's not the first time we've seen this processor - it also appeared in the Acer Aspire 5 at the start of the year.
The mid-range, low-power part is designed for conventional, everyday tasks - web browsing, Microsoft Office, Google Docs and other basic tools. That's fine if you're after a system that'll handle low-end office tasks, but you'll need something more powerful if you want to tackle photo editing, databases or design.
The Kaby Lake Refresh chip scored 87 in our application benchmark. Two points better than the Acer laptop, and around 30 points better than equivalent chips from Intel's previous range - so the revised architecture clearly makes a huge difference. There were no thermal issues, either - the Acer was virtually silent during all tasks.
That's good, and it competes with processors like the Core i5-7400T, which is a low-power desktop chip used in the Lenovo IdeaCentre 620S - that rig returned an overall score of 80 in our tests.
Line the low-power, mobile chip up against full-power desktop parts, though, and the gulf is clear. Take the Core i7-8700K, which was included in the Scan 3XS VI4000 Viz. That's Intel's current top-dog on the consumer desktop side of things, and it returned a monster overall score of 278 in our application tests.
The Acer then scored 3,828 and 11,258 in the single- and multi-core Geekbench tests. They're a tad slower than the Acer laptop, doubtless because of that machine's better storage and memory.
Don't expect much when it comes to graphics performance, either, as the Aspire S24 relies on Intel's latest integrated graphics chipset. It handled Dirt Showdown's High settings at 37fps at a 720p resolution, but that's it. If you want to edit video or handle high-end photo applications, you'll need to look elsewhere.
The included 8GB of DDR4 memory is enough in terms of capacity, but its 2,133MHz speed is slow and the single-channel configuration will give performance a hit.
There's no SSD in the model we've reviewed, either - just a 2TB hard disk. That means you get plenty of space, but no speed - its read and write pace of 96MB/sec and 63MB/sec is seriously disappointing.
In real-world terms, that means you'll often find yourself waiting for browser windows and applications to load, and boot times are poor. If you regularly switch between apps or load larger files, you will definitely notice the Acer's sluggish performance - and you'll certainly want to pay the 100 extra that Acer charges for the version of this machine that has a 128GB SSD.
Acer Aspire S24: Verdict
The Acer Aspire S24 is a stylish, slim system that's easy to live with thanks to its good design and solid connectivity - but get beyond the cosmetic and you'll find that this affordable all-in-one is limited, too.
The updated processor can run general-purpose office tasks, but it's a laptop chip that can't handle anything more demanding. The memory and storage are disappointing,too. The screen is fine, but it doesn't have the accuracy or consistent that tougher tasks demand.
You could certainly take this money and get a PC with more power or a larger, more accurate monitor - but you'll have to spend more to complete the rest of the system.
Acer's machine is compromised, but it does offer a complete package in a way that laptops and conventional desktops don't. It's worth examining if you need a space-saving all-in-one for general office duties - just make sure you buy the model with the SSD if you do consider taking the plunge.
It’s good-looking and the components do deliver improvements, but the middling screen and lazy, low-power specification are both hindrances
Processor: 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U
RAM: 8GB 2,133MHz DDR4
Graphics: Intel UHD Graphics 620
Storage: 2TB hard disk
Display: 24in 1,920 x 1,080 IPS
Operating system: Windows 10 Home 64-bit
Connectivity: Gigabit Ethernet, dual-band 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports: 3 x USB 3, 1 x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1 x USB 2, 2 x HDMI, 1 x Gigabit Ethernet, 1 x SDXC, 1 x audio
Dimensions: 540 x 200 x 410mm
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