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Reviews

Acer Aspire XC-1660 review: A clear winner for value

A compact budget PC that will slice through the daily dirge with ease, and it’s cheap to run too

A photograph of the Acer Aspire XC-1660
Price
£416 exc VAT
  • Outstanding running costs
  • Capable everyday performance
  • Affordable pricing
  • Poor graphics horsepower

It’s often tempting to bypass the lowest-priced PCs on the basis that they’re simply too cheap to be any good, especially when they’re sold through big chains such as Currys PC World. But that isn’t always the case. With the Aspire XC-1660, Acer has cooked up a system to hit an affordable price point, and although it cuts a few corners, we suspect few buyers will notice.

The first thing to accept is its place in the speed hierarchy. With an 11th generation Core i5-11400 and a single stick of 8GB DDR4 RAM, it was never going to trouble Ryzen-powered systems like the MSI Pro DP20Z 5M, and its overall score of 175 in our in-house performance benchmarks is just barely ahead of Acer’s eco-friendly TravelMate Vero laptop

It’s certainly no competition for even the lowliest professional workstation machines like the PC Specialist Aurora R - but that doesn’t mean it’s slow. In fact, this is a nippy system that will have no trouble at all in Microsoft Office or web-based tasks. It will feel even quicker if you stick with Windows 10 Home, as supplied, but a free upgrade to Windows 11 is offered on first bootup.

It’s probably unnecessary to point out this machine’s graphical weaknesses. Intel’s integrated UHD Graphics 730 chip is extraordinarily weak compared to the 3D acceleration built into modern Ryzen processors (look for a “G” at the end of their model name, such as 5700G), and nor can it hold a flame to the Iris Xe graphics bundled with many 12th generation Intel Core processors.

There’s an empty graphics card slot on the microATX Acer motherboard, but two things will hamper any upgrade ambitions: first, only low-profile cards can squeeze into the available space, and second, a really potent card will demand too much power. Your most likely upgrade is a low-profile GeForce 1650 (or similar), but perhaps Nvidia will produce an RTX variant at some point. We just wouldn’t count on it.

Discussing power brings us to one of this PC’s huge strengths: its low running costs. At idle, it sips a nonchalant 8W, which is why our estimated annual running costs for this machine are a mere £25, which is lower than almost any other unit you’ll find. 

A closeup of the internal fan layout of the Acer Aspire XC-1660

Whisper it, but this brings the additional benefit of quietness. There’s only one fan in this compact chassis, and that sits above the CPU heatsink. It does make a noise but it blends into the background so much that we barely noticed it. It does ramp up occasionally for no obvious reason, but not to an annoying extent. 

Another reason to admire this machine is that it includes a 1TB SSD. It’s a pretty fast one too, with the Aspire holding its own against far more expensive systems in our sequential read and write benchmarks, with speeds of 1,993MB/sec and 1,362MB/sec, respectively. 

That fills the only M.2 slot on the motherboard, however, so your expansion options are limited here too. Although there are three SATA connectors on the board, you’ll need to be creative with where you put drives to take advantage of them. There’s enough space to squeeze three 2.5in SSDs into the supplied bay, but it’s designed to house a 3.5in hard disk and slimline optical drive.

You’ll see a cutout on the front of the fascia for the optical drive, and it’s also good to see USB 3.2 Gen 2 USB-A and USB-C ports here (along with 3.5mm jacks for headphones and a mic). A further six USB-A ports sit at the back, but these are all slower: four USB 2 and two USB 3.2 Gen 1. Gen 1 offers up to 5Gbits/sec speeds compared to 10Gbits/sec for Gen 2, so you’ll notice a difference with big data transfers. Aside from a trio of 3.5mm jacks, the only other ports on the rear are for Gigabit Ethernet and two HDMI outputs. You can add more ports by exploiting the single empty PCIe x1 slot.

There are a couple of caveats to end on. First is the weak single year of return-to-base warranty, so if something goes wrong you’re responsible for sending it back to the retailer. Second is Acer’s bundled software, which has some plus points – a year’s Dropbox subscription with 100GB of storage, full versions of CyberLink PowerDirector and PhotoDirector – but also some bloatware annoyances. 

However, spending a few minutes after setup to uninstall such apps isn’t a huge burden, and the Aspire XC-1660 is a clear winner if you’re looking for an affordable machine that will blitz through everyday tasks. And it won’t inflate your power bill, either.

Acer Aspire XC-1660 specifications

Processor

Intel Core i5-11400 4.4GHz

RAM

8GB DDR4 3,200MHz

Graphics adapter

Intel UHD Graphics 730

Storage

1TB Micron 2210 M.2 NVMe PCI-E 3

Graphics outputs

2 x HDMI

Other ports

4 x USB 2, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, USB-A 3.2 Gen 2, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, Gigabit Ethernet

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi 5

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5

Dimensions, mm (WDH)

100 x 330 x 295mm

Weight (kg)

2.3kg

Operating system

Windows 10 Home

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