Audio and video
The 23-inch display has a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, and it offers both an HDMI input (a convenient feature for connecting a gaming console, a cable/satellite set-top box, or a Blu-ray player) and an HDMI output (great for connecting a second display). A tray-mount DVD burner (not Blu-ray) sits on the right side.
You'll find two USB 3.0 ports, a card reader, and microphone and headset jacks on the left side. As the front edge of the Aspire U is always in contact with the desktop, you have to turn the unit around or lay it on its face to access the ports in back, namely three USB 2.0 ports, gigabit ethernet, and the aforementioned HDMI connections. The machine is outfitted with 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 adapters, so you can keep cable clutter to a minimum with just the one cord running to the external power brick.
Movies look very nice on the Aspire U. In the owner's manual, Acer describes a remote control and coax input, but the U.S. models have no TV tuner, and the coax input is missing in action. Standard input-select and up/down navigation controls are on the lower-right side. Sound from the Aspire U is clear, but thin. Acer would do well to copy Vizio's example of providing a subwoofer with its all-in-ones.
Most AIOs are difficult to open, but with only two screws on the back of the Acer A5600U-UB13, I decided to see if it was upgradeable. Acer says this voids the computer's warranty, but there are no anti-tamper stickers, so there's little warning to consumers who buy one.
There's an mSATA slot inside, hidden on the back of the motherboard, and easier-to-access mini-PCIe and SODIMM slots on the front of the motherboard. The hard-drive caddy is in plain sight, held in place by a single screw. Upgrading the memory or adding an internal TV tuner would be easy. Upgrading to an SSD? No so much.
Replacing the hard drive is no problem, but you would need a very capable cloning program that understands UEFI. The Aspire U is one of those rare computers with a UEFI BIOS that doesn't support booting from legacy MBR media. That means you can't boot from a flash drive or even normal optical boot discs (although it did boot using a factory-pressed Windows 8 DVD). There is a utility called Rufus that will create UEFI boot media, but the lack of legacy boot capabilities is a serious barrier to repair, recovery, and testing other operating systems. Acer does make a non-UEFI BIOS available on its website, but we were unable to cross-grade to it.
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