We rarely review desktop PCs from the big manufacturers, because we typically find that mid-range to high-end gaming PCs are often served better by the UK’s own bespoke PC manufacturers, who can offer decent performance, a good warranty and personal service and customisation.
But there is room for the big boys to butt in. You’d expect the likes of Acer to be able to offer low-end PCs for a good price, because they buy and sell in such vast quantities. The Exensa EM2610 is one such machine. It’s the most basic desktop computer we’ve reviewed in months, but for the very modest home or small business user who wants the traditional desktop experience without being saddled with an expensive all-in-one or measly NUC-style device, its on-paper specifications look more than good enough.
One thing big PC manufacturers manage to keep unique are their chassis. While smaller system integrators will always buy off-the-shelf cases that you can find anywhere, the big companies will stamp their own style onto every PC they produce. It would be misleading to call the Extensa EM2610 stylish, but it’s certainly not ugly. Its perforated front panel, and boxy front design is a safe and understated design that wouldn’t look out of place on any desk. Its mATX form factor means it has a very small footprint, so it’ll fit practically anywhere. It comes with an Acer-branded mouse and keyboard set, both of which are perfectly usable, although the keyboard is just a little spongy.
Practicality is an issue with the ports on this machine: it has no USB3 ports, which means file transfers from USB sticks will be lethargic no matter what port you plug them into. While budget is key here, the lack of USB3 provision is stingy. There is at least space for plenty of peripherals, with two USB ports on the front and four more on the rear. There’s also a DVD-RW drive, something that’s becoming increasingly on modern PCs.
The motherboard supports two external displays, with one DVI port and one VGA port catering for two Full HD monitors for better multitasking.
Intel Core i5 processors offer a fantastic level of performance for a very reasonable price, and we saw some evidence of that in our multimedia benchmarking tests. The PC flew through the image editing test with a score of 99, which is exactly what we’d expect. The 85 it managed in the video rendering test was a little lower than we’d expected from the quad-core, 3.2GHz Core i5-4460 chip, but it was in the multitasking test that things fell apart. The multitasking test requires the PC to convert both images and video while also playing an Ultra HD movie on a loop. Typically we’d expect a score in the 80s on this task with a typical desktop PC with a dedicated graphics card, however the Acer Extensa EM2610, with its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600, could only manage a very disappointing 58, bringing its overall score down to 74.
We can’t fault the EM2610 for its lack of a graphics card; it’s a budget PC for work after all. However, we noticed some other issues with the PC, such as occasional hangs and stutters, while attempting to work at the same time as copying files from a USB stick. Part of this is probably down to the cheap ‘n’ rattly Seagate Barracuda 500GB hard disk, which isn’t particularly fast. If you open lots of programs at once, you might also start to run low on memory; a single 4GB stick of RAM is provided. There’s a second slot on the motherboard, though, so if you want to double your memory on the cheap, you can.
There’s a little room for expansion elsewhere, too. The Acer H81H3-AM motherboard has a free PCI-E x16 (2nd gen) slot so if you wanted to improve multimedia performance on a budget, you could install a very cheap graphics card here. If you choose to do this, ensure you buy a bus-powered card as there are no spare power connectors coming from the 220W PSU. There are two PCI-E x1 slots for smaller add-ons such as a wireless cards or a set of PCI-E USB3 ports, and there’s also a legacy PCI slot right at the bottom of the motherboard. The power supply, motherboard and case can accommodate a second hard disk if you want to expand your storage in the future.
This isn’t a gaming PC, so 3D performance should not be a consideration. We ran our 720p Dirt Showdown benchmark on the PC for the sake of completeness, but the result of 21fps did not come as a surprise.
The PC ships with Windows 7 and also comes with a Windows 8.1 licence, and you can also upgrade to Windows 10 for free within a year of the OS’s release, which was at the end of July.
The Acer Extensa EM2610 is a budget PC that makes no effort to disguise this fact. Stuttery performance, a noisy hard disk and a dearth of USB3 ports means it’s impossible to recommend even if, on the face of it, it looks like a bit of a bargain. You can do significantly better for around £50 with the PC Specialist Fusion Gamer Lite and £77 more with the Palicomp Kaveri Evolution. If neither of those suit your needs then also check out our regularly updated Best desktop PCs and buying guide.
|Quad-core 3.2GHz Intel Core i5-4460
|Ports and expansion
|Front USB ports
|Rear USB ports
|1x 10/100/1000 Ethernet
|Case size HxWxD
|PCIe x1 (free)
|PCIe x16 (free)
|Serial ATA (free)
|Memory slots (free)
|Drive bays 2 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 3 1/2″ (free)
|Drive bays 5 1/4″ (free)
|500GB hard disk
|Memory card reader
|Optical drive type
|Intel HD Graphics 4600
|Realtek HD Audio
|Sound card outputs
|Operating system restore option
|Windows 7 recovery
|Price including delivery (inc VAT)
|Price excluding monitor (inc VAT and delivery)