The Acer Extensa M2610 demonstrates how far a small budget can stretch, delivering great multitasking performance in a compact tower design. A wealth of upgrade possibilities means it can also evolve into a much more powerful machine.
Cheap, upgradeable, lots of ports, handles everyday tasks well, little bloatware
Bundled mouse and keyboard are tacky, still tethered to a desk, no individually outstanding features or software
From £230; £300 as tested
Processor: Intel Pentium G3250 (3.2GHz dual core), Intel Core i3 4160 (3.6GHz dual-core) or Intel Core i5 4460 (3.2GHz quad-core)
Storage: 500GB HDD
Operating system: Windows 7 Professional
Next to the transforming flashiness of convertible tablets and the sheer portable power of ultrabooks, the plain black box that is the Acer Extensa M2610 desktop can't help but look a bit dull in comparison.
Which is fair enough, as the superior upgradability and relatively low prices of enterprise desktops mean they still can still find a place in the modern office, despite their lack of frills.
Acer has almost abandoned the very concept of frills for the Extensa M2610, focusing instead on creating a low-cost desktop machine for juggling basic everyday tasks.
The Extensa M2610 measures 365x372x175mm, classifying it as a minitower. Despite this, it still feels quite roomy on the inside. Cables are fastened tidily to the sides, and the stock air-cooled CPU heatsink is decently low profile.
Not that there's an airflow to disrupt. There are no case-mounted intake or exhaust fans, but then we never found the system running hot enough to warrant them. Build quality as a whole is excellent, even with the basic chassis.
Everything has been fitted, slotted and screwed in with a reassuring firmness, which is especially important considering the top-mounted PSU configuration that leaves it suspended over the delicate motherboard.
Speaking of the motherboard, it's well equipped enough to enable several upgrade possibilities. A PCIe x16 slot allows for a dedicated graphics card, and there's space for an extra stick of RAM, in addition to two PCIe x1 slots and an older-style PCE slot.
Thankfully, the use of Intel chips also means that the heatsink is held in place with Intel's simple screw-in system, rather than AMD's awful, tedious clip-on design. This makes it a lot easier to remove or replace the cooler and the CPU itself, although be warned that simply opening the case is enough to void the warranty.
Back on the outside, there's a solid range of connectivity options. The front panel features two USB 2.0 ports and a DVD RW drive, while around the back there are four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, a dual-link DVI-D socket, male and female VGA connectors and two PS/2 ports for an older mouse and keyboard. Headphones and microphones can be connected to a set of ports on the front and at the back.
The wealth of ports, sockets and connectors is one of the best reasons to opt for a desktop over a laptop, so it's great that the Extensa M2610 doesn't disappoint in this regard. It would have been even better if a couple of the USB ports used the speedier USB 3.0, though.
It's also worth noting that two of the USB 2.0 ports will be taken up by the bundled mouse and keyboard. These feel very cheap and plasticky, especially the keyboard with its mushy key action. They'll suffice for the kind of everyday work that the system itself is designed for, at the very least, but we'd recommend swapping them out for some more comfortable accessories.
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