Revo 3700

This is a page to explain why I picked an Acer Aspire Revo 3700 as my Olympics media centre viewer (and recorder if you don't have another PC to do recording on).

Important note: The Revo 3700 was an "exclusive" to Ebuyer and they've now sold out of (and discontinued) that model. Don't panic though, Ebuyer still sell Revos albeit with a bewildering range of RAM, hard disk sizes and prices! Just pick the best one you can afford and make sure it has Linux (the Windows ones cost a lot more) and a wireless keyboard and mouse. If you need to cut down on something, get less RAM - the hard drive size is more important than the RAM, particularly for HD recording.

Back in 2010, I bought a Revo 3610 for £160 from Ballicom and whilst I was very impressed with the hardware, there were still some issues:
  • It came with Linpus Linux pre-installed, which was so bad it couldn't even handle being connected to a Sony Bravia 26" TV I had at the time!
  • It only came with 2GB RAM despite having a 64-bit capable Atom CPU, so I immediately had to void the warranty (there's a sticker that says if you break the seal on a screw that opens the case, it's game over for your warranty) to get it upgraded to 4GB RAM.
  • The internal hard drive was only 160GB, which with HD recording becoming common even back in 2010, clearly wasn't enough for any heavy-duty recording.
  • For a machine so clearly designed to be a media centre, to ship it with a horribly plasticky wired keyboard and mouse was nothing short of criminal. I ended up buying a fancy wireless keyboard with a trackball, scroll wheel and mouse buttons built in, which I still have to this day.
  • I tried Windows Media Centre and was appalled at how bad the interface was. At least at this point, I'd picked up a cheap and roughly usable Windows Media Centre remote control, so it wasn't all a bust.
  • There was no really good Linux-based media centre at the time (XBMC, Myth TV and Freevo were neither easy to install nor easy to use at the time).
So I eventually had to give up on the project to set up a media centre and bought a hard disk recorder for £200, which whilst horribly buggy, has a surprisingly large number of useful features that have just about kept me using it...until this Olympics project is set up of course.

So what's different about the Revo 3700 vs. the old 3610? Well, e-Sata - which pretty well no-one uses nowadays - has gone from the 3700 and it won't be missed. There's a case colour change for the worse - the 3610 had a natty dark blue colour with a nicely complementing white case colour along the edge, but the 3700 has gone completely black, which is dull. And, yes, there's now the essential (and not so plasticky) wireless mouse and keyboard included.

Other than e-Sata, the ports remain the same, but it's inside that Acer have finally brought the spec up to what it should have been in 2010. There's now a 4GB RAM model, a better spec'd Atom processor and a 500GB hard drive, which should be enough to record a couple of HD channels for the whole of the Olympics without running out of disk space.

It also appears that the frankly dreadful internal wireless in the 3610 (so bad I had to get an external wireless USB adapter for the 3610!) has been improved to something actually usable, though I still recommend you wire your Revo to a wired Ethernet port on your wireless router if you do a lot of HD streaming.

Basically, Acer have finally hit a home run with the Revo 3700, albeit 2 years too late really. It should be noted that both the 3610 and 3700 come with a vertical stand (er, with the likelihood of you knocking over the machine if you use it!) and a VESA mounting plate (which makes it hugely awkward to access the ports from behind your TV or monitor if you use it) and you can guess that I don't use either. I just lie the Revo down on the table next to the TV set with the cluster of 4 USB ports pointing outwards towards me so I can plug things in and out easily (there are 2 more USB ports, but the 4-port cluster is more convenient). A shame they couldn't have included one USB 3.0 port for, say, an external large hard drive though.

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