The 27-inch Apple iMac remains the gold standard among large-screen all-in-one (AIO) desktops, but not everyone can afford a computer that starts at $1,799 and climbs rapidly from there. You can go to the opposite extreme with the HP Chromebase All-in-One 22, which offers a relatively small screen and mostly-browsing Chrome OS for $480. Or you can try for a sweet spot between the two with the Windows 11-based Acer Aspire C27 (starts at $849.99; $1,299.99 as trial). The model C27-1655-UA93 being tested here offers a better mix of components behind its 27-inch screen than the baseline larger iMac. The tradeoff is the Acer’s bland look, which lacks the sophistication of Apple’s iconic iMac design, and its lower display resolution, which would be more at home on the 24-inch AIO. But if you forgive those flaws, the Aspire C27 is an affordable iMac alternative that delivers strong performance for the price.
When 1080p Isn’t Enough
The most striking feature of the Aspire C27’s design is its slim profile. Straight away, the system is nondescript, with thin bezels forming a display atop a V-shaped stand. The components are packed behind the bottom half of the screen, of which the top half is only 0.25 inches thick. At 24.2 inches wide by 17.7 inches high, the Acer is more compact than the 27-inch iMac, and weighs less than half that (just 8.8 pounds versus 19.7). The Aspire is not only a good pick for a tight budget but also if you are short of space.
One of the reasons the C27 is so beautiful is that Acer placed the speakers behind the display instead of opting for the speaker bar below it. So the speakers are not facing the front, but are aimed at the bottom. I was initially skeptical of this setup, but the audio output impressed me as the sound bounced off my desk and filled my small office. Without the subwoofer, the two stereo speakers lack bass response, but have enough volume for Netflix and YouTube viewing.
As mentioned, the disparity in display resolution between the Aspire C27 and the 27-inch iMac is striking. Acer’s Full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) panel offers only a fraction of the resolution of Apple’s Retina 5K (5,120-by-2,880-pixel) screen. Frankly, the 1080p resolution is preferable to a 22- or 24-inch panel and is spread thin at a diagonal size of 27-inches. The edges of text and icons look fuzzy, and you can see individual pixels when sitting at a normal distance from the display.
Besides being far from the brightest, the Aspire’s screen isn’t the brightest. It proved to be sunny enough for my home office, which is lit by a combination of overhead lighting and weak winter sunlight from the windows, but I never turned the brightness setting below maximum during my two-week testing. Our Datacolor SpiderX Elite Monitor calibration sensor and software measured the Acer at 216 nits of maximum brightness, when we’d normally expect 300 or preferably 400 nits. It performed better in our color gamut or palette measurements, covering 99% sRGB and 77% of Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 color spaces. But overall, it falls well short of workstation or home theater standards.
A 720p webcam resides above the display. The camera is just as ineffective as cheap laptop webcams, producing an unexposed image that was littered with noise or static—in other words, dark and grainy. It’s barely usable for Zoom meetings or really any other application. Maybe that’s why the top half of the Aspire C27 is so thin; This makes it easy to clip to an external webcam. At least the camera has a physical privacy shutter so you can cover the lens you’ll rarely use.
I don’t see USB-C
The ports of the Aspire C27 are all located in a neat row on the rear panel. I would have appreciated a front- or side-mounted port or two for easy access, but the rear ports aren’t too difficult to reach. What you’ll find there, however, barely covers the basics: You get an HDMI video output, four USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A ports, an Ethernet jack, and audio line-in and -out ports.
The biggest omission in this small selection is the USB Type-C port. If you have a USB-C storage drive, phone charging cable, or other device, you’ll need to have an adapter handy. The system also lacks an SD or microSD media card slot. Looking for Power Button? It is centered in the lower bezel below the display.
We usually see a cheap, wired keyboard and mouse, with the AIO being low-end for a desktop, but Acer goes further with the Aspire C27 by including a wireless set. The keyboard is compact, comfortable and quite functional. Although the mouse works quite well, it has a small size. The smart move is to toss the bundled mouse in your laptop bag when you’re on the road and buy a full-size desktop mouse to use with the Aspire.
One item you don’t usually find on laptops that come with the Aspire C27 is an additional storage drive. The system has both a 512GB solid-state boot drive for faster access and a 1TB hard drive for additional storage space.
Testing the Aspire C27: Minor pep with the GeForce MX
Our Acer Aspire C27 includes an 11th-generation Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of memory, a 512GB SSD (loaded with Windows 11 Pro) and a 1TB hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce MX330 graphics. The Core i7 is a quad-core mobile CPU, while the GeForce MX330 is an entry-level mobile GPU with 2GB of dedicated display memory that represents a step up from CPU-based integrated graphics.
For our performance chart, we compared the Aspire C27 with the Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3, which is the only other Windows-based all-in-one we’ve tested since moving to our new benchmark suite a few months ago. We also included Apple’s 27-inch iMac, but that AIO is incompatible with many of our standard Windows benchmarks, so we added two non-AIO desktops to the budget Dell Inspiron Desktop 3891 and the midrange Lenovo Legion Tower 5i.
Overall, the Acer felt energized and handled various multitasking scenarios without hesitation. Its efficient mobile components allow it to operate quietly, with barely an audible rumble during everyday tasks. For general use, the Aspire C27 has more than enough muscle to provide a pleasant Windows 11 experience and even handle some light media editing tasks.
UL’s PCMark 10 core benchmarks simulate a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-focused tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s Full System Drive test to assess the load times and throughput of the system’s boot drives.
The three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate the suitability of a PC for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro emulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder Handbrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (the shorter the time the better).
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s renowned image editor to rate PC performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that performs a variety of common and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks, from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The Aspire C27 lagged behind in PCMark 10, but still posted a suitable score (we consider 4,000 points to indicate good productivity for Microsoft Office or Google Workspace tasks). The Core i9-based iMac predictably dominated our CPU tests, with Legion’s six-core Core i5 chip taking second place. Among the less expensive Windows PCs, Acer is placed in the middle of the pack with respectable performance in Photoshop.
We tested the graphics of Windows PCs with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (suitable for laptops with more modest, integrated graphics) and Time Spy (suitable for gaming rigs with more demanding, discrete GPUs) We do.
We also ran two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which emphasizes both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests provide offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, practice graphics and calculate shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation, respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
In both sets of tests, the Aspire C27 placed between the Lenovo IdeaCentre AIO 3 and its integrated graphics and the Lenovo Legion Tower 5i, which has a mid-range GeForce GTX 1660 Super GPU. The Acer can’t be classified as a gaming PC—far from it—but its 83 frames per second in the GFXBench Car Chase 1080p test indicates it’s capable of playing casual games at its native resolution.
My Kingdom for QHD Panel
The Acer Aspire C27 is not without its charms. Its mobile Core i7 CPU and GeForce MX330 graphics, with its 16GB of RAM and ample storage, provide good bang for your all-in-one buck. And its parts are efficient enough that there is no need for a fast cooling fan to keep thermals under control. The slim, compact design is also a plus for those who are short on space but looking for a bigger screen AIO.
However, it’s the big screen that gives us pause: It’s too bad that Acer doesn’t offer the QHD or 1440p display upgrades that would solve the Aspire’s biggest problem. Its 1080p resolution doesn’t put enough pixels into the 27-inch panel to provide a sharp picture. For casual home use, a 1080p screen may suffice, but you’ll want either a smaller display or, more likely, a higher resolution for content creation and media editing, or even if you’re looking at text for several hours a day.