ACER T320

1066782This machine is a socket 478 stuffed with a Celeron 335 running at 2.8 GHz. The Foxconn µATX motherboard lacks the AGP slot that is outlined on the board. The motherboard also lacks SATA ports that are outlined on the board.

Machines of this class were mass produced and sold for about $499$799 with a keyboard and mouse. The VGA monitor was extra cost.

SPECIFICATIONS

  • Intel Celeron 335 2.8 GHz
  • Foxcon µATX i865G motherboard
  • Intel 865G VGA 16MB
  • 512MB DDR-400
  • 160 GB Seagate HD
  • CD-RW drive
  • 10/100 Ethernet
  • 230W PSU
  • Windows XP Home

HARDWARE DETAILS

The T320 is a low end consumer desktop system in 2004. Its designed to be used with a CRT or early LCD panel and comes with Windows XP. With additional RAM, this machine can run even Windows Server 2008 making it useful as a web server.

Some models of the T320 had a front panel card reader box installed.

More expensive models came with an AGP video card.

CHASSIS

The µATX chassis is small and has limited space. There is one available 5¼” and one available 3½” bay on the T320. Both sizes of USB front panel card readers are available. A very diverse range of models is available. Charging several mobile devices can load the 5V system slightly.

The front USB on the chassis was located on the bottom, while some models had USB ports near the power button.

PSU

The original PSU was replaced before we received the machine. The typical PSU in a machine like the T320 tends to be of poor quality and they tend to have a short service life.

Currently a CoolerMaster RS-460-PMSR-A3 is installed in the machine. The PSU is a replacement for the OEM model. This PSU has abundant 5V power for USB devices.

The power meter showed the machine to use about 230W maximum when the machine starts up. Power consumption is below 200W when the machine is idle.

RAM

There are two DDR slots each holding a 256MB stick. DDR 512MB will work and some 1024 MB sticks may work. We tested one such stick and it failed to post while another did work. At present we have 1536 MB of RAM installed using a single 512 MB stick and a single 1024 MB stick. DDR often only has a single timing table which limits the ability for SPD to configure memory automatically. DDR2 and DDR3 offer much more sophisticated timing tables.

CPU

The Celeron 335 processor does not seem to have very sophisticated power management. Using CPU-Z we noted only some variance in the CPU core voltage while the multiplier seems to be locked at 21x constantly unlike newer models. The low-end OEM CPU fans used failed leading to thermal shutdown.

Acer used a sleeve fan with their cooler which will last the 1 year warranty and that is about it. We eventually replaced the CPU fan with a ball-bearing Pentium IV model and used high-end thermal interface material which now has the CPU thermally stable again. The fan now throttles down when the CPU load is reduce enough.

It took another 5 years before CPU multipliers were designed to be switchable to reduce power consumption even more. Eventually even the base clock became switchable a decade later.

Several aftermarket CPU coolers are available to deal with the noise found with OEM fans. The weight makes them slightly more costly to ship. Check to be sure the fan is ball-bearing.

Celeron 335

CHIPSET

The i865G chipset provides the PCI slots and support for the peripheral chipsets. The 865G uses the main memory for the display buffer. The BIOS has some options but the lack of an AGP slot makes them superfluous. There is the outline for AGP on the motherboard. Low end machine often lacked a slot for a video card upgrade.

The Southbridge ICH5 is connected to the i865G by an 8-bit 266 MHz bus. This provides the EIDE and SATA ports. The motherboard does not have the connectors installed for SATA. AC97 is provided by the T320.

Some ICH5 based machine has seen reports of static discharge destroying USB sticks. We have used many USB sticks on the T320 with no problems ever.

The ICH5 is also the last of the AGP/EIDE series as the ICH6 introduced PCI Express.

PCI SLOTS

There are literally hundreds of peripherals available for PCI. The Acer T320 is equipped with 3 available PCI slots.

Today the machine can be retrofitted with 802.11n wireless networking easily. PCI cards are much more capable than low cost USB devices and with dual antennas they can span much longer distances too.

GRAPHICS

The T-320 lacks an AGP slot so there is no opportunity to upgrade the machine. There is an outline for an AGP connector but Acer elected to reduce costs and omit the slot.

The integrated 865g is DirectX7 and its very limited in capacity. It can run Windows 7 mainly due to the CPU performance but even solitaire complains about the limited graphics. We have even tested Windows 8.1 on the machine which also functions. The Celeron is still somewhat more powerful than most mobile machines in 2010 some 7 years on.

There are several PCI cards available and Zotac even made a version of the GT 430 for PCI which would give the old machine DX11 with 96 CUDA cores which would improve the desktop performance.

IO SHIELD

The Winbond W83627HF provides the IO ports for the machine. The front of the machine has the standard pair of USB2 ports along with front panel audio. There are 4 USB2 ports on the rear panel. The usual keyboard and mouse with an already obsolete parallel port make up the remainder of the IO shield.

The standard  AC97 audio supplies the system sound. There is a header for the front panel audio connectors. CD audio quality sound has been standard with the PC for many years.

There are 2 additional USB headers mid board for front panel or rear bracket USB ports. USB 2.0 was already widely available with machines in 2004 attesting to the low cost of providing them.

STORAGE

The original Seagate 160 GB hard disk has racked up over 45,000 hours. The disk has a reputation for being invincible. EIDE hard disks are less common but we have spares. The machine can use up to 2 TB of storage but EIDE disks are now obsolete and hard to find. Our last high capacity EIDE disk failed after only 16,000 hour of use.

The machine does not have the LBA24 limitation so a replacement disk is not problematic if an adapter is used. Low cost adapters are available on eBay for retrofitting old machines.

The original CD drive has been replaced several times as optical disks tend to have a short service life. At present it has a DVD drive to allow Windows Vista and higher to be installed.

An adapter to use SATA hard disks for the old EIDE based machines are well under $5 postage paid. The machine could potentially be useful for decades.

WINDOWS

The Acer T-320 originally shipped with Windows XP home. Today the T320 has been used with XP through Windows 8, Windows Server and Linux. Today is is shelved as a backup machine. Upgraded to 1.5 GB of RAM, the machine has been able to remain in service for over 10 years.

Windows 10 is actually less demanding than earlier versions of Windows and it surprisingly runs fine on the machine. Microsoft still offers 32 bit versions of Windows.

FAILURE

In 2015 the machine unexpectedly powered down and smoke came from the machine. We were noticed the rear bracket USB ports were not working and were preparing to reboot. Replacing the PSU we noticed smoke coming from the front near the south-bridge area suggesting something became shorted out. The machine has no real salvage value other than its hard disk and DVD drive.

Acer, like other manufacturers does not use established standards. For example the power switch cable is a 6-pin assembly instead of the usual 2-pin. This makes it impossible to retrofit so the machine has become junk and its not repairable. For that reason Acer does not get RoHS even if they paid for such a designation. Because the machine suffered an electrical fault, there is no salvage.

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