Asus M51AC Review

Updated April 30, 2014
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Asus M51AC
Bottom Line

The Asus M51AC is a prototypical tower desktop computer, with all of the pluses and minuses that entails. It's not svelte and stylish, like an all-in-one desktop, but you get better bang for the buck and easier upgrades as your needs and budget allow.

Performance

Buy -- not build -- your own. The Asus M51AC is a traditional desktop tower computer sold through retailers. You can't pre-configure the M51AC, but you can buy versions with enough different hardware lineups to fit most needs and budgets. All use 4th generation Intel Core processors and graphics ranging from integrated Intel HD Graphics to low-end discrete gaming cards such as the Nvidia GeForce GTX760. Reviews vary based on the configuration tested, but most are solid or better. ComputerShopper.com is harshest in its evaluation of a more basic system -- and even there William Van Winkle concedes that while the M51AC might be uninspiring, "it's quite competitive." At the other end of the spectrum, DigitalTrends.com says, "The Asus M51 is perfect for anyone who wants a powerful, yet affordable, desktop PC."

ProsGood hardware lineup, Easy to upgrade, Good performanceConsJust one open bay for additional hard drives , Configurations vary widely, Not great for gaming

Design

A big, black box -- with some unique touches. At first glance, the Asus M51AC is nothing more than a traditional black tower, but a closer look reveals some pluses. A small "tray" on the case's top surface is conveniently located near front-panel USB ports for charging your mobile devices. On some models, that tray is also capable of wirelessly charging Qi-compatible devices. Some configurations also support the Asus Universal Storage Module (USM) standard, letting you plug in USM portable hard drives with very fast transfer speeds (twice that of USB 3.0, Asus claims). Under the hood, there's lots of room for growth, though accessibility and practicality can vary by the configuration. At the extreme, Brian Westover at PCMag.com is almost ecstatic over the empty memory and expansion-card slots he finds, along with a 500-watt power supply that allows for better performing components without needing to upgrade that supply to something beefier. Other configurations, with different motherboards, offer fewer possibilities, however. As with most towers, there are ports aplenty, including 10 USB ports (six of which are USB 3.0) scattered on the front and back. There's also an optical drive (DVD-RW or Blu-ray, depending on the configuration) and a 16:1 memory card reader. A monitor is extra cost, but a keyboard and mouse is included. ComputerShopper.com complains that most will want to upgrade those soon, but DigitalTrends.com says, "Most buyers won't need to replace either."

Support & reliability

Asus is aces. Asus generally fares very well in brand-oriented reviews of customer service and tech support. For 2014, the company has already earned a Readers' Choice award from PCMag.com as the top desktop PC brand. "If you want a Windows desktop, according to our readers, Asus is the best choice," says Ben Gottesman.

Value

Tough to beat. Reviewers say that you can get better desktop tower computers, or cheaper tower desktop computers, but it's hard to find this level of performance in a desktop tower that's this cheap. Remarkably, perhaps, this holds true regardless of whether you select an entry-level configuration like the one tested by ComputerShopper.com, or a high-end system like the one reviewed by PCMag.com.

Our Sources

1. PCMag.com

Asus M51AC-US015S, Brian Westover, Oct. 4, 2013

The Asus M51AC earns a 4-star rating at PCMag.com. The configuration tested is largely high-end, save for a lower performing discrete graphics card. That makes the system very suitable for graphics work, but only a so-so performer with games. Performance can't quite keep up with some other tower computers, such as the Dell XPS 8700 Special Edition, but it's priced much lower than those systems.

2. ConsumerReports.org

Asus Essentio M51AC-B07, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated

ConsumerReports.org looks at a higher-end configuration of the Asus M51AC. The computer is tested, rated and ranked. Discussion covers many key points, but is shorter than what's seen from most computer reviewers. ConsumerReports.org also has information on how Asus customer service rates compared to other makers.

3. DigitalTrends.com

Asus M51AC-US016S Review, Matt Smith, Aug. 25, 2013

DigitalTrends.com looks at a mid-tier system with a 4th generation Intel Core i7 processor and is impressed enough to grant the M51AC an Editors' Choice award. "The Asus M51 is perfect for anyone who wants a powerful, yet affordable, desktop PC," Matt Smith writes.

4. Computer Shopper

Asus M51AC-US016S Review and Ratings, William Van Winkle, Oct. 4, 2013

ComputerShopper.com looks at the same configuration of the Asus M51AC as DigitalTrends.com but comes away less impressed. William Van Winkle does concede, however, that while there may not be that many high points, neither are there many lows. "For parents or office managers needing affordable PCs for their people, that's all good," he concludes.

5. PCMag.com

Readers' Choice Awards 2014: Laptop and Desktop PCs, Ben Gottesman, Feb. 11, 2014

Asus captures the 2014 Readers' Choice award for Windows desktop computers from PCMag.com. "When it comes to customer satisfaction, Asus has firmly established itself as the top Windows desktop PC company, be it for laptops or desktops," Ben Gottesman says. One concern, however, is that the company's raw scores are just a little lower than in 2013.