Acer's getting a jumpstart on its back-to-school lineup today, unveiling two new mass market desktop ranges: the Aspire M and X Series. Starting at less than $500, both are intended for everyday productivity and multimedia purposes, featuring relatively powerful processors along with adequate RAM, storage, connectivity and expandability.

Starting at $499.99, the Aspire M is a standard-sized offering outfitted with your choice of an Intel Core i3 or AMD Athlon II x4, up to 6GB of DDR3 RAM, a 1TB hard drive, and a DVD burner (no mention of Blu-ray). Acer notes that certain models will come with discrete graphics cards, but the company's press release doesn't mention any specific models.

Meanwhile, the X Series might be better suited toward folks shopping for a cheaper, more compact solution. Said to be one-third the size of a traditional desktop, the Aspire X dons a Pentium Dual-Core or Athlon II X4, 4GB of RAM, 500GB to 1TB of storage, a SuperMulti optical drive and a "contemporary" black mesh finish. Pricing kicks off at $398.

Although the M Series is slightly more geared toward power users with a spare 3.5" drive bay and double the USB 2.0 ports (neither appears to feature USB 3.0 ports), both models have unoccupied PCI Express x1 and x16 slots for expansion cards. Both also ship with Windows 7 Home Premium and, Acer's new media sharing system.

To accompany the new machines, Acer has announced its T231H 23-inch "ergonomic" touchscreen, which can be tilted from 5 to 60 degrees. Priced at $330, the display features a 1920x1080 resolution, HDMI and DVI inputs, a 2ms response time, and a purported 80,000:1 contrast ratio. Acer says everything is currently available via retailers.