By Eric Grevstad
September 03, 2008
Windows XP and a 120GB hard drive give Acer’s compact 2.3-pound netbook PC an edge over Linux lightweight when it comes to adding software (although there is also a version Linux). The Atom-powered ultraportable also has an 8.9-inch display, near-full keyboard, cheaply ($ 349) – and Wi-Fi, of course.
Acer Aspire One
$ 349 as tested
Advantages: good value for money, good features, Wi-Fi, lightweight
The inconvenients: performance is disappointing, battery life is low
We have a winner, if not in the sales contest, at least in the nomenclature contest: the lightweight, low-cost laptops inspired by the Asus Eee PC from last fall and since described as everything, mini-computers. Kneeling laptops to Microsoft’s eye-catching acronym ULCPC (ultra-low-cost PC) are now universally referred to as “netbooks,” after their primary purpose of simple web and email access.
They also sell like crazy to students and professionals on the go who don’t want to carry around a big, heavy laptop just to go online or do word processing or presentation work – and don’t want to pay a lot of money. for a high-end ultralight like Apple’s MacBook Air or Lenovo’s ThinkPad X301. This is why Asus was joined by HP, Acer, MSI and (soon) Dell and Lenovo, all trying to find the right compromise between reduced functionality and performance but not too reduced in relation to the price. The problem is the drop in prices of full notebooks screwing up with the sweet spot. HP offers a simple Linux setup of its 2133 Mini-Note for $ 499, but the high-end Windows Vista Business model costs $ 829.
And while the original 7-inch Eee flew off the shelves at $ 400, Asus’ current 10-inch Eee PC 1000 costs $ 700. That doesn’t even mention the buzz online about an Asus presentation last month that described a confusing harvest of over 20 Eee-branded PCs priced up to $ 900. Can you say âlose sight of the simple and affordableâ?
That’s why we’re impressed with Acer’s entry into the netbook war, the Aspire One. Of course, “impressed” does not mean “bewitched”; The performance of Intel’s new Atom processor is disappointing and our test unit provided disappointing battery life.
But the Acer is a beautiful and sleek ultraportable with a high-quality 8.9-inch display, a remarkably usable keyboard, and the familiar Windows XP Home Edition environment with a large 120GB hard drive for installing apps and storing. data, music and pictures folders. Considering it costs the same $ 399 as the 7-inch Eee PC 4G, with a keyboard and cramped storage space, we applauded last November, we decided pretty quickly to give it a boost. .
And that was before the other day, when Acer dropped the price to $ 349.
Go get yours, kid
In fact, Acer has introduced what it calls back-to-school savings on two Aspire One models. Our test system, model AOA150-1570, combines Windows XP with 1 GB of memory and the 120 GB hard drive mentioned above.
For $ 329, the Aspire One AOA110-1722 stays closer to the first Eee recipe with the Linpus Linux Lite operating system, 512MB of RAM, and an 8GB SSD instead of a hard drive. Like the variation of the Eee 4G on Xandros Linux, the Linpus platform hides the complexity of the open source operating system behind point-and-click icons in categories such as Connect (browser, instant messaging, email), Fun (multimedia player, photo manager) and Work (OpenOffice.org word processor, spreadsheet, etc.).
The two Aspires above come with a three-cell battery that snaps into the back of the case. Acer awarded the price of $ 399 to a new Win XP configuration (AOA150-1447) with a 160GB hard drive and six-cell battery.
We’d love to get our hands on the six-pack, as we’ve rarely had the One run for more than two hours unplugged – maybe two hours and ten minutes doing light productivity work with the WiFi radio turned off, but it does. It turned out to be the best case scenario. Two hours is enough for a portable desktop replacement, but a netbook to throw in your briefcase or backpack should last much longer.
At least the lifespan that Acer advertises for the three-cell pack – a maximum of two and a half hours with the hard drive, three hours with the SSD – is less exaggerated than most laptop makers claim than the battery. So when the company estimates six hours for the six cells, we can expect five honest hours.
Am i blue
The Aspire One measures 6.7 x 9.8 x 1.1 inches and weighs 2.3 pounds, or even three pounds with its AC adapter.
It’s also available in white, but we’re voting for the Aspire in our review unit’s deep blue, which manages to be both one of the prettiest and best shades for fingerprint collecting and of spots that we have seen. There is no polishing cloth in the box to polish the netbook cover and palm rest, but there is a soft, snug carrying pouch.
A small slide switch on the front edge of the Acer turns 802.11b / g wireless on and off. Microphone and headphone jacks, two USB 2.0 ports, and an SD / MMC / xD / Memory Stick flash card slot are located on the right side of the system, along with a third USB port, VGA and Ethernet ports, and a card slot Additional SD along the left.
On the Linux model, this slot performs the nifty trick of merging a memory card with the SSD as transparent primary storage, rather than appearing as an additional drive.
Like all netbooks, the Acer keyboard reflects some reduction – the apostrophe A-keys extend to 7.25 inches, compared to 8 inches for a desktop keyboard and 7.5 inches for the leading HP 2133. the category.
But it’s considerably more comfortable than the 6.5-inch original Eee PC 4G, with a rugged, first-class typing feel that encourages near-full-speed tactile typing after just about an hour of practice or practice. consciously precise fingering.
Considering we could only find one minor gripe about the layout – the lack of dedicated PgUp and PgDn keys (these are Fn key combinations with the Home and End keys) – you end up with a keyboard which ranks near the top of the netbook category.
Unfortunately, we can’t say the same for the cursor control touchpad below the spacebar – it’s awfully small, with stiff, loud mouse buttons mounted on either side rather than below the perimeter of the pad.
Tinkering with controls allows handy features like virtual scrolling (moving your finger up and down along the right edge of the pad, or in counterclockwise or counterclockwise circles next to the edge ), but these reduce the already limited room for maneuver. Overall, the touchpad is tolerable, but a laptop mouse would make a nice holiday gift for an Aspire One owner.
Speaking of scrolling, the Acer’s 1024 x 600 screen resolution will require you to do a bit more vertical scrolling than usual, but at least save you the drudgery of having to move horizontally to see a picture. whole web page like the Eee’s 7- 800 by 680 pixel panel did.
The 8.9-inch Aspire One display is crisp and bright, at least with the LED backlighting on the first three or four of its ten brightness settings. Colors were superb, although responsive to tilting the screen a few degrees forward or backward, with less grazing mirror effect than we’ve seen with other glossy LCDs. If you want to watch your reflection, there is a simple 640 x 480 webcam above the screen.
Under the hood you’ll find 1 GB of DDR2 / 667 memory and a 120 GB Hitachi SATA 5400 rpm hard drive, as well as Intel’s Atom N270, a 1.6 GHz single-core processor with 512 KB. level 2 cache and a 533 MHz front panel – bus side.
The watt-saving processor revives the Hyper-Threading technology that Intel praised before it had true dual-core processors, giving at least a modest boost to multithreaded or multitasking applications – the Acer set the example scene from Cinebench 10 in just over 27 minutes without Hyper-Threading, but less than 18 minutes with the feature enabled.
To be sure, 18 minutes for Cinebench 10 – or 1 minute and 15 seconds to boot XP and load preinstalled utilities and taskbar icons, or four seconds to wait after right-clicking on the desktop and clicked Properties to see the Display Properties dialog box – not a dazzling performance. Overall, the Aspire One is clearly faster than the VIA C7-based HP 2133 and perfectly suited for everyday applications, but feels a bit slow at times.
Plugged into an external monitor for the XGA resolution of our benchmark tests – the system can either clone its LCD screen to a connected monitor or run at a higher resolution with the LCD screen turned off – the Acer posted a PCMark05 score of 1501 (CPU 1478; memory 2350; hard disk 3872; graphics 549).
And we scream âOh noooo! Like Mr. Bill whenever we find out that a PC has the integrated GMA 950 graphics card from the older Intel 945GME chipset. The Acer maintained the video platform’s molasses reputation by snaking up to 3DMark06 and 3DMark05 scores of 109 and 248, respectively, and stumbling into the DirectX 9.0 AquaMark3 gaming simulation at 4 frames per second.
A real deal
While the netbook has 802.11b / g Wi-Fi, neither Bluetooth nor 3G wireless broadband is included. The first can be obtained by plugging in a USB dongle; Acer mentioned an internal upgrade for the latter, but there is no concrete news yet. It’s 3G that we think of when we say we wish the Aspire One had an ExpressCard slot like Lenovo’s upcoming IdeaPad S10.
Acer’s software offering is modest. 60-day trial versions of Microsoft Office 2007 Home and Student and McAfee Security Center are preinstalled, as are Microsoft Works, Yahoo Toolbar, and InterVideo WinDVD, presumably for users who will purchase an external USB DVD drive. The day we registered our trial version of McAfee, we were pleased to receive an email offering the full version of the Security Suite at 29% off the list price, followed a few hours later by an offer at 36%. We believe that if we wait a day or two, we will get a better deal.
In contrast, we doubt netbook buyers will see a better deal than the Win XP Aspire One for $ 349 (although we’re also tempted by the six-cell model for $ 399). Right now, the Acer saves you at least $ 100 and in some cases over $ 200 compared to competitors from HP, Asus, and MSI. It also seems likely to undermine the laggards at Lenovo and Dell, unless those vendors are significantly below their advertised or anticipated prices.
Along the way, it becomes “Since a netbook today costs the same or more, why not buy a real laptop?” Backwards argument: If you can settle for a pluggable optical drive and a slightly inferior touchpad, why should you spend over $ 400 or carry over three pounds? This is possibly the best PC value of the year.