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Acer Aspire One Review

Following a false start worthy of the Olympics, Acer’s repair shop just delivered me a new Aspire One.  My first Aspire One must have been so fried that it was not worth repairing, so take two begins…

Initial reactions to the Acer Aspire One

First impressions of the Acer Aspire One are just as before: great ultralight design, perfect keyboard, boots in under twenty seconds…but this time continue beyond five minutes as the WiFi connects swiftly and I’m off surfing in no time. I upgraded to Firefox 3 with this handy guide.

And that’s when it hit me: the Aspire One is loading pages faster than anything I own. I’m unable to pin it down to any one system element, but the combination of the Intel Atom, the SSD and Firefox running on Linpus Lite makes the internet scream on this baby. Way faster than my EEE 2G was, no comparison. Firefox’s full screen option makes the experience even better, taking advantage of all 8.9 LED backlit screen inches.

Using applications on the Acer Aspire One

I installed Skype and tried a video call. I told Skype to start video automatically and the webcam worked perfectly. My friend at the other end of the line in Tokyo could hear and see me clearly and I could hear him fine too. Again, the quality of the experience hit my old EEE for a home run…where I tended to reach for my Nokia N810 for Skype due to the 2G’s choppy chatter, the One was clear as a bell and it was handling the video well too.

The One also ships with several installed applications, such as OpenOffice, a media player and photo maanger, which together with the web browser may take care of most owners’ needs. Again, OpenOffice opened much faster than on my Asus EEE 2G and saved documents almost instantly.  This Linux version running Linpus Lite ships with an 8GB SSD.  If you need more storage there are two SD card slots, of which one allows an inserted card to show as a hard drive extension in the file manager.  The second slot shows up as removable storage.

Typing on the Acer Aspire One

Unlike my EEE experience, I have been able to touch type naturally on the One. The keyboard is very usable with everything in the right place. I’ve also found the trackpad to be big enough, as long as you’re a tap-to-click type and not a button pusher. I would like Acer to have implemented a MacBook style double finger right-click tap, as right clicking requires moving off the trackpad to find the button. There is a dedicated button on the keyboard for opening context sensitive menus however, which makes this omission easier to forgive.

The keyboard and wrist rest also remain at a reasonable temperature during use, as does the underside of the One. This is probably due to the low power consumption of the Intel Atom processor. A small fan kicks in now and again but it is unobtrusive.

Screen quality and battery life of the Acer Aspire One

Given its size and weight I expect my Aspire One to get plenty of outdoor use. The screen is bright enough to use outside in the shade, but becomes unreadable when hit by direct sunlight. As a guide it’s a lot brighter and sharper than the Asus EEE 2G, but is outshone by an Apple MacBook. The Aspire One does ship with a slip cover, which offers useful (non-waterproof) protection in transit. Regular travelers might prefer a closed protective case, but it’s a great free addition as a basic cover. Nice One Acer.

Battery life is quoted at three hours for this three cell Linux version and I achieved close to that with sensible moderation of the screen brightness to fit my environment. On full brightness with constant WiFi usage I’d expect that to go down to around two hours. Acer quotes the Windows XP version at 2.5 hours, probably due to the SSD being replaced by a regular hard drive. After boot-up I hardly ever see my SSD light illuminated, but the XP model is likely to be busier. So taking more frequent disk accessing together with the effort required to spin the platters would definitely reduce overall battery life.

Competitors to the Acer Aspire One

On balance, the One represents the best balanced experience of any of the small (< 9 inch) netbooks I’ve tried so far.  Its keyboard beats the EEE 901, its size is more practical than the seven inch models and its processor runs more efficiently than the VIA C7 powered HP Mini-Note or Everex Cloudbook.  In six cell guise with XP, it would be compelling but I have also appreciated the fast boot-up time and low resource usage of Linux.

Is the Acer Aspire One a good one?

The market is about to get more crowded with the imminent arrival of Dell’s mini Inspiron and future VIA Nano based machines. The ten inch Lenovo, Asus and MSI netbooks are also worth considering if you want to move up on screen size. For now though, the Acer Aspire One is a solid contender amongst the midsize netbooks.

Update: Acer has now lowered the retail price of the 3-cell Linux version to $329. The 3-cell XP version is now down to $349 and the 6-cell XP version is set to retail at $399.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

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Aug 17, 2008 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , | 5 Comments

   

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