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Acer 1410 review

P1020390Here it is: Acer’s very own netbook killer. Hmmm…that doesn’t sound right, after all Acer is the number one seller of netbooks globally. Nevertheless that’s what I believe we’re seeing here and kudos to Acer for giving consumers more options, although to be fair at $449 the 1410 is pricier than a typical netbook.

What makes the 1410 (sold elsewhere as the 1810T) stand out from the netbook crowd? It’s running an Intel Core Solo Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processor giving superb battery life and decent horsepower, just like the recently released MSI X340 the Lenovo U350 and Dell Inspiron 11z (which actually has a weaker Celeron ULV) . Like those other laptops, the 1410 packs Intel’s GMA4500MHD graphics chipset which is HD capable. This new market sector of ultraportables is not yet named but I’ll call it DNP, or Darn Near Perfect, combining decent power, portability and great battery life.

P1020381Other notable specs include 2GB RAM (4GB max), 250GB hard drive and 802.11a/b/g/Draft-N WiFi. Including its six cell battery the 1410 weighs just 3.1lb and offers unplugged runtime of up to six hours according to Acer.

Look & feel of the Acer 1410

The 1410 sports an 11.6 inch screen so the laptop is pretty small, and although not super-thin at just over one inch thick, it feels slim enough. There’s the usual assortment of ports with the handy addition of HDMI, making it a snap to hook up the 1410 to a home setup for Netflix and the like, for those without an Xbox 360 or internet-enabled TV already serving that purpose.

The chassis feels just OK, with lots of shiny plastic covering the top surfaces. Overall it looks pretty nice. As with many of the recent slew of small plastic notebooks, if you treat them well they should stand the test of time.

There are accessible compartments beneath the 1410 which bodes well for tinkerers, just be careful of those warranty conditions!  I also liked the dedicated hardware buttons for turning wireless connections on/off, which is far preferable to the function-key or software implementation on some other laptops.

Playing around with the Acer 1410

The 1410 also sports Acer’s new Timeline style keyboard. The keys are big, although there’s not much travel and there is a fair amount of flex, but I found it easy to use accurately. The MSI Wind U100 still has the best keyboard feel in the small laptop sector in my opinion.  The 1410’s trackpad feels good, and the dedicated left and right buttons are a welcome addition compared to the single bar adorning some modern day laptops.

Unfortunately the screen is a glossy one, which annoyingly reflects light sources making the screen difficult to see sometimes. The 1410’s screen is bright and perfectly usable though as long as the screen is positioned to avoid reflections. I understand that glossy screens look shiny on store shelves, but I’ve never met anyone who liked using them. Hopefully one day they will just go away and we’ll be back to the good ol’ days of matte screens which don’t reflect light so much.

The 1410 ships with Vista Premium, which felt perfectly snappy when moving around the OS.  I detected no significant lag in general operation and Windows Media Center opened faster than my Windows 7 version at home on my (very old) living room Pentium 4 single core PC.

Multimedia comparison between the Acer 1410 and the MSI X340

P1020395The 1410 has speakers somewhere in that case…let’s just say they’re not the powerful kind. Whilst not entirely unexpected, headphones or an external connection are necessary to get the best out of the 1410. The MSI X340 has more powerful speakers from my time with that laptop.

One of the selling points of the 1410 is it’s GMA4500MHD graphics chipset which promises HD video playback. So I tried the Coral Reef Adventure clips from Microsoft’s HD content showcase. The 1410 handled a 720p clip with no problems, just like the MSI X340. It is really really difficult to see the difference between a 720p and a 1080p clip on an 11.6 inch screen, but for the record the 1410 played the 1080p clip of the same content perfectly. The X340 slowed to an unwatchably slow frame-rate on the 1080p clip.

Is the Acer 1410 a keeper?

My overall impressions of the 1410 are extremely positive. It’s netbook sized, but has the horsepower to handle HD video and the battery life to go the distance on a decent length flight. It’s the best of this new breed so far in my opinion; it bests the MSI X340 on video performance, the Dell Inspiron 11z on raw power and pretty much anything decent on price. I have a feeling this could be a big seller for Acer.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Aug 28, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X340

IMAG0093Hmm…the eagerly anticipated MSI X340; this one turned out to be a mixed bag.  Looks great, feels just OK to hold.  Keyboard is big enough, feels just OK to use.  Some reviewers have said the keyboard is horrific, it’s not quite as bad as that, but it does flex downward in the center more than it should.  The battery is replaceable but is outpaced by the Acer Timeline.

IMAG0100But for $899 it weighs under 3lbs, does HD video, has a bright 13 inch screen and a real-life-useful 1.4GHz Intel CULV processor.  That’s a tempting prospect…especially as many retailers are listing it at nearer $799.  If you like the form factor and can survive with less power the X320 sports an Intel Atom for $599, but also sacrifices the HD capable graphics chipset.

Crucially is the $899 X340 better than a $999 refurbished MacBook Air Rev A?  For HD video, connectivity and battery life I’d say yes; for coolness and build quality probably no.  Then there’s also the Acer Timeline series and the semi-light but powerful Acer AS3935-6504 with a 2GHz Core 2 Duo for $899.  It’s a difficult, but consumer friendly, choice.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jun 28, 2009 Posted by | Computing, Hardware, Mobile, Reviews | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Laptop prices falling hard

Today’s MacBook price cuts were both welcome and not unique in the current laptop market.  Ultraportables and desktop replacements alike have been suffering from netbooks and Intel CULV powered thin ‘n lights pulling down the whole sector.

It’s pretty cool that you can finally get a decently powered 3-4lb laptop with a 13 inch screen for well under $1,000; MSI’s X340 and Acer’s Timeline are good examples.  Both are HD video capable and provide enough power for day-to-day computing.

These machines pull down the premium end of the ultraportable market like the Dell Adamo and MacBook Air, which don’t really offer much more hardware than the MSI or Acer.  In fact the Dell is probably slower than both.  So now we have a $1,499-$1,799 MacBook Air, which is great news for consumers and effectively sets a glass ceiling for ultraportable prices.

At the heavier end of the market 17 inch laptops are under strain from all-in-ones like the Asus EEE Top which are semi-mobile and keenly priced.  I found a new Toshiba dual-core T3400 17 inch laptop on Amazon this evening for $529.  This thing was fully loaded, you really wouldn’t need much more for a day-to-day desktop replacement…and of course you can install Windows 7 RC and get almost a year of usage before you need to buy a license.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

Jun 8, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Computing, Mobile | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Update to ‘MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?’ Acer throws an $899 curve ball

Acer 13" P7350Wow this bout just got a whole lot more interesting.  After initially pricing the X340 at $1,099 MSI are now listing it at $899…and several mainstream e-tailers are taking orders for $799.  That kind of pricing makes the whole proposition turn on its head.  Even as a refurb, the MacBook Air Rev A looks too expensive in this company.

On the downside for the X340, initial reviews have been mixed.  Praise for its battery life and video performance have been tempered by concerns about chassis quality and a poor keyboard.

There is another curve ball mixing up the X340’s home run plans in the form of Acer’s recently released 13″ AS3935-6504.  At 1.3lbs heavier than the X340, it offers a full power P7350 2GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 3GB RAM, DVD-RW and the same Intel GMA4500MHD 1080-capable GPU.  And the Acer looks and feels great.

At 2.9lbs and $799 the X340 would be my choice if running Windows 7 RC, but those needing more power or running the out-of-the-box Vista Home Premium I’d have to recommend the Acer for the greater horsepower.  Price/performance-wise the MacBook Air needs to do more to move out third place in this contest.  Especially as you could swap out the hard drives in the MSI and Acer with latest gen SSDs and still save megabucks compared to the MBAir.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 23, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Hardware, Mobile, News | , , , , , | Leave a comment

MSI X340: Now priced-out by the MacBook Air?

mba-999I was excited to talk to MSI in January about their upcoming X320 and X340.  The ultra-light 13″ laptops closely resembled the MacBook Air with the bonus of offering a removable battery and better connectivity.

It seems the $700-1,000 price target is hopefully looking accurate for when the X340 starts shipping.  The HDMI equipped X340 briefly appeared on MSI’s website recently at $1,099.  The lower powered X320 is likely to be in the $700-800 range.

In January this pricing seemed sensible…until MacBook Airs started appearing for $999.  This week MacMall and Apple were both listing Airs starting at $999, although these may be refurbs.  Given that the Air has a way faster CPU than the X340, this looks like MSI is going to have a difficult job convincing buyers to choose their laptop over the Air.

The only sore points for the Air continue to be the weak connectivity and low capacity battery, which is outperformed by many similar weight netbooks for runtime.

On the plus side $999 now buys a super-svelte 3lb 1.6ghz Core 2 Duo MacBook Air, which a year ago cost almost twice as much and is capable of running OSX and Windows.  Nice.

Neil Berman

www.theonbutton.com

May 2, 2009 Posted by | Analysis, Apple, Computing, Mobile, News | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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