This is an Acer Aspire One ultra-portable ‘netbook’ with an 8.9″ screen. It is the 120GB, Windows XP version and the color is Sapphire Blue
The specifications include:
- Intel Atom Processor N270 (1.6Ghz) with Windows XP Home Edition
- 1GB DDR2-533 RAM
- 120GB 5,400RPM Hard Drive
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950
- Acer InviLink 802.11b/g Wi-Fi CERTFIED Wireless Network
- 8.9″ WSVGA CrystalBrite Display
- Size: 9.75″ x 6.625″ x 1.28″
- Weight: 2.19 lbs
- 3-cell battery
Reasons for Buying
I bought this computer for its extraordinary portability and functionality. I work online and needed a laptop that I could quickly check and then tuck away into a backpack. The new Asus EEE 901 got pretty good reviews, but its nearly $600 price tag was too much for me. The Acer Aspire One cost a good deal less and got high marks for its build quality and keyboard, making my decision pretty simple.
Where and How Purchased
I originally purchased the Solid-State Drive with Linux Lite (Linpus) from Amazon.com, but exchanged it before opening. I am unfamiliar with Linux and really just wanted a miniature clone of my home computer — so for my purposes, sticking with Windows was the right choice. Many users have complained that the SSD is too slow, and there were inexplicably two different manufacturers of Aspire One SSD drives…so already I was wary of the SSD version. Then there was the size of the hard drive — 120GB for the XP version, compared to a mere 8GB for the Linux.
After I settled on the 120GB, there was the matter of locating one — Amazon wasn’t shipping new units for four-to-six weeks, and I couldn’t wait that long. The only other retailer that had the XP model available was Microcenter.com. They are somewhat notorious for not having a live inventory system, which frequently leads to back-orders, cancellations, etc. In this case, however, I lucked out by placing an order soon after a new shipment arrived. They even had the ‘Sapphire Blue’ version, which is what I wanted (good luck finding pink or brown in the U.S.). The final cost, including shipping, was $419.00. More than I wanted to spend (the 8GB SSD cost only $349), but worth every penny.
Build & Design
The Aspire One has a very simple, elegant design. It features a glossy screen and a glossy shell, both of which are pretty but prone to smudging and collecting fingerprints. I was thrilled that the blue version was in stock, because you can’t even tell if it has smudges across it. I read multiple reviews that described the Asus EEE netbooks as flimsy, but the Aspire One has no such problems. The hinge is made of sturdy plastic and silver metal with a ring of red anodized metal around it…very nice from a practical and aesthetic point of view. It also opens to (my rough guess) a 150 degree angle.
It weighs 2.19 pounds, and is so light and small that I sometimes check the internet while walking. The tiny size does not make it a nuisance to balance on your lap. It is so small and sturdy that unless you live on an active fault-line, ‘wobbling’ is never an issue. The screen has pretty decent protection, and it took a good deal of force on the back of the screen before ripples were evident. For such a small and light computer, it is remarkably well built.
The screen has surprising clarity and brightness. I frequently use it outside, in conjunction with wireless broadband, and it fares pretty well. Unfortunately it is glossy rather than matte, so on bright, sunny park benches I find myself hunched over and squinting as I hold the screen in my own shadow.
I haven’t seen a single dead pixel, and I’m thrilled with the quality of the screen — although I will rarely use it for multimedia, it looks great playing back video files with WinDVD. On full brightness in a dark room, I can’t notice any light leakage around the edges. The screen has average viewing angles from the left and right, though it is harder to see from above and below. The computer is so tiny, however, that it is easy to adjust for a proper viewing angle.
The speaker, singular, is ridiculously bad. On top of the poor quality (in fairness, it must be tiny), it is located underneath the computer, further muffling the sound. Adequate for system alerts and the occasional YouTube video, but basically useless for listening to music. Fortunately, headphones exist! The quality is great when heard through headphones or external speakers, so pack a pair of earbuds.
Processor and Performance
The Aspire One comes with the Intel Atom N270 running at 1.6Ghz. I frequently use internet, RSS Owl and word processing simultaneously, and it still responds very quickly. Occasionally when running a bunch of tabs in Internet Explorer 7 the computer does slow down, but even that happens only when the RSS reader refreshes its 200+ feeds.
Booting up takes about 50 seconds…not terrific, especially compared to the 15-second boot-up time for the Linux version, but sufficient for my needs. The hard drive runs at 5400 RPM, and it reads and writes perfectly well. As I mentioned earlier, some users complain about slow speeds in the SSD Aspire One’s, so I was happy to avoid that possibility.
I play no games on this computer, so I can’t offer much in the way of a recommendation. Maybe the benchmarks below will shed light on that aspect of the Aspire One.
PCMark05: I was first asked to install Windows Media Encoder 9, which I did. Then it said there were errors and would not produce any results (N/A). Not sure what that means, but it didn’t seem to reflect well on my Aspire One’s processing speed.
Super Pi: Calculated two million digits in three minutes and 28 seconds.
|HD Tune: Hitachi HTS543212L9A Benchmark|
|Transfer Rate Minimum :||27.8 MB/sec|
|Transfer Rate Maximum :||52.4 MB/sec|
|Transfer Rate Average :||42.0 MB/sec|
|Access Time :||17.8 ms|
|Burst Rate :||78.6 MB/sec|
|CPU Usage :||3.8%|
|Temperature was a steady 40 degrees Celsius.|
Heat and Noise
One of the Acer Aspire One’s strong suits is that it is very cool and quiet, thanks largely to the Intel Atom processor. You can park it on your lap for hours without heat being an issue, and the fan –though running almost continuously– is so quiet that I rarely notice it at all. The lack of an optical drive eases the fans’ already meager duties.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard and touchpad are worlds apart, in terms of functionality. The keyboard is great, for such a small computer. While smaller than a full-sized keyboard, I found it surprisingly easy to adjust to the reduced layout. I have large hands, and occasionally hit the wrong key, or two keys at once, but it is acceptable for normal use. I wouldn’t recommend writing research papers, but it is ideal for sending out a quick email or chatting on AIM. There is a bit of flex in the keys, but they are springy and give a nice tactile response to each keystroke. One very trivial complaint, I wish there were buttons for Volume up/down and Brightness up/down, rather than having those controls as functions of the arrow keys.
The touchpad, on the other hand, is somewhat poorly designed. The pad itself is fine — it is smooth and responsive, and the screen is so small that it can be easily navigated with a few strokes. Unfortunately, the left and right buttons are located on either side of the touchpad. This saves ¼ inch in overall width, but it makes one-handed surfing a real chore, and you need to contort your fingers to select text or drag-and-drop. The buttons are also unreasonably loud — if you need a reassuring ‘click’ every time you click something, then you are the target audience. I have a wrist problem and I use a wireless USB controller with mouse and keyboard mapping, so I rarely use the touchpad, otherwise it would frustrate me much more.
Input and Output Ports
This is a computer built for ease of use, portability and connectivity. As such, it sports a nice array of connections for such a tiny CPU:
(1) VGA 15-pin Port, (3) USB 2.0 “A” Ports, (1) RJ-45 Network Port, (1) Microphone Port, (1) Headphone Port, (1) Multi-in-1 card reader, (1) SD card reader, a microphone and a webcam.
The Aspire One comes wit h the Acer InviLink 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card. It works beautifully, picking up all of the same local wi-fi networks as my other computers (an HP and a Mac). One notable omission is Bluetooth capability, which would have been a very nice touch.
This is one gripe I have with the Aspire One — the standard 3-cell battery lasts an average of 2 ½ hours (with wi-fi turned on). The new model Asus EEE 901 packs a six-cell battery and lasts around 6-7 hours — what a huge difference that would be! For a computer designed to be on the road, packed away and popped out in train stations, buses, etc…it would be logical to include a larger battery supply. The “battery-sipping” Atom processor does what it can, but ultimately you might decide (as I have) to purchase a separate six-cell battery. Sadly, it costs about $120 bucks, nearly 1/3 the price of the computer. Supposedly Acer has a model that comes with a six-cell, but I could not find it in stock at any U.S. retailer, online or otherwise. Also, I read that the six-cell battery juts out further than the three-cell, preventing the computer from being stored in the slip-cover that Acer ships with each Aspire One. I guess if you’re dropping $120 on a battery, $20 for a new cover wouldn’t be a deal-breaker.
Operating System and Software
The computer ships with Windows XP SP3, but did not include restore discs. As explained in more detail below, Acer has some sort of recovery program built into the CPU, though I believe it partitions 15GB of your hard drive (wish I knew more about this aspect, can someone provide more details in the comments section?)
The software included was sufficient without being cumbersome (HP could learn from Acer in this regard). The “trial version” of Microsoft Office 2007 comes included, though I immediately uninstalled it in favor of OpenOffice. The lack of an optical drive simply means you’ll need to scour the internet for certain drivers and programs that you would otherwise install via CD or DVD…or you can hook up an external drive via USB, etc. WinDVD come installed, which is a nice easy way to watch a huge variety of video formats. Acer keeps the branded products and programs to a minimum. I dumped McAfee in favor of OneCare — I’m not sure which is better, but OneCare seems to interrupt me far less frequently, and runs fewer background processes, from what I can tell (though I could be very wrong). This computer comes loaded with everything I needed, from a software and hardware standpoint.
The initial user experience was disappointing for one reason only — XP glitched upon loading, giving me an error message and continually re-booting without ever moving past the XP splash screen. I called Acer support and within 30 minutes (after hitting Alt + F10 repeatedly during boot-up) the computer was running normally. Unfortunately (I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think so) the steps they led me through partitioned 15GB worth of my hard-drive, so instead of 120GB, I essentially started with 105. I only need enough music and pictures to load on my 30GB Zune, so the lost space didn’t bother me. There is a one-year limited warranty from Acer, and it did not cost extra.
Light weight, small size
Bright, good-quality screen
Very nice reduced-size keyboard
Speedy, cool and quiet
Awkward touchpad layout
Lack of Bluetooth
Short battery life
|JusTech'n editors' rating|