This year’s stocking stuffer: Acer’s Aspire One netbook

acer_aspire_one-001

In our Boxing Day special, Diego treats himself to a shiny new present.

A netbook isn’t a mission-critical asset for my purposes, but I did find the idea of having a small, highly portable, no-frills computer that I can use on the go very appealing. For one thing, I plan to holiday overseas in a few months’ time, and it made more sense to invest a relatively small amount of money in a piece of hardware that can be used all year round (whether I’m travelling or not), can be pressed into service as a super-high-capacity “memory stick” for my camera and can be used for writing about my travel experiences as they happen, than waste a sizeable fraction of the asking price on additional memory sticks that will only gather dust when I’m not hitting the tourist trail.

Plus, I rather liked the idea of blogging in bed. (^_^)

My first – and, up till recently, strongest – candidate for acquisition was Lenovo’s S10: a sleek, very attractively designed netbook with an impressive set of features (1GB RAM, 160GB hard drive, 10.2-inch screen, good wireless internet capabilities). Main drawback: a 3-cell battery that will give you no more than a couple of hours unplugged (and only if you’re really lucky). 6-cell batteries are available for separate purchase in some areas, but remain out of reach for most consumers; in my corner of the world 3-cell configurations are still standard and only one retailer (to my knowledge) has begun offering a 6-cell option (but at a price substantially higher than what I eventually paid for my netbook).

So I cast my net a little wider and worked my way through offerings from other manufacturers (including Acer, Asus, HP and MSI). Eventually, I settled on the latest incarnation of Acer’s Aspire One series. It was the least expensive item on my shortlist and had a solid set of features that more or less matched those of more expensive alternatives (including the S10).

Here’s what I think of it after the first few hours of use.

SIZE AND APPEARANCE

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At a mere 1.26kg with a 6-cell battery – just a hair heavier than the 3-cell S10 – the Aspire One more than meets my requirements for portability. Its compact dimensions (see image above, with a standard-sized US banknote for comparison) allow it to be slipped into a backpack or shoulder bag without committing much more room than would be needed for, say, a hardbound novel.

While I prefer the S10’s sharp, clean lines, the Aspire One’s smooth exterior and rich, deep colour still make it something of a looker. Trouble is, the glossy surface is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, and getting the marks off isn’t as easy as one might expect. The way the battery juts out the back tends to spoil the overall appearance, but not by much, and in any case isn’t a problem unique to this unit (it affects pretty much any 6-cell netbook).

Various colour options are available, but the retailer I dealt with had only pink and blue on hand at the time so I went with blue (I would have preferred copper-brown).

RAM AND STORAGE

Netbooks aren’t designed for resource-heavy applications such as today’s graphics-loaded games, so 1GB of RAM should be quite adequate for most users’ daily computing needs. In the first few hours of use, I didn’t encounter much in the way of sluggish performance or other indicators of insufficient memory. (Other users who ran space-hungry applications may have had a less positive experience.) The 160GB hard drive offers plenty of room for videos and other media, and is capacious enough to dispense with the need for an additional external hard drive (at least for a while) – a strong advantage for users who, like me, require as much portability as possible.

DISPLAY

The Aspire One is equipped with an 8.9-inch 1024×600 screen – small, but capable of generating very sharp and clear displays. Of course, the S10 and its 10.2-class brethren have a clear size advantage; that extra inch kept me vacillating between Lenovo and Acer up to almost literally the last minute.

INPUT DEVICES

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The Aspire One’s 89%-size keyboard takes a little getting used to; expect to generate typos at more than the usual rate during first use. I got the hang of it quickly enough and eventually found typing a remarkably comfortable exercise. The keys are quite responsive, with just the right amount of “give” on every strike.

The awkward placement of the touchpad buttons has been (justifiably) criticised by others, but I didn’t find the system particularly difficult to use especially after re-orienting myself to horizontal tapping and clicking – as opposed to the more usual vertical movements employed when the buttons are located above or below the touchpad – and reconfiguring the buttons for left-handed use. In any case, one can easily bypass the touchpad with a small wireless mouse.

The Aspire One also comes with a small webcam centre-mounted above the screen. Here’s a sample image:

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Three USB ports – one on the left, two on the right – allow users to hook up whatever external devices may be needed.

INTERNET CONNECTIVITY

I’ve had no problems so far using the Aspire One on our home wireless network. The netbook automatically detected the presence of our two routers’ signals, and logging on was a breeze (just enter the network key on one occasion and you’re good to go). I haven’t tested it using a direct LAN cable connection, although I fully intend to given that this will be my official travel PC and the free internet access provided by some hotels requires a physical hook-up.

BATTERY LIFE

As I type this, I am currently in the process of giving my battery a full drain; about two hours in I’ve still got more than half a full charge on hand. I think I should be able to squeeze four to five hours or so out of the Aspire One’s 6-cell power unit (provided I don’t start a quick emptying with video playback or other heavy use).

Incidentally, I ended up doing an unplanned battery test on the first day: I accidentally left the unit on for a couple of hours (with the power settings configured to prevent it from going into hibernation) when I fell asleep as Windows XP was installing some critical updates, and it still had a lot of juice left when I snapped awake.

SOFTWARE AND OPERATING SYSTEM

The Aspire One comes with a large amount of pre-installed software – but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Some of this stuff falls squarely in the bloatware category and must be uninstalled one by one to cut demand on the unit’s processing resources. For my part, I banished the trial version of McAfee Security Center (replacing it with AVG Free), Google Desktop, and a space-hungry Google taskbar add-on for Internet Explorer; I may trim off even more excess branches as I find them. A trial version of Microsoft Office 2007 is included, which I’m keeping for now because I’d like to try out the new ribbon-and-tab interface. Probably the most useful software bundled with the netbook is a full version of Microsoft Works 8.5, a very user-friendly productivity suite that offers word processing, spreadsheet preparation, database and other capabilities – essentially a home version of MS Office.

All this runs on Windows XP Service Pack 3, which will need to be updated immediately in order to close up any vulnerabilities. Updating could be something of an inconvenience – I had to download and install 41 individual security/other updates to Windows, the trial version of MS Office, MS Works, and IE – but it’s absolutely necessary (especially where critical security patches are involved), and should be among the very first tasks on any start-up list.

OVERALL IMPRESSION

It’s a little early to say whether I managed to hook a winner, but up to this point I’m very pleased with the Acer Aspire One’s performance. Barring any major defects that may come to light as I subject it to further use, I believe this handy little netbook offers excellent value for money and should prove a reliable companion for computer users on the go.

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20 Responses

  1. lol a brag post. 😄 Oh wow I just envy you.

  2. Ah, that is a very nice present 🙂

    Indeed, having such a portable computer can be very handy 🙂

    Have fun 🙂

    Oh, is that girl figure a USB device? O_o

  3. Looks like a nice little present to treat yourself to. I don’t like being confined to small screens and need more freedom in the 15 inch neighborhood. Course it can be a pain to lug around, hence why you got a netbook in the first place…

  4. @Kairu Ishimaru: Well, it’s been a while since I bought myself a shiny new gadget – figured there was no harm in trumpeting it a little. 😉

    @Kitsune: Nope, that’s just a Nagato-in-pyjamas gashapon figure. Though if they did start selling anime-themed USB drives in my corner of the world I’d buy them in a heartbeat.

    @Yamcha: Yeah, these tiny screens do tend to put more than the usual amount of strain on one’s eyes. That’s why I still use my clunky old desktop a lot of the time; the netbook’s just for when I’m travelling or when I feel like surfing in front of the telly.

  5. I dunno man. We have tons of these things laying around in stores, but my PC-oriented friends uniformly say that Acer makes poor quality systems, that ther SSD in that thing is unreliable (moreso than other SSDs), etc. etc. People are more happy with Asus EEEs, which are of course ugly as sin, but they work. I sure hope everything will be all right with your unit. I was thinking about Dell Mini 12 myself (I need a 100% keyboard, so I cannot go down to Mini 9 format).

  6. @Author: On my end, I also canvassed opinions from people in the know and they seemed to favour Acer or, to a lesser degree, MSI. In fact one of them was quite critical of Asus’s EEE (though he was even more critical of Dell, so I avoided that manufacturer like the plague). In any case, mine has a standard HDD – the lower-capacity SSD models are being phased out, probably because of the problems you mentioned – so that could be one less thing to worry about.

    My very best wishes on your quest for the right PC. I know how hard the process can be – researching specs and stuff is one thing, but deciding to fork over cold, hard cash for an unknown quantity when the time comes is another.

  7. I may want to get myself one of those, as well as a workstation-grade laptop for college work, actually. Of course, libre namang mangarap right? 😛

  8. @Zeroblade: Or as someone told my brother when he couldn’t make up his mind about whether or not to buy an iPod, “hanggang pagnanais ka na lang”. 😉

    I think it’s worth trying to convince your parents to buy you an inexpensive netbook for college schoolwork. I certainly wish I had one of these when I was in uni (instead of the high-end but ridiculously bulky unit I lugged to class). Its portability makes it a great tool for project presentations, note-taking (if it’s not against the rules, that is), library research and other tasks. On top of that, its relatively low cost (in the region of P23-30K and possibly much less, depending on the model and manufacturer) means that if – heaven forbid – something should happen to it, it’s no great loss to you.

  9. Ah, went for an Acer Aspire I see! Had my eye on it too but didn’t want to wait for the 6 cell battery version to come out here so, I went for the Samsung NC10 instead as you’ll know.

    Does the Acer have the touchpad gestures too? Just wondering if all laptops with Synaptic touchpads have the feature.

    I think netbooks are great because they’re light, small enough to fit into the regular bag and the ones fitted with a 6 cell battery means I hardly have to use the adaptor too.

  10. I’m pretty sure my aunt’ll give me a notebook for college though, so if I do get one, my parents have no reason to give me one >_>

  11. @Xcomp: I remember reading somewhere that someone who was fed up with the odd placement of the buttons configured his to accept left-hand clicks on one of the pad corners. I’m not aware if anyone has attempted to set it up for proper gestures like instant programme launches. In any case, I use a mouse on most days so I completely failed to check whether it can do this. orz

    I’ll get back to you on that one! 😉

    @Zeroblade: Good point. In any case, if you already have a full-size notebook, you might consider talking her into giving you a netbook instead (or the smallest, lightest full-size notebook available). The big one can be used for homework and the little one for mobile computing.

  12. acer aspire one sappire blue
    Best notebook on the market today! I love this product long battery life and easy to use,I highly recommend this item..

  13. Great content. Hey, I have found a free tool on the internet. This tool helps people to find the best price on what they are looking for. Check it out at http://www.myshoppinggenie2.com

  14. acer aspire one pink
    I love this little thing!! Small,lightweight but powerful enough to do what I need it to do for work and for personal. In addition to general word processing, I will use it to do Power point presentations for work. And I’m actually looking forward to working on it sitting on an airplane, even if I’m stuck in the dreaded middle seat! I’m recommending it to everyone I know!

  15. Great little computer. I have a Mac and I didn’t want to carry it around the house and possible damage it. So this little number is great. Small fits in any bag and great for travel. Great buy for the price. And I love the color.

  16. Acer Aspire One Sapphire Blue
    used to hate lugging my old laptop around, it was heavy and the battery never lasted long enough. If you buy this with the larger 6 hour battery option, it’s cheaper then adding it later. This neat little number fits in your purse and has a pretty powerful WiFi receiver, I take it grocery shopping to Safeway to look up recipe ingredients!!
    The only drawback is the small screen. Your eyes get a bit tired with extended viewing. I highly recommend it though for people on the go and it’s great for travel.

  17. acer aspire one copper
    t is a really nice product for the road, specially when you are on vacations and need to check for info on the web, ligthweigh but powerfull enough to do the job.

  18. Acer Aspire One Sapphire Blue
    Spectacular! Super Pleased!
    I was worried about getting one as I have had a 12″ laptop and was not happy with screen size. But this screen is SO bright it does not even become a issue, not to mention the 1064×600 really makes it seem bigger!

    Another bonus, this baby runs 7.5 to 8 hours due to the 5800Amh 6 cell battery! Sweet. Very happy with that. I heard most were shipping with the 4400Amh 6 cell which gives your 5-6 hours. I can run this all day or two before recharge, very nice! I have to keep looking at battery indicator in dis-belief that the battery is still 75% or 50%, it just lasts forever!

    This is super portable obviously, and really how laptops SHOULD be. You can put on one leg, it doesn’t weigh you down when actually sitting in your lap which is nice. I have had many laptops over the years, screen sizes and this one wins hands down for price, and performance. The unit is strong heavy duty case, compared to some newer thin plastic laptops.

  19. Acer Aspire One AOD250-1962
    I love this netbook. Its small enough that i can take it anywhere but not so

    small that i cant see the screen. I adapted very well to the keys that are

    smaller and closer together.. and dont have any problems with it. Everything

    loads up quickly and the colors are great. The battery does die out rather

    quickly but that is why it is good to bring the charger with you when you go

    places.. the webcam works nicely too. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is

    under a budget and needs a laptop.

  20. Acer Aspire One AOD250-1165
    This model is fairly new. So it has the usual features, i.e. built in wi-fi, camera, 160 GB drive, etc, etc. This is the 3 hr battery model. I have no idea where Amazon gets their tech specs. We just bought this and the manual states that it comes with 1 GB of RAM, and is upgradeable to 2 GB. It recognized 4 wireless connections in my area the instant it was powered on. So far it’s great for what it was bought for, the internet, small low demand games, music, simple word processing…

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