by Jerry Jackson
Acer managed to strike gold in the middle of a global economic crisis thanks to their affordable Acer Aspire One netbooks. These low-cost, ultraportable laptops have quickly become popular travel companions for people who don't want to haul a heavy notebook to Starbucks. The latest 10-inch Acer Aspire One, the D250 series, offers a great balance of features at a starting price of less than $300. Read on to find out more about the Acer Aspire One D250-1165.
Our Acer Aspire One D250-1165 features the following specifications:
Build and Design
The Acer Aspire One D250-1165 is a low-cost version of the new D250 series netbooks and features a smaller battery and no Bluetooth in order to drop the retail price below $300. One very interesting item of note is that the D250 is actually slightly thinner than the original Acer Aspire One 150 series which used a smaller 8.9-inch screen. Like the original Aspire One, the D250 uses glossy plastics on the top of the screen cover as well as around the entire LCD. At times the reflective boarder does get on your nerves if you are in a brightly lit room with many sources of glare.
Build quality looks quite good and the construction feels strong enough to handle being tossed around inside a book bag without much concern for its safety (well apart from possible scratches to the glossy surfaces). We detected some flexing in the LCD lid plastics and bottom of the chassis when we squeezed the D250 while holding it folded in half, but overall this is a solid little netbook.
One nice design feature in the D250 is easy access for upgrades. Compared to the original Acer Aspire One, the D250 is extremely easy to upgrade. Flip the netbook over and you'll find three access panels for the hard drive, RAM, and the mini-PCIe card slot. The mini-PCIe card slot is obviously open for built-in broadband wireless access, so you should be able to buy this netbook directly from wireless carriers depending on the carriers and data plans in your area.
Screen and Speakers
The new Aspire One uses a fairly standard LED-backlit display panel with a 1024x600 native resolution. The glossy screen looks identical to what we're seeing in most netbooks: the glossy screen offers good color and contrast, but glare and reflections indoors under strong lights or outdoors under direct sunlight can be a problem. Again, although the 1024x600 resolution is pretty standard for a netbook these days, I'd much rather see a 1366x768 screen in the next Aspire One. Vertical viewing angles are average, with some strong color inversion when viewing from below and some over-exposed colors when viewed from above. Horizontal viewing angles are better with colors staying accurate at extremely wide viewing angles.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The Aspire One D250 uses a surprisingly cramped keyboard that is virtually identical to the keyboard used on the original Aspire One 150 series. Considering that the original Aspire One was a smaller netbook with a 8.9-inch screen it's rather disappointing that Acer didn't use a larger keyboard. Despite the small key size, the typing surface feels strong with no keyboard flex and individual keys feel strong with no wobble. One aspect that I really enjoy about the keyboard layout is the dedicated page up and page down buttons.
Still, the cramped keyboard will cause problems for more than a few owners. Since the keys are small and unusually close together you have to look at the keys when typing rather than using touch typing methods. Here's a quick example of what I can type when looking at the keys:
"This is what it's like to type a document on the Acer Aspire One keyboard if you are looking at the keys."
Here's a quick example of what I can type using the traditional touch typing method:
"This is ehat it's like to type a document on the Acer Aspore One keyboard ig you are looking st the screen."
The Synaptics touchpad used on the D250 is a little small considering that most 10-inch netbooks are getting larger touchpads these days. The touchpad is gesture-enabled and this allows you to use multi-finger gestures such as "pinching" your fingers together or "pulling" your fingers apart to zoom in or out. You can also use a spiral motion to activate the "chiral scroll" feature. The Synaptics control panel in Windows also allows you to customize these gestures as well. The touchpad surface provides smooth, fluid movement but the small size takes some getting used to. The left and right touchpad buttons are located beneath a single rocker-style button, but with no separation between the left and right side it's easy to accidentally press the middle of the touchpad button when you're trying to press the left or right side. The touchpad buttons have extremely shallow feedback, so it isn't always easy to feel when you have or have not pressed a button.
The D250 also includes a dedicated wireless on/off switch on the front of the notebook--something that's nice to have when traveling and isn't available on many netbooks from other manufacturers.
Input and Output Ports
The Aspire One D250 provides a good selection of ports despite the thin profile of the chassis. You get three USB 2.0 ports, a 5-in-1 media card reader, headphone and microphone jacks, Ethernet port, and a standard VGA out port. It's nice to see a standard set of ports considering that several other netbooks sacrifice ports in order to achieve a thin profile.
Here is a quick tour around the Acer Aspire One D250-1165:
Performance and Benchmarks
There isn't much to be said in the performance section of a netbook review. If you've read our reviews of other netbooks that use the Intel Atom processors then you know that all Atom-based netbooks have nearly identical performance in terms of actual real-world use. Overall performance with the Intel Atom platform is very reasonable for daily activities like Web browsing, email, using Microsoft Office, listening to music, and watching standard definition (480p) movies. If you're in a bind you can even use photo editing software like Photoshop or GIMP for basic image editing.
The weak performance of the Intel GMA 950 integrated graphics combined with the Intel Atom means this isn't going to be your next multimedia laptop. The integrated graphics processor (IGP) is powerful enough to handle displaying a PowerPoint presentation on a projector or watching DVD quality video, but a netbook with this hardware is really only intended to provide "good enough" performance for quick Web access while you're away from your primary PC.
wPrime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
|Notebook / CPU||wPrime 32M time|
|Sony VAIO TZ (Core 2 Duo U7600 @ 1.20GHz)||76.240 seconds|
|HP Pavilion dv2 (AMD Athlon Neo MV-40 @ 1.60GHz)
|ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz)||114.749 seconds|
|ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz)||116.030 seconds|
|ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (Intel Atom N280 @ 1.66GHz)||116.421 seconds|
|HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz)||123.281 seconds|
|Acer Aspire One D250-1165 (Intel Atom N270 @ 1.60GHz)||124.829 seconds|
|Acer Aspire One 150-1635 (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)||125.812 seconds
|Lenovo IdeaPad S10 (2009) (Intel Atom @ 1.60GHz)||126.406 seconds|
|Samsung NC20 (VIA Nano ULV U2250 @ 1.30GHz)||173.968 seconds|
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
|Sony VAIO TZ (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950)||2,446 PCMarks|
|HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB)||2,191 PCMarks|
|ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB)||1,851 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Portege R500 (1.20GHz Intel Core 2 Duo U7600, Intel GMA 950)||1,839 PCMarks|
|ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||1,637 PCMarks|
|ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||1,564 PCMarks|
|Acer Aspire One 150-1635 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950)||1,555 PCMarks|
|ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||1,535 PCMarks|
|Acer Aspire One D250-1165 (1.60GHz Intel Atom N270, Intel GMA 950)||1,456 PCMarks|
|Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3)||1,441 PCMarks|
|HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950)||1,437 PCMarks|
3DMark06 comparison results against netbooks @ 1024 x 768 resolution:
|HP Pavilion dv2 (1.60GHz AMD Athlon Neo, ATI Radeon HD 3410 512MB)
|ASUS N10 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, NVIDIA 9300M 256MB)||1,417 3DMarks|
|Samsung NC20 (1.30GHz VIA Nano ULV U2250, VIA Chrome9 HC3)||151 3DMarks|
|ASUS Eee PC 1005HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||127 3DMarks|
|Acer Aspire One 150-1635 (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 950)
|Acer Aspire One D250-1165 (1.60GHz Intel Atom N270, Intel GMA 950)
|ASUS Eee PC 1008HA (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||116 3DMarks|
|HP Mini 2140 with HD screen (1.60GHz Intel Atom, Intel GM1 950)||112 3DMarks|
|ASUS Eee PC 1000HE (1.66GHz Intel Atom N280, Intel GMA 950)||92 3DMarks|
|Sony VAIO P (1.33GHz Intel Atom, Intel GMA 500, Windows Vista)||88 3DMarks|
In our ongoing quest to provide helpful information to our readers we are adding the following video playback table to our reviews of netbooks. Since netbooks are starting to be used for mobile entertainment (watching movie trailers or streaming video) it's important to know how a netbook performs when trying to play a simple video file. We selected a family-friendly movie trailer and downloaded three different versions in 480p, 720p, and 1080p resolutions. We used the CCCP Codec Pack for decoding and Media Player Classic Homecinema (version 1.1.796.0) for playing all of the video files.
Video Playback Performance:
|Video Resolution||CPU Usage||Playback Comments|
||Plays with a few dropped frames|
||Plays with severe stutter, dropped frames and broken audio|
Heat and Noise
Temperatures on the new Aspire One are in line with what we've come to expect from netbooks with Intel Atom processors. Temperature readings taken from the outside of the plastic chassis remained "lap friendly" during normal use. The only time that temperature readings spiked was when the CPU was being stressed with video playback.
Below are images indicating the temperature readings (listed in degrees Fahrenheit) taken inside our office where the ambient temperature was 74 degrees Fahrenheit.
Acer claims that the Acer Aspire One D250-1165 provides "up to 3 hours of battery life" from the 3-cell battery. Even if the D250 indeed lasted that long it would be relatively pathetic compared to the ASUS Eee PC 1005HA with a 6-cell battery that lasts more than 9 hours.
In our test with the screen brightness set to 70%, wireless active, and XP set to the laptop/portable power profile the system stayed on for 2 hours and 32 minutes of constant use. If we turned down the screen brightness to the lowest setting and disabled Wi-Fi then I'm reasonably sure the D250 could have lasted more than 3 hours. It's worth mentioning that the Aspire One D250 series is also available with a 6-cell battery, and that the 6-cell battery version should provide better battery life.
Although the Acer Aspire One D250-1165 offers a great value for less than $300, I can't help but feel a little less than impressed. Acer used a small keyboard, small touchpad, and worst of all a small battery on what is otherwise a fantastic netbook.
Considering how crowded the netbook market has become over the last year I really expected Acer to deliver more with their 10-inch netbook. Yes, it costs less than $300, but that price looks less impressive when other netbooks have better keyboards, better touchpads, and MUCH better battery life for less than $400.
As I've said before with netbooks, I'd like to see a higher resolution screen and better graphics solution, but when it comes to the Aspire One D250 I'd settle for a better keyboard, touchpad, and battery. Still, if you're looking for a low-cost laptop to take with you to the coffee shop then the Acer Aspire One D250-1165 might prove to be a very good choice.
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