Acer Aspire One First Look

by Reads (15,829)

by Kevin O’Brien

The Acer Aspire One is yet another netbook that attempts to fill the niche between handheld devices and full-sized notebook computers. Acer has the Aspire One priced to blow current models out of the water, with a $349 starting point for the Intel Atom-based Windows XP version. With other competing models priced closer to $500, is the Aspire One worth considering, or should one steer clear of this low-cost alternative? In this first look we cover all the basics, as well as give you a video tour.

 

Our Acer Aspire One specifications:

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor
  • 8.9" WSVGA glossy LED backlit display
  • 802.11b/g Wireless
  • 120GB 2.5" 5400RPM Hitachi Hard Drive (with SDHC storage expansion slot)
  • 3-Cell 23Wh battery
  • Size: 9.75" x 6.625" x 1.28"
  • Weight: 2lb 5.0oz


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Build and Design

The design of the Acer Aspire One is very sleek with softly rounded edges and a smooth glossy surface that is comfortable to hold when closed. The look is fairly basic, but it does have a few chrome accents here and there which add a bit of spice into the look of the netbook. Glossy plastic is found 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.


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Build quality looks solid for a subnotebook and the construction feels strong enough to handle being tossed around inside a bookbag without much concern for its safety (well apart from the glossy surfaces). Holding it while it is folded in half is similar to holding a hard cover book, having a good amount of rigidity to resist flex and compression. The screen cover feels especially strong, which is important for protecting the relatively fragile LCD panel.


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Keyboard and Touchpad

The keyboard is spacious as far as netbooks go, since the Aspire One is a 9" netbook inside the body of a 10" model. You have the slight disadvantage of having huge screen borders, but you get some much needed keyboard real estate. The keyboard is cramped compared to a fullsize notebook, but is easy to get the hang of with enough practice. The typing surface feels strong with no keyboard flex and individual keys feel strong with no wobble.


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The touchpad design is slightly unique compared to other netbooks and notebooks in general, with the buttons on each side of the touch surface. The only other notebook we have seen with this layout is the HP Mini-Note 2133. The layout is a bit tricky to get used to, as you click on the hard palmrest surface, and try to scroll on the touchpad button. I found it easy to slide my finger across the surface and the sensitivity easily tracks my finger with light pressure. If you are able to get used to the touchpad button layout it ends up not being that bad at all.


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Display

The LED backlit display on the Acer Aspire One is very bright and vibrant. The white levels are very clear, leaning towards the cooler or bluer side. Colors look excellent with the glossy screen, but at the cost of increasing screen reflections and glare. The screen might be bright enough to view outside, but with all the bright reflective surfaces outside, the screen is nearly impossible to view comfortably. Viewing angles are better than average, with a broad sweet spot. Horizontal viewing angles are excellent, to the point where you could be looking almost perpendicular to the screen and still see accurate color. Vertical viewing angles are good, but they do find their limit at +/- 15 degrees forward or back.

 

 

Performance

This Intel Atom based netbook won’t be breaking any speed records, but it performed adequately for normal activities. Internet browsing, word processing, and even photo editing tasks were handed in a very snappy environment. The most surprising thing from a reviewing standpoint was this subnotebook giving benchmark results in every program we could throw at it. This is not par for the course though, as many other netbooks have limited resolutions or other odd quirks that prevent most of the standard benchmarking programs to give valid results. PCMark05 gave a score of 1,555 which while low compared to full-size notebooks, shows that the Acer Aspire has plenty of power to handle most applications.


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Heat and Noise

Nearly all of the Intel Atom-based netbooks fall into the reasonably warm while running category, and the Acer Aspire One is no different. Under normal conditions such as surfing the web, typing a document, or chatting on an instant messaging client, surface temperatures stay within reasonable levels. The keyboard maintains a temperature a bit above room temperature and the bottom is slightly warmer.

Noise is the one category where the Aspire One stands out, and not in a good way. Almost as soon as the netbook is turned on the cooling fans starts at a low droning speed. It barely moves any air out of the device, but it is louder than fans found in full-size notebooks. As the Aspire One warms up and needs more cooling the fan speed increases to a very annoying level. It stands out in a busy office setting and in a quiet classroom would get even the teacher’s attention.

Battery

In our initial testing the Acer Aspire One lasts for roughly 3 hours with backlight at 60% brightness and wireless enabled. This is with the 3-cell battery which consumers will find available in most Intel Atom devices right now. Hopefully manufacturers start to offer 6-cell battery alternatives soon, as the additional parts cost is minimal, and it doubles the battery life into the 6 hours range.

 

More Coming Soon

This is just our first look at the Acer Aspire One. Stay tuned for our full, in-depth review coming soon.

 

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