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Acer Aspire One Netbook
It should come as no surprise to anyone that netbooks have suddenly become the most active segment in mobile computing over the past few months. These diminutive laptops offer excellent VFM, with their small size and excellent battery life. This has led to practically every manufacturer introducing some netbook variant or the other. It's Acer's turn now, with a launch under the 'Aspire One' brand. Let's find out how it fares.
However, Acer seems to have kept this factor in mind, and in a styling reminiscent of its Gemstone Blue range, designed the Aspire One to look more like a stylish high-end ultraportable than the budget laptop it actually is. This is a welcome move, and the Aspire One looks sleek and slim. Its lid has a mirrored finish, with a range of available colors: dark blue, green, red, black, and white. The same mirrored finish extends to the bezel of the LCD panel, but the keyboard area gets a flat matte finish in a color similar to that of the lid.
The hinges are fairly thick and though they are colored oddly, are pretty solidly made. The body of the Aspire One is quite sturdy, with no audible squeaks anywhere. The material used in its construction is pretty lightweight and this shows in the overall weight, which is just 1.26 kg for the 120GB HDD model. If you choose to opt for the SSD model, the weight drops to a mere 0.98 kg. Its overall size of 245 x 165 x 25 mm makes it among the smallest in the netbook segment.
The keyboard is very functional. Not only is it decently sized, it offers good spacing between keys, and adequate tactile feedback. This is a welcome move, as in laptops this small, keyboards tend to get too cramped and make typing a miserable experience. But on the Aspire one, I was able to comfortably type for a few hours without suffering from keyboard fatigue.
In comparison, however, the touchpad of the Aspire one suffers quite badly. Not only is it really tiny, it's mouse buttons are not very responsive. While it’s certainly not unusable, it's troublesome enough to get a negative mark against the Aspire One.
The LCD panel is easily the best I have seen in any netbook till now. It’s an 8.9 inch backlit LED panel with a native resolution of 1024 x 600 and offers a very good experience. Its color, contrast and blackness levels are top-notch and give a vivid viewing experience usually found in much more expensive laptops. Surprisingly, it even had decent side viewing angles.
Connectivity-wise, the Aspire One is similar to other netbooks. It has three USB ports, a 0.3 MP camera, a multi-format card reader, VGA out and the standard audio plugs for speakers/headphones.
The performance evaluation of netbooks is a bit different from the usual battery of tests we normally deploy. Netbooks have been designed strictly for everyday work, internet usage and other mundane activities. They fall more in the 'content consumption' than 'content creation' category. So we have stayed away from normal synthetic benchmarks, choosing to focus on ease of use, battery life, software support, and multitasking capability.
The Aspire One, like all other netbooks currently available, is available in two formats. One is a fully loaded affair with Windows XP, and the other comes with slightly reduced stats and sports Linux. Our test piece was the Windows XP model, offering 1GB of RAM, an N270 processor clocked at 1.6 GHz, 120GB of HDD storage, and an 8.9 inch LED backlit panel.
In the usage test, the Acer passed with just a bit of a struggle. Though its touchpad was annoying at times, its excellent keyboard and well-made screen made working on it while travelling a pleasant experience: at no time was I tempted to stop my internet surfing or writing this article.
The battery life was pretty okay. It lasts around 1½ hours on a 3-cell battery, and roughly 4½ hours on a 6-cell battery. These are decent figures, and can be easily extended with judicious use. These figures were arrived after checking out two different settings. In the first I simply turned the brightness up full, ran music/video tests, used Wi-Fi intensively, and generally putting it under full load. The second test was a bit more sedate; I simply stuck to internet surfing over Wi-Fi and typing this article.
When it came to software, the Aspire One had no issues. Since it was loaded with Windows XP, it had access to every possible application under the sun! And I was not surprised to find that it excelled in the multitasking department. The Atom processor may not be designed for HD decoding, but it's fast enough to multitask smoothly without any kind of slowdown. I was able to simultaneously listen to music, surf with multiple Firefox windows, type this article, and do other activities without issues.
The only thing that greatly annoyed me was the lack of integrated Bluetooth. This is a technology that we have come to take for granted, and there was no reason for Acer not to include it. Considering how good this netbook is overall, it may have been prudent for them to put it in. In fact, modders have already figured out a way to introduce BT into the netbook, as can be seen here.
The Aspire One is a well-made machine. It retails for Rs 19,999 (Linux) and Rs 21,999 (Window XP). At its price point it’s easily one of the best choices available right now in the sub-10 inch netbook space. I can recommend it without any reservations.