The affordable, stylish, and compact Aspire One catapulted Acer to the top of the heap in terms of market share for the red-hot netbook category. The latest version, the 10.1-inch Aspire One AOD150, is likely to keep the company in the lead. Expanding the original Aspire One’s screen from 8.9 to 10.1 inches, the new Aspire One is nearly as svelte as its predecessor and, even though the keyboard is the same size, its revamped touchpad is a marked improvement over the original. Add in a six-cell battery, which offers 6 hours of battery life, and you have a killer deal for $349.
Slightly Updated Design of the 10-inch Aspire One
Aesthetically, the 10.1-inch Aspire One looks a lot like its older brother, but with a few noticeable differences. While it has similar rounded edges, the glossy navy blue lid (also available in white, black, and red) has more of a sparkle to it than the original’s solid hue, and the glossy palm rest has been replaced with a brushed metal coating that won’t attract fingerprints. Instead of the circular orange colored hinge of its predecessor, the new 10-inch version sports a teardrop-shape metallic hinge whose colored accent matches the lid.
At 10.2 x 8.0 x 1.3 inches, the 10.1-inch Aspire One is longer and wider than the original but falls in the same size range as the other 10-inch netbooks on the market. When stacked up with the 10-inch Eee PC 1000HE, a slightly chunkier mini-notebook, the Aspire One was thinner and noticeably more compact.
Tipping the scales at 2.8 pounds, the Aspire One weighs 3.2 ounces more than the HP Mini 2140, mainly due to its larger six-cell battery, which extends out the back of the system.
Acer didn’t change the port configuration; surrounding the Aspire One are three USB ports, and VGA, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks. A 4-in-1 card reader is on the right side.
Same Keyboard, Slightly Improved Touchpad
The keyboard, 89 percent of full size, is unchanged from that on the original Aspire One. But while the original layout was spacious for the 8.9-inch netbook class, this one has stiffer competition among 10-inch netbooks, especially from our category favorites: the Samsung NC10 and HP Mini 2140. The keys are decently sized—including the full-size right Shift key—but not as big as those on netbooks from HP and Samsung; we were left wondering why Acer didn’t take advantage of the extra width of the system and extend the keyboard to the edges.
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Nevertheless, the keyboard is comfortable for touch-typing; we had no problems quickly entering Web addresses in Firefox 3 and working in WordPad. The keys were quite responsive and offered nice tactile feedback.
Acer has addressed our complaints about the Aspire One’s disappointingly small touchpad. While the same width as before (2 inches), the touchpad is longer, at 1.6 inches (compared with 1.2 inches on the original Aspire One). The vertical mouse buttons that flanked the touchpad have been eliminated; a single mouse bar is now located below the pad. While we much prefer the placement of the single bar, it is annoyingly narrow and quite stiff. We would have liked to see raised right and left buttons, which you’ll find on the ASUS Eee PC 1000HE.
Display and Audio on the 10-inch Aspire One
The glossy, 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, LED-backlit screen allows Web pages and windows to fit to size on the screen. A streaming episode of Family Guy from Hulu.com looked extremely clear and colors looked bright. Tilting the screen back 45 degrees caused a bit of glare, but it wasn’t too distracting, and horizontal angles were decent.
The 10.1-inch Aspire Ones's dual speakers are located on the bottom front of the system. The speakers were a bit tinny, but a voice call over Skype was clear and pleasant. When playing a Kings of Leon track, the volume was loud enough to fill a quiet room.
Above the display is a 0.3-megapixel webcam that served up decent images when videoconferencing with a friend over Skype, but the image was a bit darker than that provided by the MSI Wind U120’s 1.3-megapixel webcam. The microphone, located to the left of the webcam, allowed our caller to hear us loud and clear without us having to speak up.
The 10.1-inch Aspire One uses the same 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor as its predecessor and closest rivals, and it comes with 1GB of RAM and Windows XP Home. On PCMark05, which measures the total system performance for Windows XP, the system notched a score of 1,505, about 120 points above the netbook average. During our subjective tests, programs loaded relatively quickly even when we had several others running in the background. We were able to write this review in Microsoft Word 2007 while listening to an album in Windows Media Player and surfing the Web in Firefox 3.
The 160GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive booted the system in a solid 50 seconds, about 5 seconds faster than average. The LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media) took 4 minutes and 47 seconds to complete, a rate of 17.7 MBps. That is about 4 MBps faster than the average netbook and edges out the previous top dog, the Samsung NC10, by 0.3 MBps.
The Aspire One’s integrated graphics chip allowed it to score 722 on 3DMark03 (which tests DirectX 9 performance), which is 110 points lower than the category average. Nevertheless, it scored in the same range as similarly equipped netbooks, including the HP Mini 2140. The system handled streaming video without a hiccup.
During testing, the Aspire One mostly kept its cool, and we didn’t feel our lap getting hot during regular usage. When running the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the bottom of the system stayed around 92 degrees Fahrenheit. However, when we ran the PCMark05 benchmark, which taxes the system to a greater degree, the underside of the unit registered a very hot 107 degrees.
Upgrading the 10-inch Aspire One
Though 160GB of onboard storage should be sufficient, those who want to upgrade to a larger or faster capacity will find it easy to remove the back of the system and swap out the 2.5-inch SATA drive with an aftermarket drive or SSD. Similarly, upgrading the RAM to 2GB requires popping out the current stick of 1GB DDR2 memory. Acer has made the RAM, hard drive, and even the Wi-Fi card extremely easy to access by placing them behind upgrade hatches on the bottom of the system.
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The Aspire One's standard 4,400-mAh 6-cell battery delivered 6 hours of battery life on average, which is longer than many older systems such as the Eee PC 1000H and MSI Wind U100. However, the Eee PC 1000HE (7:08), Samsung NC10 (6:34), and HP Mini 2140 (7:19) all outlasted the Aspire One.
Editors' Note (3/23/09): In our first test of the 4,400-mAh Aspire One battery, the system endured only 4:24, far below average for a 6-cell system and over 3 hours less than the 7:57 we got from a special 5800-mAh battery we originally received from Acer. After some queries from readers who wondered how a battery with 24-percent less juice could last 44-percent less time, we decided to retest the system with the 4400-mAh battery.
In three subsequent tests at the same settings (40-percent brightness), the Aspire One lasted 6:12, 5:53,and 5:56, an average of 6 hours, which are now counting as our official score. Even at full brightness, the system lasted 5:23, an hour longer than in its original run at 40-percent. We were surprised because our battery test results have always been extremely consistent from one run to another with variations never exceeding more than a few minutes. The only explanation we have at this time for the extremely poor initial test is that the 4400-mAh battery we received did not come with the system and may not have fully charged the first time we tested it.
The 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card provided a strong connection for working in the cloud. On Wi-Fi tests the Aspire One pushed data along at a rate of 20.1 Mbps at 15 feet and 18.0 Mbps at 50 feet from our access point. It scored much higher than the netbook averages of 18.7 Mbps and 15.1 Mbps from those respective distances. The Aspire One’s scores aren’t quite as high as the HP Mini 2140’s (24.5/20.4 Mbps); however, the Aspire One is not equipped with 802.11n. In our use of the netbook, streaming video clips from Hulu.com played smoothly. Acer plans to offer the Aspire One with mobile broadband and WiMAX connectivity options.
The Aspire One does not include Bluetooth, unfortunately. Many other competing netbooks, including the Eee PC 1000HE, MSI Wind U120, Samsung NC10, and HP Mini 2140 include this feature, which allows users to pair the system with a wireless headset for VoIP calls, use a cell phone as a wireless modem, and exchange files with cell phones and other Bluetooth devices.
Software and Warranty
The 10.1-inch Aspire One came preinstalled with Windows XP Home with Service Pack 3. Acer also bundles the system with Google Desktop, Acer eRecovery Management, Acer Launch Manager, and trial versions of McAfee Internet Security Suite and Microsoft Office 2007. The Aspire One comes with a one-year carry-in warranty, which can be extended to two years with the $99 Acer Advantage.
For $349, the 10.1-inch Aspire One AOD150 is an excellent value. It offers a slim and stylish design, good performance, and 6 hours of endurance on a charge. While the similarly configured ASUS Eee PC 1000HE ($399) and Samsung NC10 ($449) have better keyboards and touchpads and last longer on a charge, the Aspire One beats those machines on price. And in the netbook arena, bang for your buck is the name of the game.