Acer became a member of the ever-expanding mini-notebook club with the Linpus Linux Lite version of the Aspire One, which we praised for its intuitive interface, fast boot time, and comfortable keyboard. The company follows up that Linux-based machine with the Windows XP–powered Acer Aspire One, a netbook with a nearly identical design that runs Microsoft’s most popular operating system. This model sees a bump in RAM from 512MB to 1GB and swaps a small 8GB solid-state drive for a traditional 120GB hard drive and costs only $20 more than the Linux model at a very affordable $349. We wish it lasted longer on a charge, but you can always pick up the Aspire One with a higher-capacity six-cell battery (AOA150-1447) for $50 more.
Sleek, Small Design
The Sapphire Blue Aspire One (also available in Coral Pink, Golden Brown, and Seashell White) looks far from cheap, despite its $349 price tag. Similar to the ASUS Eee PC 901, the Aspire One’s lid sports a glossy finish that attracts light fingerprints and smudges. Though it’s a small design addition, the neon orange–plated hinge adds a little pizzazz to the overall look.
Compared with other 8.9-inch mini-notebooks, such as the Eee PC 901 ($599) and the HP 2133 Mini-Note ($729), the Aspire One is both slimmer and lighter. Measuring 9.8 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches and weighing just 2.4 pounds—2 ounces lighter than the Eee PC 901—the Aspire One’s portability alone makes it compelling. With a total weight of only 3 pounds with the AC adapter, it’s a system that you can just toss into a bag and take with you.
Decent Typing Experience, Cramped Touchpad
The keyboard, 89 percent of full size, is a hair smaller than those on the HP 2133 Mini-Note and the MSI Wind, but it’s big enough for comfortable touch typing. We had no problems quickly entering URLs into Internet Explorer or replying to e-mail. The keys are certainly bigger and more firm than those on the ASUS Eee PC 900/901; the layout had very little flex to it. The keys were quite responsive and offered nice tactile feedback.
Measuring 2.5 x 1.2 inches, the trackpad on the Acer Aspire One is disappointingly small and very narrow vertically: At times our fingers would slip off the touchpad and hit the space bar. Twin vertical mouse buttons flank the touchpad, and they’re far too narrow. We frequently had to press a button twice because our fingers were half on and half off.
Ports and Storage
The Acer Aspire One is well equipped with ports; three USB, plus VGA, Ethernet, headphone, and microphone jacks surround the system. Acer includes a 5-in-1 card reader (for transferring photos, music, and other files) on the right side of the unit, and an additional SD Card slot on the left. The latter was a vital port in the Linpus Linux Lite version of the Acer Aspire One, as any card inserted into it added to the capacity of the skimpy 8GB SSD, and was recognized as one disk. This model’s 120GB HDD effectively eliminates the need for additional storage, but the slot acts as a traditional secondary card slot for loading content. On our LAPTOP File Transfer test, we were able to copy a 5GB folder of mixed media (photos, video, music, and documents) in 5 minutes and 23 seconds-a rate of 15.8 MBps, which is just a tad slower than the Gigabyte M912V’s speed of 21 MBps.
Familiar, Comfortable Interface
Equipped with Windows XP Home (with Service Pack 3), the Aspire One packs on the software, including several Windows staples such as McAfee Internet Security Suite, Microsoft Office 2007 (60-day trial), Windows Media Player, and Outlook Express 6. Best of all, it’s infinitely simple to install additional programs, unlike with the Linpus Linux Lite OS, which required us to tinker with the command line.
Display, Webcam, and Speakers
The 8.9-inch glossy, backlit LED display has a native resolution of 1024 x 600. The colorful desktop looked bright, and Web pages fit to size on the screen (so you don’t have to scroll horizontally). We were even able to keep a Web page and a document in OpenOffice open side by side. A video clip streamed from YouTube looked extremely clear and detailed, but tilting the screen back 45 degrees kicked up a distracting glare. The horizontal angles were better, but sharing the screen with another person can prove a struggle as there isn’t much viewing room.
The integrated 0.3-megapixel webcam worked when we initiated a video chat over Meebo, but visuals were a bit washed out. The microphone, located to the left of the webcam, picked up some background noise, but our caller could hear us just fine without us having to speak up. The speakers, located on the bottom of the system, produced loud but tinny sound when we cranked Little Jackie’s “Cryin’ For the Queen.” Although adequate, we still prefer the ASUS Eee PC 901’s fuller, Dolby-powered speakers.
Acer Aspire One Performance
The Aspire One is powered by the 1.6-GHz Intel Atom processor that’s become the engine of choice for mini-notebook manufacturers. Although we couldn’t run our PCMark05 test because it doesn’t meet the minimum screen resolution, the processor, paired with 1GB of on-board memory, let us stream music from Slacker, work in documents, and check e-mail without a hint of slowdown.
The Intel GMA 950 integrated chipset notched a 691 3DMark03 score, which was second only to the ASUS Eee PC 1000H’s 739 mark in terms of graphics muscle. On our 3DMark06 test, the Aspire One posted a score of 122, which is on a par with the Gigabyte M912V’s score of 126. These numbers don’t sound too impressive, but we were able to run World of Warcraft at a relatively smooth 23.9 frames per second (albeit at a low 800 x 600-pixel resolution).
Short Endurance, Good Wi-Fi
On our LAPTOP Battery Test, which puts the PC on auto-pilot as it surfs it surfs the Web, the machine’s three-cell battery lasted 2 hours and 22 minutes before needing a charge. That was even shorter than the 2 hours and 31 minutes of endurance found in the Gigabyte M912V. You can buy a separate six-cell battery for $129, which should offer up to 7 hours of life, but it would make much more sense to opt for an Aspire One with a six-cell battery preinstalled, which is only a $50 premium.
The Acer Aspire One’s 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi radio demonstrated some impressive power. On our Wi-Fi tests, it pushed data along at a rate of 20.5 Mbps at 15 feet away from our access point, and 17.0 Mbps at 50 feet. This translated into a snappy Web-surfing experience: The photo-heavy Cracked.com loaded in 9 seconds, as did NYTimes.com. We also had no problem streaming video from Hulu.com; an episode of The Outer Limits played smoothly, with only the occasional stutter.
Since the prices of mini-notebooks have seemingly been escalating with each new model, we’re pleased to see one for just $349, adhering to the idea of the “low-cost PC.” The 9-inch Asus Eee PC 901 XP ($520 with rebate at Newegg.com, as of this writing) has a faster solid state drive, but the Aspire One offers much more capacity (120GB vs. 12GB) and costs $171 less. And even if you opt for the Aspire One with the 6-cell battery, you’ll still be paying $121 less. The touchpad is small and the vertical buttons are awkward, but we prefer the Aspire One overall because it offers a superior keyboard and much better bang for your buck. In the suddenly crowded field of mini-notebooks, the XP version of the Aspire One offers the best value.