Acer Aspire One 751h Review

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Pros: Slim design; Long battery life; Comfortable keyboard; Bright, high-resolution display; Strong wireless range

Cons: Subpar performance scores; Relatively small touchpad; Stiff single touch button

Verdict: Acer's first 11-inch netbook offers a bigger screen than the competition and long battery life, but its processor is somewhat slow.

In many ways, the Acer Aspire One 751h, the company's first 11.6-inch netbook, is an improvement over its recently refreshed 10-inch cousin: users get an extra inch of screen real estate, a roomier keyboard, and more than 7 hours of battery life (its smaller kin, the D150, lasts an hour less). But although it's larger, the 751h has a weaker processor. The result is a netbook that looks and feels great but offers slower performance than other machines in its class.

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Design

If you've seen the 10-inchAspire One D250, the 11.6-inch version will look familiar. It, too, has a glossy black lid with Acer's metal logo impressed in the lower corner; the lid picks up fingerprints fairly easily. Like the slightly more upscale Timeline series, it has a gray palm rest and keyboard deck with a black keyboard and thin bezel to match.

As with the Timeline series, the overall effect is conservative, but not cheap-looking. The real cornerstone of the Aspire One's design is not the color scheme anyway, but its thinness. Whereas its competitors, such as theASUS Eee PC 1005HA, can be as thick as 1.4 inches and weigh close to 3 pounds (the 1005HA weighs 2.8), the Aspire One has a minimal footprint of 11.2 x 7.8 x 1.0 inches, although it weighs 3 pounds (and 3.6 with its adapter). In the hand, it feels just slightly heavier than the Toshiba mini NB205, but that's offset somewhat by the thinner build.

The only catch: its six-cell battery juts out the back, whereas some netbooks, such as the Eee PC 1005HA, have comparably sized batteries that are more flush with the system (and manage to deliver longer battery life, to boot. More on that later).

Keyboard

Like theAspire Timeline 3810T, the Aspire One 751h has raised keys, whose plastic has a slightly textured feel. The layout is close to full size, and we appreciate that the right Shift key is full size and in the proper place. Touch typists will have no problem with this netbook, but we noticed that the keyboard flexed as we pounded out responses to IMs.

On our firstTen Thumbs Typing Test, we scored 71 words per minute; our highest score on our desktop computer is 88 words per minute. Then, we immediately took the test again and scored 86 words per minute, which suggests you'll likely acclimate quickly.

Touchpad and Touch Button

When we reviewed the latest 10-inch Aspire One, we complained about the tiny touchpad. With the 751h's slightly wider footprint, however, comes a wider touchpad (2.5 x 1.6 inches), which was a pleasant improvement over the D250's 2.0 x 1.5-inch pad. It's still fairly short, though, especially compared to the NB205's (3.1 x 1.6 inches) enormous touchpad.

We have a bigger concern the single touch button, which we found too stiff and narrow. Aside from the stiffness, we would have preferred two buttons, as there are on the NB205 and other netbooks.

Display and Sound

One thing the 751h offers that most of its 10-inch competitors don't is a high-res screen. Whereas the 1005HA, NB205, and 10-inch Apsire One all have displays with 1024 x 600-pixel resolution, the AO751h's 11.6-inch display has a resolution of 1366 x 768. Those extra vertical pixels, in particular, mean you won't have to scroll down as often when you're viewing pages, a common inconvenience with netbooks.

We were immediately impressed by the screen's brightness. When we watched a Saturday Night Live sketch on Hulu.com we enjoyed pleasant colors and, moreover, good viewing angles even from oblique side angles. The glossy finish limited our viewing angles from the front, however, when we dipped the lid forward slightly we were still able to make out the clip. By the time we got to a 45-degree angle, however, the screen appeared washed out.

The volume, as you would expect with a netbook, is weak. Watching a clip in a quiet room with the netbook right in front of us, the sound was never too loud. Music, too, sounded predictably tinny, but no worse than it does on other netbooks: the bass in "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes, for instance, was distant.

Ports and Webcam

The 751h has a standard selection of ports: three USB ports, VGA output, an Ethernet jack, headphone and mic ports, and a 4-in-1 memory card reader. The memory card reader, VGA, and one USB port on the right side, and the rest on the left.

The netbook comes with an embedded 1.3-MP webcam. In a Skype chat, our friend reported minimal latency with better colors and brightness than on his Apple iSight camera.

Performance

Normally, when we list a netbook's specs we sound like a broken record: almost all have 1GB of RAM, Windows XP Home, a 160GB hard drive, and either a 1.6-GHZ or 1.66-GHz Intel Atom processor. The AO751h has most of these same components, except for the processor. Instead, this netbook has a 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z520 CPU.

Although clock speed isn't always the be-all and end-all of computing power, in this case the performance delta was obvious. The 751h's PCMark05 score of 1,080 trails the scores of its competitors, including the NB205 (1,496) and the 10-inch Acer Aspire One (1,492), which has a 1.6-GHz Intel Atom N270 CPU. Its boot time of 46 seconds, however, was right in line with both the 1005HA (47 seconds) and the 10-inch Aspire One (49 seconds).

While all netbooks perform abysmally on our multitasking test, in which we transcode a 5-minute-and-5-second MP4 file to the AVI format, the AO751h fared particularly poorly: It completed the test in 35 minutes and 11 seconds; the 1005HA took 27:25, and the NB205 took 27:23. Even the 10-inch Aspire One managed 28:51. Even though we wouldn't recommend transcoding HD video on any netbook, we think the gap in these scores reflects the 751h's lack of power.

Anecdotal Performance

Even in our everyday usage, the 751h felt slow. When we dug into the Control Panel to find out what kind of processor it has, the 751h took a few seconds to catch up. And when we opened Internet Explorer while video chatting with a friend on Skype, the video dropped out for a few seconds, and again, a few seconds passed before the netbook could overlap these two windows.

To put this in context, we timed a couple of everyday tasks against the Toshiba mini NB205, which has a 1.6-GHz Atom processor. Whereas starting Internet Explorer took about one second for the 751h, it took less than a second for the NB205. Opening the Control Panel, as we did earlier, and letting all the icons load, took 2 seconds with the 751h, and 1 second with the NB205. In neither case is the performance unacceptable, but the NB205 was always faster, and, more important, felt zippier on our testing.

Graphics

Like many other netbooks we've reviewed, the 751h uses Intel's integrated GMA 500 graphics solution, with 384MB of shared memory. As with the intensive multitasking test, netbooks never breeze through our graphics benchmarks, and the the AO751h was no exception. While the typical netbook scores 630 on 3DMark03 and 96 on the more intensive 3DMark06, the 751h managed just 415 and 86, respectively. Still, when we played around in Google Earth we were able to fly to a house in Brooklyn, NY and to the British Museum in London without too many hiccups. Sure, the flight was a bit bumpy, and it took a few seconds for the 3D buildings in New York City to load, but the experience didn't feel at all frustrating.

Then again, when we did a side-by-side comparison with the NB205, flying to the Chrysler Building at the same time, we noticed that the NB205 arrived at our destination first, and loaded the 3D buildings much faster. As the seconds ticked away, the 751h was still working to render those buildings. Moreover, when we attempted to watch a 720p movie it sputtered along; we've experienced smooth results when doing this on other netbooks, and have even been able to output them to an HD monitor.

Storage

Like other netbooks, the 751 has a 160GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive. On the LAPTOP Transfer Test, it copied a 4.97GB mixed-media folder in 5 minutes and 45 seconds, which translates to a rate of 14.8 MBps. That's right in line with the netbook category average (14.6 MBps), but you'll still find significantly faster hard drives in many comparably priced 10-inch netbooks. The 10-inch Aspire One, Eee PC 1005HA, and NB205, for example, were all faster, completing the test at rates of 16.5 MBps, 19.9 MBps, and 18.1 MBps, respectively.

Battery Life and Wi-Fi

The 751h has some tough competition in the battery life department: we recently hailed both the 1005HA and the NB205 for lasting nearly nine hours on our battery test. The 751h lasted 7 hours and 8 minutes on the LAPTOP battery test, which, while not as long as the other netbooks listed, is still an impressive score; it beats the six-cell netbook category average by almost 90 minutes.

Despite having 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, which we wouldn't expect to have as strong a range as a wireless-N radio, the 751h maintained excellent throughput of 21.0 Mbps and 20.0 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet, respectively, both of which are above average for the netbook category.

Software and Warranty

The 751h comes with a lot of trial and bundled software. These programs include a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007 (including a Compatibility Pack and PowerPoint viewer), CyberLink PowerDVD 8 (an odd choice, given that there's no optical drive), Google Desktop, Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, and Windows Live Essentials. It has a one-year warranty, which includes 24/7, toll-free phone support. Check out Acer's performance in our Tech Support Showdown to see howthe manufacturerstacks up against the competition.

Configurations

While our model of the 751h had a six cell battery, you can opt for the three-cell version for $349. There are also two models that have otherwise identical specs, but 250GB, 5,400 rpm hard drives. The three-cell battery version costs $399, and the six-cell version costs $449.

Verdict

If you're craving a little more screen real estate than the average netbook, along with a high-res display, the $379 Acer Aspire One 751h combines several compelling features, such as seven hours of battery life and an exceptionally slim 1-inch thick shape. But if all you want is a netbook--and not necessarily an 11-inch one--there are several comparably priced (albeit, thicker) 10-inch models, such as the $399 Toshiba NB205 and the $389 ASUS 1005HA, which run faster and last even longer.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z520
Operating System MS Windows XP Home
RAM 1GB
RAM Upgradable to 2GB
Hard Drive Size 160GB
Hard Drive Speed 5,400rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 11.6
Native Resolution 1366x768
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel GMA 500
Video Memory 384MB
Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth
Mobile Broadband
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
USB Ports 3
Card Slots 4-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year parts and labor/90 days 24/7 toll-free phone
Size 11.2 x 7.8 x 1.0 inches
Weight 3.0 pounds
Company Website http://us.acer.com