Like other netbook makers, Acer is refreshing its line with the new Intel Atom N450 processor (Pine Trail), which promises similar performance but greater endurance. Also like its competitors, Acer has tweaked the design, adding a keyboard with the same style as its larger notebooks and trimming down the chassis. But most significantly, it's also trimmed the price: though our review model came in at $349, the Aspire One 532h starts at $299, a hundred bucks less than competing brands. But does price trump all, even in the commodified netbook market?
The 532h is a bit of a departure from Acer's previous 10.1-inch netbooks, the Aspire One D150 and D250. In fact, it looks more like Acer's 11.6-inch netbook, the Aspire One 751h. Instead of a solid color, the lid of the Onyx Blue 532h fades from a dark metallic blue to black. Other color options included Garnet Red and Silver Matrix. This treatment makes the netbook look much more refined. However, the glossy finish, which is also found beneath the keyboard, picks up fingerprints quickly. There's now a lot less room at the top of the deck; the keyboard is shoved right up to the top, and the power button is crammed in by the left hinge.
Like the Toshiba mini NB305-N410, Acer saw fit to change the design of the six-cell battery on the 532h. No longer does it jut out the back; it's now tucked in underneath, shaving three quarters of an inch off the footprint. The area beneath the display and between the hinges has a sharp edge as opposed to the smoother curves of the D250. At 10.2 x 7.3 x 1.0 inches and 2.8 pounds, the 532h is about the same size, shape, and weight as most 10-inch netbooks.
After playing a Hulu video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad on the 532h registered 92 degrees Fahrenheit, the space between the G and H keys was 91 degrees, and the middle of the underside reached 97 degrees. While we don't consider any this heat to be troublesome, the temperature of 110 degrees in the left front corner was a cause for concern.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Instead of a traditional keyboard as on its older netbooks, the 532h has Acer's FineTip keyboard, which is completely flat on top, and has a slight space between each key. Also, it's larger than when compared to older netbooks: whereas on the D250 there was approximately half an inch of space on either side of the keyboard, on the 532h there's less than a quarter of an inch unused. While it looks identical to the layout on the 11.6-inch 751h, the 532's keyboard is smaller and the keys have a shallow pitch to them, which made typing somewhat more difficult. We much prefer the keyboards on the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P (Seashell) and the Toshiba mini NB305, which have island-style layouts and more space between the keys.
We're also pleased to see that the touchpad on the 532h is much larger than on previous Acer netbooks. At 2.6 x 1.4 inches, it's positively spacious compared to the previous generation--though still not as large as that on the Toshiba mini NB305. The multitouch-enabled touchpad is covered with a number of tiny dots that distinguish it from the glossy deck, making it practically friction-free. While we wish the metallic blue mouse button beneath was split into two, it's sufficiently large and has a nice response.
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Display and Audio
Click to enlargeLike most other netbooks, the Acer 532h has a 10.1-inch screen with a 1024 x 600-pixel resolution. The display was plenty bright, but its glossy finish kicked back a fair amount of reflections. Colors were vibrant and crisp, but vertical viewing angles weren't great; colors started to reverse when we tilted the screen past 40 degrees, but people could sit on either side of the display and comfortably see the action on screen.
The two stereo speakers (mounted under the front lip of the system) provided fairly strong audio for a netbook; while bass was predictably feeble, John Mayer's "No Such Thing" played loud enough to fill a medium-size office.
Ports and Webcam
Like just about every other netbook since the beginning of this notebook category, the 532h has three USB 2.0 ports, VGA, Ethernet, headphone and mic ports, and a Kensington lock slot. A 5-in-1 memory card reader rounds out the inputs.
The VGA webcam on the 532h offered accurate colors, but the picture was a bit washed out. Fortunately, we were able to tweak the settings using the Acer Crystal Eye webcam utility.
Powered by the new 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor and 1GB of RAM, the 532h scored 1,332 on PCMark05, which is 145 points below the netbook category average, and about 50 points below the Toshiba mini NB305. On Geekbench, the 532h saw a score of 896, which is close to 60 points above average, but nearly 30 points below the NB305. Still, the 532h performed well for a netbook; windows opened quickly, and we had no problem browsing the Web, watching videos, or listening to music.
Using HandBrake, the 532h was able to transcode a 114MB MPEG-4 video in 29 minutes and 18 seconds, about 15 seconds faster than average. When we performed the same test using Oxelon Media Converter, which handles multiple threads, the task took just 5:50, about 10 seconds faster than the NB305.
The 5,400-rpm, 250GB hard drive booted into Windows 7 Starter Edition in a quick 51 seconds, and duplicated a 4.97GB folder of multimedia at a rate of 22.4 MBps, 6.6 MBps faster than the netbook average. That places it between the NB305 (20.6 MBps) and the Eee PC 1005PE-P (26.4 MBps).
The performance of the 532h's Intel GMA 3150 graphics chip was about the same as other netbooks of its ilk; on 3DMark06, its score of 153 was nearly identical to that of the NB305 and the 1005PE. Hulu videos, such as The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and an episode of Heroes streamed fairly smoothly, but not at full screen.
Battery Life and Wi-Fi
Click to enlargeThe six-cell, 5600-mAh battery in the 532h lasted 8 hours and 36 minutes, over 3 hours longer than the netbook average, and just a minute shy of the Toshiba mini NB305. The 532h's time also bests the D150 by about 40 minutes. While we're pleased to see that Acer's netbook endurance improved since the last generation, it's still two hours shorter than the Eee PC 1005PE-P.
The 532h took a leisurely 4 hours and 8 minutes to completely recharge. During that time, it drew an average of 28.5 watts, for a total of 7068 watts. Its Battery Efficiency rating (total watts divided by battery life) of 13.7 is better than the category average (18.4), but not as good as the HP Mini 5102 (11.0).
At 15 feet from our access point, the 802.11b/g/draft-n Wi-Fi card on the 532h delivered throughput of 20.0 Mbps, which falls just below the average of 21.1 Mbps. At 50 feet, the throughput fell to 18.1 Mbps, which is slightly above average (17.3 Mbps).
While our version of the 532h costs $349, Acer is also selling a $299 version with a smaller 160GB hard drive and lower-capacity 4400-mAh battery. If extra storage is not essential, this represents a real bargain. Users can also easily upgrade the RAM and hard drive themselves, as both are easily accessible through covers on the underside.
Software and Warranty
The 532h comes with a 60-day trial of Microsoft Office, McAfee SecurityCenter, Norton Online Backup, and Microsoft Works, as well as desktop shortcuts to the Acer Games portal, eBay, and Netflix. Acer backs the system with a one-year limited warranty. To see how Acer fared in our Tech Support Showdown, click here.
In most respects, the Acer Aspire One 532h is a lot like every other netbook: specs include a 1.66-GHz Intel Atom N450 processor, 1GB of RAM, Windows 7 Starter Edition, and a 250GB hard drive. Its performance, too, is almost identical to such netbooks as the Toshiba mini NB305 and the ASUS Eee PC 1005PE-P. Where Acer has everyone else beat, though, is price. At $349, the company has undercut the longer-lasting 1005PE-P by $30, and the NB305 by $50. If you don't mind a smaller hard drive (and presumably less battery life), you can pick up a 532h for just $299. That's a price that would let us overlook the less-than-ideal keyboard. Overall, the 532h's stylish design and excellent endurance make it a strong value.