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Geek Gifts 2008: The Acer Aspire One netbook

Ultraportable netbooks are very popular in 2008, but do they measure up to the hype? Mark Kaelin thinks one actually does. Check out his review of the Acer Aspire One netbook.

Among other things, 2008 can be called the year the ultraportable netbook computer became more than just a marketing buzz word. Just about every major manufacturer (and many minor ones) has a netbook computer in their product line. The problem is that not all netbooks are as functional as others.

By their very nature, a netbook has to compromise some aspect of typical notebook computer functionality in order to get to the small footprint that defines the niche. What is compromised is often the deciding factor on whether that particular netbook passes muster as a useable computer or remains a novel idea yet to be realized.

The Acer Aspire One netbook is the one notebook I have seen so far that actually meets my definition of a useable computer. The Aspire One has the telltale small footprint, but it is not too small like the Dell Mini. It is sturdy and feels solid, but not bulky like the 2Go Classmate PC. Acer has done a good job of blending small with power to create a netbook computer that one could actually take on the road and get real work done.

This blog post is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic Download.

Specifications

Even though the Acer Aspire One is a netbook, it does not skimp on power when compared to the general notebook market:

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom Processor
  • Mobile Intel graphics chipset
  • 1GB DDR2 SDRAM
  • 8.9 inch WSVGA LCD 1024 X 600 display
  • 1.3 Megapixel camera
  • SDHC and multi-format media readers
  • 802.11b/g WiFi and 100 bit Ethernet
  • Three USB 2.0 ports
  • VGA and 3.5mm audio out
  • One free mini PCI slot for WWAN
  • 160GB hard drive
  • 5.5 hours battery with the option 6-cell battery
  • Size (LWH): 6.7 inches, 9.8 inches, 1.14 inches
  • Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Retail cost about $470

What I like

The Acer Aspire One is slightly wider than the 2Go PC and the Dell Mini which allows it to have a larger keyboard. This small increase in width is important because it allows for near normal typing, which makes answering e-mails and other writing functions definitely more efficient.

Another plus for the Aspire One is the 160GB hard drive. Many netbooks are using solid state drives to save power, which is understandable and a great idea, but the size of those drives is way too small for a true workhorse computer. With 160GB hard drive you can load an office suite, a custom application or two, and still have room for some MP3s.

The other great feature that I want to highlight is the extended battery life with the optional 6-cell battery. Being able to work over five hours without worrying about a recharge or finding an outlet is liberating. This one feature puts the Acer Aspire One head and shoulders above the competition that we have seen so far.

All of these distinguishing features come in a netbook that is running the power Intel Atom CPU running at a respectable 1.6GHz. This is a real computer operating at real-world computing speeds -- only in a very small package.

What I don't like

The one aspect that I would change on the Acer Aspire One if I could would be the display resolution. While the display is crisp and bright, it has a resolution of 1024 X 600. This odd resolution plays havoc with Web sites and applications that are designed around the more conventional display resolutions of 800 X 600 or 1024 X 768.

Personally, I'd be willing to forfeit the camera in exchange for a more typical resolution. At 1024 X 600, you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time moving and resizing windows. This may seem like a minor thing at first, but it is amazing how frustrating it can get, especially when you are in a hurry.

The only other part of the Acer Aspire One that I would like to see improved is the touchpad and mouse-click buttons. The touchpad is a little sluggish, particularly when you try to use the scrolling functions. And the mouse-click buttons are mounted on the sides of the touchpad instead of below it has is typical for notebooks. Moving your finger to the side to left-click an icon goes against the normal move to the bottom I, and so many of us, have become accustomed to. I don't see the benefit of the design at all and I would like to see it corrected with the next iteration of the Aspire One.

Bottom line

The netbook form factor is the hot notebook niche right now and manufacturers are making concerted efforts to fill this market niche. While I have seen several decent netbook computers so far, the Acer Aspire One is the only one of the bunch that measures up as a viable PC to take on the road. The specifications are powerful enough for every day computing, but are housed in a very small package. Acer has engineered a find netbook PC, one that I can see myself using to actually get some work done. It will be a pleasure to Crack it Open in the near future.

Geek Gift Score (out of a possible 5)

  • Fun factor: ***
  • Geek factor: *****
  • Value: *****
  • Overall: ****

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

18 comments
c.eggens
c.eggens

how does this netbook compare with Mac netbook

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

I have one and my wife have another one of this. In my office I recommended this superb product to several users and now about 5 users have this laptop. I loaded full AVG / Office / Power DVD and the lap works amazing. Is very fast. The bad thing is I don't have the long life battery, only works for 2 1/2 hours.

otilamra
otilamra

Hi, It excellent but we still don't find the adequate drivers online for XP2 especailly Wifi Atheros 5006 EG drivers & camera drivers!! How can I find & download them easily?? Thanks a lot

blotto5
blotto5

I own the one with the 6-cell battery and its pretty cool to have 6 hours of life on a netbook this small. My only gripe is that theres no port for putting another stick of ram on it to make it a little faster(1 gig doesnt really cut it for me) so im forced to use a usb flash drive as some extra ram till i work up the confidence to take it apart and phisically put another stick in

lccurtis1
lccurtis1

I have been using "The One" for about 2 weeks. I think that this is the best tech that I have purchased in the past year. This little computer can do almost anything that the average computer user needs. I have been in I.T. for 14 years and have been exposed to almost every bit of tech on the market and the "The One" is really impressive. I would recommend it for on the go business user's, students, and anyone who needs a powerful computer in s small package for on the go. I would like to take up one other issue, this computer can be considered for some as a main computer it has some features that are above my IBM ThinkPad that I used for work.

Brendan P
Brendan P

Are you missing the point of net books? I already use an IBM X61 which is almost the same size. For me a net-book or ultra-portable needs to be half the size: less than 7"x 5"x 0.5". Feature, power and therefore power bloat kill the PC. I do not want more (to encumber me) I want less to free me. that is a design statement.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

I am merely testing these netbooks, but I am wondering if any TechRepublic members are using a netbook PC to do real work? What do you think of it? Are there features you would like to see implemented in the next generation of netbook PCs?

bruceb
bruceb

I bought the 512mb Linux 8gb SSD version for $250 and have hacked it into a dual boot with a 1.5gb memory, 1.8" hard drive and xp pro. The aspireoneuser.com site had all the info , including the European acer ftp site for a bios update and *all* of the drivers. A google search for "aspire ftp drivers" will locate it for you. Oh, I also replaced that lousy Atheros wifi with an Intel 3945abg. Battery life seems longer and the connections are more reliable. Camera working fine under Xp and linux. I love this little netbook !

BillDem
BillDem

I've had an EeePC 900 since they first shipped and the keyboard is the one part I can't stand. I'm a touch typist and the tiny right shift key is completely in the wrong spot. My hands are small enough to adjust to the size of the keyboard, but when keys are just in the wrong spot, there isn't much you can do. I noticed the keys on the Aspire One are better positioned, so I'm considering buying one as a replacement.

dcolbert
dcolbert

Bought an Eee PC 701 for a trip to Spain because I didn't want to lug an HP 17" multimedia notebook all the way to Europe. It did a great job loaded with WinXP, but there were clear and obvious limitations as a 1st generation netbook. When I got back, I picked up the Lenovo S10 ideapad. Love 'em. Use them all the time.

sy34010
sy34010

I was shopping for some games prior to Christmas and discovered Microcenter was selling the MSI unit for $299 so I bought one. It quickly became the PC of choice for my teenage daughter and my wife. When they're not fighting over it I occasionally use it for internet searches and eBay browsing, while I prefer my X60 it does provide generally satisfactory performance. It has the larger 10? screen and the only drawback I?ve encountered so far is the video performance, very meager at best. My daughter downloaded a movie from iTunes and it was pretty much un-watchable on the netbook.

emcbridea
emcbridea

I have purchased one on the basis of Mark's article and I am delighted with it. It is as he says, very portable, and I can live with the odd resolution. Everyone that sees it and has a play with it has commented very positively.

tcoachmen
tcoachmen

I am currently using the Aspire One as a second unit when I want true portability. I love the unit as it can handle general tasks and the like. The only major gripe that I have is that the screen resolution should be 1024x768. Other than that It gets the job done in a pinch.

rmlounsbury
rmlounsbury

I'm using the MiniNote 2133 right now for mostly light duty stuff when I don't want to lug around my Z60t. I'm feeling a little buyers remorse on account of getting the MiniNote 2133 before waiting it out for a model refresh. Apparently at some point next year HP is releasing a 10" MiniNote with the Atom processor (not the Mini 1000 which is a new product line).

alexisgarcia72
alexisgarcia72

The Aspire one is better than EeePC from ASUS. The keyboard layout, the Atom cpu, the high capacity hard drive, the speed, the screen quality but more than that, I notice the Acer perform at very good speed all my tasks with XP ...

dcolbert
dcolbert

The Lenovo and EEE 701 both have keyboards that present challenges. I can deal with them, and it is enough of a keyboard that you don't have to hunt n peck or thumbtype, but my speed and error rate does suffer. The nice thing is that it is a real easy thing to plug in a USB keyboard and/or usb mouse and hook up to an external LCD if you have a lot of REAL work to do.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

It has been a common drawback of every netbook I have looked at or cracked open - the screen resolution is non-standard. I do not know why that is. 1024 X 768 would have made this Acer a killer product.

BillDem
BillDem

I've been looking at that one myself and drooling. I need to see it in person, though to figure out how much bigger a 10" screen makes the unit.