Acer has become one of the most successful purveyors of Netbooks by relying on a simple premise: price beats everything. While HP, Dell, and others give lip service to low-end models while upselling you toward $500 Netbooks, the Acer Aspire One series embraces its $299 roots proudly.
The very first Aspire One Netbooks looked and felt cheap, even if they had the same Windows XP/1GB RAM/Intel Atom combo as the competition. The newest version, the Aspire One 532h-2326, keeps up with the latest standard specs, such as an Intel Atom N450 CPU and a larger 250GB hard drive, to make it competitive with recent Netbook entries like the Toshiba NB305 and Asus Eee PC 1005PE.
The current Aspire One has a decent keyboard, multitouch touch pad gestures (which you'll probably never use), and excellent battery life without a bulky battery. Add another $70-$100 for a system from another PC maker, and you can expect better construction and maybe Bluetooth. Add $100-$200 and you move into the realms of HD displays, faster processors, and Nvidia Ion graphics. But for the rock-bottom price of $299, it's hard to beat this bargain basement box.
|Price as reviewed||$299|
|Processor||1.6GHz Intel Atom N450|
|Memory||1GB, 800MHz DDR2|
|Hard drive||250GB 5,400rpm|
|Graphics||Intel GMA 3150 (integrated)|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Starter|
|Dimensions (WD)||10.2 x 7.3 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||10.1 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||2.7/3.1 pounds|
With many Netbooks teetering on bulky kickstand-style batteries, we were pleased to see the Aspire One present a fairly slim profile. The six-cell battery does bump out a bit from the rear of the bottom panel, but the system is still less than 1.5 inches thick in the back, and less than 1 inch in the front. Our review unit was clad in an all-over glossy midnight blue, which looked fine from a distance, but was extremely fingerprint-prone.
The current Acer Aspire One keyboard is a far cry from the tiny finger-cramping keyboards of last-generation Netbooks. It has wide edge-to-edge keys, and decent-size versions of Shift, Tab, and other important keys. The corners of each key are rounded, rather than square, giving it a mod look. Other Netbook makers, such as HP and Toshiba, have moved to flat island-style keys, using slightly smaller key faces with more space between them. Those are a little better for touch typing, but the Aspire version is still one of the best $299 Netbook keyboards we've seen.
The touch pad is where the system's budget origins peek through. It's not as tiny as some we've seen, but it's built directly into the glossy wrist rest, with only a faint overlay of patterned dots to demarcate it. There are a handful of MacBook-like two-finger gestures available, but the touch pad is generally too small for them to be useful. The left and right mouse buttons are represented by a single thin rocker bar instead of separate buttons. We dislike that in a Netbook at any price, and encourage all Netbook-makers to include decent-size left and right mouse buttons.
The 10.1-inch wide-screen display offers a 1,024x600-pixel native resolution, which is standard for a budget Netbook. More expensive 10- and 11-inch models bump that up to 1,366x768 pixels, but we've never seen that in a Netbook costing less than $399.
|Acer Aspire One 532h-2326||Average for category [Netbook]|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||3 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
For less than $300, we're pleased to see the faster 802.11n Wi-Fi standard. Bluetooth is missing, but that's understandable for an entry-level system. If you need more bells and whistles, check out Dell's Mini 10, which starts at around the same price, but offers several incremental configuration options, including 3G mobile broadband.
The important thing to note about the current crop of Netbooks powered by Intel's new 1.66GHz Atom N450 processor is that they all offer excellent battery life, but roughly the same middling performance. That means you could spend $299 or $499 on a Netbook, and it would run just as fast (although the more expensive one might have an HD screen, better construction, Bluetooth, or other extras).
That said, as long as you remember our standard Netbook admonitions about keeping one's expectations modest, the Acer Aspire One performed about as well as any in its class. We've seen a handful of more powerful Netbook-size systems with dual-core Intel Atom or AMD CPUs, but they're much more expensive (relatively speaking).
|Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)||Acer Aspire One 532h-2326|
|Raw kWh Number||21.65|
|Annual Energy Cost||$2.46|